NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: AdvoCare 500
Topics: AdvoCare 500
September 2, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We will get started with our winner's press conference here following the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We welcome driver Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota. Denny won the AdvoCare 500 here tonight, his 21st victory, fourth victory of 2012, first victory here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and clinched a spot in the Chase here prior to going into Richmond next week.
Denny, talk a little bit about your run out there tonight.
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, we just had such a strong car for three quarters of the race, honestly. You know, the line I was running, I knew there was a price to pay if I kept going down there. Obviously it paid its price there at the end, and it took its toll on our car by wearing the splitter out. That really hurt us at the end.
Other than that, I feel like we had the best car. But circumstances just fell our way at the end, and when you start to falter and you start to fade, you've got to have another aspect of the team that picks you up, and today it was the pit crew that won us this race today. We're very blessed for that.
I'm 70 percent happy for me, 30 percent sad for Michael and Martin because I know they've come so close.
THE MODERATOR: Darian Grubb, crew chief for the No.11 team. Talk a little bit about the strategy that your team put into this win here tonight.
DARIAN GRUBB: It was a pretty interesting night all the way around, just the way all the scenarios worked out. We were one of the only cars that could have done it on one more stop with fuel there with 105 to go or something like that. It's hard to play those games because even Denny was getting upset that we were having to go so slow at the end of these runs and watching Harvick pull away. But we did our pit stops, and in 14 laps we were right on his bumper again. You play through those scenarios, the fuel mileage, the tire windows and the car. Denny did a great job managing that tonight, and it all came down to that last pit and the pit crew did an incredible job, never missed a beat. We had a couple of hiccups starting off the night, but they rebounded and showed their championship form and did it when it counted.
THE MODERATOR: Also joining them at the head table is J.D. Gibbs, owner of the No.11. Talk a little bit about being a team owner this close to the Chase clinching the berth tonight. Talk a little bit about your perspective here tonight.
J.D. GIBBS: No, it was a big‑‑ the last two weeks have just been really fun to be here, be a part of the team. Sport Clips, they're on the car as well as FedEx, and it was a big deal for them, and they were really excited. We had some of the guests in victory lane. It's just special to be able to experience that with somebody, and with Toyota and all of our partners, it's a big deal.
We realize, we've been doing this a long time, this is not easy, so you have to really appreciate the wins and enjoy them, and I think it lays a great foundation for the Chase, and I think Denny knew it, too, when he held off Jeff Gordon, he knew that gave Kyle a chance next week to clinch that Chase spot.
Q. Denny, out on pit road you talked about how a championship team has to have all the pieces of the puzzle together, and you felt you had that. Now, did you feel that those pieces have been there all season and they are just now gelling now, or do you think there are certain things that are just now showing up at this point in the season?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, you know, this has been something in the works for a very long time, and obviously I have a lot wins in my career because of two very important guys: One is Darian, and the other is Mike Ford. Mike put together 80 percent of a championship winning team, and Darian has just filled that gap and put the rest of the pieces of the puzzle together. You know, this is all‑‑ the foundation has been laid. He's just putting the cap on it I feel like, and Darian is getting the most out of our guys. I've never seen our crew just so happy to be at the racetrack every single week. Even in 2010 I didn't see that from our guys. That's when you get the most out of them, and for me I just‑‑ I'm just happy to be at the racetrack every single week knowing I can win a race. It doesn't matter the racetrack anymore, it's just I know we can win. Darian has just taken this program to that next level, and obviously anyone can go on a 10‑race run. He did it last year, and hopefully he's got some of the magic saved up for us here in the next few weeks.
Q. For any of the three of you, three or four weeks ago, everybody was talking about what's wrong with Joe Gibbs Racing and why are they off the pace and why aren't they winning anymore, and all of a sudden you can't be beat. What's turned around?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think for us it's circumstances. We had a pretty good car at Pocono and got in a wreck, a blown engine at Watkins Glen, a wreck and a fire at Michigan, just on and on things that have kept us from showing what we're capable of. But I knew these three weeks between Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond was going to be our opportunity to win significant races.
We let one slip away in New Hampshire, but I think we got that one back today with the circumstances of that final yellow and everything. Things worked themselves out.
I don't know that Joe Gibbs Racing really went anywhere, it's just we haven't had the chance to show what we have. We're starting to bring better race cars to the racetrack, and everyone in the shop is excited about what these final 11 weeks are going to bring.
Q. I guess for Darian and Denny, it seemed like from a pit crew perspective, from watching the race, that something changed midway through. It looked like the first couple stops kind of got you behind and then those last three were just clutch. Was there a moment that you guys had with the crew or something that initiated that switch?
DARIAN GRUBB: I'd say not really. It's one of those things where you can pretty much just look down at the guys and give them a wink and let them know that they've got this, that they've got the potential to do it. They were having a couple of just their own mistakes and hiccups to start off the race, and even those were not bad stops, they just weren't the potential of what they had. Then later in the race you give them that wink and they're all fired up, they want to do everything. They're making suggestions about what they can do for the pit stop and not cost ourselves any time for adjustments on the car. They did not miss a beat, and they even did a few things I didn't ask for on top of what was there just above and beyond the call of duty to do a great job and a very fast pit stop. Those things are‑‑ they police themselves. I don't have to be on them all the time because they know what their job is.
Q. You might have not had time to think, but Jeff talked about when he got close he thought he might have‑‑ 15 years ago he might have moved you out of the way. Was there any concern that it might come to that knowing that he's desperate for a victory?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I beat my head against the wall for not running just my line. I mirror drove the last few laps to really give him an opportunity to get next to us. We had been on the splitter hitting the racetrack pretty hard all night. I drove in the corner way beyond my talent level for those last couple laps, and it just shot me up the racetrack and got me out of line and gave him the opportunity.
But as far as him getting into me, I knew how desperate he was, but he knew that we could not let him win. There's just‑‑ it was critical for our team to not let Jeff get a win.
But the reason he didn't is because we have a mutual respect. I haven't moved him out of the way for a win or anything like that, and we race each other with respect. We have my entire career. So I'm sure that had something to do with it. Maybe if it's somebody else, he doesn't even think twice and he moves them out of the way. But I feel like I've earned that respect that I should have got the last lap, and he gave it to me.
Roles reversed, he's going to get that same respect from me. It's just part of racing.
Q. Kind of along those lines, Denny, how cognizant are you that not only are you racing for a win but that if you keep Gordon from winning it's big for the team, and J.D., can you kind of assess where you think Kyle's chances are of getting in the Chase?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I knew first and foremost I couldn't let him get around me. I knew that that was my number one priority. If we would have got side by side, I don't know what would have happened because I knew he‑‑ I couldn't let him get to the line first, and so for me, it's in my mind, it was in my mind last week racing Carl for the lead in Bristol.
Having more cars in the Chase for Gibbs Racing helps me. As crazy as that sounds, we need another car in the Chase. It's important for us. So I'm going to do everything I can to be the good teammate and try to take the wins away from those guys when I can.
J.D. GIBBS: I think for us, it is a big deal, and I think really Dave is a great leader, works well with Jason and Darian, and I think they've got a pretty good plan. But a lot of it, some of it is kind of out of your control. I think they're just doing a good job. Kyle and Dave, I think afterwards they were a little disappointed, felt like they missed it a little bit. But I do think Richmond, just to be in the position we are in, they would rather be there than obviously not have a shot at doing that. So I think we feel good about next week.
The great part about this sport is you never know until you go out and do it, so we'll find out, and we look forward to having a shot next week.
Q. Denny, there's some talk about peaking too soon, but now you've got two wins in a row and you're guaranteed going into the Chase with the most bonus points and next week you're going to Richmond where you're pretty good. How do you like your chances for maybe going into the Chase with the whole enchilada being No.1 seed unequivocally without anybody tied with you and what the about the peaking factor?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, you wish you could bottle it up and take these wins and put them in the Chase. But they are worth something, they're worth six points, and we've gained six points in the Chase. That's six spots. That's hard to come by here and there. These guys know more than anything what one point matters what it comes to the Chase. We're just winning at the tracks we should be winning at, and so for me, I think that‑‑ I'm going to try to win 14 straight or 13 straight, whatever it is. There's not one racetrack other than that one we're not going to talk about, that I feel like I can win.
Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: I'd say we've got a pretty good shot.
Q. Denny, two years removed from going into the final race of the season with the points lead, at this point now, do you think that that experience is an advantage or a disadvantage for this coming Chase?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's an advantage. I mean, when I was in the championship hunt my rookie year at Homestead, I was just so young and dumb, I had no idea what I was doing in the first place. I was having fun and real loose and just took the weekend as it was.
In 2010 it was a pressure situation. We had just came off of a bad week before, and we just‑‑ the team just didn't feel it that final week. And so you take that and you take those experiences and you‑‑ being experienced is something that you can never take away, and it never hurts you. So I think that, like I said, I did an interview at the beginning of the year last year, and I said, just put me back in that same situation any years down the road, and I promise I'll win the championship when we leave Homestead. All I can hope is that I get that opportunity again, and if I do, I'm going to live in the moment, and I'm going to focus everything I can do to win that race instead of worrying about the outcome. I'm going to have a lot more fun and enjoy it.
This year the race at Homestead is on my birthday, so I can't think of a better present.
Q. Question for the crew chief, Darian Grubb: Last weekend you were successful in Bristol, now in Atlanta, totally different oval tracks, speedways. Why is it easier to set up a racetrack, short ovals or long ovals?
DARIAN GRUBB: I'd say neither one are very easy. There's not much of a difference between the two. Bristol is one that's very important to have track position the way the race played out there and the way the tires were, the tires were not that much of a factor, but here at Atlanta the tires with huge. We were honestly worried about staying out after one green flag lap because we were in our fuel window because you know how much grip you're giving up with that. That's probably the biggest difference between the tracks and that's just the concrete surface versus the really old asphalt here that really chews tires up, so that's probably the biggest factor. And then Denny's driving style; Bristol he could go all‑out every lap, and here he had to manage it. He had to start from the lap 1 all the way through the last lap every time managing the tires to maintain that lap time.
So setup wise it's not that much of a difference, but the style of driving and everything else you do is pretty different.
Q. Denny, just following up from what I asked you earlier, if you were battling Truex for the win, would you have raced it differently than if it was Gordon?
DENNY HAMLIN: If he was beside me, yes. But really, I was going to do everything I could to get a win first off. But like I said, if we would have got me and the 24 side by side, I don't know. I can't predict what would have happened or the circumstances of how we would have got side by side. But the 56 is obviously a satellite type of teammate. He's a Toyota teammate of ours. But we‑‑ there's three bonus points to be had in the Chase after this race, and we wanted them more than anyone else.
Q. This is for Darian: I know the standard cliché answer is we take them one at a time and we're not looking ahead, but in reality you won a championship last year with Tony. I'm sure it's been done in the sport before but I haven't looked it up, how cool would it be to be a crew chief to win back‑to‑back championships with two different drivers?
DARIAN GRUBB: It would be extremely cool. Like you said, we take it one race at a time. But our car schedule is already done all the way through Homestead. We're already preparing the cars for Talladega and those things. The work never stops. You're working six, seven weeks ahead all the time to make sure things are ready, and the guys at the shop are doing a great job preparing ahead of time so when we go to the racetrack and unload, we're fast.
It would be extremely cool to be able to pull that off.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on your win tonight and clinching for the Chase, and good luck in Richmond.
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