Toyota NSCS Sonoma Notes & Quotes – Denny Hamlin

TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)

Denny Hamlin — Notes & Quotes

Sonoma, Calif. – June 22, 2012
American Muscle

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How was your Camry in practice? “It was okay.  We weren’t the fastest, but I felt in the long run we were as good as anyone.  Typically we run really well here at Sonoma, just don’t have very good results because of crashes and things like that can happen here late in races.”

Why are road course races tougher on drivers? “I don’t know.  It just seems like people don’t give each other room like they used to and everyone is just a little bit more aggressive.  I think people talk about driver ethics and things like that, this is a very gray race track when it comes to that.  I think people can get away with a little bit more, maybe pay some guys back for things that happen at other tracks.  Typically at this race track, because speeds are so low, the risk of injuring someone is slim to none.”

Is it difficult to learn road racing? “It is, it’s hard.  It took us a few years.  We finished second probably our third or fourth road course race at Watkins Glen, a legitimate second, not a fuel mileage second.  It’s difficult, but it’s a lot of short track racing.  It’s different turns, left and right.  It’s the downshifting part and maximizing your braking that you have to get used to if you don’t grow up doing this type of racing.”

How do some guys learn and become good at road racing? “Any given driver out here, everyone is so good and can be fast with the fastest race car.  I just think no one particular race background sets you up for success on road course racing.  I just think some drivers adapt to it and figure it out quicker than others.”

How does a driver like Jeff Gordon handle seeing his teammates having success while he’s been winless? “It’s frustrating for sure.  Anytime you see your teammates are running up front consistently week in and week out, and you’re not, it gets under you because you know you have the same equipment.  It’s just a matter of who’s executing the best once you get to the race track.  That’s the job of all the race teams is to give all their drivers equal equipment and let the driver and the crew chief relationship figure out who is going to win on any particular weekend.  When you look at the depth of someone like Hendrick, they’ll figure it out.  They’ll switch resources or whatever they have to do to make sure that 24 (Jeff Gordon) is in a spot where he can win here before the Chase gets going.”

Does seeing your teammates succeed affect your relationship within the team hauler? “A little bit.  You look at yourself in the mirror a little bit more. The crew chief wonders why you aren’t winning more.  It’s just you analyze everything a little bit more than you would if you had success or one of the top guys at your team.  I just know when we’re the worst of the Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars, I’m looking and trying to figure out what we need to do to get to where we’re at.  You try to analyze every little bit of your car and your team more when you’re behind.”

What are your plans in Alaska on Monday? “We’re excited about it.  I’ve never been to Alaska before.  Us and some media members are going to go up there, visit some FedEx folks.  Anchorage, Alaska is a huge hub for FedEx.  It’s kind of the stopping point that serves Tokyo and other places. We’re going up there and then we’re going to have a challenge with the Iditarod champion, dog sled champion and then race him (Dallas Seavey) in a little race after I get some lessons from him.  It will be a lot of fun.  For me, Alaska is a place where you never thing you would have an opportunity to go, but under the circumstances, I’ll take it.”

Have you ever done anything as interesting as trying dog sledding? “No, not at all.  If it’s competition one-on-one against somebody, I like my chances.”

What’s the furthest north you’ve traveled before? “That’s it.  Portland, Oregon I guess is probably the furthest north that I’ve been other than maybe Maine or something.  I don’t know.  It’s a whole other world is what I hear.  It will be daylight I guess 24 hours a day or something like that.  It will be great and we’ll have a lot of fun.”

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) Do you enjoy the rough nature of road course racing? “It depends on what end you end up on at the end of the day.  I’ve been here and gained 10 spots at the very end of the race because some moron plowed the field in front of me and took out six cars and I’ve been in that six cars at times.  That’s when you’re frustrated because you had a good day and minding your own business and you’re part of someone else’s wreck.  I think when you’re driving here, you’ll see someone is going to be mad at someone else.  It’s always been the case here.  We are oval guys, so this is not our specialty, so that’s why we make so many mistakes running into one another so much.  We under estimate the braking power of the cars, things like that and that’s when we get into trouble.”

Is your goal not to be the driver that causes a wreck? “Exactly right, you don’t want to be the moron at the end of the day.”

Why do you think there are fewer road course ringers participating in this race? “I think it’s hard to adjust to the cars.  I think all the good cars that are competitive and can win the race — they’re better than what the road course ringer driver can bring to a mediocre team. There’s only 25 cars or so that are going to win, have a chance to win when we come here, and it’s just those road course — those guys are all running for points and no one is going to get out of their seat to give the road course ringer an opportunity.  Even before that, these guys are all so good now, there’s no real advantage to come in here and think that they’re going to whoop up on everyone.”

How have the engine issues Joe Gibbs Racing has suffered avoided your team? “Thanks.  We were talking about that on the plane ride home.  Thank you.  I’m sure I’ll get it here in the next few weeks. All you can say is ‘luck of the draw’ — we’ve been on the good end of that.  We only have six teams out here and usually a couple engine failures it seems like the last few weeks.  So, it’s frustrating.  It’s frustrating and I’m not even being the one affected by it yet.  Everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) is going to work hard at it and that’s all they can do. What it looks like has happened has been freak part incidents.  It has not been because of assembly — things like that.  It’s just parts that we’re getting are not up to the standards.  You know, there’s nothing that Kyle (Busch) and Mark (Martin) and all those guys can do other than just race their car, try to tune it the best they can and hope that what they have under the hood is reliable.”

Do you now approach turn 11 here differently? “Not really.  Everything is about the same.  And the reason you see so many incidents is you go from the highest — you have the highest speed on the race track that you get here is basically just about coming off turn 10, and then the slowest point is about right in the middle of turn 11.  So, that moment of that distance from which you’ve got to slow down roughly maybe 100 miles an hour — people make a whole lot of mistakes.  And, so that’s why there is all the action there.  It’s a hairpin corner where you feel like you can make up a lot of ground.  But, nine times out of 10 when you try to drive in you end up wheel-hopping and collecting the guy in front of you.  So, you don’t approach it any differently, except for on restarts — you always are looking in your mirror before you get to turn 10 to make sure you protect the bottom and don’t give the inside position to someone because then you can end up in a bad spot.”

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