Toyota Racing – Denny Hamlin
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Daytona International Speedway – July 4, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to the media in Daytona:
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What’s your thoughts on this being the last July 4th race?
The good news is it’s not a race that’s going away from the speedway. This race track is definitely deserving of two dates and will have it for a very long time. As far as moving the schedule around, I don’t mind that at all. I think I’m more motivated to win the second race here. The July race has always been pretty tough on us, finish wise, I think a lot of it is, you are getting to the point of the season that this is going to be some of the last great opportunities for the underfunded teams to go out there and get a win so they are a lot more aggressive. The racing itself seems to be more chaotic. It’s tough to avoid those crashes. Sometimes you’re in it, sometimes you’re not. In the summer, we’re in it, so we’ve got to figure out how to play it, to win it. Because obviously, being a Coke family driver, it’s important for me to win a race that they sponsor.”
The uncontrolled tire violation keeps coming up, and you tweeted about it. What are some options that they could do differently to make that more of a straight-forward or fair rule?
“I don’t know what they can change, but I would like to see a change. I think rules have to evolve and this is not about us in particular. I made a comment and it has 3,000 likes, 500 retweets, 300 comments, so it touches the fan base. These are people that aren’t Denny fans; they just don’t get it. If they don’t get it at home, then it’s probably not a rule that needs to be in place in the Cup series because you can’t explain it to them. It’s hard to explain when a tire is just sitting there that it’s uncontrolled. It’s not moving. It is controlled. I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know how to fix it. They are pretty smart, and I’m sure they can make adjustments to fix it to make it a little more simple. But overall, everyone’s arms are a different length. So, what is an arm’s length? Do they have some kind of technology that says ‘Ok this distance from the tire changer to the tire is more than an arm’s length and they can pull a measuring out and they can measure it?’ I don’t know, but that’s just too much rules. Too many things that can change the ultimate outcome of a race. We had earned our spot up front. That’s the crappy part about it. We had earned our position up there. Then, you have to go to the back and in today’s racing, it’s harder than that ever to be able to come back. It’s virtually impossible to be able to come back now, no matter how fast your car is because everyone is running so much wide-open throttle. It changes your race; it changes how you are going to finish. It’s up to us to play by the rules that have been given to us, let’s be clear about that, but we think we are doing that. Sometimes, that judgement call doesn’t go your way and it’s been multiple times this year, that we don’t know what we could have done differently, and we are going to need that explanation so that we don’t do it again.”
Did you get any explanation from NASCAR?
“You are going to have to ask them. I haven’t, but I will. We have a meeting with them later on – with team officials. I think the team officials have shown me emails that they have prepared. Multiple pit stops, just from last week, that are identical or more egregious than ours, and nothing gets called. Is it just because they just so happen to be looking at you? You get judged or whatever it may be. It’s hard for me to believe that inside the system it flags you when a tire is not moving. It just seems like wherever their eyeballs are at on that particular stop is who gets especially looked at. But we have multiple video evidence of pit stops from other race teams that are identical. You cannot draw a difference between them and no penalty. That’s my compliant. It’s a judgement call. It’s not black-and-white. There’s no line. It’s not a line that gets crossed.”
So you would like to see a change this year?
For sure. It doesn’t affect just us. Of the top 10 teams, I’m sure most of them have had these penalties and they are all like, ‘What?’. I think an uncontrolled tire is a tire that goes across pit road. It’s uncontrolled as you have seen in years past. Certainly, a tire, sitting inside your pit box, stagnant, I’m not sure. We’re going to need more clarification and we will get that later.”
You think your team gets looked more often due because of the speeding penalties and the other penalties you have had?
“I’m not sure. We were up front. We were in the top five. Is it because maybe our pit stop was on TV? I’m not sure. We will get those answers shortly this afternoon.”
What happens when you get in the back of the field on a mile-and-a-half?
“It’s a challenge. Then we got damage and ruined the car. I was racing for 20th and got damage not too far after a restart and our day is over because we had a little bit of body damage. It was a cause and effect. We shouldn’t have been there in the first place. We should have been up front where we were supposed to start. It’s no one’s fault; I just think that it’s a really tight box that we are putting ourselves in as a sport to try to officiate something that’s not moving or not moving, arm’s length or elbow’s length or hand’s length, who knows. Sometimes there is just too much.”
Do you take it more personally because you have had a rash of crap happen to you on pit road?
“Not really. I don’t they single us out particularly. Sure. I think it affects me the most and I’m the most frustrated because I know we have a race-winning car. Every guy that was up front there finished in the top five. We passed them many times, just early in the race. You hate losing the opportunity to go win and when you get sent to the back, it’s over. It’s not like it used to be, that fast car can come through the pack, when you watch that person battle back to the front. There just ain’t enough laps in the day to get back there.”
Kyle Larson said out front, his car didn’t work well. As good as the racing has been this year, I don’t think I have ever heard that. Have you ever experienced that?
“That is something that I can understand because we had a little bit of it ourselves. When his car was out front, it appeared to be slow. When you are out front, you have all of the drag. His car was actually faster when it was behind someone and he was able to get a tow down the straightaway. Chicagoland, and if you look at all of the great races this package has put on, it has got to have a multiple line racetrack. You cannot have a one lane racetrack with this package. It just doesn’t work. You have to be able to run a different line in the corner to then be able to use the draft down the straightaway. You saw Pocono was a huge challenge; Indy will be a tremendous challenge for this package. But we have great racetracks for it too. I think the mile-and-a-halves have definitely been better this year. It’s just a matter of, can we move around to get out of that wake out of the corners so that we can make up the ground on the straightaways. I think for him, the reason he is saying his car is not good out front, is that it must have been too slow by itself. I think he qualified not very good, which means he probably had more drag and it was slower so he was struggling to hold off faster cars behind him.”
What do you like about your chances to sweep here?
“The reason it’s so hard is it’s not about a fast car. It’s not like you can hit on a setup at a race track and sweep both races. You see that a lot in a season. Whoever wins the first race at say Pocono, or Martinsville, or Richmond, they’ve won that race because they have hit on a setup and their car is fast. When they go back there, they use those notes and they are going to be fast again. At Daytona, it’s not setup driven. It is strategic that you really have to make yourself a great racecar driver here. It’s just putting yourself in the right position here at the right time and avoiding the wrecks. It’s hard enough to win one, let alone two because of all of the variables. It’s so hard to do. The odds are stacked so far against you. That’s why you don’t see it happen very often.”