Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were made available to media after practice at Phoenix Raceway on Friday:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 SHINGRIX Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How different did the car feel today than it did in November?
“It was good. I think they did a really good job getting some grip out of the car. I told the crew chief (Chris Gabehart) right away that short track racing fall off is at least back a little bit. Certainly, I don’t know if it is going to be at the levels we’ve had in the far past, but I like where we are at.”
What will be you interested in seeing this weekend as we head into Richmond?
“This is a change. This is a big change. I’m looking forward to it. Certainly, the racing will be better in the sense of being able to pass versus what we had last year for sure. There is no doubt about that. Does it mean that we are going to have a double-wide finish? I would temper expectations. Certainly, from getting us to where we have to have throttle control, brake control, stuff like that – it is definitely a step in the right direction.”
How difficult is it to pass here?
“Typically, the narrower the race tracks, the more difficult the passing, but the more lap time variation you can have from new tires to old tires, you are going to have overtaking, so I think that if you look at the fall off we have had – the variation that we had last year – this is certainly more. That’s a good thing. I don’t want everyone to get excited and if the race is a snoozer – that just happens sometimes – but this is the right direction for sure.”
Is this more for long runs or short runs?
“Well everyone goes for all out speed as much as they can. It just seems like the Toyotas in general – we were faster on the back side. We weren’t blazing fast on the short run, but whenever you have the car sliding around, you wear out the tires more naturally. When you have drag and downforce taken out, it makes the car go down the straightaway faster. You’ve got to brake it more to slow it down, because min speed is slower, so it takes its toll on the car if you don’t’ take care of it.”
Are you an advocate for practice?
“I don’t know. I’m favor of practice simply because of the show portion of it. Do I want the team guys here three-to-four days a week? No. Certainly not. I do think there is something to be said to have practice to build storylines for Sunday.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How much different did the car feel from what you drove last year?
“A little bit slicker, a little bit slower in general. Basically, using a little more brake and a little less throttle – slower mid-corner speeds and a little bit more slipping and sliding. I was in a little bit of traffic there and I felt like it was a little bit better in traffic, but the ultimate test will be what happens on Sunday, of course.”
What do you mean by a little bit better in traffic?
“Just better balance. With the other package, I felt like when you got behind another car and you lose the nose super bad, and you can’t get close to them. Just felt overall like I was more balanced, but I was never really close to a guy that was competitive in speed as the leaders. It was more just passing slower cars.”
Do you feel like that the program for you guys is better than last year?
“It’s too early to tell. I have no idea. We won’t know more till Sunday.”
Did you try the apron?
“I think everyone pretty much waits for the race, because it is so hard on the car.”
Is it really going to be that much harder on it with some of the changes?
“I guess there is less parts to damage, so I guess that is a good thing. All of the teams want you to stay off the apron till the race. We have to qualify tomorrow, so we have to have everything we can get.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was practice?
“I thought practice was very similar to how the majorly of my races have been recently. I felt pretty strong in the long run and pretty weak on the short run. Hopefully we can get that tilted a little bit to help with our fire off speed.”
Did it feel like it did at the test?
“I thought it felt similar. I don’t know if I’m biased towards it because I really like it, but I made passes in practice that I know that I absolutely wouldn’t have with the old package. I don’t know. I’m happy. I hope the other drivers feel the same way.”
What were you able to do to be able to accomplish that?
“I don’t know. It seemed like the car was less effected in practice. I was able to run the same line as guys and roll momentum on them and get underneath them whenever they started slipping. I’m optimistic about Sunday’s race.”
Was it just slower traffic that you were coming up on?
“That is hard to say because you don’t know what tires other guys are on, so that is very hard to say. Whenever you are on equal tires – it is going to be tougher, than when you have fresher tires. But in general, I felt like the traffic was better than what we had in the past.”
Do you think this will be good for this package going forward?
“I think so. It’s very, very early. We have a 50-minute practice session. I don’t know. I felt like I could pass a little easier and I felt like I could maintain my position easier when I was following guys, but we will know more on Sunday.”
Toyota Racing PR