DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your approach for tomorrow’s race at Watkins Glen International after winning here last year?
“Just focusing mostly on the corners that you need to setup to pass on and making sure all of the braking is good. Those are all of the keys to being upfront and having a fast car and after that it’s all about circumstances and strategy and things like that.”
Is it harder to be in a must win situation at a road course compared to other tracks on the schedule?
“Yeah, I think it’s probably equally as hard. Maybe harder, maybe easier – it’s tough to say. There’s so many wrecks that happens on road courses, different strategy plays. I’d say from a strategy standpoint it’s probably easier because there’s so many different things that you can do to gain track position, where on oval tracks you wear out tires and you really can’t stay out because you’ll get passed in the first corner. This is a newly paved road course so tires won’t wear out quite as fast, so as long as your crew chief is savvy enough there’s ways that you can get upfront.”
Have you asked NASCAR if you are able to miss qualifying and/or the race for the birth of your second child?
“I haven’t asked actually. I thought about it this morning, but no I haven’t quite asked what the rules are, but I’m assuming it would be allowed.”
Why are the track conditions so difficult out there today?
“For some it’s inexperience, for some the speeds are just so high. We’re running pretty quick times here and so you hang a wheel off one corner and it becomes very tough. Not really sure. I think different circumstances. Overall it’s really a tough track to stay on track. It’s equally as tough as Sonoma even though Sonoma is probably more technical, this one has faster speeds so when you make a mistake it usually is pretty big.”
Can you run us through the particulars of your ‘baby watch’ this weekend and Regan Smith being on stand-by to drive?
“I don’t know that we have a whole lot of details. He’s (Regan Smith) there at the hauler, he’s ready to go. As far as I’m concerned if and when I get the call I’ll go just immediately. It really doesn’t matter to me when it particularly is. I mean, short of it being in the pace laps then I would try to run one lap and then come in, but any other time I would just go right away. I’m not really sure how it all will work, but I assume that my people will be gotten ahold of as soon as I need to go.”
Do you have your jet on standby if you need to leave?
Will you talk to your JGR teammates about what they feel with the new tire during the XFINITY race?
”Yeah, we always try to lean on their comments from XFINITY. At this race track I think it definitely applies. We have a pretty good idea knowing that we’ve had a race on this new surface last year what the track does from practice to race so I don’t think it will change a whole lot. But, yeah we always take that into consideration and I always look at their notes after post-race XFINITY to see if we need to change anything if the track did anything dramatically different. It usually doesn’t come into play quite enough for us to make big changes on our side.”
What changed for you on road courses now going for your fourth straight top-five at a road course?
“I’ve learned to do some things better and I think we’ve got our cars way better. To me it’s probably the braking side of things that improved most for me. I’d always been pretty decent in practice, but never been really great in the race. I had a lot of brake issues every time, not failures but lots of wheel hop and things like that going on and we have fixed most of that stuff. I’m able to charge the corners and do the things I need to do to be fast now.”
What are your thoughts going into the race at Michigan next weekend?
“It’s a race track we were really fast at earlier in the year. It used to be that new paved race track, hard tires, it was not a race track I looked forward to very much, but it seems like we found a setup that’s been quite a bit better over the last year or two. We were pretty competitive there in the early summer so I look forward to going back there. I think I have the helmet cam there which will be interesting. So, that will be fun to kind of see what the perspective looks like on TV.”
When is the baby due?
“The baby is due on Thursday and she (Jordan Fish) won’t induce so it will be any time.”
How do you feel about your team’s chances to compete for a championship as the playoffs approach?
“I mean, I still think us in the 11 car still have a little bit of a ways to go. I think that there’s really two and a half cars that are probably consistently faster than us every week, but that’s better than the nine or 10 that it was three or four months ago. We’re gaining on it for sure with us personally. Our organization has obviously got faster. The cars are good, they’re driving good. I think some of the things that I need to do to go faster is probably on the driving side. We probably need to work more on that than necessarily the driving stuff.”
What are your thoughts on the new two-day race weekend at some race tracks this year?
“I think it’s 48 hours of almost non-stop racing action at a race track which is very good. There’s a lot of times when you have three day shows where nothing is on track for a while and it kind of gets stagnant, but I definitely like the shows running through and something on the track nearly at all hours of the day so it gives fans something to watch. I definitely enjoy it. I’m sure the team guys enjoy it as well, so it’s a step in the right direction. I think some of the fan fest stuff has been really good. I haven’t been a part of one yet, but I see on Twitter the reactions to it and I see a lot of talk about it. You can argue what gets the fans more of an experience, us going around a race track or them actually being able to engage with us and I would think it would be the latter.”
Have you followed Steph Curry in the Ellie Mae Classic and do you have any desire to do that with a single digit handicap?
“I do have a desire – what he (Steph Curry) did was I think amazing. Even scratch golfers at their home course struggle to shoot 74 and then in a competition like he was in on a real course, real competition that was pretty impressive. He didn’t finish last. I mean, I feel bad for those guys that he beat because they do it every single week. But, it’s just fun to see guys that can cross over sports and be competitive. He still would have a ways to be truly competitive, but still he didn’t stink up the show and I think that it was a good thing for the Web.com Tour because normally they have nobody watching their event either in person or on TV and I’m sure the ratings and attendance was probably through the roof.”
Do you think brakes are the biggest area of opportunity at a road course?
“Yeah, you can usually change your balance and make your car run through all the corners combined maybe a couple tenths faster – maybe three tenths – but you can charge a corner by an extra 50 feet and make up more time than that so I think it’s pretty important for sure.”