Toyota Racing – Denny Hamlin
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway – September 9, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Possibilities Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What kind of challenge is this going to be without practice and qualifying?
“It definitely could be a challenge. This is one of those race tracks that is very sensitive to the travels of the race car – how far you have it high or low, so I think that that part will be very crucial. I think the possibility that somebody that you don’t think maybe hit it closer than some of the other guys – when I think about the Big Three, they typically aren’t the fastest guys right off the truck, but they tune their cars and they get them to be the fastest guys by the end of the weekend. You’re not able to do that really during the race. You’ll only be able to do small adjustments because you don’t want to lose track position, so I think that this is going to be a true testament of which team came prepared the most with the correct set up that’s tried and true and hopefully we hit it right today.”
Can you describe the importance of a good result at Vegas next week knowing the unknowns of racing the Roval in the first round.
“It’ll be important for sure, but I think each race is equally important. I like at a Roval as one that we can go out there and win. We were extremely fast during the test there, so I’m looking forward to it even though I’m not maybe the biggest fan, but I think that all the tracks bring a unique amount of wildcardness to it. We’ve seen in playoffs different race tracks have different results for guys that you didn’t expect, so we’ll treat each individual race with the highest regard and try to do the best we can. We know this year with the few playoff points we have, we have to be on our game every single week.”
Where does your team stand mentally compared to past years?
“Typically in history, we’ve performed better in the playoffs than we have in the regular season just about always. We’ll have to take a bigger jump this year than what we’ve taken in years past. We’ve typically been pretty good and then we’ve been great in the playoffs. This year we’ve been mediocre and I think that the big jump to great is a big one. You have to try and do it overnight. We’ve shown little things that are encouraging for me that our cars are gaining speed – having a pole three of the last four weeks means that we’ve got cars capable of running fast speeds, but it’s tuning it for race day that it seems like we’ve struggled at. We’re just trying to battle through those things. The really good races I felt like we were going to have a chance to win, crazy things have happened and taken us out of it. We’ve definitely been on a very unfortunate luck streak, but that all turns around. The law of averages usually equals all that out hopefully by the end of the season.”
What is your outlook on Indianapolis?
“I like the race track for what it is. It’s so historic, but it’s also a challenging race track. If you’re not up front or if you have to go to the back for any reason, it is just nearly impossible to make your way back to the front. It is a one lane race track. It is the only true one lane race track that we have other than maybe Martinsville, but even there you can kind of start to widen out the corners a little bit. Here you’re just pinned to the bottom and you cannot move anywhere else. It’s a challenge here from that aspect. You have to be significantly faster than the person in front of you, but there’s no one significantly faster than anyone in the entire field in the Cup Series, so it’s a very big challenge to come back if you have any kind of issues. You have to have a flawless race, the best pit stops and you have to be on the front row when it comes to the last restart or else you won’t have a chance.”
Do you still get a special feeling when you come to Indy with its significance in motorsports?
“Yeah, it’s still very special just walking through the garage areas and that whole area and driving down the backstretch. To me, it’s the backstretch that is the most special. I don’t know why, but I just remember going on the race track for the first time here off of Turn 2 and just kind of looking around at everything that it was and being overwhelmed by the long straightaways and everything. It does still get to you for sure. It’s still in my mind our second biggest race of the year. This is definitely a big one that I’d like to check off the list. This is one of the two major races that I haven’t won yet, so this is a special one and today could be the day for us.”