Toyota NSCS Texas Notes & Quotes Denny Hamlin

TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Denny Hamlin — Notes & Quotes Texas Motor Speedway – April 13, 2012

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office March of Dimes Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing What do you think about Bubba Watson winning the Masters — after you caddied for him in the par-three tournament? “Of course that trick shot I taught him on Wednesday paid off on Sunday. It’s just one of those things where it was an amazing accomplishment for him and his family. I know he struggles with getting nervous down at the end. I could even see it even in the par-three. You step on the first tee and you see the nerves start. So for him to overcome that and battle through and obviously have a great win at the end was great for him and obviously good for me and my storytelling. It’s not too often you get to caddy for the 2012 Masters champ.”

Why have you become good friends with Bubba Watson? “It’s tough to say. I think a little bit is I’m right-handed, but I play left — which is probably why I’m so bad. We’re both lefties. We both obviously like racing. I grew up loving the ‘Dukes of Hazzard,’ and he obviously does as well. I don’t know what it is about our personalities, but we seem to get along. It was right from the ‘get go.’ We met on a golf course and we’ve played 10 rounds together probably since then. You learn a lot about him and the way he does things. I was just generally nervous for him on Sunday. It was just one of those days where you are proud to be someone’s friend. It’s no different than when I was watching J. (Jason) White in a truck race with two laps to go with a chance to win. I’m nervous because it’s my friend and you hope that the guy does well. It’s just a great feeling. I felt like I won it myself.”

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When did you meet Bubba Watson? “I met him in 2010 at Phoenix. I think it was after one of our practices we went and played nine holes together. My agent and his agent know each other really well. They felt we would like to play and Bubba (Watson) obviously when he’s not playing competitively he’s out on the golf course somewhere. He doesn’t take lessons or anything like that. He just plays golf. That’s how I met him and then he came to the race that weekend. Ever since then, we just kind of kept in touch and when our paths cross, we link up and do stuff. That’s how we kind of met and that was it.”

Did you actually get Bubba Watson a fire suit? “Basically, he expressed that he was looking for a fire suit and a helmet to match his car. And I said ‘Well, I can work on that and get that done.’ So he went and got his measurements done and I sent that fire suit to him. And, obviously he was very excited about that. He’s still waiting on his helmet. I think that’s coming. He said if he’s going to drive around the ‘General Lee’ he’s got to have the full outfit. He’s not going to do it halfway.”

Do you think it is difficult for a driver to rebound after losing a race late in the season to another championship contender? “I don’t know how much that played into it. I know that when we were in a battle, I think anyone in the world would have picked Jimmie (Johnson) to beat us here when we won in 2010 in the fall. When we won, you’d think that it would totally deflate their team. It didn’t – I think teams are so strong and drivers are so strong mentally now that it doesn’t affect them that much. Each driver feels like he has a chance to win it at any given race track when your cars are running well. Last year, both of their cars were running well at the same time. It was a big confidence boost for us, but I don’t know that it affected Jimmie that much in 2010. We had him beat at Phoenix, but things didn’t work out for whatever reason. We just got out run at Homestead. It was just one of those things – I don’t think that it was any linger effect other than that particular weekend and it’s kind of deflating.”

Where do you think your team is right now in comparison to where you were in 2010 when you swept the Texas races? “You know, if we were a 10 in 2010 and we were zero last year, just using that scale, I’d say that we’re like a five to six right now. We’re heading – we’re not like we were last year by any means. We’re better, but we’re not to our 2010 form as far as the speed of our cars and things like that. We’re getting there, though. Every week our stuff is getting better and better. I think that we are timing this year pretty well right now. I think that we’re going to start to run well here in these next couple months.”

What do you need to work on to get better? “There’s a lot of things I need to work on. Qualifying, every time I come to this place, I look at our past notes and I say I need to qualify better. Qualifying in the top-10 this weekend will be crucial for us. Track position does mean so much. This track it seems like, in particular, you can pass when it’s sunny. When it’s night time it’s harder to pass because the speeds are so high. Track position means a lot. I got to qualify better. And, really what do we need to work on is just getting more speed out of our cars. We know what we need to work on — it takes some time to get it done.” DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office March of Dimes Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing What does it mean that the title contenders each year are strong at Texas? “I think for us in particular, we find success at one race track and then we can usually duplicate it fairly easy. It’s rare that we run good at a track and then run terrible. It’s just something about this track. I think the transition to the corners suits my driving style a little bit better. It’s not the big jump off into the corner like at Dover or Charlotte or tracks like that. The transition to the banking is slow and progressive and I think I particularly like that a little bit more. Other than that, I don’t know. You go to a track and you have success and you have a little more confidence every time you go back. Even though two wins is a lot, there’s not someone with six wins at this race track — like Jeff (Gordon) at Martinsville with probably seven or something like that. It’s not been a track that one person has dominated.”

How much did Pocono need repaving and will it even out the playing field at that race? “It definitely will even out, level out the playing field as far as any advantage I probably had in different techniques that I had will not be really in play any more at that track any more. It’s going to be tough to say. I don’t know how they paved it or if they changed the banking or anything like that. It will be a real tough track to pass on because it is new pavement and the speeds down the front straightaway should be really, really fast. It’s a good track, I just don’t know how much it needed to be repaved. I know in turns one and two, the track was getting bumpy, there was a lot of cracks in it and things like that. That was what we love, the character of the track that we love. It seemed like the last six or seven races there we had some great finishes. Once we had those restarts at the end and everyone is fanning in and out five and six wide, that makes for great racing. We’ll see how it turns out this time around.”

How important is a good finish at Texas? “We can, we have a win. We’re in the top-10 in points, so we can – I hate to say you can afford to have a bad race, but it’s not going to kill our championship hopes I don’t think. In our position, you either win or you don’t as far as bonus points are concerned. If you feel like you can be in the top-10 in points, then really the only thing that matters is the wins to carry for the bonuses for the Chase. For us, second is not much different than 20th when you leave this place.”

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