NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola
Topics: Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola
July 4, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by tonight's third-place finisher, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, Denny Hamlin. Tell us about your run.
DENNY HAMLIN: We had a solid car. I felt like me and the 14 were class of the field pretty much all day with the 18, 48 and 99 kind of sprinkled in there a little bit. You know, just it was tough at the end of the race right there. I knew it was going to be all about positioning and where you put yourself, and I felt good about being on the outside right there on that restart with about five to go.
But I knew that my help from the 48 was going to be limited. I knew he was going to dump me just as soon as he could. He wasn't going to help push me past the 14 for sure.
We just got in a situation there where I didn't get the help and then I had to make a decision once I got to the 18, and him and the 14 beside each other. I had to make a decision there and just decided to go with the 18. The best chance for one of our cars to win was for me to push the 18 on the last lap.
Usually when you lead in the last lap your percentile for winning usually is pretty good. But I'll tell you, those two cars behind them really got a good suck-up on them coming to the checkered, and it's just like Talladega, when you've got new tires and guys are one blocking and one being aggressive, you're going to have contact, and that's what happened.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by tonight's second-place finisher, driver of the #48 Lowe's Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson. Tell us about your run.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Great run for us. I feel bad for sliding through the pits maybe two or three stops from the end. That mistake -- the front four cars were the 14, 18, 11 and us, seemed like we could just pull away from everybody, and our cars were extremely close on speed. So it was really who came out wearing -- in a four-car draft there's only so much energy created and you just kind of ride and follow.
My mistake kept us from hopefully being in the lead, second, somewhere in there, on the restart. And I was real content riding in fourth. I had a feeling something would take place coming to the finish and I might be able to improve my position. Everybody was content to stay in line, and you're just waiting for the second place car to make a move on the leader, and those guys started racing and passing each other, and an opportunity came along and I was in the right lane, and off I went.
Just a strong performance. We have really struggled with the COT at Daytona, the 48 car. My teammates have done well at times. But very proud of the hard work Chad put into some setups. We started practice a couple days ago and were terrible, and he had two or three different packages to try, and finally the last package we put under it really worked well for us and got me a good driving car, so we're happy.
Q. For both drivers, this is the second plate race in a row where we've seen a big crash at the finish with one car trying to move over to block another. How do we stop this? Or is this something that the drivers are going to have to figure out?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There is nothing to do to stop it. If you think about the position that the sport is in, one race, it's boring, there's no racing, there's no excitement. And then a couple races there's an exciting finish and we're worried about the exciting finish. You know, it's plate racing. We're damned if we do, damned if we don't.
These cars punch a big hole of air, and the second place guy can sometimes get a run. It's not strong enough to where the leader knows, I can't block it, it's just a slow run that they get, so the leader -- over time we've all understood that you can be really aggressive blocking. And that time it just -- it didn't just work for the 18.
The guys are racing. Tony didn't mean to dump him. Same thing with Talladega. It's just the product of restrictor plate racing. Every time we use the restrictor plate tracks there's questions about how we can keep from having the big wreck and things like that, and you just can't. When you run plates and we run wide open all the way around the track, situations like this come around.
DENNY HAMLIN: Everything, quote for quote.
Q. Denny, what was the difference with this car than past races at Daytona? Obviously it's got to be your best finish here.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I don't know how to finish in the Top 10 here. I can run up front for 95 percent of the time but can't finish. I was telling him, I think this race was relatively calm, I thought. There really wasn't -- you know, it was tough for me to tell because we were in the top five and he was in the top five for most of the day. So the first five, six cars were content to run single file for most of the day, so it made our day pretty easy for the most part and didn't see a whole lot of battling back in the pack. You didn't see the crazy three wide like you usually do here. I think it was just the track was really hot and whatnot.
I think it's just track surface is what kind of made things a little calmer. Of course the finish made it real exciting. But other than that, I thought it was a relatively calm race.
Q. Jimmie, you said you were just riding around toward the end kind of expecting something. In these situations, obviously you talk about plate racing, is that what you expect? What were you kind of expecting? And also for Denny, can you talk about from your perspective the view of the move that Kyle made and kind of describe how he made that to get out in the lead on the next to last lap, please?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know, I thought the 14 checked up or something in the middle of the corner. I don't know if maybe the 18 got him loose or something right in the middle of the corner. I don't know what it was, but the 14 really slowed down a ton in the center of 3 and 4 coming to the white, and it let the 18 get to the right rear quarter panel of him.
And when it did, it obviously put me to a decision to help my current teammate or former teammate, so I'm going to help my current teammate. I felt like the best opportunity for our team to win was to stick with the 18 even though I was going to give up the bottom and I knew I was going to give up position to the 48.
I felt like it was going to be two by two on the final lap to tell you the truth, but it just -- Kyle got that great run. He got to his quarter panel so hard, it just bogged the 14 down so much that it let him clear getting off 4, and I thought that was going to be the pass for the race right there.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, I've made plenty of mistakes in the closing laps where there's a lot of energy because the leader is trying to drag the brake and keep everybody stacked up, and the further back in the pack, there's just so much energy and your car is ready to make a move.
So just kind of waiting for something to happen, waiting for somebody to take that kind of bait in a sense and pull out and try to make an outside lane work. And I just felt like the inside was so strong, especially with our four cars, that if you're on the outside guys were going to take the bottom. I didn't anticipate there being a wreck, but I felt like somebody would probably get shuffled up down off the bottom and I could improve by a spot or something like that.
Q. For both of you guys, it looked like the pass that Kyle made really sent him out several car lengths out front. Was it a matter of getting too far out front because that enabled Tony to catch up and make a move at the finish? And one other follow-up, Denny, could you comment on the incident with Kurt Busch down the back straight where it appeared you got two tires below the yellow line?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I think that was a similar deal where I had a pretty big run going and the 2 saw me coming and went to block. I didn't want to cause the same wreck that happened in the 500. I mean, I felt like -- I mean, if they were going to black flag me I would have been okay with that versus causing a wreck.
But I didn't go more than -- my left side tires stayed on the yellow line. I'm not sure that they went below it. I think they saw it as more of an evasive move than a move to pass. I think that's probably what their judgment was.
Q. Did Kyle get too far out front there?
DENNY HAMLIN: I was in fourth. I think Jimmie could probably give you a better idea of that. I had a couple cars in front of me.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I couldn't tell, either. I was so worried about what was going on in my mirror and following the tire tracks in front of me. I couldn't really see where the 18 was. But yes, in some cases if you get too far out, and I remember that I did get pretty close to the 14 and pushed him away, and if the 18 was too far out it would let him run up in that gap.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you, and congratulations.
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