NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Topics: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
September 12, 2009
KERRY THARP: We brought Denny back in. Wanted to show him some more respect.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, thanks for kicking me out earlier. (Laughter).
KERRY THARP: 150, perfect driver rating tonight here at Richmond International Raceway.
DENNY HAMLIN: That doesn't pay anything, does it?
KERRY THARP: No, but it's a perfect driver rating.
Q. You had been close here before, late, mishaps, ended up costing you. That last caution, what's going through your head, and did you fear overthinking it at all, like you can't screw it up and have to do everything right, having your heart broken here late in the race before?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I started experiencing a little bit of brake fade which I didn't have all night long on that last run before the last caution, and I had built up a little gap over the five. Even with the brake fade and the pedal going down, we were still maintaining with him, not letting him catch us.
You know, I was a little bit nervous there but then we had the caution. I was 50/50 with it. I definitely -- had the race gone green, would have been fine but our car was very strong on the short run. We were able to put a little bit of a gap on those guys. I was nervous, though, for the pit crew. I knew what my nerves was trying to just do everything could I go get in the stall right, and not lose the race on pit road because that's where we lost it a couple times here. So I was nervous for those guys. I knew their eyeballs were popping out of their head to make sure they didn't make a mistake, and they just did what they had to do.
Q. Exactly what was the emotion like? You've talked about it for years, want to go win here and not knowing what it would feel like; what did it feel like to finally accomplish to your goal?
DENNY HAMLIN: Like a Daytona 500 win for anyone else. I mentioned before that I wanted to win this race before I won a 500, but now, of course, I know how special that race is to everyone. But this one in particular, to me, was -- especially after all the heartbreak, it makes it more gratifying to win now. It's by far the biggest win of my career and hopefully goes a long way for this race team over the next ten weeks.
Q. Mark talked about this is the icing getting into the Chase and now he can go for the cake. Is the championship your cake or is this the cake for you?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, we go into each season hoping to win a championship, and I feel like we have been a Top-5 car each and every year, whether the points showed that or not.
We haven't had championship-caliber finishes except for our rookie year but I feel now our performance on the racetrack is better than it has ever been in my career. We are bringing good cars to the track and being competitive and competing for race wins every week. That's something we didn't have in our rookie year when we were racing for the championship. We were racing for the championship on short tracks. We would gain all of our points there and lose them all once we got to the bigger tracks. Now I feel like our big track program, our mile-and-a-half program is better than our short track program.
I think with those six or seven races on big tracks, I'm looking forward to. It I think it kind of sets up nicely for us.
Q. How fortunate were you that you didn't really have to race any of the guys who are with fighting to get into the last couple of spots in the Chase?
DENNY HAMLIN: I was fortunate. I think I was more fortunate that the cautions came when they did. If we would have had a caution after about ten laps, after a green, then we were going to be put to a decision, then you were going to see a lot of guys doing two tires, maybe no tires and that's when you would have to see us go to the middle of the pack and then we were going to see, do we have a strong enough car to drive back to the front because when we had our lug nut issue here in the spring, it put us back to tenth or something like that, which we just could not recover. We could not pass the cars back to the front.
So I was constantly worried about that and tuning my car based off of driving in the lap traffic earlier in the event. So I was more fortunate that the cautions came out to where everyone had to take four every time and that kept us up front.
Q. With what your team has gone through with this merger, the Letterman tent, some turmoil for your organization; now that you're in the Chase, how do you keep everybody focused on what's ahead when people may be worried about jobs or what's going to happen down the road after these ten weeks?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, it's definitely something that I've thought about, and have asked that question; the timing seems a little off and why are we doing this now and we are looking at starting the Chase and hopefully being as competitive as we have ever been in the Chase.
So I'm going to do the things that I've always done and that's just work with the guys. I mean, they have always taken care of me and given me great cars. They have put out a huge effort. Doesn't matter if we haven't made the Chase or made the Chase. Those guys have worked really hard each year and we have a great group of guys. So just stand behind them and they have stood behind me and hopefully it will take us through the end of the year and then we'll go on from there. But yeah there's definitely some people that are probably wondering and hopefully we can make it through this whole situation.
Q. Is the sky the limit now to up the ante and do even bigger things?
DENNY HAMLIN: It is. And there's a couple of things, the Richmond win, the Martinsville win; the other one would be Bristol would be a track that I feel like owes me. Those racetracks, you check those off, you get your wins there. And the championship has always been in focus for us. That's our main goal.
But self goals, your little goals is to win these battles at these racetracks and now it's another thing checked off the list and now we can solely focus on winning a championship. And had we not won this race today, I probably wouldn't have been as confident going into the Chase; or even a second-place finish just doesn't give you what we got by winning this race today.
Q. You said after the race that you had a good chance at the championship if you could shore up your effort at several weak tracks; what are those tracks?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think there's some tracks out there, you know, the mile-and-a-half tracks we have been running better at here the last half of this year. Charlotte we ran great at at the beginning; Texas. There's some good tracks for us, and a few other ones, Phoenix, Talladega, you never know, and New Hampshire. Some of the shorter tracks that we still have some work to do.
Tonight we were not as good as we needed to be and ran about 12th and probably could have been about 10th by the end of. It there are a couple of tracks that we need to keep working hard at and we know what they are and hopefully we can hit on some things, if we want -- if we want to have a chance at winning the championship. But we are going to do all we can to win races, get the most points we can and hopefully have a shot late in the season.
Q. A long time ago, it almost seems like too long ago to remember, when Kyle was winning races, you said his style is not mine, he's going to win more races, but have his bad races; we're going to be more consistent. I think you one time said you'll never win as many races as he does. But the point is, at the time you said there, it's sort of different -- now it looks like your way was the better way. I'm saying you have come out ahead when sometimes people may have thought what you were saying is almost kind of like sour grapes, but what you have said has been confirmed since what happened that day almost.
DENNY HAMLIN: It's tough to say his aggressive style kept him out of the Chase. I'm not -- I can't remember what happened at the beginning of the season, but I don't know if he made an aggressive move and it got him in a wreck or anything like that, I'm not sure.
But it is, I firmly believe I'll never win as much as Kyle. He's got the raw speed that I don't have, and he takes a few more chances than what I do. I think that their performance has been down over the last probably eight weeks or so, and that's why that definitely didn't help his Chase hopes but I don't know whether his style in particular kept him out of the Chase or not. You know, he's a guy, though, that is eight points away from being a serious, serious championship threat. It's tough to pinpoint it on one particular race or maybe a mistake that he made, because you know, I've made plenty of mistakes myself.
We just -- it just seems like we have been consistent and not just comparing ourselves to the 18; but to the field, we have been very, very consistent the last few years and that's why we have always been in in good championship standings. It's just our style. We are not flashy. We are not winning five, six races a year. We are competing for race wins that many times, but it seems like we don't get it done for whatever reason. And maybe it's because I'm not aggressive enough at the end of the race. There's only been two races this year that I've said I'm going to win, and we have won them. So confidence goes a long way, and besides that, it's just aggressiveness pays off at times, and it did again today.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, Denny, certainly congratulations on winning here tonight at Richmond.
Q. The early part of the race, you and Jeff traded the lead several times and then he got an incident. Did you think you would be battling him at the end? Was he the strongest car that you saw tonight?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, he definitely was -- he was the most consistent car up front. When I saw he got shuffled back with about 80 to go, when I saw the 33 get to second, I was like, I knew I could out run him. I think I lapped him earlier in the race. I don't know how he got up there to be honest with you.
So I thought maybe I could out run the 33. But then I think the 5 got back around him on the next restart. So I was kind of -- just in case I had a bad pit stop or something like that happened, I had to -- I needed to race somebody to see what our car was going to do in traffic. And so every time I got in traffic on lap traffic, I ran harder than what I did when I was out there by myself, because I was trying to push the car seeing how quick can I get around these guys, because I may have to be mid-pack because of a bad pit stop or something like that or maybe some pit strategy, guys take two or something. So I was constantly thinking about what we were going to have to do to win besides being out front.
KERRY THARP: Thank you, appreciate it very much. Thanks for your patience.
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