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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Goody's Cool Orange 500

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Goody's Cool Orange 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Goody's Cool Orange 500

Mike Ford
J.D. Gibbs
Denny Hamlin
March 30, 2008


(Press conference in progress when audio began.)

J.D. GIBBS: Mark and his guys have worked extremely hard and they're still working. You know, there is some issues that we still have to work through. Right now we're working on their ability issues to make sure that's covered first, and we know there is more to come.
I think, you know, by mid-season I think we'll be making some strides in the power department. I think, you know, we're close to what we had last year, and, you know, it runs just as well on the racetrack.
You know, Kyle was able to win in Atlanta, a serious engine track, and we come here where the concern was that these engines weren't going to have bottom end and we won here. So we've won at two different racetracks, and we've competed for a win at every racetrack with one of the three cars. So they're very competitive right now.
And the good thing for us is we know we still have a lot of gains to make. Once we're comfortable with the durability, I think there is more gain to be made, you know, with Mark and his group.

Q. Mike, J.D. mentioned Denny, his mood being dependant on how the car's running. As a crew chief, what kind of challenge does that present you to? Obviously, your job is make him happy in some ways, and certainly if what makes him happy is a fast race car, then it really is your job to make him happy.
MIKE FORD: Well I've been married a long time, and I know you can't always make the people around you happy. (Laughing)
No, you know, he's a severe competitor. And it is good to know that you have someone in there that is strictly performance motivated. You know, it's difficult at times because you think that the world is painted dark, but, you know, like J.D. mentioned, we've learned -- we've learned to over -- I won't say overlook but to look past the mood at times, and, you know, focus on the performance.
And, you know, it's a good tell-tale to see how he carries himself and to see what kind of mood he's in. It paints a picture of where are you really. You know, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. So you learn the body language to understand him a little bit better.
But, you know, in doing this as long as we have, you know, we realize that, yes, we are here to win races and to do the best we can, and that's really all you have, is do the best you can with what you have. And when you do that, you know, there's no looking back.

Q. Don't mean to pick on any open sores or wounds but obviously Denny won the race on older tires. Can you talk about the tire wear, tire performance today?
MIKE FORD: Yeah. The tires in coming here so far it's the first tire that's a repeat from last year. I think it's the only tire that maybe a repeat from last year. And as far as looking back at past notes it really correlated to last year.
The one variable that didn't was the temperature and the weather. But we knew last year, in previous races here track position's more important than tires. We saw that -- you know, a good indicator was the truck race yesterday. Watched the truck race and Setzer stayed on the same set of tires the whole race. And we knew that track position in that race was important. And it always is here at Martinsville.
So, you know, 20 laps on tires isn't a huge falloff. So we knew if we could gain a couple of seconds over the guys that had tires, you know, from not having to fight as many lap cars, then we put the advantage back in our hand.

Q. Mike, obviously this isn't a bank track so I don't know if you had any fuel pickup worries today, but did you make any changes to your fuel pick up system?
MIKE FORD: We actually have run low fuel here. And, you know, the issue we had at Bristol is a high-bank issue; it isn't a flat-track issue.
I was more worried about a green-white-checkered finish with the 24 behind us running 2nd than I was with the fuel pickup issue. We had plenty of fuel in at the end of the day so really wasn't a concern here.

Q. Did you make any changes or is a whole different fuel pickup lines here than what you would use at Bristol?
MIKE FORD: No, this is the same package we had at Bristol. Next week at Texas we should have an improved version of what we have here even.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, guys, congratulations, great win.
This is his fourth win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, his first win in 2008, first victory. Fifth top ten at Martinsville.
Congratulations, Denny. How's it feel to win Martinsville Speedway.
DENNY HAMLIN: It feels good. It's just been so close so many times to finally breakthrough here definitely means a lot. Kind of feels like maybe the monkey is off of our back, and just had a lot of support from a lot of great people.

Q. Denny, some of the older drivers that were in here before you talked about the younger guys who needed to learn some respect on the track and stuff. You've sort of been where they are really recently. Did you have any run-ins with any of the older drivers as you learn how to fill that role, and how do you learn how to have respect and still show well for your boss out there at the same time?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, you know, you definitely it's a balancing act. I mean you want to be aggressive at times, but it just seems like getting away with being aggressive around some guys a little bit more than others. But you definitely try to set an example for some of the rookies that are coming in of how to race.
You know, I feel like I've done a good job of trying to stay out of trouble, avoiding, you know, contact with other drivers throughout my career. Other than that one deal with Kyle. Other than that, it's been pretty easy.
You know, everyone's pretty much gave a lot of room to each other. Kind of went through a segment there in the race where, you know, everyone was kind of running into each other and it kind of put a damper on us.
But seemed like our car really performed in the long run, and, you know, that's where we beat those guys.

Q. Denny, you've talked about having to learn discipline, having to learn some humility. How has the start of your season been with being disciplined and having to learn humility; how difficult has it been?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's been difficult. I mean, it's hard to be patient. When you get so close to winning so many races and something bad happens or, you know, things just don't work out in your favor at the end and you end up losing a win, it's tough to maintain, you know, confidence. It's tough -- your self-esteem starts going down. It takes its toll on you.
And last week was just like, you know, how many times do we have to go through this. Because the previous week in Atlanta I felt like, you know, as we got to second behind Kyle we had power steering issues. So I felt like we had, you know, a chance to probably win three in a row here, but just the first two races just had a lot of problems.
And, you know, just -- a lot of thanks, you know, goes the guy at TRD to help support us, at Joe Gibbs Racing to try to get our issues worked out. They don't have to. That's issues within our race team that we had. For them to kind of take a lead role and say that they would do whatever it took to help us fix the problems, you know, that goes a long way. And that is what you look for in a manufacturer from those guys. And I couldn't be prouder to be with them.

Q. Denny, Mike was telling us that the decision to make -- the middle of the race where you pitted sort of out of sequence was kind of -- you were on the commitment line and had enough sense to actually come in because you had to but that kind of got you behind. How hard is that -- when you do something like that is like, oh, Lord here we go again?
DENNY HAMLIN: It sure was. Just a situation where we got the lead, I thought we had more laps on our tires than what we actually did. And, you know, when we took the lead from the 48 the caution came out at a time where I thought, sure, everyone's going to pit.
He says, If guys peel off behind you, go ahead and pit. I saw the 48 or the 24 kind of make a move to the inside so I assumed he was going to pit. And when he pulled back up on the racetrack I just waited and waited and looked in my mirror to see if anybody else was going to pit and nobody did.
And to go back to 20th, that kind of was like, well, you know, they were telling me the whole time stay out, stay out, and I'm the one who steered into the pits. So it was just a bad decision on my part.
At the end of this one, if that's what cost us the race, it was going to be on my shoulders. Frankly, I didn't want to have to answer those questions at the end of the race so I just went out and won it.

Q. Denny, this was a race run on a track that probably is at least as hard for somebody to get out of the leader's way than anywhere else. There were a lot of people in this race who have very little experience on a track like this. How did they do?
DENNY HAMLIN: I thought everyone did a pretty good job for the most part, especially the new guys. The open-wheel guys. I felt like they did a great job coming here and, you know, being respectful of the leaders at times.
You know, it's just really tough to have the lap cars on the inside line here. It's very tough. I would almost vote to have, somewhere like Bristol and those tracks, the lap cars be put to the outside because it's much easier. It causes more wrecks when you have, you know -- the inside line is definitely preferred on the fastest groove. Those guys are on the inside line because they're not as fast as the leaders. So then you have kind of a conflict of positioning when you have, you know, slower cars in the faster groove.
So, you know, I think definitely they did a good job of holding their lines. And I really had no issues with them. And I've watched them with other guys and it seem like they were very respectful of the track position and knowing where they were on the racetrack. So I definitely applaud them for that.

Q. Denny, you talked about the frustration you had with some of the stuff going wrong at the start. Does this wipe the slate clean? Is it enough, you know, do you go into Texas now with enough momentum that you can quit worrying about that and how do you think that's going to carry going forward?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah. I mean, you definitely start to have doubts. When, you know, things don't go your way and, you know, you just, you know, you hear it from the veterans that have been around the sport for 10, 20 years, if you just keep having fast race cars eventually it's all going to turn around. Well this bad luck's been happening seems like for over a year.
When the Car of Tomorrow first came out at the beginning of last year, we had a position to bin five or six races easily and just things never worked out for us. So it was like man it's been a year, let's get over it. The let's finally have something go our way. So yeah I definitely feel like maybe this is the turning point for our team, that, you know, we definitely performed better over time. It's just our luck's gotten worse and worse.
So yeah maybe the monkey's off our back. If it is, then I feel like we have a lot of confidence going forward. Because I know we bring great race cars to the racetrack each week.

Q. Denny, I notice you didn't most of the race with your visor up. Was there any particular reason for that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well I couldn't see much out of my windshield anyway because of the mist. And I had a darker shield on. So, you know, really on the shorter tracks for some reason where it's very, very line sensitive I like to be focused.
You have too many layers of windshield, you know visor, in between, things start to get disoriented. So I feel like, you know, if I have a clear shot of knowing where I'm guy I'm going to have a better chance of hitting my marks. Just seems like on these short tracks I kind of run with my visor up. Probably not the safest thing, you know, works.

Q. Denny, what race has bothered you the most since your last win last year at New Hampshire?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well Bristol really frustrated us. Atlanta was definitely a frustrating race with no power steering there. You know Daytona was a big bummer for us because we had a car that was very, very fast and just had an incident on pit road, had to go to the back of the pack and at that time you didn't want to go to the back of the pack. Of course we found ourselves in a wreck.
So, you know, those races are just -- those were very tough. Because we knew we -- each year, you know, even though we had our best points finish in 2006, we performed better in 2007. And we're performing even better in 2008. So, you know, even though the stats don't show or we might not be there in the standings we're running better. And as long as we keep this good luck on our side now, then we're going to be, you know, where we belong. And that's up top.

Q. Denny, Mike and J.D. both said that you can be, I think the word they used was "moody" when you are not running well, you are to not a happy camper. I know that shouldn't surprise anybody. But, I mean, do you take this -- this is obviously your job, do you make it personally when the team -- when things aren't going well, is that something that you dwell on maybe a little bit too much? Obviously Mike said it was a good sign when he makes you happy then things are going pretty well. What do you have to say about that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah I mean I definitely am for sure I think -- and I'm just like any other guy that kind of grew up the way I did as far as racing is concerned. I'm competitive. I'm competitive at everything I do, whether it's racing or whatever, you know.
But it's hard to go out here and know that you have race winning cars and not come home with a win. So that frustrates me because I know there's not that many opportunities that you have the best car, you know, from week to week. I mean, you know, any given average driver's probably going to have the best car maybe once or twice a year. Maybe not even that much through though course of a season.
So to have ours maybe we felt like we had the best car the first two or three races of the season, to not have wins, that's frustrating. Because you feel like you're not getting wins you're not getting the notoriety that you feel like your team deserves. So you find yourself getting moody bit.
But, you know, you got to -- me and Mike had a long conversation last year about trying to find happiness in different ways other than winning. Because ultimately we're an in a losing game. Because you're going to win -- lose more races than you're going to win. So you got to be happy with knowing that you're making strides and I think slowly but surely I'm starting to figure that out.

Q. Denny, how many -- did you race here before you got to Cup, how many times, and how did that help you to perform once you got in the big leagues?
DENNY HAMLIN: I've raced here probably three times in the Late Model Series and they're 300-lapper or 200-lappers they run here each fall. And that's kind of that was our Super Bowl race is to come here at Martinsville. So this has always been a big racetrack to me.
You know, when 120 late models showed up and we made the race for the first time when I was a rookie in the late model series, that was a huge deal for me. So this track has always been my Super Bowl, I guess you could say. Now I guess you could say it's probably Richmond.
But it's track where I have a lot of laps at. Eventually you start to figure out little things that can help you, help your car when it's not performing at its best to maybe try to make passes. And I feel like having so many laps around this racetrack it kind of helped me get from the mid-pack to the front towards the end of that race. So, you know, you just get around this place, you learn kind of niches and little things about it that, you know, help you.
And I mean that's why you see Jeff and those guys that, you know, have so much experience, why they're so good. They know the cracks and crevices of each racetrack that we go to. So, you know, eventually in years to come hopefully I'll figure that out. But here it's just I have little more experience.

Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: I did. I finished 12th I believe the first time I was ever here or something like that. And the next two years I qualified on the pole for the race here out of the 100 and something cars. Just something happened. Never won a race here. So it's definitely special to finally breakthrough here and get one of those clocks.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, congratulations. Enjoy that grandfather clock. Great win for you. Have a good week.

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