NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Bojangles' Southern 500
Topics: Bojangles' Southern 500
May 12, 2012
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll right into our post‑race press conference. Joining us is our race runner‑up, Denny Hamlin. With his performance tonight, Denny moves up to fourth in our championship points standing, 17 points out of first place.
Denny, talk about the run out there tonight. Certainly 500 miles, your car was really getting stronger as the race went along and had a lot there at the end.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was a great effort for our Sport Clips team. Our finish is because of the crew chief making good calls and the pit crew making good pit stops. That kept us in the ballgame, kept our track position up front.
We were planning on taking two that last stop, but I slid through the box, so Darian had to take four tires. Took the lead away from us, second away from us, and at that point we were fifth or sixth, then we just had to battle back.
Track position was so important tonight. Really proud of our effort. I think it's definitely a good run for our team. Two seconds, this weekend, this track, we'll take, even though we wish we had a win.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Denny.
Q. Obviously based on last night's Nationwide race, certainly four tires wasn't a no‑brainer call. How can you assess the change? Was it a tougher call this year than last year? I know it's a gradual change with pavement, but how far has the track come in a year in your estimation?
DENNY HAMLIN: When we showed up and had practice, I thought that it really was a huge, huge change from last year. But once we got in the race, track position once again was king.
It's 10% better heading back to the direction, the old Darlington that everyone loved. It's going to take another five years for track position not to matter as much and tire wear to be more of a factor, unless Goodyear builds a tire that wears out a little bit more.
It was harder to make the crew chief's decision to take two, four or none this time around. We stayed out and actually held track position pretty well. That tells you right there that the surface still isn't wearing the tires as much as it should.
Q. Denny, even if you hadn't had a little bit of a glitch on the last stop, do you think anybody really had anything for the 48 tonight?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's tough to say. You know, I thought the 56 probably could give him a good run. You know, when our car was best, we could probably hang with him. Obviously it looked like his car was very strong, was one of the best.
In my opinion, the 56 probably was right there with him. But he chose to come in and pit and lost his track position. It looks like he still made it back up, so that tells you he had a pretty fast car there.
Q. Obviously last night pushing on the restart was an issue. Tonight the same setup. What were you going to do with Jimmie?
DENNY HAMLIN: I was trying to time the restart and time it to where he was taking off I was on his bumper pushing. But, you know, I've got a problem spinning my tires it seems like and I've got to figure out how to get better on restarts whether it be priming the tires or whatever it takes on the backstretch before we go green.
We still got a good start, restarted fourth, ended up second off of turn two. The high line seemed like it was the best line to take on these restarts. Obviously it won out tonight. Jimmie won with it.
It was hairy. There was a point where I got sideways and somebody got in the back of me and I nearly wrecked just like Elliott did yesterday. It's tough. These cars are not built to go in a straight line. The stagger on the tires and everything makes it turn one way or another.
So when you try to throttle up, it's extremely hard to get the tires going.
Q. What did you think Kyle was going to do on the inside of Tony?
DENNY HAMLIN: I didn't really think they could do anything. When you're on the inside like that, even if he was even with Jimmie getting into turn one, I don't think he had any chance at all simply because the inside guy gets too loose.
Really I drove into turn one, got beside Tony equal, and the guy on the inside is at the guy on the outside's mercy. There's nothing you can do. I knew when I restarted fourth, I had a good shot to move up.
KERRY THARP: Denny, congratulations for a good weekend here at Darlington.
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