Toyota Racing – Denny Hamlin
NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
AVONDALE, Arizona (March 6, 2020) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to media at Phoenix Raceway:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Did you call in for competition meetings this week and how did talks with Martin Truex Jr. go?
“It was good. I think we have a mutual understanding. I think we both understand that 550 (horsepower) racing makes it extremely difficult to have teammates. A lot of times because it’s so cut throat in the way that you have to race out there. You’re trying to – you don’t want to give up any runs that you’ve got. It’s a lot like superspeedway racing in my eyes. When you get runs, you have to take them. You have to put yourself in the best line possible. I think we both understand that for sure. I definitely see his point of view and understand his frustrations that he had. I think it was a great conversation and I think we have a better understanding of kind of where each other are mentally in those situations moving forward.”
Can you rely on data from previous races at these tracks?
“It’s been so long since we’ve come back year after year and things have been the same. It’s once again different this year and then we’re kind of reverting back to ’18, you can look at data, but it still takes so long as a driver to change your discipline back to what it was with this rules package. I know people that ran in the simulator said it took hours and hours to get just back around the race track in a competitive lap time simply because we’re so used to driving into the corner like we were with the larger spoiler. I think it’s going to take time. I think the guys that run good or win this weekend are either going to have a setup that they hit on that is really good or they acclimated quicker to this package back to where we were.”
How do you expect the PJ1 to play a factor in turns three and four?
“It will play a factor. I will be interested to see how it plays out in the Xfinity race and see if those guys make their way up there. In the Cup race, we always seem to find lines that the other series really don’t. There’s enough experience where people know and trust it. I think it will be a factor, especially with it being slightly lower. It looked like they drug the track as well pretty. I will be part of the racing for sure. I don’t think you’ll see much of it in practice. Not until the race, early to mid-stages will you see people go up there and using it.”
Did you get any answers on why you were off at Vegas and Fontana?
“A little bit of all things. It’s collective. Certainly, if you look over the last, really over the course of my career, there’s not been that many bad years when it comes to JGR and Toyota. I know I’ve got the best people working on it and we didn’t just sit stagnant in the off-season, we developed just like everyone else did, but certainly you have one manufacturer that completely changed cars. They probably and most likely made significant advances. Then you have the Fords who were not just going to sit back and let us win all the races, so they went to work extra hard. I think we need a little bit of everything. I think you need the free speed and motors. You need less drag and more downforce. All those things we need. Qualifying was one of those eye-opening things for us. Being essentially one of the last cars of the big teams and really just a lack of overall grip and speed. Those are two things you have to have, you can have one or the other and still be competitive, but if you have both, you’ll go out and dominate like the 88 (Alex Bowman) did. That’s something we’re striving for. I’ve got the best people on it. We’re not just going to sit here and not be competitive week in and week out.”
What are your thoughts on Ryan Newman being back at the race track?
“It’s a great sight for sure. I haven’t gotten to physically see the car yet, but I know it looks really bad and we know that from all the video and pictures we’ve seen, it’s a blessing to be in this position and be talking about when he will get back in the car, especially at this time. I’m really looking forward to it, NASCAR gave us all a good update about where they’re thinking and what they’re looking at moving forward. Really optimistic about where our sport is going on the safety side of things.”
Will you go to the simulator following this race?
“I think a lot of drivers do that. Some people feel that there’s benefits in it and some people don’t. I think it’s good to obviously backup some of the data that you have for sure, but real-world experience is certainly the most valuable, but it can cut some learning time in half or even less than that when you have a good simulation program. I think every team has it and everyone uses it relatively the same way.”
Is this a track you will run at the simulator next week?
“Certainly this is a track that we’re going to focus a lot on. More so than what we would on any other week, and we give all of our efforts every single week. We know that with the championship being decided here, this is one you have to really key on and make sure it’s right. Yes, whether it’s me or my teammates or all of us will do it.”
What challenges does the west coast swing have on making improvements before Atlanta?
“There’s all kinds of challenges. I think the bigger your team is or the more cars that you supply, the longer it takes to get things into production and make changes. It takes all the crew chiefs to buy in that this is the direction we need to go. Start some kind of design or some kind of different idea of how you can get there. Obviously, design has all been put on hold so you can’t really develop a new car. We continue to just make sure we’re trying to do advances in the wind tunnel. Making our setups as good as we can, making our simulation as good as we can and it used to be, when you had new cars and things like that or you had new body builds and something like that, typically if you’re off in the beginning stages of the year, it can take as long as the Coke 600 before you can really implement all that stuff that you want in your race cars or your race team. It’s kind of a delayed results even when you have the right idea.”
When did NASCAR give you an update on Ryan Newman?
“Just kind of the car and things like that. They have great dialogue with us talking about – I think the question got asked if there would be any rules changes, things like that. Chassis changes – they’re continuing to investigate it and work on it. They gave us all that update and told us what they saw. I think everyone was pleased with that.”
What is it about Atlanta that has been a challenge for you?
“I’m not sure. I feel that’s one of our better tracks. I’m not sure why our results aren’t showing that. I’ve always liked going to Atlanta, it’s one of my favorites for sure. It’s definitely a driver’s race track. One where a driver can make up a little more than what his car can give him. The challenge is getting your car, you’re coming off these smooth mile-and-a-half race tracks or two-mile race tracks where you’re kind of getting in the swing of things again in 2020 and then you go there and feel like your car is awful when its great versus the competition, it just feels awful. Just managing the experience of knowing this is a race-winning car feel for that track. Knowing that is a big advantage of it. I look forward to turning around our results there, however bad they may be.”
Are drivers demanding changes for plate racing?
“I think in his (Ryan Newman) situation, that’s really hard to say that’s a car problem or anything. I think unless you slowed us up 20 or 30 mph, you’re going to have that in that situation. I’m no aerodynamicist, let’s put that on the record, but I just feel like some wrecks, especially at these superspeedways when we talk about a car turning over, is when a car gets turned around and then someone hits the nose. Unless you slow way, way, way down, that is going to happen. I feel like that was one of the worst-case-scenarios that we had and luckily, we had a good result. All things considered, we had a very good result. The engineering staff at NASCAR and the teams that have been building these cars and figuring out where to put bars and all that have done a phenomenal job of keeping our sport safe for many, many years now even though the wrecks have looked horrific.”
What would your advice be to a new fan of the sport?
“I think it depends on if you’re looking at it from a fan standpoint or trying to have a career in it. From a fan standpoint, what happens before you even get to Sunday? There’s so many people that put these cars together and it’s just amazing the technology that’s behind what makes the cars go fast, it’s not just the driver that’s willing to take the biggest risk. There’s so much that goes into it. From a working standpoint, it starts at your local short track. Tucson or wherever it might be, tracks that are grassroots racing. Most of these crew guys that I see in the Cup Series now are people that I raced against in go-karts in Virginia and the driving side of things didn’t work out for them, so they became either a crew chief or mechanic role and started helping someone at the local level. Once you create that resume at the local level, you’re able to then take it to an ARCA car, a K&N car – those teams are always looking for help and then you find the Xfinity or Truck teams will pluck from that. It’s a path that people can get all the way to the top if they really work hard and want to make it happen. I encourage everyone that wants to, do it.”
What do you think of the Busch Clash being run on the road course at Daytona?
“It’s going to be different for sure. I guess I’ll kind of reserve judgement on it for sure until – I think the schedule is a win, no doubt about it. We were really down there for an extended period of time where a lot of things just weren’t happening. Love that. I can definitely see where these road course cars are no good anymore anyway, you might as well use them. The demand for Next Gen cars will be in short supply so you don’t want to crash them in an exhibition race. I see everything around it, I understand it. It will just be interesting from an excitement standpoint. There could be some hype and excitement because we’re on the Daytona road course for the first time. The challenges will be, will you see that side-by-side crazy finish that you see on the superspeedway? Probably not. Some other interesting things are you’re now going to have a road course car running on the banking and for such an extended period of time. How does that work and things like that? I think the field is likely to get spread out quite a bit more. Are we running a short track package or an intermediate package for spoiler? I don’t know. I think if you had a small spoiler like you run on every other road course and big horsepower, 750 horsepower, we’re going to be, it’s unrestricted, we’re going to be running 200-plus at the start-finish line. I don’t know how it’s all going to work. It sounds good, but will definitely reserve until I see it all play out. I’ll find out in February though.”
How will the new Daytona schedule impact practice sessions?
“I think it will definitely change our mindset on how we handle practices for the 500. Again, I don’t know in what supply there will be cars if you do wreck in practice or the Duels. That’s way far out in front of us, but it’s something I’m sure our team will be thinking about in the off-season of how we’re going to go by practices. A lot of times I use the Clash as my practice because I didn’t want to put the team behind by wrecking in practice and then you’re thrashing, you have to bring cars from North Carolina and it’s just a big pain. I just don’t know how many cars are going to be available and ready by that time.”
# # #
Toyota (NYSE:TM) has been a part of the cultural fabric in the U.S. and North America for more than 60 years, and is committed to advancing sustainable, next-generation mobility through our Toyota and Lexus brands. During that time, Toyota has created a tremendous value chain as our teams have contributed to world-class design, engineering, and assembly of more than 40 million cars and trucks in North America, where we have 14 manufacturing plants, 15 including our joint venture in Alabama (10 in the U.S.), and directly employ more than 47,000 people (over 36,000 in the U.S.). Our 1,800 North American dealerships (nearly 1,500 in the U.S.) sold nearly 2.8 million cars and trucks (nearly 2.4 million in the U.S.) in 2019.
Through the Start Your Impossible campaign, Toyota highlights the way it partners with community, civic, academic and governmental organizations to address our society’s most pressing mobility challenges. We believe that when people are free to move, anything is possible. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.