NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 2
Topics: Gatorade Duel 2
February 14, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: We're pleased to be joined by the winner of the today's second duel, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FexEx Express Toyota, and his crew chief, Mike Ford.
Denny, your thoughts about your performance this afternoon.
DENNY HAMLIN: I thought we definitely had a very strong car. I definitely thank the motor room for doing such a good job of hard hours getting these motors down here and prepared for us to try to run this race.
You know, luckily we were able to find a problem earlier in the week. So we haven't exactly remedied it with this motor, but the ones coming hopefully we will.
I definitely give credit to them and Mike for obviously the great-handling race car. I couldn't really ask too much more of it. Just kind of made the moves there at the end that we had to make to ensure that one of the two of us was going to get a win.
KERRY THARP: Mike, your thoughts?
MIKE FORD: A lot similar. In our race we had teammates, and it's the first time that Denny and Kyle and Tony could all work together. We think that's going to be the strength to our team come next Sunday, so we got an opportunity to all draft together. We didn't have that opportunity in the Shootout. Cars all worked well together.
Like Denny said, our car handled well. It's going to come down to that in the longer runs come next Sunday. That's really what we're shooting for, is a good-handling car. We had that today. We know that one of the three Gibbs cars can win the 500.
Circumstance played out where, you know, we were helping Tony for a little bit and the 24 got a run on us. Denny did what he had to do to put the 24 behind us. We're working hard at one of our three cars winning the 500.
KERRY THARP: Questions for either Denny or Mike Ford.
Q. Denny, this is the first time a Toyota Camry has driven into Victory Lane in the Cup Series. I want to get your reaction to that.
DENNY HAMLIN: Very proud. I definitely was a big guy that liked to switch over to a Toyota. We knew they had a lot of resources that we were not able to do with the 400 or so employees that we have at Joe Gibbs Racing.
I definitely was a guy that was behind it a hundred percent. It's finally starting to pay off. I think they had some engine issues last year they said they wanted to work on, mainly being corner exit. It feels like from my standpoint they've got that fixed.
So as soon as us drivers come up with something else that we need to work on with the engine program, I'm sure between Joe Gibbs Racing and TRD they're going to get it fixed. That's something that we just can't do with the allotment of people that we have at Joe Gibbs Racing.
So really to give those guys their very first win, and so early into the season, is definitely a proud moment for myself and everyone at FedEx.
Q. Mike, drivers have to adapt to tracks and changes and engines. Of course, teams have to, too. Is there any way for you to instill that in your team, to help them adapt to the changes?
MIKE FORD: Well, I think the key to that is you have to understand what you're working with. If you understand the workings of the car and understand the physics of the car, then it really doesn't matter what you're working on, you're going to understand what you're working on.
That's the key that we have. We don't worry about what the rest of the world's doing. We worry about our issues and use our resources and the resources available to us to answer the questions that we have.
We probably have a little bit different aspect on racing than most of the other teams. You know, we focus on our issues and we stick to those and we put people in position that understand what they're doing.
Q. The run on Tony, he said you guys talked on the red flag. He said, If you get a run, you got to go. I heard you say after the race there was no way you could not have gone or Jeff would have passed both of you and gone.
DENNY HAMLIN: Definitely. I kind of waited. Tony kind of clued me in on Jeff's habits over the years of what he does on restarts to try to, you know, get guys at the very end. I think I was more on the brake there after they threw the green than I was actually on the throttle making sure, you know, me and Tony didn't pull away and he had basically the whole field behind him with a huge run.
So basically just I wanted to stay, you know, my rear bumper to his front bumper instead of him driving up to my rear bumper. I was using the brake to make sure I was attached to his front bumper, that way I had a huge run on Tony.
Obviously, we knew with the huge run we had going down the back straightaway, if I would have chose to hit Tony there that would have been a huge opportunity for Jeff to pull down and pass really both of us with relative ease.
We knew at the end it was going to be tough for us to finish 1-2 by simply riding that way. We needed to kind of almost exchange positions to kind of get that finish we needed at the end, because we knew the 24, the 8 and the 9 were all planning something behind us.
Q. Denny, I realize you didn't have all 43 cars out there, but does it give you a sense of accomplishment that for once there's not a Hendrick car winning?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah. I mean, definitely it feels good. I mean, we had opportunities during the course of that race where I think we were 1-2-3, myself, Kyle and Tony. That's what we were looking for.
Unfortunately Kyle got in the situation where when we were 1-2-3 the rest of us can't sit behind, we have to make moves or the guys are going to make moves on us. I chose to go with Tony the mid stages of that race.
We knew with Jeff having such a strong car he was going to be on his own as far as working. I think he wanted to work with us, and we wanted to work with him. I needed him in the middle stages of that race, end of the race obviously to pass Tony.
But I think, really, we're going to look out for our team first and foremost, manufacturer probably second, and then the guys that we work well with third. And Jeff's one of those guys. So really I think that's why you see the finish at the end that it was.
Q. Denny, seen a couple races this week where passes were made the last couple of laps. Is it almost a detriment to be in the lead at the end? Can you hold off people? Is this any different than years past?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think if you're on old tires you want to be in the lead, other than a restart for sure. You know, had we gone green there, Tony probably would have won the race no problem simply because I think myself, Tony and Jeff had pulled away from the field by about five car lengths or so with just a couple laps to go.
They probably weren't going to catch us. Being on old tires, you know, you can't do it. You just can't get runs like you can on new tires.
I say at the end, if you're on a Shootout with new tires, second, third is probably as good as first. But I think in situations where we don't pit, we're on very old tires, you want to be the guy out in front.
Q. Denny, did finishing 1-2 tell you anything about Toyota's ability to be competitive out of the gate that you didn't already know going into today?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah. I mean, I'm actually a little more excited about the races to come: the mile-and-a-half, two-mile racetracks, California, Vegas, those racetracks. All the hard work that we did in the off-season, that's where it's going to show up, not necessarily here at Daytona.
Here at Daytona you're going to see what hard work paid off in the engine room, both from Mark Cronquest and the engine guys at AGR and TRD. That's what's going to show up at the racetrack this weekend.
Everything we worked on in the off-season will show up the rest of the 34, 35 races throughout the season. We definitely know we have the engine thing heading in the right direction right now. We just got to make sure we've got the mechanical stuff working.
KERRY THARP: Thanks a lot, guys. Good luck on Sunday.
DENNY HAMLIN: Thanks.
MIKE FORD: Thank you.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|