TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Denny Hamlin – Notes & Quotes
Richmond International Raceway – September 11, 2015
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to the media at Richmond International Raceway:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What does it mean to come back to Richmond and what is your outlook on this weekend?
“We always look forward to coming back here. Obviously here lately our results haven’t been all that good but I think as an organization we’ve struggled here over the last couple years but we’re getting better. I felt that today was a step in the right direction. We were better even though overall speed doesn’t show it. Either way I’m optimistic that we could have a good night tomorrow night.”
What happened when you were playing basketball to get injured and what is the pain like inside the car?
“In the car I’m as comfortable as any place that I am. Obviously the swelling is the biggest issue. It hurts mobility and it kind of shuts down my quad so there’s challenges there. But, in the car we ran 15 or 20 consecutive laps which isn’t a whole lot but it was fine then. And, what I was doing I was just playing. I play in a league every week and it was just the exact same scenario as it was the first time. I had actually felt that I jarred it earlier in the game and unfortunately I tied the game up with five seconds to go and so it went to overtime and I hurt it in overtime.”
What are you allowed to do and not allowed to do as a driver outside the track and what is the toughest part of the injury?
“I can do anything I want, just don’t break the law. There’s really no provisions or anything like that. I think Joe (Gibbs) does a good job of letting us be whoever we want to be outside the race car. My activities really aren’t that dangerous that I do. It just seems like I have had some freak accidents over the last few years that’s gotten us, but I don’t think there’s been anything that’s kept us from being competitive on the race track. The one time I missed the Chase was from an injury that happened on the race track so I don’t think that these side injuries have hurt our performance at all. So, I mean, I’m just going to continue to do whatever it is I want to do outside the car and obviously just try to better prepare yourself and get physically stronger to typically prevent injuries in the future. Other than that, won’t change much.”
Are you risking damaging your knee more the next 11 weeks by not having the surgery immediately?
“I think with that off-week (last time) we had a buffer there of time to recover. I had moments outside the race car where I had buckling moments where my knee would give out and I felt like I was doing more extensive damage to it. So, we had the off-week to play with earlier in the year so we decided to do it then. We don’t have that luxury this time around especially with the Chase coming up next week so I think that the best thing to do is just hold off and make sure we’re 100 percent in the car and if I’m what I feel like is 100 percent now in the car just three days after then the next 10 weeks I’ve just got to be real careful outside the car making sure I pay attention to every step so I don’t have those moments again. But, it looked like from what the MRI showed it was really I’ve damaged the same things that I damaged on the left. There was obviously the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) – the ACL gets all of the hype but there’s more to it that gets knocked around in there.”
Could you have had the surgery this week and sought an exemption to take Richmond off before for the Chase?
“Well, I thought about it but I think that we were pretty confident that doing the surgery or not doing the surgery either way I would be the same inside the car. So, why skip a week if I’m going to end up being the same anyway. It’s really just to improve life outside the car. Obviously I’m going to go through the next 10 weeks and can’t do any running or can’t do anything active for the next 10 to 11 weeks so that part of it sucks but other than that there just isn’t a benefit to do it right now especially you don’t know how you’re going to react recovery-wise. I thought I was pretty lucky the last time around. I was back playing basketball really within seven months or so which is pretty fast for an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). And you just don’t know how your body will react to the second one so I think it was safer for us to just let it go. There are people that live without ACL’s all of the time and walk around and you never know the difference. It’s more the other activities that it hampers you with. I thought the smarter thing would be to just fix it when we’re done with the season.”
Are you going to play basketball again?
“I’d like to. It’s what I do to relieve stress and I have fun doing it and it’s the only way I’ll go for a run. There’s no way I could put on running shoes and go out for a five mile run but put a ball in my hand and I’ll go for days or until I break something.”
What can you take from your experience in 2010 with the injury to the other knee to use during the Chase?
“I have been here before, I know what the recovery process is, I know what to expect. In the car I felt like I was worse the first time around. I know I’m just three days out but for some reason I think I had like a week or maybe two or three before Daytona when I first did it and I went to Daytona and I felt a little bit uncomfortable in the car. This time I mean I’m only three days out and it doesn’t seem quite as bad so I think it’s probably because it’s on the right leg versus the left. The left obviously takes a little bit more of a beating in the car. So, I’ll just learn really what I did to get back on track so fast – the recovery process, the rehab and all of that from 2010 and apply that to this time around and hopefully my body reacts the same way.”
Do you think your success in 2010 was due to maybe a chip on your shoulder to prove others wrong with your injury?
“I think anytime you have adversity or something that you self-inflict on yourself you typically always have a chip on your shoulder to make sure that you’re not the weak link. We try 100 percent every single week to do the best job we can but we always seem to find 10 more percent when we’re faced with adversity so I think that 2010 was a great year. Our cars were fast and everything was going well. We’re in a similar situation like that this year where our cars are fast and contending for race wins so I don’t see why it should be any different. I expect to be part of the final four at Homestead once again same as we were last year. I think we’re running better now than what we were then and we almost won it. I’m pretty confident that the way these Chase tracks lay out there’s nothing that should keep me from being in that championship four.”
What did you explain to Dave Rogers and your team after the injury happened?
“That really came from me knowing that I had tweaked it early in the game and didn’t stop. I came out but for a brief amount of time and then it didn’t feel 100 percent and more than likely I damaged my meniscus at that point and then once that got damaged my quad probably shut down and that’s when I probably tore what I tore. More than likely I was just frustrated that I wasn’t more responsible with knowing that I wasn’t 100 percent out there and I was trying to get more. And, obviously when you’re at the end of the game or overtime you’re always trying to give more than you’re capable of. My frustration comes from really I’m not that good anyway at basketball so at least play within my limitations.”
Should Gibbs be the Chase favorite?
“Joe’s (Gibbs) not a very good driver (laughter).”
Should Joe Gibbs Racing be the Chase favorite this year?
“I mean, they’ve got some pretty good talent. I’ve said a long time ago that I’ve got three of the best teammates speed-wise and talent-wise that I could possibly pick out if I had every single one of them to choose from. So, I’m pretty optimistic. I think our cars are obviously very good right now and yeah, there’s no reason why – we all said in January that our goal is to have four cars at Homestead with a chance to win and I don’t see except for bad luck anything that can keep that from happening. There’s some great competitors out there that will have something to say about that but on a consistent week in and week out basis you’re typically looking at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars to beat and especially the way the tracks lay out in particular I think it suits JGR well.”
Do you have any limitations with your knee and what was the shot that you hit in the basketball game to tie the game?
“I don’t have any limitations other than I can’t fully walk on my own. I think I’m probably about a day or maybe two away from maybe ditching the extra crutch to walk around, so I think I’ll get rid of that tomorrow. But other that I’ve got to start rehabbing as quick as possible to make sure that I can get my leg working properly so I can walk without having those buckling moments like I had in 2010. I’ll work on that. What shot was it – just drove into the lane and made a layup.”
Are you still confident about your Chase chances with no setbacks involving your knee?
“I don’t think so. I think in the car I’m going to drive as fast as the car is going to let me go, especially today I was more frustrated with making my car do what I wanted it to do versus being comfortable in the car. I really don’t feel like this will set us back at all. Like I say, if anything it just juices you up that extra 10 percent to make sure that you do your job 110 percent and I think that I’ll go out there and feeling like I need to go out there and prove that I am 100 percent. I’ll try to give it all I got. I think that no doubt there’s nothing or no injury that’s going to keep me from what I want to do at the end of the year.”
Why do you think all these weird injuries happen to you away from the race track?
“Some of its bad luck. The eye thing at California, I went to the infield care center three days in a row saying there was something there and they just couldn’t find it, they didn’t have the tools to find it so I had to sit out that week. Carl (Edwards) had the same think I think last week and they found it and it’s gone. I just had bad luck on that one. The neck thing at Bristol, I don’t know what happened. Something got popped out of joint and unfortunately the girl that usually works on me was not there to get it back and she got it back on Monday, but it was too late. Had those spasms and I knew that I was in no shape – I could have gone out there and finished the race, no question, but I would have just been 10 laps down more than likely. I thought it was an opportunity, we had a win, to step out and make sure that I didn’t have anything further that was going on because we didn’t know what was wrong. The other two are these knee injuries and the back thing that happened on the race track. I think it’s part of just being active, you have accidents. There’s a lot of guys that do a lot of active things on Saturdays that they get hurt and it doesn’t necessarily get wrote about because they try to hide it, but I feel like the things I do are less risk. I’ve just had a real stroke of bad luck when it comes to some of the injuries that I’ve had.”
If you got eliminated from the Chase would you have the surgery earlier?
“Good idea, I’ll take your advice and use it as motivation to not get it done. Actually had not even thought about being eliminated, that’s how confident I am right now that we’re not going to. If we do, I don’t know. You want to finish the year strong and I think the way the points all work out you still can move up to fifth or something like that. I think either way, off-season is going to be the best option as long as I can make it that long.”