Pocono 2; Denny Hamlin Media Interview Transcript

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THE MODERATOR:  Denny, congratulations on the Pocono win.  You now are tied with Jeff Gordon as the all-time winner here at Pocono.  Talk a little bit about coming up with another victory, what it means to take home another trophy from Pocono Raceway.

            DENNY HAMLIN:  It’s awesome.  I think that’s the most wins I’ve got at any track now.  It’s hard to believe because we went through such a dry spell there kind of the middle of my career.  Yeah, we’ve just been on a run here lately.  Our cars have been really good.  Chris has been doing a phenomenal job on his side of things.  I feel like I’ve been doing okay on my side.  Any time you have something like that happen, you’re going to have great success.

            THE MODERATOR:  We’ll take questions for Denny.

            Q.  How special is this win in the sense of Pocono, your first Cup wins here, now to be tied for the all-time win leader here?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  It’s definitely meaningful.  Maybe one day I’ll get one of those black rocks they’ve got here for all the good guys that have won at Pocono, I don’t know (laughter).

            But, I mean, I don’t think this is it.  I don’t think this will be the last one.  Just the way we’re going, the way things are going with us right now, where I feel like I’m at in my career, hopefully we continue to build on it.

            We’re doing a great job right now.  Like I say, I hate to feel disappointed in a second and first.  Man, I really feel like we should have won both races.  Just didn’t work out.

            I can’t be too greedy.  I have to be happy with the result.  How we today didn’t start off that well.  I kind of got shuffled early.  I got some nose damage we had to fix.  The strategy kind of got thrown for a loop.  We were still able to battle our way back up front.  That’s a testament to great racecars and a team that’s on it right now.

            Q.  At the end when you were leading, have to make a pit stop, Chris is keeping you on the track, are you thinking what he’s doing there, are you second-guessing him, or is your confidence in him that high?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  I knew what bed we were running there.  I knew the only reason he must have — I knew that I was running a fast enough lap time out there on old tires that he was going to keep me out there.  About 10 laps after Harvick pitted, I asked what has been our gap the whole time.  He said, You’ve been a couple 10ths faster.  Other than if a caution comes, which I’m screwed anyway, why don’t you stay as long as you can, come get fresh tires.

            I more than likely was going to be ahead of him anyway when I came out, which I was because of the times I was running on old tires.  Then we were going to have the freshest tires in the field even if a caution did come out.

            I think we kind of played it perfectly there.  It’s not like we had a whole lot different strategy than a lot of the guys in the top five.  We just had a car that was that much faster.

            Q.  What is it that you specifically and the Gibbs guys have hit on the last few years?  What works so well for you here?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  That’s information I cannot share.  I wouldn’t tell you anything that we’ve learned or anything like that.  We’ve got a setup that’s pretty close.  We’re optimizing it, making the best of our days.

            Q.  I don’t know when was the last time they had to bring lights into Victory Lane here, but how weird was that?  Did they even need it because Victory Lane is so short these days?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, you really don’t.  I didn’t even think about it, to tell you the truth.  Looking back, I don’t even remember if there was lights.  I guess there was lights because you’re telling me so.

            I didn’t pay any attention to it.  I just was happy for no caution.  If it was, I was hoping it was late enough in the day they were going to call it for darkness.  I knew we were in a great spot.  No caution.

            We spent the last 20, 25 laps, whatever it was after we pitted, kind of picking my way through traffic.  I wasn’t super aggressive.  Didn’t charge my entries.  I didn’t do anything to take myself out of it.  I knew I could manage my gap.  I had the freshest tires of the guys that pitted.  We were, as they say, in the catbird seat.

            Q.  Was it any different this weekend with no fans compared to Talladega?  Could you tell a big difference at all?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, it is a little different.  You can hear the crowd.  Even though it’s just a few thousand at Talladega, you can definitely feel the crowd and the atmosphere, even with a small amount, versus kind of the boneyard you got out here today.

            A part of it’s definitely different.  I wish, especially when you’re on a roll like we are, we could live it up, get excited, kind of hear the fans give you a big FU, you suck, all that stuff.  But maybe another day.

            Q.  Every single weekend when you have to show up, it’s you and Harvick.  Do you consider him to be your greatest threat in this season?  Why are your two teams so consistently good?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, I mean, I would throw the 9 in there as well.  I think he’s kind of been on a run.  Didn’t have a great Talladega, didn’t have a great Pocono.  Before that, I think he had about four or five weeks in a row where he was in contention, had one of the best cars.

            But I think, yeah, certainly we’ve sustained some great finishes.  Even not great finishes, but great speed through an entire race all year.  I would say specifically the last 10 to 11 we’ve been exceptional, really since coming back from the break that we had.  I thought we’ve been really good.

            To me that’s a testament to like my team is really strong.  They’re doing a lot of really good work at the race shop preparing our cars to be set up, optimized right from the first run of the day.

            Where we’re really struggling is not getting stage points.  I think we’d be winning the regular season if we could get some.  The way the races have played out, we’ve kind of made our bed to try to win the race because we’ve had race-winning cars.  I’ll definitely take race wins over stage wins, especially knowing that race win counts for five of ’em.

            We’ve been doing good.  Just marching in the regular season points.  Obviously getting some Playoff points there.  We just want to get back to the final four with a chance.  That’s all I can ask for.  It’s going to be a successful season if we find ourselves back in that final four with the chance again.

            Q.  I know this is a weird thing, not having any fans.  Today was the first time NASCAR got to have a triple-header with all three series going on in one day.  Was that any different for you?  Did it just feel like another day and you had to wait your turn?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Well, I think it was a little different for me because I wasn’t in the bus.  I didn’t wake up to hearing roaring cars all through lunch and breakfast.  I came in here right after lunch because I spent some time with the kids.

            For me personally, I’m probably the last one you should ask.  I just wasn’t here.  It felt kind of status quo from my standpoint.

            I think it was definitely awesome.  Good to see they could get all three races in in one day.  Definitely I’m sure the fans, when they come back, love seeing doubleheaders because it gets them a lot of racing.

            Q.  You lamented a little bit earlier you felt you should have won two races here.  With the way the setup is coming right back, is that kind of one of the advantages?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, I mean, I think with all due respect to the 4 car, they definitely earned their win yesterday.  We didn’t give it to them by any means.  We just didn’t have a total clean race.  I knew that we were the best cars as far as speed was concerned.  He just got the best of me and got a five-second lead before we came in and pitted.  But we ran him down by the end of the race, so I knew we had probably a little bit faster racecar.  Things just didn’t work out.

            They earned their win, and we certainly earned ours today.  I think certainly strategy all aside, we still had the two best cars up front when it was all said and done.

            Q.  Yesterday after the race you came on the radio and said, We will win tomorrow.  Has that ever happened to you in your career before?  What does that do for the confidence with yourself and the team?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  I think it was Chris Gabehart that actually said it.  I agreed with him.  The only other time that ever happened was Loudon, New Hampshire, in 2010 or ’12.  Not sure what year it was.  I think we said Friday after practice that we were going to win the race.  We went out there and dominated and won the race.  That was the only other time I think we’ve called our shot.

            I can tell you inside of our heads, every single week we say we’re going to win.  It’s happened four times so far, probably should have been more.  We’re going to appreciate the wins that we do have and keep chugging along, keep pushing to make sure we get as many Playoff points, try to finish as good in the regular season points as we possibly can.

            Q.  41 wins, one more than Mark Martin.  Chasing up some other names.  What are your thoughts about that?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, I mean, I saw the next guy in line was Bill Elliott, which is a childhood hero of mine, the reason I got into racing when I was five.  I think he’s next on the list at 44.

            I don’t know.  I just don’t feel like my name — put them all on a sheet of paper, all these legends, Hall of Famers, everything, I think my own name sticks out there as one that doesn’t fit.

            I also can’t downplay the accomplishments that I’ve had in my career.  I’ve been really blessed to be with a fantastic race team that continues to keep getting better.  Seems like every week we just keep getting better.  I just don’t see the end in sight right now.

            Even in 2010, I just can’t remember us going to the racetracks and just, We’ll win this week, we’re going to be in contention to win this week.  We had dominating races in 2011 where we won eight, but there’s something about kind of how things are going right now, the execution we’re having, that just feels a little different.

            Q.  How did you end up on a boat with Hendrick and Gordon this week?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  They called and wanted to see if I wanted to go on a boat ride.  I said yes.  I had nothing else to do.  It was fun to say the least.  I was nervous.  I’ll be honest with you, I was a little nervous.  I think 60 is the fastest I’ve ever gone on water.  Blew that out of the water.

            Q.  Rick was driving the whole time?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Rick.  Oh, yeah, he’s the driver.  Jeff was just sitting in the back enjoying himself.  I think he’d already been on the boat for an hour or so.  They invited me on, told me to hang on.  They showed me where the ‘Oh, Shit’ bar was when things started getting fast.  I held on and hoped that Rick knew what he was doing.

            Q.  Next week you go to the first-ever doubleheader with another series.  What do you think that might be like?  Do the COVID regulations put a damper on what that weekend could have been?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Yes and no.  I mean, certainly the crown jewel events are different.  The Coke 600 was different.  I mean, it was a shitty race for me when the lead fell out.  I don’t know, they just all feel different without fans.  Certainly would like to see them back sooner than later.

            I know we have some issues going on in our country that we have to address.  We’re also in the entertainment industry and business, we’re trying to entertain the fans at home right now.  I think we’re doing a great job with the protocol we have right now here at the racetrack.  We’re able to continue to do what we love and put on a great show.

            Unfortunately it stinks for us because it’s not as much glamour around it.  There’s a bigger picture to it.  I guarantee if I were to win the Brickyard 400 next weekend, I would put that trophy in the same spot I would if there were 200,000 people there.

            Q.  Will it be cool to race with INDYCAR?

            DENNY HAMLIN:  I’ve never been to an INDY race.  I don’t know what the regulations will be.  I’m sure we’re not going to be able to go down there when they’re on track or in the pits or anything like that.  I don’t know if they practice or not.  I don’t even know what their protocol is.

            Certainly we’d like to go there and check it out for the first time because I haven’t been to one.  Excited to see how it works.

            THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Denny.  Congratulations on the win.  We wish you the best of luck next week in Indy.

            DENNY HAMLIN:  Thank you very much.

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