DENNY HAMLIN,No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was practice with the new rules package?
“We’re looking forward to it obviously. We have this change in the rules package that we’ve been pushing for for quite a while. Yeah, it’s going to take some time to get it figured out. We obviously struggled a little bit the first practice, but we’ll go to work and it’s so early. I hadn’t tested or anything, run any car at any point from Homestead to right now on any kind of track other than a superspeedway. Trying to knock some rust off and the team is trying to get acclimated as well, so it will take a bit of a process. Not expecting it to happen overnight, but we’ve got some direction to go to."
What caused you to spin in practice?
“I tend to use probably a little bit more of the apron. Me and Kevin (Harvick) seem to use the apron a lot to make our cars go around the corner and I just – I felt like I got on the apron a little bit too much and that just de-wedges the car a lot and that’s when it spun the car out. I think it was just trying to kind of simulate a race simulation a little bit more. You don’t like to practice down there a whole lot, but you race down there, so I was trying to get down there as soon as I could and just lost it. But we’re – at the time, we’re kind of fighting the handling of our car anyways. I think we ran – that was like our 11th lap in a row of a run and it’s going to be handfuls on Sunday for a lot of people."
Did you get any sleep during the Daytona 500 media tour?
“I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. I got a few hours here and there. I mean, gosh, maybe 24 hours total for the whole week if I had to guess, but it was fun traveling a bunch of states all over the place. I had some personal business in Texas that I had to attend to on Wednesday as well, so that just added to the travel, so we – it was really cool. I don’t know. The coolest part probably wouldn’t be what you think – I’m a huge fan of Highly Questionable, Dan Le Batard’s show. I liked going on that. That was my favorite part and the worst is just the mornings – the 5:00 a.m. stuff. For some people, 5:00 a.m. is a normal day. For myself, not so much, so that was a struggle."
Have you talked to Matt Kenseth?
“My conversation with Matt (Kenseth) was good. I talked to him the night of the 500. We chatted back and forth and, yeah, I think he knows where I stood on everything and we definitely understand each other for sure and I felt so bad for him. I just wanted to let him know that at the end it was bad for him, but he’s still – I highly regard him as far as the guys that I look up to."
Was there an understanding that the Camrys would work together until the last lap?
“I don’t think it was set in stone what lap anybody was to go for the win for themselves, but I knew from my standpoint I had Carl (Edwards) which was damaged behind me and I knew – there was a moment with about three to go, it was actually two and a half laps to go – I had a huge run down the backstretch and I got to Kyle (Busch) and I was thinking about making a move then, but the outside line had not formed yet, so I knew if I pulled side-by-side with him with two and a half to go, I was going to let the competition in. At that point, it was just a Toyota battle and I knew allowing – two and a half laps, there was going to be somebody else that we were going to let in the race for the win if we didn’t stay in line as long as possible. I felt like with one lap to go, I was comfortable enough with making a move and not ruining it for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Toyota. I just felt like, ‘Look, if I control the outside and they have four cars on the bottom, we’ve got a pretty good shot.’ I think that we were all – none of us wanted to be the person to let other people back in the race and so that’s why we stayed in low probably as long as we did. I think it was an understanding that we had talked about for a while – days before and whatnot – to try to work together and everyone has a plan to try to work together, but I think that we all executed that really, really well. The best I’ve seen anyway."
Do you have a shot at tonight’s pole as loose as your car is?
“It’s a long shot I would say. I think we were quite a bit off as far as the single lap speed was concerned, but this race track is one of the few even no matter what rules package you have that you can make up a lot of ground if your car is good in race trim. I don’t think that we’ll be a pole threat by any means. I would actually be very happy with making it to the final round with the way my first practice went."
What does it mean to your team to get some of your pit crew members back?
“They’re probably just happy about getting free shoes again if I had to guess. We’re a tight group. A lot of these drivers with their team members are very tight, but I’ve been working with that particular A-team for much of my career and there’s been a few pieces change here and there, but when we did this whole essentially team swap when I went to drive the 18 team and crew chief (Dave Rogers) last year, that part of it sucked was losing the guys I’ve been working with for so long. They did a great job though. I’ll be honest with you, we had a great year last year with that team, but you still – you have the friendships and stuff that you acquired over many, many years with the other guys, so I thought it was really cool for me to get back with them and win it for them. It was a total team effort obviously, but to win it with those guys especially that we had – of the 10 unsuccessful Daytona 500s that we had had, nine of them were unsuccessful with those guys, so it was good to on the 10th try to get it for them."