Toyota NSCS Daytona Media Day Denny Hamlin Notes & QuotesBy Official Release
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What will the last 10 laps of the Daytona 500 be like?
“I think it’s going to be a lot like it was last year where everyone thought the two-car tandem was going to be the most optimum thing and then you had (Matt) Kenseth kind of pulling away from the pack essentially. All of the aerodynamic numbers that we’ve all seen seems to think that the two-car tandem is not as effective as it was. I think you’ll spend more time trying to hook-up than what it’s actually worth because you’ll have to separate within a half of a lap anyway. I think you’re going to see racing like you saw it in 2005 and 2006 where it was just a big pack and handling is going to be an issue.”
Is it more important to be in the front of the pack now?
“Yeah, it will be important to put yourself in position with 30 to 40 laps to go because I think it will be hard to pass. We’ve seen so far in the little bit of drafting that we’ve done that the front car, if you get close to him, you just kind of push him out there. You’ve got to get your passing done early.”
Do you think it’s possible to have faster racing and still have good racing with the new cars?
“What I think is that obviously speeds will be up. Now, when speeds are up typically that doesn’t translate to good racing. The best racing that we have is on the short tracks where the speeds are low and you have more off-throttle time, so it’s going to be interesting. I do know from an aerodynamic standpoint that the second car will have better air than it’s ever had, which will be a good thing. I’m just worried about how fast we’re running — if you’re in the gas that much, it’s going to be hard to have a disparity of speed from the first to second car if everyone is in the gas all of the time.”
How is your back feeling this year?
“I’ve fought some back issues really for the last month or so and really this last week I’ve gotten to where I got over 80 percent better. I think that really being in a race car is really my therapy and the best thing for me, so I’m ready to get out there. The hits hurt a little bit more at this track.”
How is the relationship between TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing?
“TRD (Toyota Racing Development) is obviously continuing to grow their program. It’s really in the last two years you’ve seen the resurgence of the Michael Waltrip team and how good they’ve been and it’s been because they’ve worked closer with us and we’ve worked closer with them, and I think that’s raised everyone’s game within the Toyota camp. I see that relationship is now one year older and obviously should be better. I obviously think that the Toyota’s are going to start the year very strong and hopefully maintain that advantage all the way through the Chase.”
What has your team improved on for this season?
“For us, I think it’s the reliability. That’s the only thing that’s really kept us from championships in years past is reliability. It’s much easier to tighten bolts on the car than it is to try and find out why you’re running 20th. I think we’ve done a lot of things within our organization to improve the process that our Chase cars go through and even our race cars on a weekly basis to make sure that there aren’t any mechanical failures. As long as I have a car that stays intact for 10 races, there’s no doubt that I’ll be in the mix when it gets to the end.”
Are there any crew member changes on your team this year?
“When you look at the pit crews, the 11 and the 18 (Kyle Busch) team have been the top two pit crews, I think, for two years running now as far as overall time on pit road. We’ve kept everyone the same. The mechanics on the road are all the same. It’s good when you don’t have those variables because now we can build on the same guys that we’ve been working with for years.”
Where does Matt Kenseth fit in at Joe Gibbs Racing?
“I don’t know where Matt (Kenseth) fits in because I haven’t seen him at a race track and asked him the questions yet. That’s what I’m excited about — and I said it really two months ago when they signed him. I was like, ‘I want to see how he is at a race track.’ When I have those tough questions when we go to those tracks I’m not so good at, what answers does he have for me? Sometimes you’ve got to take what Kyle (Busch) has and put it through five layers of strainers and then figure out what’s good in the end. But, Matt obviously knows how to win races. He’s won a championship and he’s got the great resume, but in my mind he’s going to be a guy that I’m really going to rely on to raise my game. And, I think he’s going to be the guy at Joe Gibbs (Racing) that really pushes me and Kyle to be better.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued)
Are you upset Matt Kenseth has taken over the ‘senior’ title at Joe Gibbs Racing?
“He (Matt Kenseth) can have that for a long time by the way. Senior typically means older. I’d like to stick around for a little while. It seems like for me that yesterday was my rookie year and now we’re going into, I guess, our eighth year with our team. Time flies. Tony (Stewart) left and I was the elder statesman and then had Joey (Logano) come and go and a few others. I’ve been in there for the long haul. It’s been the only team I’ve been a part of. He can keep that senior status. As long as he keeps bringing that good information to our race team, and I know what he’s done so far and he’s worked really hard at our shop in the off-season. I’m interested to see that work ethic through the entire year.”
How important is communication with your crew chief?
“It’s everything, really, especially SpeedWeeks. As far as setup and things like that, really until you get to Phoenix is when you’ve really got to concentrate on how your car is handling and things like that. Here it’s so circumstantial with the draft. This is more about what you brought to the race track. The communication with the crew chief is vital during the races. We saw it cost us a win in New Hampshire last year with the miscommunication. It’s just a huge part of it. Just like the offensive coordinator not being able to talk to his quarterback.”