THE MODERATOR: We’re going to go ahead and roll into our post-race availability here for today’s Advent Health 400 at Kansas Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series. We have been joined by our race-winning team. We’re joined by team owner Joe Gibbs and also joined by our race-winning crew chief Chris Gabehart. Congratulations on that win today with Denny Hamlin.
Joe, we’ll start off with you. This is Joe Gibbs Racing’s 400th win. Tell us a little bit about what that means to you to be able to not only accomplish today’s win but to take home your 400th.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, it’s a thrill. When we started in racing, our very first year in ’91, we had 17 people and raced one car. We just kept building and building and building. I didn’t dream that it would be anything like where we are today.
I’m just thrilled for all of our people that helped build our race team. That’s the people back in town. I appreciate obviously all of our sponsors that meant so much to me. Today to be able to call Fred Smith and talk to him, as we know in our sport, the thing that’s really different is our sponsor partners, and I call them partners.
The other wild thing that I’m not sure this has been done before, but I called Norm Miller at Interstate Batteries. He’s been here for all 400. Can you imagine that? I just thanked Norm so much for getting us started. If it hadn’t been for him, we may not be in racing.
We love it, and just really appreciate everything today and appreciate the crowd here and everybody.
THE MODERATOR: Chris, for you, obviously you guys have been in contention several times this season. Denny really drove extremely hard there at the end to finally make that pass on Larson there right before the checkered. Talk about your vantage point from the pit box. I think you were saying over the radio, you’re going to get him, stay in it, and he really did at the end.
CHRIS GABEHART: Yeah, thanks. I’ll take just a minute here first to congratulate Coach and all the people who put together 400 NASCAR wins.
I know a little bit about what goes into that. Not near what he does and not near for the length of time. But I just can’t tell you enough what an accomplishment that is.
Very proud to be a part of it. Congratulations, Coach.
As for the race, I was just telling Jamie in the lounge this morning, the one thing that unfortunately in my view that sets our sport apart from so many is it’s so hard for the common fan to understand what they just witnessed today. You just can’t understand how hard that is to do. Like you can throw a 40-yard touchdown pass or throw a 100-mile-an-hour fast ball in the World Series to win Game 7 or how hard it is to shoot three-pointers, whatever it is, swing a golf club. Everybody, every fan in here has done all those things. So when you watch pros do it, it’s amazing. You can watch in awe and truly appreciate just how hard it is to do.
Unfortunately in our sport it’s hard to relate to that. You don’t know what it’s like to drive a race car at 190 miles an hour, and while I’ve never done it at this level at a track like this, I have gotten to do it, and guys, let me tell you, what Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin did out there today and what you see every week, I’m not overselling it. I’m telling you, it is so, so hard to do.
I’m just so proud of Denny to work over what in my view is really the most talented race car driver in the world. I won’t shy away from that. I’ve said it. I said it on the radio. I’ll say it for you guys; you can print it. I think pound for pound, the type of racing, how far he spans, all the things that he wins in, Kyle Larson is the most talented race car driver in the world.
But Denny Hamlin beat him today. What’s that say about Denny Hamlin? I’m just so proud of my guys, so proud of Denny to be able to force the world’s best into a few mistakes there that ultimately got us the win, and just very thankful to be here.
- Chris, Denny talked about having a lot of confidence going into this stretch of races, really a stretch that started a couple weeks ago. To have had the speed you had at Dover, to come here, capitalize on a fast car when it looked like the 5 and the 24 found their speed late, how satisfying is it to see and gratifying is it to see Denny rally back, find a way to reel Kyle in on that final lap?
CHRIS GABEHART: Yeah, these are a really great stretch of tracks for us. Dover, even Talladega, Martinsville, Richmond. Every Monday in the meetings he’s telling everybody in our meetings he’s had a car capable of winning. We know that’s what we’re capable of as the 11 car and really have been all along. We’ve just not been able to have the clean races when we have cars capable of competing for wins.
For me, honestly, the last 10 or 15 laps, again, what I told you guys about how hard this is to do, I was just so thankful. Whether we won or lost, I was so thankful to be in a position to compete for that win right there because that means that we all did our jobs, Denny, myself, the pit crew, Lambert, the engineers, we all did our jobs, got to the end with a shot to win, and then were rewarded with an absolute top-notch slugfest of a battle that we came out on top of.
Very thankful for that win and the way it turned out. I’m sure Denny is going to make Kyle eat some crow for a while here, so it’s good.
- Coach, we talked about 400 team wins and of course you won three Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins. Do the feelings compare when you see what you’ve done as a whole in this endeavor versus the feelings you had winning three Super Bowls?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I grew up in football on that side and I was the technical guy, helped design stuff, called plays. That’s a thrill. Over here, I’m not the technical person, so I try and focus on the people and the sponsors, and the great thing about over here, too, is my family.
I appreciate you mentioning the 400 again. I think back to J.D. J.D. spent his entire professional life building our race team, and then Coy, when his brother got sick, stepped over, and Coy and his son Ty, everything that’s taken place, Heather now stepping into our ownership role, it’s family.
Over here, Miller was here today. He’ll be coming on board. So on this side, it’s a thrill for me because I missed so much of both boys when I was coaching and after it so much, and I got a chance to relive some of that time with them, and obviously miss them, but they were a big part of building this, too, so thanks for letting me answer that.
- Chris, you were kind of encouraging Denny, saying, you’ll get him, you’ll get him, but after a couple tries and being side by side and not completing the pass, what was your confidence level going into the final lap?
CHRIS GABEHART: Well, it was still high. Our car was quite a bit better, and Larson wasn’t really — you could tell he wasn’t really confident where we were going to attack from. There were a few different lanes that we could attack from, which as loose as he was getting, and he’s also not sure which lane he has to protect, it makes his job extra hard.
Hey, that’s a high pressure situation to be in. We’ve seen Larson in those situations before carry a car further than most could, let me say, but ultimately he’s not afraid to make some mistakes, too, to get that done. Ultimately just made one too many, and Denny was just a little too perfect for him today.
- Chris, you know there’s been a lot made of Hendrick was off to a pretty fast start and maybe you guys were playing catch-up a little bit. How do you see things shaking out now? It was a very Hendrick and Gibbs day. Who has the strength? Who has the advantage?
CHRIS GABEHART: I know you guys have to have something to write about every week, but it’s such a long season full of kind of comers and goers. That’s the quantifiable part of it. We’re all trying to make our cars faster and pit crews better. Then there’s the part that you have such a hard time quantifying, and that is the streaks. You just get hot and you get confident, and what does that create. You can’t quantify it, but it’s real.
Right now everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota has been working extremely hard to make fast cars. I really think they’re a little faster than maybe even we’ve been able to showcase at times because it’s so hard to get it all together at the same time. Obviously our pit crews have been in the media a little bit, and just let me say how proud I am of them today, specifically on the 11.
Had a tough week last week, and there’s two things you can do, you can fold or you can come in and go to work and try to be better, and Tuesday after Dover’s race they were in the shop at 7:00 a.m. busting their butt to turn it around. I’m just so proud of that.
You talk about where we’re at right now, I think if we can get it all put together, I think we’ve got some really good stuff, and looking forward to the summer stretch.
- Chris, from a crew chief’s perspective, obviously there was a lot of cautions today, a lot of aggressive driving on the racetrack. From your perspective on the pit box, how does that inform how you come back here in the playoffs, if at all?
CHRIS GABEHART: Yeah, man, Kansas is — clearly after today is our best track, and we’ve got a lot of good ones. It doesn’t matter what gen car and whatever. This guy and his confidence here and his ability to know what he needs on the racetrack where and when, and our ability to match that to the data to show up with what he needs is clearly one of our real sweet spots.
To the playoff race, I look forward to that. To the specifics of this race and trying to call it with all the cautions coming and you’re kind of out of tires and you’re down to qualifying scuffs or not, do you put your new ones on or your qualifying scuffs, you can’t know how it’s going to play out, so if there’s one more caution there and there’s a couple cars that’s got stickers laying and we’ve got Q scuffs and so do a few others, it all depends on when the caution falls as to what the right call was.
I think sometimes in our sport we get lost in that a little bit. There are true forks in the road in terms of strategy that it’s not a good call or a bad call; you tell me when the cautions come out, and I’ll tell you what the call needs to be. That’s just the way it goes, and glad this one turned out on our side this time.
THE MODERATOR: Coach and Chris, congratulations again. We appreciate you guys spending some time with us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports