TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Denny Hamlin — Notes & Quotes Texas Motor Speedway

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office/March of Dimes Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How was your time with Jake and Josh Aron (Dallas twins, nine years old) designing this weekend’s paint scheme? “It was good. When we first announced we were going to move this March of Dimes paint scheme from Phoenix to Texas, ultimately I knew it was going to hit some really good markets. For them, this is their hometown. Obviously being born four months premature and seeing the successful lives they’re leading now, it’s obviously a big deal. We got to go to the shop and give them a blank race car and they got to design different stuff that they wanted on it. It’s interesting to see how it all turned out. It shows up great on the race track. My crew chief (Mike Ford) was actually saying yesterday how much he likes it. I know I love driving it.”

What are your thoughts when you see kids at the race track? “It’s good because earlier in their lives they probably would have never been able to go to a race track, and now, like they said, they were in victory lane last year. It’s exciting for me. I remember on the back of the car there was their footprint and that was going to be used to push me forward this weekend. Hopefully that all works out. It’s exciting to me, especially since these guys get to see their race car — whatever they designed — on the race track racing against some of the best guys in the world. It’s exciting for me. It’s something we do once a year and this year in particular has been a little bit more special than what we’ve had in the past.”

Does running a special paint scheme help relieve stress you’ve had this year? “What stress? It is. You almost feel like you’re getting into a different race car, to be honest with you. It’s not the same old, same old. You get in and it seems like when we have special paint schemes and it is a special weekend, we always do seem to run better. Hopefully it’s no better today or this weekend. I look forward to it. For me, I look forward to trying to get these guys in victory lane more than anything because they got to experience it once before, but we want to do it with their imprint and everything on the car. That would be good for us.”
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How important is it to have a solid run this weekend? “I’m pretty sure we’re going to run well. Finishing well is the part that we haven’t done as well this year as we’ve done in years past. It is so early and we are close to where we are last year. We’re not quite, because we won Martinsville last year at this point. For me, the panic level is not that high, but it is creeping there because ultimately it’s not about the number of points that you’re behind 10th at this point, it’s how many guys separate you from that. In my head, I know that we’re going to run well — I know that for a fact, it’s just whether we finish well is going to be the question mark. To do that, all the other aspects of the race team that we have to have together.”

What have you done outside the race track to keep yourself motivated this year? “I’ve worked harder. I’ve never worked as hard as I have the last probably three weeks or so on studying data, studying different video and stuff like that. I feel like hopefully it works out to my benefit and I feel like it has already this weekend. It did at Martinsville and different things, like California where I felt like it was a benefit. These past three weeks, I feel like I’ve been as competitive race and qualifying as I’ve been yet. It’s just I have to keep working. When you do fall a little bit behind, there’s a lot of aspects of our race team we have to get better, but I still feel like I’m part of that aspect that has to get better and I feel like these last three weeks I’ve worked extremely hard.”

What are your thoughts on the recent pit crew change your team made? “Everyone always says I’m critical, I just said that we stunk and we did. A lot of people say they stink at times, but it’s something — it’s a shame but you have to make changes sometimes. Maybe it’s not the talent level is not a question, I felt like that wasn’t the question for us. You just sometimes have to make a change for chemistry sake. We had the same pit crew for the last two to three years and we’ve been up and down. At their best, they are the best, but it was trying to get to that point. We have changed a guy. We brought up (Nick Krizmanich, front tire changer), he’s from the No. 11 Nationwide team, we’re trying out him and one other guy and he kind of seemed a step above the rest. We’re going to have a new aspect of our race team this weekend. I’m excited about it, it’s a change and obviously it’s going to take time for chemistry to kick in. Me and Mike (Ford, crew chief) talked about that. There’s probably going to be stops throughout this weekend where it’s not going to be the best but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction for the long run.”

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office/March of Dimes Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) Do you use race video tape to learn from previous races? “I’ve looked at a lot of just individual laps and seen where I’m losing time lap after lap. I’ve seen that my biggest falter has been entering turn one, I feel like I’ve been a little bit shallow and not carried enough speed into that corner, consistently. It’s not just one lap that I’m looking at, it’s multiple laps. I see that and I see in practice I have to work on whatever I have to do to make my car do that. It’s just something I feel like I have to do to make speed. Had I not seen and studied that stuff, I probably would race the track the same way that I always have. It’s been good the last three times here, but to get better, because everyone else I know is better, you have to study that stuff. It’s weird. It’s definitely not something I thought we’d have as a tool earlier in my career that I thought I’d have to be studying film from races to kind of get better — I never thought I’d be part of racing.”

Is your patience level different this year compared to previous years? “I think what probably makes this year different is we didn’t end the year on a positive note. Every other year, like ’08 and ’09, we’ve finished the year with some wins. The last couple races is what sets us up for being one of the favorites in the following year. But then, I give everyone a warning that it’s going to be slow, let us get there and it’s typically what happens. I think what people were attributing this year’s slow start to is the last couple races of last year. I know in my mind it has nothing to do with it, but it’s just the way people see it — like it’s a let down from last year. I honestly don’t believe that — I believe that here in the next three races, we’re going to be inside the top-15 in points. After that, we’re going to keep marching our way back to the top-10. We’re not going to need to get in on wins, I don’t believe. I honestly believe we’re going to be in the top-10 here in the next seven, eight weeks.”

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