Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to media prior to the Charlotte race weekend earlier today:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
In terms of races you haven’t won, where does the 600 rank for you?
“It’s the highest one left on the list – the Brickyard is no longer the Brickyard so that one got marked off the list for us so just this one left.”
Where is 23XI Racing in terms of a second car for 2022?
“Still working on some things. Obviously, there’s a lot of moving pieces that has to go into it. I think we’re still progressing. Just don’t have a timetable for it.”
If you have a second car next year, is there a certain type of driver you’re targeting?
“A good one.”
Do you feel you need a second driver with more experience?
“I don’t know. I think that I’m teammates with Bubba (Wallace) so he’s already got that. I don’t think that we necessarily have to have that because he’s got me, Martin (Truex Jr.) and Kyle (Busch) that work very, very close with him. We’re in the same meetings. I don’t know if there’s a benefit or detriment either way, but certainly I look at a lot of different things when it comes to who a prospective person could be.”
As a driver, do you think about the addition of having fans back in the grandstands?
“Yeah, its exciting just seeing them here on practice day to have a few hundred fans out here. I know they’re coming for the Truck race, but it’s great to be back and have somewhat of a normal weekend. It’s good. I like the process. I don’t know if it suits us or not to have practice. It seemed like we were doing really well without it, but I think I’m the type of driver that learns really good overnight. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it.”
Do you feel good about where you were as a team in practice today?
“There’s more I want out of my car personally, but I haven’t dived into the organizations to see whose fast or not. That’s something ultimately that I can’t control. All I can do is try to get my car to handle as fast as it can around the corners and if we have enough speed, we’ll be good and if not then we won’t.”
Did you feel a need to speak to NASCAR about last week or are you all letting Kevin Harvick speak for the group with his comments?
“It sums things up in a nutshell I think. I think everyone had a lot to learn from last week. NASCAR especially about making the decision and putting safety first beyond any kind of show that you want to put on. Those discussions were good and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
Will there be something done that can reduce the spray?
“Spray comes from the tires and we needed the grip of those treaded tires, that’s what it’s supposed to do is disperse all that water so we have rubber contacting the roads. If you put on slicks, there will be no spray and there will be no grip. It’s just a fine balance of where they want to be.”
How did the meeting with NASCAR go?
“It was good. A lot of questions got answered and I feel like certainly more informed leaving there than we were going in.”
Was the meeting primarily about Next Gen?
“We just really, normal safety update meeting that we have, especially with a new car coming in. There’s a lot of questions that drivers have about the safety components and things that are different from the old car to the new car coming in that we want answers to and I think we got those.”
What does it mean to honor a fallen service member on your race car this weekend?
“It’s important and NASCAR does such a great job honoring the military anyway, but to have these names on here for people who have made the ultimate sacrifice is very important. To get to understand the story a little bit more through the weekend with the family is really special from our standpoint. Really great with everything NASCAR Salutes has done to pay tribute on the windshields and hopefully we can take ours to victory lane.”
What is a piece of advice you would give another driver looking to become a team owner?
“It’s tough to say. I think everyone is different, everyone has different agendas, different amount of time that they have to spend on it. There’s just a lot of working elements to a race team and way more than just finding a sponsor, getting a driver and putting a car on track. There’s so many different things, myself as an owner is getting educated day in and day out of the business and how it works.”
What is the best prank you’ve ever pulled or had pulled on you?
“I don’t know. Tony (Stewart) was kind of that guy back in the day when we were first teammates. A lot of things, I don’t know if they were pranks or just harsh and cruel. Little brake cleaner in the driver’s seat to set your ass on fire. He was not afraid to go all out when it came to roasting you.”
Do pranks still happen now?
“It’s different now. It’s just different, everyone is so serious now and it’s just different. Everyone is so focused and we have more information now than we’ve ever had. Normally, maybe between runs we’d be out of the car and tell the team what’s going on and we’ve got nothing to do until they fix the car so we’ll be standing next to each other in the pit box and talking to each other. Now, it’s just so much information that you have to dive into that everyone is so hyper-focused on that information that no one ever wants to give any secrets away. No one is really asking questions like the young guys used to do to the veterans, they just look it up in data now.”
What modifications would you like implemented at Charlotte Motor Speedway?
“You can go back years and years, I’ve always said these tracks are the ones that need to step up and invest the money in their facilities. People just want different things nowadays. They’re not okay sitting in old, aluminum bleachers and having terrible food. People want a nicer thing. While that’s great the state is pitching in, it’s still, when you look at the bottom line of the tracks and some of the profit had been gotten by the tracks, I wish they would spend more money upgrading their facilities.”
What specifically would you change?
“Everything from hospitality, the suites. I remember driving in here thinking, in my rookie season I remember Bruton (Smith) threatening to leave this race track if he didn’t get money from the state or something like that to upgrade it and it’s the same. They put some money in, they put the Roval in and a few million bucks here and there. Some of these tracks really need a face lift and we’ve seen ISC really spend a lot of money at Richmond, Phoenix, Daytona, Talladega. I just wish everyone was held to that super high standard.”
For 23XI Racing, do you need to have a charter to start a second team?
“I think we have to weigh our risk in that. I think people have charters that can’t even afford to race the charters they have and they really require a safety net from people leasing them and things like that. I think charters can be held hostage if they wanted to and people trying to drive the prices up on them and what not. My philosophy is, okay, go fill the car and have fun. You get a guaranteed amount of money, but the charter agreement is up at the end of 2024 and there could be so many changes that changes the business model after 2024 that I don’t know how much I want to invest in a charter right now. It would take me years to get that money back and then once I maybe get it back, the whole agreement could be different. I’m okay being patient with that. I think the short answer is no, I don’t have to have a charter.”