DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What's the outlook for New Hampshire this weekend?
"We're excited to be here and obviously have a good start to the Chase. We can really put ourselves in position this weekend with another strong run. We can probably breathe slightly easier going into next week's cutoff race (Dover). That's our main focus — is keeping this momentum going, keep working on our stuff, keep getting better and hopefully keep working week to week and keep progressing."
How do you look at the races in the Chase?
|Denny Hamlin has won a Phoenix and other tracks in The Chase.|
"All my better race tracks are in the Chase. They really start getting good for me the last four races of the Chase. The key for us is to get eligible with four races to go and get to that final eight spots. If we can do that, then I feel on speed and our record on those second to last tracks — we can put ourselves in position to go to Homestead with a shot. That's looking so far ahead — we have to concentrate on what we can do this weekend. Although, you're just really wanting to get to that position, we still got two rounds to go to get to those tracks. A lot can happen and obviously we feel pretty good about where we're at right now, but that second segment with Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega is the big question mark I believe for our race team."
Are you more aware of your position in the points?
"Yeah. I mean that's one of the big key things is that really for us and a lot of teams that won early in the season — you haven't looked at the points all year. And now all of the sudden you do again for three races. But, that's the beauty of the format is — you're going to constantly and especially at Dover, going to see a dogfight of those guys trying to get out of the bottom of the barrel in points — that final cutoff race. The format is awesome. It's going to be around for a long time. We're excited to see it all play out. I know as a race fan watching — I can't wait to watch and see what happens for that cutoff spot. Who's going to be in and who's going to be out and how they get there?
How magical was the weekend two years ago when you won here in New Hampshire?
|Hamlin celebrates victory two years ago at Loudon.|
"Somehow my car has disappeared and it it's got a 2 (Brad Keselowski) on the side of it now. You just show up and your car is just really fast and you just can't do anything wrong and you're fastest in every practice. You just know what's going to happen. What kind of led us to that is that we had a race similar to what Brad (Keselowski) had in the spring of 2012 — what he had here in '14. Except we didn't — we had some pit road issues and we ended up finishing second. He went on to win in the spring. He probably has that same feel going into this Chase race here — we had the dominant car by a long way in the first race and we're probably going to have it again — and they probably do. It's a good feeling to have a car that fast and know that you can pretty much — you would spend more time messing it up than you could making it better. As a driver, those days don't come around too often and I haven't seen it since."
What are your best tracks in the Chase?
"I think the short tracks, in general, is typically 'our suit' — I guess you could say. But, I'm as much looking forward to Texas and Homestead than I am Martinsville and Phoenix. I think it's just — we went through a really special period in my career between '08 and really 2012 where our short track program was just really, really good. So, every time we went to anything under a mile — we were pretty confident we were going to be battling for a win. And now it seems like our mile-and-a-half program has really gotten a lot better with our finishes at Indy and Atlanta and Chicago. You really look forward to whatever tracks you can know you're going to run well at and it seems like it's been the bigger ones for us over the short tracks. Richmond is typically a track I love going to, but we performed sub-par there. It just depends on the race weekend and how fast your car is when you unload and that's kind of at the mercy of what you're at right now. I love the short tracks. I really think they've raced the best and ultimately have great racing here at this race track each time, and will at Martinsville and Phoenix as well. So, most looking forward to them."
Would you like to run any Nationwide races next year?
"Not run any more than I can fit on one hand. Nationwide stuff — I just struggle with making it correlate to the Cup-side. I struggle over there a lot — good by some standards, I struggle by my standards. I would like to run a few. Depending on what rules package the Cup series has for next year — maybe they're going to be even closer together. And if that's the case, then yeah it could be a benefit for sure."