Toyota NCS Darlington Quotes — Denny Hamlin

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Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to media prior to the Darlington Raceway race this Saturday: 

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing

What are your thoughts on tomorrow’s race with your previous success at Darlington?

“I’m looking forward to it. Myself, (Kyle) Larson, (Kevin) Harvick, we were able to do tests here a couple months ago, a tire test. But yeah, I mean, you know, we weren’t all that great during that test, but we’ve learned so much since then. And it seems like our team in general is getting better as the season’s going on. And now we’re starting to get some good data points where we’re going back to tracks that are similar, we can create setups that are a lot more competitive. So I’m really confident going into this weekend that if we don’t have any trouble that we will be in contention.”

What is your anticipation for how this tire will run tomorrow night?

“You know, it had comprable fall off I thought to what we’ve had in the past. Myself and (Kevin) Harvick and (Kyle) Larson all thought that it was a very good tire. Good from the very short part of the run, you felt like you had a lot of grip and then at the end, you were all over the place like you should be so certainly I think that probably won’t be part of our story this weekend, which is good.”

What is it about Joe Gibbs that makes him such a great boss?

“His work ethic is the best example I can give you. He just, he works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t matter if you’re 30 or 40, he works harder. So I mean, he just kind of leads by example. You know, a lot has been made about his reputation of just motivating people. And a lot of it really doesn’t come through words. It just comes through example of work ethic like he had.”

Are you optimistic at all about the appeal for the wheel coming off or are you just happy to have your crew here in Darlington?

“Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure. The basis of it, the general feeling and what I’ve heard is that you know, this is not our gun. It’s not our nut. These are all parts that are given to us and there’s absolutely nothing that we believe our changers could have done differently. You know, the nut falls out. I don’t know how we control that. But you never know. You know, I think that they’re making their case. See how it all turns out, but certainly yeah it’s important to have you guys here.”

How do you feel about the way this season has gone so far for you?

“It’s been frustrating. I mean, honestly, it’s just been, you know, week after week of being the coyote it gets the anvil dropped on its head. I mean, I don’t even know how else to explain it. I mean, even after the wheel falls off, I just told my team at Dover you know, I think we got back to about 10th or 12th or something in the middle of one run. I said, if we don’t just, you know, screw up from here, we’re going to feel like this is just incredible. I mean, my car’s been really fast. Las Vegas, I had the best car and was leading until I missed a shift and like, it’s been a lot of things that have certainly kept us from getting our result from looking the way it should. How do you believe? I mean, one thing that I noticed, you know, my team doesn’t need to convince me how strong we are or how good we can be, but I’m 20 whatever in points, and this is before last week, and Chase (Elliott) is leading and we had a better average running position on the race than Chase. And we’re 23 points difference in points. So our performance when we’re not at Martinsville running 30th, has been really good all year. We’ve had things that just have broken. I’ve had more mechanical failures this year than I’ve ever had. Again, you know, some of these parts that we don’t control and NASCAR is continuing to change them and develop them to make them better so we don’t have a lot of problems, but we’ve just been kind of the poster child of the ones that break things. And then last week, you know, what can I do? I just do, the 51 spun there and I just didn’t, didn’t get around, run into him. It’s been unfortunate, but I can tell you it’s a lot different than running top-10 every week and trying to figure out how you’re going to get enough speed to win. That’s what I’d really like to be worried about.”

How do you work yourself out of this situation in points?

“We’ve given up on the regular season points. And even getting in the top-10. I’m not even sure. So for us, it’s actually simplified our strategy, we go for Playoff points only. So when you see the field start splitting because they want stage points or whatever, you know where the 11 stands from this point on. We’re trying to get five points at the end of the race and two for the Playoffs during stages. So it actually simplifies our strategy for the regular season.”

How has practice changed for you in your approach to the sessions?

“Yeah, I mean, there’s certainly a little bit of a change. When you think that hey, you got 20 minutes and we plan our race weekend and our practices down to the minute usually, but we haven’t seen a session and not have a yellow. So our plans constantly get changed. Before we practice on Friday, I would look at things and really digest what I could do better, and then go to work on Saturday to try to improve it for happy hour. You got 20 minutes and so you better have all the information that you need to get better right away because you’re about to go qualify. So you have to have everything at your fingertips a lot quicker. And you just really got to plan that 20 minutes to be the best that you possibly can to get all the information you can. It’s just not a lot of time obviously. But I don’t dislike the schedule. I think that certainly there’s a lot of benefits in the way that we’re doing it, but just kind of need to be more efficient.”

Are you concerned about dropping out of the top-30 in points considering the issues you’ve had that are out of your control?

“If I drop out of the top-30, this would be my last season for sure.”

Would you have been better off with the wheel last week to backup on pit road versus having the wheel come off?

“We talked about that. If I would have backed up, more than likely I would have gone a lap down in the pits. So it’s actually better for the wheel to fall off and then you try to flip it around to not go a lap down. So you know from where the pace car is you think about where they dropped us off with it. He probably was halfway down the backstretch. I’d say when we were pulling off pit road, again, I was in pit stall nine I think so it fell off the box too. If I said right away, you have to backup, the chances of me backing up — first of all I was up front, I get run over by cars all over the place. So that’s the number one thing. I was the first car off pit road so there was going to be 35 guys who were going to plow into the back of me if I tried to reverse it. I was actually better off to just keep going and take the damage so that’s what I did.”

Are you all resigned to the fact that this is the harshness of this penalty this season?

“It’s just so different. I mean, you know, I think that we change a lot of rules at times to and we need to, to kind of keep up with the times. Again, this isn’t our equipment. It’s a very tough thing four races is very, very steep. There’s not a person. I wish Tony Stewart, that we could just go back in time and say I’m sorry for making such a big deal about loose wheels and I’m not trying to under sell it because you had a few at COTA that kind of bounced out in some places. The penalty, it’s just it’s dramatic for the team before you even levy all this other stuff. So we can’t race with a loose wheel. I mean, you only have five nuts, if you could kind of limp around and you had some warning. Now these things just fall off because you got one nut and again it’s with a gun that’s not as powerful. It’s just very very difficult when I try to talk to the pit crew guys, it’s so hard to know how much torque you have on them and every gun you get is different. So it’s like, just very difficult box that we’re put in. But certainly from a selfish perspective and even as a team owner, I mean, listen my pit crews are provided by JGR. Did I like their department caused my crew chief to be gone for four weeks? No. We had pit crew issues over there to begin with and now we’ve lost two of those guys. So it’s just not it’s not been a good year for luck and for myself personally.”

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