DENNY HAMLIN, No.11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
As driver code evolves throughout the year, where do you see it standing right now?
“They can do it really however they want to do it. Everyone has their own agenda, but I think for the most part everyone has been pretty respectful really. Every year that I have seen, the guys that are eliminated or not part of the Playoffs have been pretty respectful of letting those guys fight it out. I’m not sure really what the code is. I think that when I come up on one and I’m trying to pass them, I don’t expect them to race any differently than they have all year.”
Jenna Fryer tweeted about your upcoming surgery. How did it happen?
“I really don’t know how it happened to be honest with you, but it’s something that has been nagging really for years. I’ve had shoulder issues. It just got to the point where it was really bad and got it scanned and figured out what it was. It hadn’t really affected me in the car at all. That part has really been fine.”
You’ve been in a few post-race situations. What’s it like when it goes from you and the other guy to everybody?
“It usually starts with the drivers and ends not. It’s part of it. It’s just who’s going to be the first crew member to intensify the situation. I thought that my guys were pretty level to be honest with you through that whole deal. I think you could see quite a few times Joey (Logano) is right in front of them and no one lays a hand on Joey. I think it’s just lack of control that Todd’s (Gordon, crew chief, Joey Logano) got with his people.”
This is the best position you’ve been in. How do you feel about moving on and guaranteeing a spot in Homestead?
“I feel pretty good. We gained on the cutoff line. Obviously, we had one of our competitors win, which not what you want to happen. We go to every race track thinking we are going to win, and so, when we come here this weekend, and next, we are locked in on what do we need to do to win. That’s my focus. I don’t want to have to count on points, but if we do, we are in the best spot of anyone thus far. We are going to do everything we can to keep that and just keep having solid weeks, really, from start to finish. Through the Playoffs, the first round was not so great, but after that we have just had solid practices, we are qualifying where we thing we should, and the races have been really good for us, so we just want to continue that trend and not change anything even though the stakes continue to get higher.”
With the situation with Joey Logano last weekend and the space you took, does that go back to how he raced at Dover or is it just racing circumstances?
“I would lean more towards racing circumstances, but absolutely, I take in account who is beside me at all times. I was not going to give one inch. I misjudged. The on-track stuff was definitely my fault. There was no intention to run into him or run him into the wall or anything like that. Because I put myself at a pretty big risk there of cutting tires as well, but I was just trying to use all the space that I could. Certainly, if it was like a teammate or someone else beside me or really anyone, yeah, I probably don’t gas it up quite as soon and try to take all of that space. All that stuff plays a factor for sure.”
Is there something that can be done for further separation between drivers and crew members on pit road?
“It’s going to be a difficult thing. They already kind of have the crew members separated from the race cars after the race, but then, the crew members have to push the cars back, so that’s why we stop where we do. That’s why they are all corralled around the cars. It’s within about five minutes of us stopping and us getting out, that they have to push the cars to tech or wherever they are going to push them. That’s going to be difficult to do certainly. We, as drivers, are forced to stay at our race cars for a certain amount of time, but we’re not – we’re going to go do media. So, we are always going to kind of intermingle there. I think it will be tough to implement anything, but it starts at the crew chief and they have to have control over the guys, and they have to have some kind of protocol. What is the protocol? I think those things are in place with every race team, it’s just a matter of if it’s followed or not.”
What can you not do with your shoulder?
“It really has not limited me to be honest with you. It’s uncomfortable while sleeping. I can’t sleep on that side, but it really hasn’t limited me to be honest. I got a Cortisone shot in it, which really, really helped. That’s like my saving grace, when things start hurting. So that really changed. It went from being immobile to feels like there is nothing wrong with it right now to be honest. I can still lift weights. I can only do them a certain way. I have to limit my mobility on that part, but it hasn’t affected anything in my everyday life.”
When was the shot?
“Yeah, it was weeks ago, but it was just progressively getting worse over the late summer to early fall. So just a few weeks ago the doctors came and gave me a little bit of relief with that just kind of to get me into the offseason where I can fix it.”
From what I could tell in the video when (Chris) Gabehart (crew chief) restrained you, he said ‘It wasn’t worth it.’ Given as far as you have come this season, is there a point where you say that I’m not going to let Joey (Logano) get to me?
“I’m not going to let him touch me. First, the first thing, as a man you can’t just let that stuff happen. That’s the first thing. That doesn’t affect me, and we are talking about it right now, but within 30 minutes when I’m going in there to work, it stops. That’s my full concentration. Like I said, we go into every race track to win. This weekend is no different. We don’t self-label ourselves as a favorite. I don’t think we are. We’re not locked in to Homestead. We still have a lot of work to do. By no means is this thing given.”
Do you ever get the feeling that he just knows that he can get to you?
“No, he’s not that smart.”
Assuming you make it to Homestead, who do you think the other drivers will be and who do you hope doesn’t make it?
“I don’t know. I think whoever gets to Homestead, those four guys are probably going to be the toughest four. I don’t know. I think everyone is equally as good at Homestead. There is a lot of guys that have won a lot of races at Homestead that are in this final eight, so I don’t look forward to going against any of them to be honest with you, but I’m going to have to if I get there. You are just going to have your ‘A’ game for sure.
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