Texas Motor Speedway April 19, 2010 An interview with: DENNY HAMLIN - Driver, winner MIKE FORD - Crew chief JOE GIBBS - Owner THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the victory theater by today's winner of the Samsung Mobile 500. Driver of the No.
Texas Motor Speedway
April 19, 2010
An interview with:
DENNY HAMLIN - Driver, winner
MIKE FORD - Crew chief
JOE GIBBS - Owner
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the victory theater by today's winner of the Samsung Mobile 500. Driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, Denny Hamlin. Denny, tell us about your run?
DENNY HAMLIN: It was one of those days where it's just I felt like it was my rookie season. We just kept -- everything just kept getting better through the course of the day. Our car got a little bit better every run. We would gain three, four spots every run. The pit crew would gain a couple of spots just about every run. I was getting a little bit better and getting in rhythm every run. And Mike obviously made a winning call at the end.
It was just one of those days where the pieces of the puzzle came together, and I felt like it was a winning effort overall.
THE MODERATOR: We'll throw it to the guy that made that winning call, Crew Chief, Mike Ford. Tell us about your view from today's race?
MIKE FORD: Yeah, we just took it slow to begin with and paced ourselves. There were rumors of tire issues. And this is a race that came into play, the first time with the spoiler on a mile and a half. So we just wanted to feel it out and see what we needed to adjust to get in contention.
We used the first part of the race to play around with some changes. Like Denny mentioned, each change got a little bit better.
We watched guys take two tires earlier in the race and knew what to expect. And with the possibility of tire issues, didn't want to be aggressive and have a problem and ruin the day. So waited till the end to get two tires and it worked out for us.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by today's winning team owner, Coach Joe Gibbs. Coach, your view to how things unfolded today?
DENNY HAMLIN: Technically, J.D.'s the owner.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, technically. Some owner (laughing). The one thing I wanted to say is last week we had a very, very tough day. Denny had that surgery, and us going down two laps. I think a lot of guys would have chosen to get out of the car.
And I sent an email to him - not email, but a message - that said, hey, that showed a lot of courage. Stays in the car, bad day, fought his way through that. Today is just one of those things where it was a wild set of circumstances. We've had days like that where it goes against us. This time it went for us.
We're really happy for FedEx, Denny, and everybody on the race team. It was just one of those days where we kept fighting. Did a good job. We were up front most of the day, and it went our way at the end.
Q: In both of these races that you've won, you have made kind of a dramatic move and seized the advantage when something opened. On this race on the first lap after the restart the same. Do you think that's coincidence or do you think you have a better knack than most at sizing up and maybe seeing things before they're going to happen?
DENNY HAMLIN: Usually, to be honest with you, I'm one of the worst when it comes down to a shootout at the end. I never seem to gain positions. I don't know what it is. This year I have gotten better at getting the maximum out of the car that's possible at the end of the races.
But I think it's just my driving style is so conservative and not wanting to get in a wreck most of the times that that style doesn't pay off in shootouts like this.
Obviously, styles like Kyle's does. It gets you more wins. But it also gets you in a little bit more trouble. I knew Kyle was going to be strong. Even though we felt like we were better than him all day, I knew he was going to be strong there at the end and give us a great run.
I think the big point for me is I knew once Burton gave me that outside line, that I was going to be able to do something with it. I saw on the previous restart that he struggled getting through the first corner, and I knew if I could just hang right there on his outside I could clear him through three and four and we were able to do that.
So it was just one of those situations where things worked out great for us.
Q: I'm sure after your knee surgery you probably heard there were whispers and people who wondered if you could still be a title contender. One, does this win prove that you are? And two, I know the rehab has been extremely hard on you. Did you have any doubts during the rehab that you could get back to where you are?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, I'm still not 100% by any means right now. I feel like I'm 60 at best. I knew every week -- I knew Phoenix was going to be a struggle. You know, where we finished was not indicative of we didn't have a 30th place car.
But I knew that for the next month it was going to be tougher to get good finishes than what it would, you know, presurgery.
But I did this for September. I knew that if I did it now, come Chase time, if I'm lucky enough to be in one of those top 12 positions, it was going to make me more prepared to make a run for the championship at that time.
I didn't feel like we were that good where we could just give up a month and still make the Chase. I knew we still had to perform well, but I did it for the long run.
Obviously, a win like today obviously makes you feel a little bit better. Gives you a little bit of confidence from here on out. We're still a good month away from getting back where I was.
Q: What does this win show do you feel as your personal character. You did not get out of the car last week. Your medal as an athlete staying in it, this week it pays off. How do you feel against the measuring stick of Jimmie Johnson? He was closing fast. For him it's two years in a row he's chased someone to the line. Another couple laps and he pulls it off. Does it make you feel that much better to have beaten him in that situation here in Texas and being in the condition that you're in?
DENNY HAMLIN: The choice last week to not get out of the car, that would be the easy thing to do. That would be the thing, you know, hey, our day's shot to hell. Easiest thing to do is just get out and let him take over.
But maybe the pit crew doesn't give me the best stop, I don't get out of the car and just say hell with it. Someone else drive it. That's not the way to be.
I did it for team morale, and obviously it paid off this weekend. We had a strong day on pit road. Who knows. If I would have got out, who knows if those guys would have done or had the mentality or been behind me as much as they were this week. I doubt it. I wouldn't have been. I would have felt like the driver gave up on me.
But I think they would have understood either way. But I think it just showed a little bit of courage for those guys. I knew they would give their left leg for me, and I was willing to do the same thing for them.
Q: We're only eight races into the season, and the story on you has already changed I think four times. You were the preseason favorite. You were an early season slump. Then your championship hopes were dashed because you had surgery. Now you've won two races quicker than you have in any previous year in the cup series. Which is the story that's going to carry through the rest of the year?
DENNY HAMLIN: Hmm, I don't know. Y'all are just going to have to come up with something (smiling). It really does feel good. It's tough because you do have big expectations at the start of the season.
I told everyone on media day and everything like that. If we don't set the world on fire for the first six months, it's okay. Things are okay. We're going to ease into our season and try to learn and work on some stuff for later in the year. Obviously, with no test sessions we've got to test during race weekend.
So we're experimenting with different stuff. Some stuff is working, some stuff isn't. But we've never hit the panic button, that's for sure. We've never been down on ourselves because we haven't gotten to the expectations of a lot of people put on us at the beginning of the year and I put on my self.
But my expectations and where I thought I could be at the end of this year still can happen. But it's months and months down the road. I told everyone, you've got to stop looking at the short term, you know. We still look at us 15, 20 races in and then get a judgment of where we're going to be.
THE MODERATOR: Stats has confirmed that you picked up 7 spots and are currently in 11th place in the standings.
Q: Why were you in such disbelief? What part of the whole equation? We know about the knee and everything else, but was there something specifically about the end of that race that just kind of blew your mind that you were where you were? It almost seemed like somebody had to pinch you to make you believe what's going on?
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm just not good at shootouts. I'm not good at those last few laps. Any time we have a green and white checker or those kind of finishes, I'm usually on the bad end of it. I'll get into a wreck or lose a few spots.
So for us to pull out a win like that, it's very gratifying from my standpoint. You sit there, you have a red flag situation where you can sit there and digest things and think about what do I have to do for the first two laps to win this race?
Because the race was going to get to one in the first two laps. Whoever got clear was going to go. As long as there was no other caution, that was going to be your winner.
I think the 48 got bottled up the first couple of laps, which was good. But he did close in at the end. A lot of that was because I really backed off the tempo about five to go just to make sure I hit my marks and didn't make mistakes and stuff like that.
So the finish was probably closer than what it should have been. But for me it was gratifying that I put a strategy together in my head and executed it, because usually I don't do that very well.
Q: Eight races in and it's already been a roller coaster of a year for this team. Could you just talk about the performance of Denny in the last couple of weeks?
MIKE FORD: It has been a roller coaster, but I think for 90% of the people out here if you study their season, it's the same situation. It's up-and-down. At times, it's frustrating. We've somewhat got on a high in Martinsville.
We know the first few races we definitely struggled. We were off on performance, went to work. Atlanta we had a good car cut a tire down. Bristol I think we were going to have a good run, cut a tire down. You didn't get to see the performance for a couple of weeks.
Then we go to Martinsville knowing Denny's going to have surgery the following Monday. We win that race, and then you get a little bit of a high. Then a kickback down knowing Phoenix is going to be very difficult.
And Denny touched on it, it's very hard to keep morale up. It can be frustrating. But he stuck with us through Phoenix. We had had some issues, but I think you've seen the strength of the team in the last three weeks.
We went his second win on an intermediate. So I think we've got a lot of things working strongly for us. Like Denny mentioned, you're not going to see the full strength of this team until later in the season. We are trying some things that are going to show inconsistency week to week.
Without testing, you have to do that to a point if you want to progress faster than the other guys. We're benchmarking the Hendrick guys and we want to beat them at the end of the season. They may beat us the majority of the weeks up front, but we'll take that. We want to beat them on the back side.
So we'll work extra hard. And you're going to see some inconsistency. So inside we're just, you know, not content with it, but we're willing to give up a little bit here and there to gain down the road.
Q: Can you tell us why on the radio you said after the race don't kill the car, don't kill the car. We still need it. What are your plans for this car?
MIKE FORD: That wasn't me. Everybody was trying to tell me to do it, and I wouldn't do it. Some of the other guys got on the radio.
The fact is, every race that we've had this year, whether we win or whatever, we've had to go back and work on. Part of the equation is if you want better stuff down the road, don't tear your stuff up today because that sucks up time in the fab shop. So we want some better stuff coming forward here. And if we're repairing stuff that we can avoid, it's going to hamper that. So that was that statement.
Q: I just wanted to know what a typical day of rehab has been for you since the surgery. Is this something you do morning, noon and night to be able to race? Is just kind of walk us through a day.
DENNY HAMLIN: My day usually starts off with my personal trainer will get me out of bed in the morning, and I'll do upper body stuff. Because I feel so terrible I haven't been in the gym for the last three or four weeks or so.
I'm just starting to get back into the gym and do stuff like that. Trying to do some cardio as much as I can, upper body.
Then I'll leave there. I'll go to Ortho Carolina, to their offices or go to the shop where they'll meet me, and I'll just go through usually about an hour and a half of rehab. Just trying to get on a bike and somewhat try to move.
I've just gotten to where I can make one revolution on a bicycle, because my range of motion is so bad right now.
So just doing that, extensive, extensive leg workout. Obviously I have a machine, which is the icing and compression that I stay on pretty much for the rest of the 18 hours a day I'm not doing rehab or in a gym.
It's very frustrating, and it's easy to get down. I mean, it's borderline depressing to not be able to do anything. I can't enjoy. I have to just sit on my tail when I'm not rehabbing every single day. When it's nice weather outside and everyone's outside doing stuff, it's frustrating.
But this was something I was going to have to do no matter what. I put myself in the situation, and I've got to deal with the consequences. You know, when hopefully this thing gets better, it's just going to make me stronger.
Q: I'd like to ask you, you've got a young man sitting to the right who has worked through injury. You've seen a lot of that through your time coaching in the NFL. You have a young man on your team Kyle Busch who has worked through some issues is and shown a maturation process. You've got young up and comers showing a lot of maturity in Joey Logano. Talk about the character of these three young men you have on your racing team?
JOE GIBBS: To be truthful, everybody knows in our sport you've got to have great guys driving the cars. We're thrilled that we've got young great drivers.
I think Denny, just like you mentioned, his story is a great story. I think with his family sacrifice and all the things that happened to him, to have him on board and immediately take over that 11 car and do what he's done, it's helped us so much with FedEx.
Then we got Kyle. We were fortunate enough to get him. And you know as teammates, I think Denny and Kyle -- I was talking to Denny probably the two racetracks that Kyle would have said he has the toughest time is Martinsville and Phoenix.
I think he had done pretty good. I think he kind of -- they're contrasting driving styles. I think he's learned a lot from Denny at Martinsville, and he raced real well there. And they have contrasting styles.
Then you have Joey who is really the young guy. Pretty phenomenal story there. An 18-year-old stepping in, you know, we got testing taken away.
What I'm hoping is that we have three great young drivers, and we're positioned for the future, and if we work together and what we try to do at Joe Gibbs Racing, everything we have is focused on three cars. Our hope is that we can get an edge there.
Now you don't know in this sport. Is that going to pay off or is it going to be big numbers of cars that win? But anyway, that's our hope.
I think our strength in what we have is our crew chiefs and our drivers. Those young guys, and we're proud of them.
Q: You proved today you could win with a knee that is 60%. I assume you can do the same at Talladega and Charlotte. Are the ones you're worried about if the knee comes back are the ones you're worried about Richmond, Dover, and Darlington?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think by the time I get around to Richmond, hopefully I can really take a week off with it next week in Talladega, as long as I don't go on my head and upside down and through the fence. As long as I can take that next weekend off and not get setback there, I should be able to walk normal and things like that.
Rehab will come much faster in probably two weeks. That's what they tell me. By the time I get to those racetracks where it's going to be physically demanding again, we should be in good shape. It's a big statement race for us.
Q: To kind of relate to what Mike Ford said earlier in the sense that you guys are kind of giving up a little something early to get something later. Obviously, the Hendrick cars are strong. How challenging or tough is that emotionally in some ways for you to see that and to know that maybe in some cases you can't fully compete with some of their cars?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, it's tough because in some instances they have the power of the numbers. They do have a lot. But I feel like Joe touched on, there is also a lot of people focused on my self, the 20, and the 18 as well. Maybe there is an edge to be gained there instead of a big bulk of numbers of guys getting their resources spread out through.
But, for myself, we were running through the course of the race. It was just all the Hendrick guys and me. I think Reutimann was running around us at that time.
But it is frustrating. But I know what's encouraging for me right now is I know what's coming in the future. I know what we're doing right now, and we're still competitive.
Like Mike said, there are going to be roller coasters, races where we're high and we're low and things like that simply because of what we're doing right now. But I know what's coming, and that's what I'm really excited about.
Q: Also wanted to ask you, a lot of questions from drivers about what it would be like racing today with the spoiler in traffic. Was it that much different? Was it anything like with the old car, I know you were only in it for one season. Could you do some of the same things? Get up behind people? Get them loose the same way was it a lot more difficult?
DENNY HAMLIN: It was much easier. The car seemed to be planted to the racetrack quite a bit more. You could race around guys without the air being taken off of you as much as it did. So I think it made for better racing. It was a step in the right direction for our sport. Obviously for the looks and for the competition side.
I thought as far as the grip level, it just added some grip to the racetrack. When you do that, you add some comfortability to the race car drivers, and that's what's going to make for a great finish at the end.