NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: TUMS Fast Relief 500
Topics: TUMS Fast Relief 500
October 25, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Let's roll into our winning team here for today's Tums Fast Relief 500 here at Martinsville Speedway. Our race winner, Denny Hamlin. He drives the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota, crew chief Mike Ford, and president of Joe Gibbs Racing, J.D. Gibbs. Congratulations to the No. 11 team.
Denny, your third victory in 2009, your second win here at Martinsville. Very, very strong out there today, and just congratulations on a good performance.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was definitely good. It seems like our car just took a little while to come in. At the beginning of the race just kind of pacing ourselves and trying to wait and see how things were going to go, and we kept bouncing between it seemed like 5th and 12th or so. But once we got that track position, our car just kind of took off it seemed like.
I'd push it a little bit more, and was able to get a little bit more out of the race car, which usually that's not the case, and obviously when you can step it up like that and gain a little bit of lap time, that's going to help you at the end, and I think that's what helped us.
THE MODERATOR: Mike Ford, pit crew certainly was instrumental in today's victory, very strong on pit road there. Your thoughts?
MIKE FORD: Yeah, the guys did a good job. It came down to we were bouncing back 7th to 12th early in the race from not qualifying well, and every time we'd come in, we would give up a couple spots. We needed to get track position, so we got two tires, which kind of put us in a strange window there, but the guys did a good job on pit road, and we got a couple quick cautions there, which was a big wrenching because guys at the back were getting tires. So we needed a little bit longer run there, and we got it.
The runs just fell our way today. The cautions fell our way even at the end of the race. We were better on older tires, and it kind of worked to our advantage today.
THE MODERATOR: J.D., certainly had to be pleased with Denny's performance and certainly with the entire race team. I believe all three cars up there in the top 12 today for Joe Gibbs Racing, so congratulations on that. Just your thoughts about how today transpired.
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, this track for one is one of my favorites. Just coming to these races over the years, late model races and then the Cup stuff here -- I know Denny kind of feels the same way. So it's got a special place for me, just to be able to come out here -- it's just got a lot of Character. It's never an easy track to get a hold of, and the races are always kind of action packed in a lot of different ways. So for us it's a big deal, and for FedEx, and it's special to get some momentum for our guys, they really need it, and it was a big deal.
Q. Denny, can we come up with a nickname like "The Babe" for you? You didn't call necessarily Martinsville, but you said you were going to win a race, and I'll be darned if you go out and do it. Comment on that and where you can strongly potentially the win the rest of the season.
DENNY HAMLIN: Everywhere we go from here on out. We don't have any weak spots anymore in our race team, and I feel like -- that's how I figured I could say that I knew we were going to win another race regardless. Even last week after our troubles, I said, we're going to win another race, because every single week, whether it be a super speedway, a short track or intermediate, we can win. Obviously when you put yourself in position like we have over the last few weeks, you're going to win races.
You know, it's just great to have that feeling, able to go to a racetrack and know that you can win no matter what type of racetrack that you're on. I just had a lot of confidence in the team, and I knew if we just got past a few hurdles here and there, had some good stops at the end of the races then we would win. Obviously it came true.
Q. Denny, you guys have really been very strong since the start of the Chase and put yourself in position from a competitive standpoint the way you ran to win the championship. Do you struggle with what-if? You had a chance to win Fontana, didn't work out; you had another good car at Charlotte. We could be sitting here talking about you winning three straight races and being right smack in the hunt right on Jimmie's back bumper. Does that kind of -- do you think about that? Does that haunt you a little bit, because you guys have been good enough?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, and it does a little bit, but it seems like whenever you have a tough week, whether it be California or Charlotte, it affects me until about Tuesday, and then it's like, you start gearing up towards the next week. Then you've got to reassess your goals.
I told Mike at the beginning of this race, I said, let's just get back to the top 5 in points, because it's a shame for us to be 11th in points as competitive as we've been, especially the few guys that were in front of us just hadn't either won a race or hadn't been competitive for the most part, and we've just been there every single week. The stats look terrible.
So that's frustrating. But we reassessed our goals after Charlotte to get back in the top 5, and I think that's feasible for us.
Q. Denny, this is a two-part question. One, did you feel like déjà-vu when that caution came out after that long green flag run and you had Jimmie right next to you? And two, you're the second former late model driver to win here this weekend with Timothy Peters winning yesterday in the truck race. Talk about how big it is for you late model guys who have worked your way through the ranks to come here and do well at Martinsville.
DENNY HAMLIN: I think it just shows that experience at this racetrack does matter. He obviously did a great job. He was kind of my arch rival just as I was getting out of late models, and he was the guy who always pushed you to be a little bit better. It was good to see him get his first win obviously at this racetrack. I know it was big for him. He lives right down the road from here. Congratulations to him. And I just think that it shows that track time really goes a long way, especially at this racetrack.
Q. Denny, I was thinking about this the other day: You know, before there was a Chase, it seemed like to me the individual races -- even though you're not going to win a championship, you did go out there and win this race today. Do you sometimes feel that all the tension dedicated to who's going to win the championship takes away from the individual celebration of winning one of the 36 races? It seems like to me that in some ways the Chase has become so all-powerful that in some ways it diminishes the accomplishment of an individual race win.
DENNY HAMLIN: Good point. (Laughter.) It really is a good point, without a doubt. I mean, everyone just talks about it, and you know, I'm sure on the websites tomorrow there will be 20 stories and they'll all talk -- I take that back. There will be 12 stories and there will be one about how much this guy lost to Jimmie, how much this guy lost to Jimmie, how much Jimmie gained -- stretched his point lead will be about three or four stories, and then mine will be in that little column, "Denny Hamlin wins at Martinsville for the second time."
Y'all do it. You know, write something different. (Laughter.)
Q. I'll get you to answer the first part of the question that I asked. Did you feel it was déjà-vu when the caution came out after that long, long green flag run and you had Jimmie right next to you for these last few restarts? Did it bring back memories of the spring?
DENNY HAMLIN: A little bit. The only difference was it was double-file restarts versus single-file. You know, you actually feel a little bit better with him being on the outside of you than you do right behind you on a restart, because he's going to have to -- if I can clear him, then he's going to have to deal with the guy running third, and it looked like they kind of were mixing it up a little bit, so that helped me stretch it out a little bit. I think that the double file helps the guy leading versus the single file in the spring.
So the single file thing let him be closer to me coming off the first corner, where the double file, believe it or not, let me stretch it out a little bit.
A little bit of worries about that, but I knew I just had to get a good start, and for whatever reason, my transmission was in between, and I did half my restarts in second, half of them in third, and I switched to third gear on the last restart knowing I was going to lug a little bit, but it was going to make him have to shift twice to my one time, and obviously it got us a good jump.
Q. A couple questions for you, Denny. First off, about 150 laps or so to go in the race, you were behind Jimmie, and I think you were starting to let him know that you were there, bumping and beating him. He was saying earlier that he wasn't quite sure what the message was, and when he let you by, he kind of returned the favor. Was that just kind of typical Martinsville racing, or was there a message at that point in the race for you?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, it was more just I had caught him from a ways back, and I thought the code was you bump him once to let him know you're there; two is get out of the way; and three is I'll move you.
But it was 150 to go. We weren't going to get too rough. I think a lot of it was that he was taking the corners so slow to try to make sure he stayed on the bottom that I was just rolling the corner much, much faster than what he was. So it just was bad timing more than it was anything. He would check up to make sure he'd stay on the bottom, and meanwhile my car was rolling so good into the center that I would try to keep my run going and throttle up early, and by doing that I would get into him.
I was in no way going to endanger him, knocking him out of the way or anything like that, I was just tapping him making him think a little bit, trying to make him make a mistake, or just get out of the way.
Q. Also I wanted to ask you, just coming into the finish today there's a car at the bottom of the racetrack and NASCAR held out the hope that the car would go and get out of the way before throwing the caution. What was that like to see it coming off of 4? Obviously that's happened before. There's a consistency there. Is there good for NASCAR or are you worried they're being that consistent in letting the situations linger?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think the car was right at the start/finish line and somewhat out of danger's way, and I think he was trying to get going. But I think they're at least doing a good job of not letting it affect the top 5 finishing positions or anything like that. They're doing all they can. They don't know what's going on inside that race car, if the guy has given up on starting it or is he continuing to try to get it going. I think as long as they let it play out, it's fine.
Q. I was curious to get your take on that last debris caution with fewer than ten laps remaining in the race. What was going through your head when that had been called, and were you able to see the debris that they came out and picked up?
DENNY HAMLIN: I did. I did see that debris for sure. It was in Turn 1. However, it was there at lap 100. It was, I'm not kidding you. It was there. However, I don't know if there was another piece of debris somewhere. There could have been. It's tough for me to say. I'm in the car, and evidently they might have shown it on TV, I think. Mike could probably answer that better, whether there was another piece. But I know the piece that I saw them pick up had been there for 200 or 300 laps.
Q. With what has happened recently to kind of take you out of contention for the title, was it fun to be able to mess with Jimmie a little bit like you were talking about today? And second part of the question, for you and Mike both, could you talk about your relationship and how it's evolved over time?
DENNY HAMLIN: It is. I mean, to me it sucks to not have an opportunity to win the championship this year. But hopefully we're setting ourselves up to be one of the favorites hopefully next year. It's kind of a fun power position to be racing around guys that are racing for a championship, and you have nothing to lose and all you're doing is going for a race win. That part of it is kind of fun because you can push a little harder and maybe take a few more risks. That part of it is fun.
Even though our big goal is not obtainable, we're at least achieving small victories, and that's getting -- performing better than what we ever have in the past and getting more wins this year than what we have in years past.
And the second part about Mike, I think we've just gotten a lot better at breaking down our race car, whether it be during the week or at the racetrack. I think it's just our communication has gotten to where he's really starting to figure out what I'm talking about and feeling in the car, and I think a lot of it, too, is both of us are looking at this a little -- looking at how we adjust our car a little bit differently than what we have in the past. We're looking at different parts of the car than what we've looked at in years past. I think all of that is kind of evolving and getting better with time.
MIKE FORD: Yeah, he hit on it. Time together leads you to create a database that -- some things, some solid things that you know aren't going to change. But with -- in the years that we've got behind us, as Denny mentioned, you don't so much talk about springs and shocks and the basic things, you take your tuning to the next level and work on the transparent issues. And that's where we're at.
To me that's why the 48 runs good is because those two guys have had a lot of time together to work on issues that no one else really has had time to work on, and we're starting to work on things that you don't normally see, not just setup things, but just general items that you think you can never work on.
But for example, getting a balance from the bottom of the racetrack to the top of the racetrack, you would think that there's nothing you can do about that. But we're working on those type things, and we're dialing our car in better. I'm starting to understand what Denny is wanting in a car better. So we're unloading better, which ends up putting you racing better because you make smaller changes.
I think time is the biggest thing that we've got together, and communication gets better each year.
Q. Jimmie mentioned, he said like about 40 laps or so to go that he had that one chance to maybe get inside of you, you got on a curb and got off a little bit, and he couldn't really get inside you. Was that a hairy moment for you?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, he does a good job, and I did the same thing -- how I pass, you've almost got to dive bomb yourself down in there and out-brake the guy getting into the corner. There's not too much nowadays of guys actually getting a run off the corner. It's more about who can out-brake each other. I feel like our brake package is as good as it's ever been, so for him to be able to out-brake me, he was going to have to out-drive me getting into the corner. And I saw him kind of going low, so I got aggressive on the brakes and made sure I held my line.
You know, he had a few opportunities. He was right there, gave me a few taps with about 50 to go and just really just made sure I didn't make any mistakes. If I got up the racetrack and gave him a hole, then it was shame on me, but he was going to have to make a hole at that point.
Q. I was just curious, considering your spot in the Chase standings right now, is this win in any way less enjoyable than say the spring Martinsville race last year that you won when all your goals were still attainable?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, a little bit. But it's a feel-good win for us because obviously after two bad weeks, to be able to rebound and finally get the win where we felt like we should have been maybe possibly in the last two weeks, that's gratifying. And then also getting more wins this year, getting over that one- or two-win barrier where we've been the last couple years, that's also gratifying.
You know, you've got to be happy -- a win is a win no matter when it is in the season, so we set our goals before this race, and we're already on track. We've got to be pleased at least where we're at right now.
Q. You were just talking about just being aggressive with the brakes and kind of how you have to pass now. With what you were able to do and hold off Jimmie this time, was that off of lessons learned from the spring, or what was different this time to where you didn't get yourself put in a position like you were in the spring race here?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, it's either our car was a little bit better or his was a little bit worse. Last year we were in the same -- we were in a similar situation where our car was very good in the spring on the long run, and then we had a caution at the end, put him right on my bumper, and he was able to just take off a little bit better.
And I think one of the reasons is maybe the double-file restart let us get out there just a little bit off that first corner to space ourselves, so that was maybe a little bit of it. But I think our car was just maybe a little bit better, as well.
Q. Denny and Mike, you guys stopped one pit sequence earlier in the first half of the race than most of the other guys up front did. Was that a move that you felt was necessary to get track position because you were having trouble working your way through traffic and passing cars at that point?
DENNY HAMLIN: Crap, I was watching football highlights. Say that question again.
Q. Mike, go ahead and take that one.
MIKE FORD: That was kind of a call. We were struggling with track position. Our car was not good on new tires earlier in the race. It took about 25 laps for our tires to come in, and we got in a sequence there of giving up a couple spots on pit road because we couldn't get out of our pit because the 98 car was in front of us. I wanted to get out of sequence and also earlier in the race try two tires to see what that did, and our car took off a lot better on two tires, and we gave up a few positions knowing if we got another quick caution that the guys would come in.
So it was a plot to give a little to get some if things worked out, and they did work out and we gained our track position that way.
I would like to take credit for it, but it's kind of one of those things that you set yourself up for what-ifs, and the what-ifs hit.
Q. J.D., can you talk about why it's important for Kyle Busch to get a top 5? What does that mean possibly for him, that it's important to get top 5s going into next year? I read somewhere that you're maybe kind of reevaluating the Addington-Busch relationship for next year.
J.D. GIBBS: I think for Kyle, as a team with the 18 car we've struggled here the past couple races, so to have that finish at the end was really good; that was encouraging. I thought Joey did a good job, too, to kind of go back and forth and make his way.
So I think as a whole for Kyle just right now, a lot of it is just the confidence. The reality is he's really gifted, and as far as the Addington crew piece, from our standpoint, we just want to make sure we have the right tools, the right people in the right place at JGR. We think we do; we think we have a great group of crew chiefs to engineers to guys on the shop floor across the whole board.
So I think for us our goal is to make sure we have those right pieces in the right parts, in the right places. That's kind of what we're looking at as far as in the future, but we do that every year with every team. So I think for us it was encouraging, and we're looking forward to hopefully keep the momentum going in the future.
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