DENNY HAMLIN, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finished: 1st How was your race? "We struggled a little bit in practice. We weren't the greatest. We worked on it. Qualifying was a struggle for us -- we had an inner...
No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was your race?
"We struggled a little bit in practice. We weren't the greatest. We worked on it. Qualifying was a struggle for us -- we had an inner liner go out on us in qualifying. We didn't have a good qualifying spot. We definitely made the best of it. Our car was not so great at the beginning, it was probably a mid top-five car or a mid top-10 car for the first 75 laps, and then we had one adjustment that really took the car off. I think it was the second or third pit stop. Joel (Weidman, crew chief) and Mike (Ford, co-crew chief) got together and did some great adjustments on the car and it got better each time I came on pit road."
What are your thoughts on Toyota clinching the NNS manufacturer's championship?
"It was a great transition over to Toyota. They made it easy for us to change to them. They've done such a great job with the support for our race teams over on the Cup side and the Nationwide side. I've enjoyed the partnership that we've had with Toyota. I've got their first win on the Cup side earlier with the 'Duel' (qualifying race) at Daytona and to be able to clinch for them over here on the Nationwide side is very special for me. It seems like we always win these special races for Toyota. We try to do our best to give back. Toyota has just stepped up. They've been a manufacturer that has been behind this race team 120%. If we have any problems, any complaints, they're the first to go to work on it. We've gotten all the tools we need to go to win from them."
How many adjustments did you guys have to make to the race car and were you able to pick your line?
"We made adjustments every pit stop. Everyone on this race team never gave up. We didn't have the best car in qualifying, and didn't have the best car at the beginning of the race, but the whole Z-Line crew did a great job making the adjustments throughout the race and the car just kept getting better and better. We had to run the bottom. I tried running the top and I couldn't get it to work. When I came up on the lap traffic there at the end, I had to be a little patient with the 29 (Jeff Burton) and the 33 (Kevin Harvick) -- knowing that they had their RCR teammate right back there in second. We had to have our car on the bottom and it worked out for us."
What were your thoughts on the restart with lead lap cars in front of you?
"I wasn't hesitating, I was trying it, that's for sure. We needed just a fender to clear some of those guys. I think the 64 (David Stremme) right off the bat when we went the first three-wide. He was trying to battle and stay on the lead lap or get the 'lucky dog.' He raced us pretty tough and it let the 2 (Clint Bowyer) and the 17 (Matt Kenseth) get a little closer to me than what I'd like. I couldn't get my car working up high. Even if he chose to give me the bottom, he was running so hard up top -- I could not get around him. I was trying to do everything I could to space myself up early in that restart but I just could not get clear." Do you feel you have as much horsepower now as you did before the rule change? "Since we've taken the magnets off the gas pedals, we go even further now (laughter). They've done a good job to regain the horsepower and I think they've gotten a little bit of it back, for sure. I've never seen a team -- and it's definitely zoomed in on Joe Gibbs Racing -- a team get penalized for such hard work. I've been in different cars -- I've been in the 32 at Braun and the Gibbs cars. It's just the details of the race team that are making us so strong. It's not the engine package. It's just really good equipment, really good people over there and when you have the support that the Cup side is giving the Nationwide side, it's going to be tough for an outside team to really compete."
What does it say about the depth of the No. 18 team winning without regular crew chief Jason Ratcliff on top of the pit box?
"He really does a good job from home. Of course he hears what's going on. He has to lean on the guys here on the race track with Joel (Weidman) and a couple other guys that have really stepped up and taken the leadership of this race team. We had a minimum amount of help from Mike Ford (Hamlin's Cup crew chief) and really just race calls was the only thing he chipped in for the most part in this race. I'm really proud of those guys and it just goes to show that their second string ain't so bad."
-credit: toyota motorsports