Toyota NCS Nashville Quotes – Denny Hamlin

NKP #11: Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, FedEx Toyota Camry

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to the media on Saturday after earning the pole position for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. 

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

Take us through your laps during qualifying and what this pole position means for tomorrow.

“Yeah, felt pretty good about it. Seems like we’ve definitely fixed some of the things we weren’t very good with last year. Even during practice and during the race, we fell on a terminal issue with the car we just couldn’t get fixed. And it seems like that was an emphasis we worked on coming back here. All day today, that was the least of my problems. I definitely feel pretty good about it and certainly, we’re going to work on it overnight and I feel very confident we’ll be in contention tomorrow.”

Does starting on pole carry extra weight here at Nashville?

“Yeah, I mean, there’s only 35 ft from the pit box to the timing line, so it’s one of the shorter distances that we have on the pit out. So, it’s one of the tracks that carries a bigger advantage. Yeah, at this track, it means more.”

Your crew chief, Chris Gabehart, said you guys were trying something new this weekend. Can you go into what that is?

“Yeah, kick the driver in the butt and say, ‘let’s go.’ No, I don’t know. We worked on what we really fought last time. We just couldn’t fix it. We were still a top-three car, but not the best. So, we needed to work on that, and I feel like from the very first lap of practice, they certainly fixed that. Now we get to work on some other things as your car is never handling perfect, but I feel like it has the speed along with the feel it needs to.”

Do you and your family have any plans for the Olympic break? Do you have a favorite Olympic sport?

“Yeah, we’re going to go on vacation. Finally go on one. For sport, track and field is the most exciting as it’s racing. Yeah, I really enjoy that. Certainly, I’ll watch basketball and things like that. But, to me, track and field, and obviously swimming. Anything that involves racing seems to be my favorite Olympic sport.”

For the driver meeting this morning, what did you learn from the discussion on wet weather tires?

“I mean, the only insight I can give is they explained why they made the decisions they made and why they were trying to ease their way into this. I think if you make one big mistake, which I think is valid, then you set yourself back and you’re then more hesitant to make those again. I was happy with everything they explained, and certainly, there’s always room for improvement, but they’re trying to use all the facts at hand to make the right decision. I think I mentioned on the podcast (Actions Detrimental) that they did a pretty good job. In Loudon, to allow the cars to take fuel was maybe the only thing questionable. I like where they’re at with it and as teams, we’ll continue to get better with it.”

Have you seen a difference in Bubba Wallace’s attitude this weekend?

“I think he’s still probably frustrated with himself at times, the team at times. But I think he’s doing a better job not outwardly showing that. I think that comes from maturity and he’s matured. Certainly, with some guidance from the team, we’ve tried to help him and guide him through those tough times you’re always going to have. I mentioned to him this week that you have just a handful of races that we have got to get it done. It certainly means a lot to us to make the Playoffs and certainly to him to make the Playoffs. We expect that from our cars, so they know they’ve got to perform. Whenever they don’t get the results they’re hoping for each week, it does get frustrating. You either get frustrated, mad and make more mistakes or you go to work, and you get better. I think that’s the attitude he’s going to take.”

What will the Olympic break look like for 23XI Racing and its employees?

“I’m not really sure, honestly. I want my guys to get a little time off. This is the grind of the season, it’s hot, there’s not been a break for a really long time. To me, this is the toughest stretch. June, July, our schedule is the absolute worst for the teams, because there are very short weeks where they don’t get the car back until late Monday, have to turn it around and have it ready by Thursday, so it’s tough. So hopefully they’ll have some time to get a little reset and certainly, we try to give our guys as much time off as we possibly can and rotate guys in and out on the roster on a weekly basis.”

What’s your relationship with Chase Briscoe as he joins Joe Gibbs Racing next season?

“Yeah, I’ve never really had a close relationship with Chase (Briscoe). Never really talked to him much. I obviously congratulated him this week and welcomed him to the team. He’s a person I’ll certainly learn off of. I think he’s got some special skillset at certain race tracks that intrigue me and when he gets in a car that’s similar to mine, certainly I’ll use that information to make myself better. That’s what you want from teammates is to go out and challenge you.”

How will running this race in the daytime be different compared to the previous year’s races at night with the Next Gen car?

“Yeah, it’s a great question. I think the track really took a jump when it went to night the first year (2022). It seemed like the field was spread in the sense of there were really good cars and everyone else. And then as soon as it went to night, it just squished the field all together and made passing really hard. I think passing will be easier in these ridiculously hot conditions because the cars will be sliding around and really accentuate good handling and drivers that have good techniques.”

How do you describe the recent instances with Kyle Larson on-track?

“I don’t know, there are different (rivalries) for sure. I think that there’s rivalries from drivers that don’t respect each other and certainly, they have a lot of speed, but they don’t like each other and deliberately run into each other. I don’t think anyone’s deliberately running into each other. Although it does happen. I’ve certainly had my mistakes and he’s been on the bad end of those. But it comes from competition and wanting to beat him. He’s one of the guys that, it’s hard not to say the best, of our sport. I challenge myself more when I race with him and it happens often, it does happen towards the front more often than not. We know each other’s driving style and we do things around each other that combat passing each other. And that usually means those tight quarters positions. The easy answer is if you’re faster than him, just go pass him. It’s just not that easy in the Next Gen car. If you really want to hold someone back, you can. It seems like we’re doing that to each other because it’s so hard to pass the other back, and we understand track position means everything. You know, when we try to pull a slider, the other person is going to drive in there deeper and make sure you don’t have the room to clear. It’s just the technique that’s used in dirt all the time, when they go up there and slide and force the car to lift. And if they don’t lift, they make contact. And that’s just something that’s evolved in Cup Series racing the past few years, really in the Next Gen era. It’s just two guys that don’t want to let the other past.”

Will heat play a factor in the race tomorrow?

“Fatigue will play a factor tomorrow. I do believe that. Certainly, everyone’s doing everything they can to hydrate themselves, but still, some people take heat better than others. I think any time that’s a factor, it has to weigh on you some way, shape or form. So, certainty, it’ll be a factor. How big of a factor, I’m not sure.”

What went behind the decision to have Corey Heim run Nashville for 23XI Racing?

“A lot of it had to do with scheduling. With engines from Toyota, we only have certain amount of capacity and engine sets they had, so timing it out from when our other third car races and Jimmie (Johnson) running. We have a partnership with LEGACY (MOTOR CLUB) on the pit crew as well, so spacing it out so it’s not where it’s crazy, stress on the shop was the biggest reason why. We also looked at which tracks have the most pit stops, where are pit stops the most important. Where’s track position most important? Where are the most passes? And if you want to let someone’s skillset show, we picked a track we feel like you can pass and if you’re good, you can make your way to the front, and you won’t be held back by the outside factors. So, we ramped those all in that order and we landed right here.”

Any discussions on having Martin Truex running the Daytona 500 for 23XI Racing?

“Yeah, they’re ongoing and progressing. You know, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but we’re trying to plan for the future and certainly, I’d be honored to field a car for Martin (Truex Jr.) whenever he wants to race.”

Has there been any change in your preparation due to recent on-track struggles?

“Each result was certainly different for different reasons, and certainly engines and wet weather conditions was not ideal. I don’t remember the middle 24th-place finish and what happened there, but we feel very confident no matter what. Our speed has always been there, and even though our results don’t show that, we feel very confident that every time we go to the race track, we’re going to contend to be one of the fastest cars. Then, it’s a race on ourselves to execute properly and me making sure I’m doing my job behind the wheel. Yeah, it’s a bummer going from really good points position to three in a row less than ideal results. But then, you come back to it next week and pretend like none of that stuff ever happened and you set a goal and hopefully go dominate tomorrow. It’s just how our sport is. The ebbs and flows and every team has these swells of performance of not getting the results they deserve.”

Golin for Toyota Racing PR

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