Daytona II: Race winning team interview

DENNY HAMLIN , No. 20 Hardee's/Coca-Cola Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How excited are you to win this race tonight? "To do this with the Coca-Cola/Hardee's Toyota today -- it just means a lot. Our final ride in the No. 20 car. It feels good...

DENNY HAMLIN , No. 20 Hardee's/Coca-Cola Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How excited are you to win this race tonight?

"To do this with the Coca-Cola/Hardee's Toyota today -- it just means a lot. Our final ride in the No. 20 car. It feels good to do this in my last ride. Got to thank all the fans. Got to thank everyone for sticking with me. Got to thank Kyle (Busch) for sticking with me right there at the end. The only way we weren't going to win is if he actually went for the win. Just thank everyone -- Dave Rogers (crew chief) did another great job and the pit stops were great all day. Can't thank everyone -- Toyota, Hardee's, Old Spice -- everyone who sponsors this No. 20 car throughout the year."

What were thinking during the final caution with Kyle Busch behind you?

"Kyle's (Busch) has a lot of fire in him. He wants to win races no matter what. We had two very strong Toyotas today. I knew he could go for the win and maybe not succeed. As long as he stuck on our rear bumper there was no way we weren't going to have a one-two finish."

Were you focusing more on your mirror or windshield after the late restart?

"Out the mirror mostly. Kyle (Busch) kind of got back there on the restart a little bit and kind of worried me a little bit that he was going to get a run. I knew he was going to have a good head of steam. He was a good teammate. Just a fine example of how it worked last week (in NH) -- we had a one, two, three finish for all of us, and one-two this week. I just couldn't be prouder to have Kyle (Busch) as a teammate."

What were the final laps like from the driver's seat?

"It was a great night for us because it looked like with about 15 (laps) to go after that pit stop we weren't going to catch that lead pack. With just pitting that one lap later kind of put a bind on us because it let those guys run new tire speed lap versus our old tire speed lap and that was the difference. It was about two seconds or so or what have you. Once they pulled that gap I needed those guys to battle. If they would've stayed inline there's no way we would've caught them I don't believe. It would've been close but I don't think we could have but I think one guy got shuffled out of line and it let us suck right back up to the lead pack with 10 to go. Then it was up to me to kind of drive through there. It was a great handling race car. We worked on it all day. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) really did a good job with the adjustments. He never really overstepped everything. He just kept getting it a little bit better all day. We did what we had to do to win."

What is your response to Dale Earnhardt Jr. thinking Tony Stewart was driving the 20 car tonight?

"You could take that several different ways. I think honestly a lot of the confusion is because it's the same colors as what Tony (Stewart) usually runs. I don't know. My head is a lot smaller than his -- I don't know. You could take it as I was driving a lot like Tony (Stewart), which is a compliment in my eyes. If I was driving like Tony (Stewart) on a superspeedway, I was pretty dang good so I will take it. Maybe he wouldn't have helped me if he would've knew it was me."

Do the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers fight to drive the 20 car in the Nationwide Series?

"I don't think so. No discredit to Dave (Rogers) but the 18 (Kyle Busch) is very, very strong. Jason (Ratcliff, No. 18 crew chief) does a really good job. The advantage that Jason (Ratcliff) has is that he can focus even more on the races that they do run so that car is very strong when it does run. So really it doesn't matter which one you get in but there's great communication right now between Dave (Rogers) and Jason (Ratcliff) and the guys that are head of the fabrication shop. They are all doing a really good job working together -- figuring out what we need to work on to make these cars better. We're always thinking of things we need to make better on these race cars because you can't just say, ‘We're dominating. The guys are so far behind us now that they will never catch us.' They're right there and this team has been very fortunate. The 18 team has been very fortunate to get the wins that they have. Sometimes things full their way and they get the wins, but other times they have a strong race car. Here at Daytona, just because you're in the 20 car doesn't mean it's an automatic win. The best car doesn't rarely win. For me, it was going to be up to me to make it happen. When you've got a car as good as I did, it gives me some options on that race track. When you don't have that it makes it a lot tougher. I'm proud to do it for them."

Can you go through the last two laps after the caution?

"I didn't want to happen what did happen -- that was us get out too far. It looked like the 18 (Kyle Busch) took off the same time I did but it looked like he didn't want to go. It looked like he was trying to build up a run with the 5 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Once we pulled about four car lengths there I just tried to do my best to just -- it's so hard to do -- but just ride that brake while you're in the lead to let those guys sit there and catch you. But they've got to catch you at the right time. You've got to put them to a decision. If they catch you in the center of the corner with the big head of steam they need to make a decision -- are they going to go for the win and sacrifice maybe a good finish or are they just going to ride inline and protect what they've got? By doing that in the corner that's what decision you make and I think Kyle (Busch) realized a one-two finish was better than the alternative."

DAVE ROGERS , Crew Chief, No. 20 Hardee's/Coca-Cola Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How did the race look from on top of the pit box tonight?

"At the checkered flag it looked pretty good. Denny (Hamlin) did a great job. I was telling him that we were going to win this race but I wasn't so sure. There was a two second deficit he had to make up by himself. He just did a really good job of staying focused and staying inline and sniffing the draft as best he could and put ourselves in position to win. It was a lot of fun."

Is the driver-crew chief chemistry difficult with drivers switching almost every week?

"No, not really. We've looked in the mirror a lot this year to figure out why are we running well and how do we keep it and that chemistry word keeps coming up. I think what chemistry boils down to is trust. I think right now our team trusts that all of these drivers can get in it and win. And I think these drivers think that this team can win. I think there's so much trust in this team that the chemistry is pretty much seamless week to week."

Why weren't you confident that Denny could pull off the win?

"I wasn't -- once we caught the pack I was convinced we were going to win but the deficit is just so hard to overcome. It was two seconds and they were single file and I didn't really think they were going to go two-wide there to give us an opportunity. I wasn't doubting Denny (Hamlin) by no means but I wasn't sure if the car had it. Side note here is I don't know if that matters because I think tonight was Denny's last race in the car for a while so he'll forget about it by the next time we work together."

-credit: toyota motorsports

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing