Toyota Racing – Denny Hamlin
NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
LAS VEGAS (February 21, 2020) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Have you had a chance to reflect on being one of just a few drivers who have won the Daytona 500 three times and could you have ever imagined you’d accomplish this?
“No, definitely not. Not in my wildest dreams for sure. I was 10 or 11 years into my career and I hadn’t won any, so I would’ve been happy with one if you would have told me at that time before my career was over. I just really got kind of a roll going in the 500. That race in particular, I’ve found my way in good positions at the right time and made the best of what moves I could make at the right time. It’s all just kind of worked out really over the last five years and really over the last eight. I don’t know. I know that it’s significant. I’ll need time to kind of think about it all, but when it kind of hit for me was right as I’m leaving for Vegas. They brought the trophy home and I got to put them all together and it was just overwhelming to just see all three trophies sitting there and it happened in such a short amount of time. It’s not something – I’ve got to like really let even the first one sink in. It’s just so fresh. It’s pretty crazy.”
What is your goal for the season? You’ve told people you’d like double-digit wins, is there more to it than that?
“I’d be satisfied with that and then beyond that would be nice. I think that the championship is an easy goal that anyone just throws out – win a championship, but that comes down to one race. If you can win a significant amount of races, it shows a bigger picture of your full year. If you make it to the Final Four, that’s a bigger picture of your entire year. I think the championship – a successful year is making the Final Four. Anything after that is just whatever it is. Certainly we set lofty goals. I think everyone sets huge and lofty goals, but certainly we’re going to push ourselves to better what we did last year and it starts with Daytona and we’re able to repeat there so then let’s get a win now before we get to Texas to keep ourselves on pace or better from last year.”
How do you balance it out when you’ve won but had a situation like that with Ryan Newman? Do you think about you both being fathers?
“Right away, I think we both have two daughters and what not, so you put all that in perspective and certainly you’re just kind of shook more than anything. You don’t know whether to grieve or do you celebrate with your team because you just won the biggest race. It was just a really tough place to really be in to be honest with you, but certainly I thought that our team handled it really well once we were all informed of what was going on. There’s plenty of time for us to celebrate. We don’t have to do it on that particular day.”
What was your first reaction to the crash when you finally had a chance to really take a hard look?
“I saw it for the first time in Victory Lane, which, what a lot of people don’t understand is that once he (Ryan Newman) crossed in front of me, I never saw his car again, so I don’t know what happened. I didn’t even know he was upside down or anything. I didn’t know that anything had happened really significant until I saw it – I believe that Jamie (Little) was there. We were kind of waiting to get out and I saw them doing a replay and so they had – right next to the camera man they have a monitor, so I told him to come up to the window so I could watch and at that point I saw how significant it was. That was when I knew this is a major crash and something that we needed to be kind of really, really aware of and then she came over and told me they were going directly to the hospital. That was kind of my chain of events of kind of knowing the significance because as I finished, I never saw him car again. Didn’t see anything. His car ended up past the kink in the tri-oval, so still blocked off from anywhere where I could see. Tough circumstances for surer, but glad it ended up on the good side and not the worse.”
What did you do in the closing laps of the Daytona 500 and did your superspeedway-style of racing change in this generation car?
“I think it did. I think that’s about when we started really having good results on the superspeedways is when this car came out. That’s probably a good timeline for it. I think 2014 we were second and then maybe the year before that is when it kind of started. I don’t know what it is. I think I started studying a little bit more around that time about superspeedway racing because I had been so unsuccessful for a very long time. You kind of look at my rookie season. Yeah, we won the Shootout, but that’s kind of a unique circumstance, but then we went a long time. I’d won a lot of the Clashes and Duel races, but still not many speedway wins – Talladega I think I’ve got one there. It seems like it’s that seven or eight year mark, years ago where this car came around that seems like whatever techniques I use or I’ve adapted to this car has seemed to work. The last lap just kind of worked out nicely for me as it could. I knew that I was – I thought I was okay in Turn 1. I pulled the block on him (Ryan Newman) coming into the white and I stayed in front and I knew that he was going to back up to the 12 (Ryan Blaney), so I was trying to back up myself, but he was going to get attached. Once he got attached, I knew they were going to come with a run that I could not stop. When they had a run, I just kind of held my line because I didn’t want – if I start going sideways, then next thing you know, the 6 (Ryan Newman) starts moving sideways and then the 12 is already hooked to him, so he’s probably going to push him sideways into me. I just wanted to hold a straight line to let them know that like, hey, pass this way and so when they did, I was able to get back to the 12 to slow him and unattach him from the 6. When I slowed his momentum, that allowed me to really kind of tuck in behind him. I don’t know if he checked up or not to keep us attached, but once we got attached, I knew that we were going to have a run back on the 6. I knew he was going to get there. I didn’t know what was going to happen when he did get there, but certainly it worked out in my favor. I thought I was going to get back around the 12 at the line if there was no crash, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get all the way back to the 6. I knew that those two were going to jostle and I was just hoping to kind of be in the right place when it happened, and I was.”
Do your children ever have any questions about this?
“The oldest one, she hasn’t really asked. The only time she was wondering was when we had the rain delay, she was awake when I came back to the motorhome and she saw the race on TV from last year and she said, “Did you crash out?” I said, “No, no, that was last year honey. It’s raining outside.” She’s always there any time I do crash out. She’s the first one that comes to me in the bus. It makes you think. It really makes you think about the bigger picture of everything.”
Have you been able to relax and celebrate the win more now that Ryan Newman has been released and as the week goes on?
“Just a little. I had one day at home honestly. It was just an all-nighter. By the time I got home in Charlotte, I literally could – I got to drive home, change and then go back to the airport at 4 something to go to New York. I was so tired that I didn’t have time to kind of reflect on anything and like I said, when I was about to leave for the airport and had all three trophies together was when I was like, this is really super significant. I remember just putting the second one next to the first thinking, I just can’t believe this and then one year later you’ve got another one. Yeah, it’s still surreal. I still have to kind of put it all together and process it. A lot of it is talking to people either within this sport or friends about how amazed they were about the run that we’ve been in. That kind of wakes me up to the significance of it and what it means to not only me, but to other people and history itself.”
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