NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sylvania 300
Topics: Sylvania 300
September 19, 2010
LOUNDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our post-race press conference for today's SYLVANIA 300, first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and we are joined up front by our second and third place finishers, our second place finisher is Denny Hamlin, he drives the No. 11 FedEx Small Business Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing and he's also our points leader; retains that. And our third place finisher is Jamie McMurray, who drives the No. 1 McDonald Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
Guys, terrific performance out there today, the race had a lot of ebb and flow, and Denny, you certainly fought back from an early race incident to finish a very solid second place.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, our car was good. We just fought restarts all day. It took us half the race or three quarters of the race, actually, to get up front to the to three or four and then as soon as we got there, we got spun. So it was so frustrating on my part to have to battle back from 22nd there with 80 to go. And just Mike worked on the car and got it super fast there at the end. I was just trying to make those guys run as hard as I could, but it wasn't enough.
KERRY THARP: Jamie, certainly you led some laps, had an outstanding race car, and just a continuance of a very solid season for you.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, when I passed the 14 for the lead, really thought I was going to be able to drive away. I ran a couple laps there and opened up about ten cars and I drove into turn one and the splitter started crashing the ground, so just going to assume that a bump stop or something maybe failed and just let the car over-travel, and the whole last run, I couldn't use -- I couldn't really use any brakes. If I pushed on the brake hard at all, it would make the splitter crash into the ground.
So it was a really good day for us, though. I had a solid weekend and I think this is statistically my worst track so it's really good for us to come in here and have a solid run.
Q. There was so much talk coming in that you didn't want to do anything to lose the Chase, were you surprised there was so much gambling going on in this race? In one lap Tony lost 94 points. Are you surprised it didn't follow the script?
DENNY HAMLIN: I was very surprised, really, to see how aggressive guys were on restarts. It is such a balance, because you've got guys like Jamie that are like, win, win, win, win, and we're like, you know, I just don't want to get hit on restarts. I'm just trying to not get run over and whatnot.
So it's a balance out there. And this is one of the toughest tracks to have restarts. So I was really worried about this track in particular, getting out of here unscathed, and we didn't, but we just battled back right there. So overall it was pretty surprising to me to see really how aggressive it was.
Q. Do you come out man that you didn't win or going, you thinking, man, we pulled the points lead out of the fire today?
DENNY HAMLIN: The 33 had a really good car today, the 1, the 14. Those three cars I felt like were the best cars all day. We never really got to show where our car was at. As soon as we got to the Top 3, is when we got spun.
We clawed and scratched our way to the front all day to get in position with 80 to go to go for a win. Luckily, it's a double-edged sword, it made us come in, we had to get fuel and get tires and it gave us the fuel for the end. Typically, our Toyota gets really good gas mileage, so I knew we were going to be fine on fuel right there at the end.
So it was -- Top-6 was where I wanted to leave this day, and so first mission accomplished.
Q. What happened, you got up to fourth on the restart? You dropped to 22nd, this is question No. 2, what's going through your mind? Is it hard to say, hey, the day is not ruined and we can salvage this? And in those closing laps, did you think you could get Bowyer if you had enough time?
DENNY HAMLIN: I needed one more lap. We gained a ton right there. It's tough to say, once he ran out of fuel -- the way they were running, I'm not sure how much they were conserving if any, but our cars with a really fast the last run, and obviously the fastest car on the track, but yeah, it was -- I guess Carl just got loose. He hit us and we saved it, and I moved way up the track, because, you know, just in case somebody else was up under there, and then he just hit us a ton again.
So it was like, you know, I thought he was going to control it the first time, but it took him two or three tries to get it.
Q. And when you dropped back to 22nd.
DENNY HAMLIN: I was really glad we just didn't get plowed by the entire field. Obviously we spun in front the entire field at that point. First thing I asked is how many cars is on the lead lap because I wanted to see how bad our day was going to be, and when we restarted 22nd, I immediately set a goal and said, let's finish Top 15 and a few things happen and it was like, crap, let's get a top eight and then Top-6, holy cow, we can win this thing. It was one of those days, our car, we just made a heck of a charge at the end.
Q. Can you describe what was said to you over the radio when Tony ran out of gas? And how far were you from getting to Clint? Was it just, you know, too far to get to him? Obviously he was having to deal with some fuel issue, as well.
DENNY HAMLIN: We got to -- we almost got to his bumper the last corner. But I mean, I wasn't going to move him anyway. It wasn't worth it. He had the best car. He deserved to win, honestly. I wouldn't move a guy for that reason. I was happy with the day I had. I would have loved to have win, don't get me wrong but I'm not going to go out there and do it the dirty way. But just good, overall, solid day.
Q. What does this do to your confidence to be far behind and battle all the way to second and going the rest of the Chase knowing you were able to accomplish this today? How does this affect your confidence?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's good. It gives me somewhat of a buffer at Dover. We all know how Dover is for me. We've just got to minimize a bad day again at Dover next week. That's our goal. You've got to set a number, a number that you're satisfied with, and try to reach that goal at Dover next week.
So the good news is we finished I think third or fourth there in the spring which is a heck of a lot better than 22nd and two laps down last year in the Chase race. Just if we can get past Dover, we've got a lot of really good tracks for us.
JAMIE McMURRAY: You can't ask me about Denny, either, okay. You can ask me anything you want, just not about Denny. (Laughter).
Q. For both of you guys, knowing what you know about how far you guys can go on fuel at this place, Clint went 92 laps on his final tank. Is that astounding or plausible? How does that number strike you?
DENNY HAMLIN: He need to check his fuel tank. I think there's something wrong with it.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I know he went 92 laps but 20 under the caution; and I know before the race we talked about 75 laps under green. I would say he was really close to being out.
Q. Mike said before the race this is one of your worst races so, if this is one of your worst races and this is as well as you did, can't you go into Dover with the same kind of optimism?
DENNY HAMLIN: I can. The number in which I hope to run just moved up like five spots. So that's just what we have to do.
And it's not that we just run bad at Dover every time. It's just every time I went there, I either wrecked or broke something or ran terrible. So with the exception of the spring, that's about the only good run I've had there, so, yeah, we do shift our expectations based off of this week.
Q. Can you talk about the intensity of the restarts? We saw a lot of three-wide racing and seems like things have picked up from your perspective.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I only started outside the Top 3 on one restart. Most restarts I started on the outside of the front row.
So it's a lot different when you start in the first couple of rows because guys are willing to give and take a little bit. I did have one restart in 25th, and it's significantly different. The thing about this racetrack is that you race on the apron at certain points in the race.
However, on the restarts, this is like the worst track that we go to for getting -- for like getting the car going. I mean, you saw two or three guys spin out Friday just leaving the pits because it's so slick, and when the inside guy enters on the apron, it's really hard to hang on to your car. So it's different than what you see at Pocono when people talk about wild restarts. Here, it's just hard to keep the car underneath you.
Q. And for Denny, if you can talk about the emotions of the last one hundred laps and what a good run to down to thinking where you're going to be in the Chase? Were you calculating how bad it was going to be if you were thinking points and how much different your mood is from maybe 45 minutes ago?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's high and it's low, but you've got to keep your emotions in check. I kind of went on -- got mad on the radio for like ten seconds and it was like, all right, what do we got to do, just tell me what we've got to do to get back up there.
So there's something that you can do about it. As soon as your spun and your backwards, immediately your focus has got to go to get a good day out of this, what can we do to get a good day, whether it's now we have to play strategy to get backup fronts, or we just hope that there's other attrition. Either way, normally I think years ago, I really would have kind of flipped out, but I think now it's just a little bit more relaxed.
Q. Sounds like managing the expectations is the strategy you have when you talk about constantly changing it. Does it minimize maybe some frustration, and do you have an expectation for every single track that you want to -- have you calculated that out what you want to do for every single track this?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, in my mind, I wanted to be within 60 points of the lead after the third race. That, to me, after the first three races, I feel like we have some excellent racetracks coming up for us, and we always tend to make a good run at the end, the end of the case, every single year, no matter where we are at in points the last five races seem to be good for us. I just wanted to be within shouting distance I guess you could say for the first three week asks kind of play damage control and make sure we stay in the ballgame in the fourth quarter.
Q. Is that what you were doing in the car?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, I think I found myself, if we would have been just a touch more aggressive when we restarted 22nd with 80 to go, I probably would have ended up wrecking, and then we would have been 30 something or 40 something.
At least I was going to finish 22nd if I backed off and let everyone go. My goal was just to pick up seven cars in the last 80, and then a couple people pit, you know, strategy happens, and next thing you know, you just shift your expectations.
So I was really just happy there was no caution at the end for any reason, and you know, we got to see some good strategy play out.
Q. You were right up there in front and you had Chase people around you all day; do you have to separate the fact that they are in the Chase and just race your race? Is it too much to think about to say you have to be careful around him or you can race him hard? Do you just have to say, I just have to race?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, honestly you probably can be more aggressive around the Chase guys because they are thinking differently than what the guys are that are not in the Chase. But really, I didn't -- you know, over the last few years, you don't think about that until it comes down to the last two or three races.
There's a ton of racing left. I know you guys, there's only ten left, but a lot can happen, even in two or three races. So really until it gets down until the last couple of races, I don't pay a tremendous amount of attention to that.
Q. You were quoted as saying I guess before the Chase, you would gladly trade your two big wins this season with Clint for that 12th Chase spot. Given how he won today, would you still make that trade for a win in the Chase, and this result for you being as good as it was, does it make it bittersweet for you?
JAMIE McMURRAY: What I said was that I wouldn't trade winning those races to be in the Chase and finish tenth and I still would not trade those two wins to be in the Chase right now. It's a really big deal to win those two races. To win Loudon is a big deal, but it's still not the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400.
Q. Or to be in the Chase?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No, still wouldn't.
Q. How confident is your team for next year? You guys are really on a roll and you just missed it, and today you proved that you belong perhaps in the Chase.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Yeah, we just were really inconsistent earlier in the year and the last couple of weekends we became a lot more consistent. We did not have a good car at Richmond at all and we still fin 17th; where earlier in the year we would have finished 25th to 30th and that certainly would have put us in the Chase.
We have done a good job , for me, of staying out of trouble and we have had good cars all year long. I know Denny is not looking forward to Dover but for me, that's my favorite track to get to go to. We ran really well there in the spring, so certainly running well here, I can't wait to get to Dover on Friday.
Q. You probably worked just as hard the first year you broke into Cup, but given the year that you're having, can you share the emotions that you have from when you first started out to what you're feeling this year, having such a great year?
JAMIE McMURRAY: My first year, certainly filling in for Sterling, that was tough to get into somebody's car that had led the points up till the Kansas race. It's an awkward position to be put in and then to go out and the win at Charlotte -- and I don't know if you guys remember, but they put a cell phone with Sterling on the other end while I was on national TV and me on the other end.
And that's a really tough position to be put in. That's hard for any driver to get out of their car, but for a young guy to get in your car and win immediately, that's just -- I mean, that's tough. That was odd for Sterling and for me. Certainly the racing is a lot different now than what it was in 2002 or 2003. I remember the restarts, being able to pass five or six guys on the outside of every restart and some of the guys that had been around for a long time, whether it was Rusty or Mark or those guys yelling at you after the race, just hang on until we get strung out. And now, when they have -- you can't hardly pass anybody on a restart now because everybody goes so fast and so hard, it's a lot different than it was then.
KERRY THARP: Great first race in the Chase. Good luck next week.
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