Toyota Racing – Denny Hamlin
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Martinsville Speedway – October 28, 2017
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to the media at Martinsville Speedway:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx / Walgreens Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Talk about your favorite memories here and how you’re going to approach this weekend.
“You know it is a very important race track but it’s still only 33 percent of this round. Each track is equally important unless you win this race. I think we need to be successful here, we need to gain some points. This is obviously statistically our best shot even though I feel like we can win each and every week. I feel pretty good about it. A lot of good memories here. 2009 maybe when we came from ninth with three laps to go to win the race was probably my favorite memory at this race track, but it’s been a good one. Something about it that fits my driving style well. We have a tire that lays a lot of rubber down now which is really good. Looking at truck practice and Cup race from the spring, the groove has widened out quite a bit so we’re happy about that and we’ll just see how it all plays out when we hit the race track.”
A lot of drivers with short track backgrounds can’t win here. What’s the deal?
“Driving styles. I think that – you know to get on bigger race tracks, there’s a lot of different ways to do it, but I really believe that there’s only a one, one way to do it here now. Everyone’s able to – is able to do it, but some just don’t. I think that this race track requires a certain type of style in which you enter the corner and exit the corner and no other way has ever been successful here, so I think that many other drivers have replicated that and gotten better, so I think the field is wider now than what it was you know two or three years ago when it was just kind of like three of us that won every time. I think data sharing has most to do with that now that we share each other’s data, there are no secrets anymore. I think that that’s kind of what it is. It’s just a race track that you can only do it one way.”
With four champions left in the Round of 8. Does the experience of driver’s who have won championships make a difference to you?
Not really. I don’t think so. I think it’s about the speed that you have now. There’s first champions all the time for a reason. It just works out for them. Kyle (Busch) got it a few years ago and (Kevin) Harvick got his first a few years ago before that, so I think that it’s all about how you’re performing at this given time. I don’t really know that – I think if this is a race over the course of a season or the old format where it was a race over ten races, experience really kind of pays off. But I believe that any time that you have just a one race shootout for a championship, it’s about who’s the fastest and that’s it.”
Do you know where you need to be points wise to advance to the Championship 4?
“I know I averaged sixth last year and I didn’t make it. Over three races last year I averaged sixth last year and I didn’t make it. Over three races I averaged sixth-place finish and I didn’t make it. And that was before we had regular-season bonus points put in. I’m already behind the eight ball and I think that sixth is still not good enough. I think if you can – you know to me there’s a number in my head of how many points I need to earn each week I think to make it in on points, but I plan on winning, so we’ll see. It’s in the 40s that you need per race.”
How are NASCAR’s diversity efforts working now that Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. has a full-time ride next year?
“It’s good. You know I think that Bubba is well deserving. He performed well I thought when he got in that car for the few races that he did and so I think it’s good for our sport. I think he’s very marketable. He’s a good personality. He’s always upbeat and he’s a great race car drivers, so there’s really no reason why he wouldn’t be in the Cup Series. I hate it for Aric (Almirola), but I see brighter skies out there for Aric in the future.”
When you do the calculations going into this round, if you can’t win one of the next three races, do you hope that Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. do to open that up more for points for everybody else?
“Yeah, for sure. You want the guys that have a point lead on you, the bigger the point leads on you, to have good days and essentially win. Yeah, I definitely would be rooting for those guys if we don’t win. I think that you know there’s a good chance that there will probably be two spots given on points. We’re behind the eight ball on that, so I think that we can make up a lot of points this weekend with stages and things like that, so yeah I think that most drivers in my position or even around me in points would probably be rooting for Truex to win if they don’t win.”
What’s your secret to running so well here in the fall instead of the spring?
Yeah, I don’t know what it is about the fall, but it seems to be a little bit better for us, but I think it’s – you know you learn from your mistakes and there’s been a lot of rule changes I think that happen and this race is early in the season, the spring race is, so I don’t know that I fully adapt quick enough to the new rule changes and typically through my career it’s been ten races or so that I need to get into a season before I start kind of really performing well and this race is well inside of that ten races. I think that for whatever reason I just learn so much throughout the season and I use the notes from the spring to then put together what I think is best for the fall and it always seems to work.”