Toyota MENCS Playoffs Media Day Denny Hamlin Quotes

by Official Release On Fri, Sep. 14, 2018

Toyota Racing – Denny Hamlin
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Playoffs Media Day – September 13, 2018

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to the media in Las Vegas:

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

What could you have done differently at Indianapolis?

“Nothing. There was nothing that I could have done differently. What I did to lose the lead and there was just too much grip (Brad) Keselowski ran faster than us before the caution even came out. I wasn’t going to get there but that restart allowed him to be right on us. Maybe I could have taken the outside line to pin him behind the No. 14 car, who we had a gotten a good launch on. I think the circumstances laid out perfectly for him. He comes to pit road and the caution comes. He never paid the repercussions of having to go to the back because everyone was slowing down for the caution – he blended and restarted sixth on new tires and no one else pitted. Everything worked out perfectly for him and bad for us.”

Can you clarify some of your comments after Indianapolis?

It’s not true, I was saying what their actions were what was meaningless. You have to recognize where you’re at. I read a lot of tweets about those guys needing mentoring. They’ve been in the sport for a while. I’ve also raced on a budget for a long time throughout the course of my career and I knew I couldn’t wreck. You’ll never get better by wrecking because you don’t have the money to afford the car or fix it. I think you have to have awareness of where you were at, they were 29th and there are 31 cars on the track. That means there are two cars behind them and one of those was even more laps down them than they were. They were only racing each other for 29th and not for points. What were they doing and thinking? It sucks when it affects you. Kyle Larson had the same thing happen to him last week. Somebody in the back got in a wreck and he lost the lead going to pit road. It happens every week but certainly you’re more affected when it happens to you. I was a bit more frustrated. It was not a pointed comment at anyone personally. It was more the actions.”

How do you see the first round of the Playoffs unfolding with hard racing?

“It’s libel to be with the guys in the Playoffs. We’re certainly nervous about the Roval and we want to get the job done in the first two weeks to not have to put ourselves in a position where we have to do something at the Roval. That’s where last year came into play at Martinsville. I felt a sense of urgency at the end of the race at Martinsville and when I got into Chase (Elliott). I thought I had to win in that exact moment because I had no playoff points built up in the regular season. You have to put yourself in a better position and not have that sense of urgency to make sure you keep your mind straight and do all of the right things.”

Do you give Brad Keselowski some slack going into a short-track next week?

“I don’t think Brad did anything wrong with me. Looking back at me, he probably did the same things I would do to him. If it cut my left rear tire, I would have been upset. Fortunately, no-harm, no-foul as far as I’m concerned. Great race to the finish. I just wish we could have cut him off. There’s nothing I feel I could have done differently.”

How does the first round here feel for you guys with some different tracks?

“We’re used to the same tracks so this is definitely a different feel. I remember starting the Playoffs in Chicago and know what I need to do there. I go to New Hampshire and know exactly what to do there. Now, it’s a different mix-up of tracks. I think it’s going to be a bigger wildcard. I think there will be of the top-eight seeds, at least one will fall out of the first round. Just because of the unknowns and circumstances in which these first tracks have.”

Which teams do you think could fall out early in the Playoffs?

“I don’t know, it could be a team getting caught up in wrecks or blows a tire.”

What do you think it’s going to be like for teams where there isn’t certainty back at the shop?

“I think if I were in that situation, and I can’t speak for them, I would run my ass off. I literally would do everything to go and prove how good I am. Whether that’s for another race team or for the race team that you won’t be driving for, you want to prove your worth. I would do everything in my power to win a championship and that’s all I can do.”

How big for Joe Gibbs Racing would it be to have someone like Cole Pearn in the shop?

“We’ve somewhat had him for the past couple of years. He’s been a good asset for us. At the time, I think when the No. 78 was beating up on all the cars last year, we had the digest and look at what they were doing that was different than us.”

How much did Furniture Row Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing collaborate on performance?

“I know we do audits and things like that all of the time to see if we’re the same as those guys (Furniture Row Racing). That way, when we’re comparing notes, we’re comparing apples to apples. We’ve always had Pearn as a teammate of ours. I think he’s one of the top-five crew chiefs in the garage. He’s certainly been a very valuable asset to all of us.”

Make your case for making the Championship 4 given the ‘Big 3’s’ success this year.

“I don’t think I need to sell many guys on it. We’ve won so many races at the three race tracks leading up to Homestead. What I can think of is that Martinsville is our best track. Texas we’ve won at multiple times. We’ve won at Phoenix. There is not a reason why we can’t win in that round. As long as we get to that round, I am confident we can punch our ticket there.”

How do you feel specifically about the first round?

“I like the mix-up of race tracks. I don’t mind it at all. Even though they do fit me perfectly, I like the mix-up of the race tracks and we can do it more often.”

How chaotic can the Roval be?

“It could be. Who knows how it can play out. I sense by the layout of the race track that it could be chaotic. Especially on restarts. I worry about struggling with flow. With all of the restarts we can have there, it could be a mess. If it’s not, it has potential to have a good finish there with the corners at the start-finish line. I am optimistic but we’ll see how it plays out.”

Do you feel more confident that you’ve tested tell at the Roval and have won at a road course?

“Yeah, we tested at Charlotte and we were a top-three car. I am confident we can go there and win if we needed to. There’s not many drivers that feel that way. If you ask everyone honestly, they’re probably not as optimistic with the Roval. Winning there is what we probably are.”

Based on what happened in Indy, is it feasible to do a double header with no practices or qualifying again during the week?

“I think what you’re bringing up is what we need to see more of in NASCAR. I know that I’ve been in some meetings with TV partners and NASCAR trying to work on weekday races. Especially during the summer. Hopefully it’s on the horizon sooner than later. But absolutely. I think it can be done. I think everyone worried about having the practice time and what not, but I think it shows if you tested the waters once or twice, you could do it all in one day. You could absolutely do it all in one day. I thought it had no bearing on the outcome. I think you had the same cars upfront. You saw a fantastic Xfinity Series race. What more could you ask for. Certainly for teams, it saves them a ton of money. That’s probably four sets of tires of what they used normally on a race weekend. You start adding big numbers and the next thing you know it looks like a model that could work.”

What would winning a championship for you mean?

“I think it’s a way to feel more accomplished. I’ve accomplished a lot. Anytime, you look at someone who thinks negatively of you or thinks you’re terrible and you bring up statistics, the only comeback is you don’t have a championship. I’ve been able to accomplish more than I ever dreamed I would be able to in the Cup Series. I literally was happy being a local late model driver. Much less being in this position. It still doesn’t all seem real. The things that I can do now. My personal life. It’s so great. I can’t even put into words. The championship. It would almost, I don’t know, I would worry about what’s next. I’ve accomplished the highest goal in my profession, so what do I do next? Certainly, I want to win. And I feel like I’ve been so close that I’m as hungry now as I ever have been. The reason I know that is because I am working harder every single day to get better to try to compete against these guys. The competition is harder than it’s ever been. Just like any other athlete, when you win the highest award of your profession, it’s what’s next. Do you want to go after two or three, or multiple? Is the ultimate goal to get to the Hall of Fame? What’s the bigger accomplishment, the championship or the Hall of Fame? Is it both? That discussion goes on within an athlete’s head all of the time. I don’t think people understand how bad I want to win a championship. Just because I am into golf or basketball, or other sports, that racing is just a side thing. It consumes me every single day at a high level because I am competitive and I don’t like to be mediocre at anything. I can tell you. I am not going to run 10th to 15th for the rest of my career. It will be a short one. I don’t believe that I’ll be there. I believe that I am a top-tier driver and the wins show that. I am just going through a little slump in the last six months, really. The year started off good but we’re starting to turn the corner. Every time I think about how bad my season is, I look at Jimmie Johnson and that seven-time champion has had it worse than us. It’s a test. It’s a long-term test. Years down the road, we got through that. In 2011, it was after I won eight races in 2010. It was 2011 where I won one race and it was on fuel mileage. I didn’t even go out there and dominant to win. It was a tough year. I remember I went away to Phoenix. In 2012, I won five or six races. I went to Homestead. It was just a great year. I am optimistic and know we can return to the form we were in just a few years ago.”

Was it tough coming up in the Jimmie Johnson championship period?

“I always said this a long time ago. If it wasn’t for Jimmie, I would have a trophy case full of championship trophies. You still have to beat the best and you want to know you can beat the best from this era, the past era and the next era. I don’t mind racing against the best. I consider Jimmie the best of all-time in our sport. Simply because he’s done it so many different ways.”

How stressful are the playoffs and does having children help you move on quicker?

“I feel like every year of my career, it’s been less stressful. It used to be you turn the page on Monday, it’s the start of the playoff week and instantly the nerves kick in. Then you’re worried about not making mistakes. This week was like nothing. Let’s get going. Let’s do this. Taylor hasn’t seen me at my best. I feel like I really want her to see me at my best. When I came in the motorhome right after the Indy race, she was there and usually if I crash out, I go in there and she’s crying because she’s worried about dad. And she came in there, and I am taking my shoes off and she’s like, ‘dad, you did really good. You were upfront a lot and that’s really good.’ and I was like she’s starting to get it and understand it. I want to perform well for her more than anyone.”

How much does that help?

“It was good. And of course Jordan is in the background telling her to give me some time. I was clearly upset but she kept saying positive stuff to me. I don’t like to be consoled at all. I am one of those guys who say don’t even talk to me. I don’t want to hear about positives. I know what the end result was. It helped. It really did. I didn’t think kids would have as big of an impact on my outlook.”

How are your expectations for the Playoffs?

“I certainly think that our expectations for our year are lower than they’ve been for any year of my career. This is the lowest seed I’ve ever been. I don’t think seeds matter at all. You’re five stage points away from being top-six or top-seven. We’ve definitely been very quiet. We haven’t led the laps that we hope. But we’ve sat on three poles in the last four races. We’ve led the most laps. And should have won at Indianapolis this past week. Things are trending in the right direction and they’re doing them in the right time. And our format like it or not, is about running well at the right time and now is the right time. Jimmie (Johnson) won a title two years ago and no one would have thought that. He snuck through all of the rounds and snuck his way into Homestead. Was the worst car at Homestead and the other guys messed up and he won the championship. The way they put that format out there, things like that can happen. We’re not going to count on luck, we’re going to count on performance. These race tracks both in the first, second and third round are race tracks I’ve won at multiple times. We’re too versatile at too many tracks to not be a factor.”

Have you been surprised you haven’t won more this year?

“It’s me and Jimmie. Up until a couple of weeks ago, Brad Keselowski. Joey Logano had only won on a Superspeedway. There’s a lot of really good drivers. The ‘Big 3’ guys have dominated through the spring and summer so much it left the rest of us trying to catch up. The field has caught up to those guys. I believe that and think it’s wide open. Yes, we have a deficit to them but winning still trumps all. We can forget about all of those playoff points if we go out and win a race and know we’re going to the next round.”

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