- 1st – Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
- James Small – winning crew chief
- 2nd – Joe Logano, Penske Ford
- 3rd – Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner. How are you?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Wonderful.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get right into questions for you.
Q: After you had the long pit stop to fix the car, I think they told you they fixed it. How long did it take you to really know it was fixed?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, that run right after that, it still wasn’t great. It was the next pit stop, more adjustments on the car, that it felt like now we’ve got something. I didn’t really know it was that good until I got up. We got deep into that long run, I think I got up to about fifth, and I could see the next couple guys in front of me, I’m like, Dang, we came from like 17th or 18th on that restart. That’s when I knew it was pretty good.
Q: Does this give you any sort of boost if you’re in the final four when you come back in November?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Huge boost. Huge confidence. I’ll be honest with you, if we would have come here last year in the final four, I would have been not very confident. Last year we struggled here for some reason. It’s never been our greatest track, I’ll say that. It’s always been just okay. I’ve never come here with a really warm, fuzzy feeling that we’re going to go there and win, we’re going to go there and be really, really strong and lead laps.
That was definitely a nice surprise today. Really just hats off to all the guys for the hard work. Everybody that builds the cars, puts in all the effort back at JGR, Toyota.
We took a huge swing at the car for this race. We knew what we’ve been doing here in the past two races wasn’t good. Car didn’t do anything I needed it to do. We just went to work on it. James and the guys did an awesome job with that. Really happy about it.
Really happy you didn’t ask me a retirement question today, as well (laughter). Gotcha!
Q: Up on the pit stand after you won the race, a big celebration. Did this team need this after last year? Did you need a big win like this?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I wouldn’t say we needed it. I’d say we really were hungry for it. We really wanted it, obviously. We worked really hard. We’ve got a great team. It seemed like for whatever reason, it was always little things that were biting us. We were always so close, always second or third. I don’t know how many times we’ve been second, third, fourth, top five since we won last year at Martinsville. It’s been a bunch.
It’s like, Man, what do we have to do to turn it around so it’s our day? I think that’s probably what you see, a little bit of relief and excitement for how hard the guys have really worked to put together all the details and make it happen.
We’ve got a great bunch. I’ve said that from day one. James is doing a great job. Hopefully we can use this momentum and just continue to do what we need to do.
Q: Five different winners, you’re the first one that’s going to be a repeat returner to the Playoffs from last year. Is it time for guys to start getting worried?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, no, it’s way too early for that. We got a long way to go.
Q: Such a big gap between wins. Were you surprised it was 29 races? James was changed as the crew chief, but the car was running well, you had your opportunities.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, I mean, that’s not a lot really. I’ve been a whole lot longer than that in my career. I don’t look at those numbers. I don’t really pay attention to it.
We’ve been running strong. Towards the end of last year, the Playoffs came around, we really performed well, did a lot of good things. Had a lot of tough breaks, didn’t have a lot to show for it. That’s just fuel, fuel for the fire in the off-season to work harder and make sure we can do what we need to do.
Yeah, 29 is nothing. I never even thought about it, to be honest. We’ve been capable of winning a lot of races between the last one and the one today. These races are really hard to win. That’s really all I can say about it.
Thankful for today. We’ll celebrate and enjoy this one, get back to work tomorrow for next weekend.
You never know when your last one is going to be, you’ve got to enjoy them all. I’m certainly really proud of this one.
Q: Did you set a goal like when you got to 20 wins, you wanted to get to 30? Do you set goals like that? Do you chase the next spot on the all-time thing, or 30, or do you give any thought into that at all?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: No, I don’t. I don’t chase numbers or anything. I do this because I love it. I do it to be part of a team and have that camaraderie and to challenge myself.
There’s days when I feel like I can win a couple more championships. There’s days when I say to myself I’ve done a lot, I’m really lucky to have done what I’ve done, to win championships in this series and in the Xfinity Series, win a bunch of races. It’s been really fun.
When I moved to North Carolina as a 24-year-old, I never would have thought I would be able to accomplish all the things I have. So from that standpoint I’m really excited.
But the more success you have, the more you want it, I feel like. We’re ready to have some more, that’s for sure. We’ve got a ways to go.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by our race winning crew chief, James Small. We’ll continue with questions for Martin and James.
Q: Curious about the final restart that helped get you to victory. The deeper numbers show you’re one of the best restarters in the series. Was that something you did or Joey didn’t do? What helped you on that final restart?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Just got a good jump, was able to stay side-by-side with him getting into turn one. That’s really the key. Then he drove into one and kind of slid up, slid us both up the hill. Once that happened, I was able to grab the PJ1, get a good run off.
If he would have drove in, maybe wrapped the bottom better, maybe he would have cleared me. Like I said, he drove in deep, I drove in deeper. We both slid up the track. That’s usually the way it goes. Luckily I drove in deeper than he did.
Q: We saw Brad on the start almost hit the pit wall. Can that be an advantage or a danger at some point?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: If you really make a bad mistake, you’re going to end up crashed. That’s never good.
But this place is pretty wild on the restarts. The restart prior to the last one, I guess it would be, I restarted third behind Joey. I got a really good start. I was right on his bumper turning down from the start/finish line down across the apron. I actually got into him, turned sideways, I had to lift. I lost like four spots because I thought I was going to crash it.
That’s how close it is every restart, really. You’re bumping and banging, especially to try to get the guy in front of you going forward. It’s real easy to get in trouble on restart, especially when you start getting three- and four-wide.
Q: How much would this race have been different without the traction compound applied today?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I mean, it’s hard to say honestly. I mean, if you have no traction compound, everybody races around the bottom. If you have traction compound, everybody tries to use it to the best of their advantage.
Either way you look at it, you have a preferred groove. It just so happens that now with PJ1, it’s up the racetrack. Without it it’s at the bottom.
I thought the PJ1 today for whatever reason maybe wasn’t as sticky as the last time we were here. I don’t know if it’s because the Xfinity cars wore it off some yesterday and they didn’t reapply it. We’ve seen guys being able to work the bottom. I worked quite a lot of guys underneath them when they were in the PJ1 to make a pass.
To answer your question, it’s hard to say without knowing. It seems like every race here is a little bit different. It just would have been everybody fighting for the bottom if there was no PJ1.
Q: James, you guys had a good year last year if you look at the numbers, but only one win. Did you feel more pressure coming into this year to win more? What does it feel like to get the win this early in the season?
JAMES SMALL: Yeah, definitely. Nobody remembers who finished second or third. We had really strong races last year and just didn’t execute. Wins are what matters in this sport. It’s definitely a relief to get one this early. Make sure we’re locked into the chase.
Now we can just concentrate on refining what we do every week, try to get more wins, more bonus points. That’s ultimately in the Playoffs where we struggled, was the bonus point count. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction for that.
Q: Martin, are you going to be doing any dirt racing in advance of the Cup Series race at Bristol?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Probably. I’m not sure where yet, though, or how, but probably (smiling). Stay tuned.
Q: Martin, you mentioned your string of third-place finishes and second-place finishes last year. Was there anything that you or James recognized as a potential improvement to gain that extra one or two spots? Any small detail that you saw that was relevant enough to improve in the off-season?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think it just depends on what track you’re talking about really. They’re all so unique. Different packages are different. You got the short track package, you got the high downforce 550, then a lot of road courses this year.
To answer your question, I think we just pick apart every racetrack and every package to try to figure out how to be the best we can be at them. I think for here today in particular, we knew it was a struggle for us. It wasn’t a strong point. James and Jazzy and the guys really worked hard on trying to get the car to do what I needed it to do here.
I think just to answer your question, every track is a little different. For here there were certain things I needed the car to do that it wasn’t doing. Other tracks it could be the spotter, other tracks it could be the way the cars are built, or some things I can do behind the wheel as well.
We look at every avenue. James will tell you the same thing. He’s really good at looking at all the details, finding things that stick out that say, Hey, we need to do this better, we need to do that better.
JAMES SMALL: He said it right. I just don’t think people understand how hard it is with no practice, to try to be perfect every week. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of refinement, everything we can do just to be good off the truck.
Today we started bad. Some of our assumptions were off. We tried a lot of different things this time. We got back from Phoenix last year, we sucked, we finished 10th. We were unhappy with how we ran. Jazzy and I started working straight away the week after on what we’re going to do to get better. All off-season we’ve worked on that.
Once we got the car balance right today, you saw all the dividends for all the work we put in, the changes we made. Hopefully he can be back in the four and we can get better then.
Q: Martin, a year ago this race, there was only one JGR car in the top 10, today you have three cars in the top 10. Looking at Phoenix specifically, how do you feel this bodes for November?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Well, November’s a long ways off. I’ll tell you for me personally, I think for our team, this helps a lot confidence-wise. I think if we would have came here last year in the final four, as I mentioned earlier, we would have been pretty nervous and not very optimistic. As James said, we sucked last year here (laughter).
Confidence is a big deal. But usually you’re confident because you’ve had past success, you can build on those things, you understand the racetrack, you understand how to make the car do certain things.
I think from that standpoint, this is a big boost for us to knock this one out today, and now know if we can get here in the final four, we know what it takes, and we have what it takes to be able to get the job done here.
Q: Short-term future, the company started the season well. Seems like today was more complete all the way through the organization. How do you feel the next maybe month or two looks for JGR as a whole right now?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think today was important because we knew at the end of last year we needed to work on our short track program. I think there was a lot of effort focused on that in the off-season. Coming here, I don’t know that we were real sure exactly how it was going to look. Who is going to be strong? Are we going to be strong?
I think to answer some of those questions is good, and to have a good, strong base is good, something we can build on. A lot more short tracks coming up this year and a lot of races with this particular package this year, including road courses. It’s an important one. It’s good to have a good day starting the first one off.
You still continue to work and try to find things because everybody else is.
Q: Martin, Joey said he took the inside line because that’s what he’s always done since there’s been a choice, it’s always worked for him. When you got down there into one, saw what your position was relative to him, were you surprised that he wasn’t able to get out in front there?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Just to rewind. I was not surprised he chose the bottom because he had chose the bottom on every restart and got the lead. If I was the leader, I probably would have chose the bottom as well.
Generally on new tires for a lap or two, the bottom is a little bit faster. It just happened that I got a really good jump, side-by-side with him going into one. I think he got tight or something. He ran way up the racetrack. I was turning kind of to the right, letting my car go up the hill as well, to keep him from running into the left side of me.
I’m guessing he just drove in, got tight. We both ended up pretty high on the track. When that happened, I was able to grab the PJ1 with my right sides and get the thing turned, get on the gas pretty early. That’s really what made the difference.
I think if he wrapped the bottom, he might have been able to clear me. I’m not sure what happened, if he just got tight or overdrove the entry.
Q: Martin, you obviously seemed very surprised when you got out of your car with the win. Were you more surprised that you ran really well at a track that you’ve struggled at recently or that you were able to overcome one of these hiccup issues early in the race that has kept you from Victory Lane?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think it was a little bit of everything honestly. Just being kind of surprised how everything worked out today. Sometimes it’s just your day. You feel like you couldn’t do anything wrong.
Obviously today we made a few little mistakes. I hit the fence obviously. We were way too tight the start of the race. To be able to overcome that was good. Then you start having cautions towards the end. We weren’t really good on the short run. It’s like, Is this going to keep happening? Are we going to not get a long run to where we could get back to the lead?
It all just played out. It’s one of those times when you feel like you’ve been in this position before and you’ve done everything right, you didn’t win. Now you’re in the same position and you did.
It’s just a crazy feeling. You just get kind of reminiscent, thankful. Honestly, I was just confused. I wasn’t allowed to do a burnout. That really sucked (laughter). James is like, No burnout, we need this engine for Darlington. That really just kind of took the wind out of my sails.
I was so jacked up, so excited, ready to just have some fun out there. I’m like, Okay, I can’t do anything. Now I got to park here. My guys, I can’t see them. Victory Lane is like four people. The whole thing is weird. It’s not as exciting as Victory Lane should be, I guess to answer your question. That was part of it.
Q: James, when everybody went to the mile-and-a-half tracks, it was like a bunch of different names up there, surprise, underdog type people having their day. For the short track race, it wasn’t like that at all. It was the usual suspects. Do you have any theory on why the strong teams were able to do so much better at the short tracks out of the gate than at the mile-and-a-half tracks?
JAMES SMALL: Not really, to be honest, less (indiscernible), more talent. I think eventually here, like I said before, I think it will just return to the average, to the mean. You’re going to see the same guys who are going to be running in the top five every week. Ultimately, once they get their stuff worked out, like all the off-season changes and everything, it’s going to be the best drivers, the best teams.
Not taking anything away from anyone that’s won so far, but I feel like that’s what will happen. You’ll see the regular guys back at the front.
Q: Martin, you seemed really excited after the race, especially to see the fans. It was this race a year ago, the last kind of normal NASCAR race. What was it like hopping out of the car and getting to hear the fans cheer?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It was great. It was real great. Had more infield energy at the grid pre-race here than we’ve been used to here lately. There were a bunch of people in there. They’re yelling at you walking out pit road before the race. You see them wearing T-shirts, hats of their favorite drivers and things.
That’s what NASCAR is. It’s going to the track with your family, supporting your favorite driver, having a good time. It was definitely fun. It was definitely a good change to see them. To hear the cheers after the race, the excitement about the race, was fun as well.
Hopefully every week we can have more and more people. I can’t wait till the days when everything’s crowded again. I hate the traffic after the race, but I’ll deal with it for having the fans here.
Q: Martin, it was said you were going to run the truck race at Bristol.
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Damn, they spilled the beans (laughter)? Okay, yeah, we are. We’re going to run the truck race.
Q: Obviously with Kyle Busch Motorsports?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: Yes, I’ll run Kyle’s truck. He said I could drive it for free, so I did it (laughter).
Q: It took you 31 tries to get a win here. What had been the problem in the past for you? What made the difference today specifically?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: That’s a good question. I think there’s been times throughout the years where I felt like we were really close. I remember back in ’07 I led a bunch of laps here, felt like the car to beat. Towards the end of the race I think everybody pitted and we stayed out as the leader. We were the only one who stayed out and finished fifth or sixth on old tires.
Back in DI days, I ran pretty good here at times. I think it was ’17 or ’18, we ran second to Kenseth here. Strong, led a bunch, faded late.
It depends, to answer your question, a little bit on the season, the package, you name it. This place has been through so many changes. You think 31 races, different cars, different packages, different rules, different tires, different track configurations. There’s been a lot of changes throughout those years for me. Different teams obviously. It’s been different things at different times.
Right now for us, we just focused really on this package, rules package, with this car in the past few times we’ve been here, which is really all you can go off of.
A lot has changed over the years, to answer your question. What changed from last year to this year was focusing on this particular package, what we had to do here to make it better.
Honestly, I probably had cars that felt better than what I had to do. With the track being the way it is, this tire wearing out, the track getting as slick as it is, we were good enough to win. That’s really what it’s all about.
Yeah, it’s definitely a moving target in this sport, everything is, everywhere we go. James talked about rules changes in the off-season. Nobody even knows about them because they’re so small, but they make a big difference. This sport is always changing, you’re always searching for speed, searching for how you can be better in the competition.
Q: When is the last time you raced on dirt? Are you looking forward to it? Are you nervous, scared?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I’m excited. I’m excited about it. I’ve only raced twice on dirt. Both of them were at Schrader’s, having a charity race out in Missouri, did that a few times in a modified. I grown up on four-wheelers and motorcycles. It’s going to be a learning curve for sure.
I look at it as Bristol has been our worst track for the past couple years. Why the heck not lay down dirt and see what we can do? I think it’s going to be fun. New challenge, something different.
Q: How does it feel after so many times coming close or not coming close to finally win at Phoenix?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: It feels great. Honestly, it feels like a really great accomplishment to be able to do that today, to be able to overcome the things we did, just really as a team never give up on it, keep working hard on things.
Nobody lost their cool. I screwed up and hit the wall early on, damaged the right rear. Nobody was screaming and yelling or losing their mind. Just a good team effort. Good pit stops all day.
Really coming here, working on the things we talked about, the approach that the guys took, it’s something really special to be able to listen to me complaining about the car and saying, Here is the things I need it to do that it doesn’t do, go make it do that. When they make it do that, it’s really cool. I’m really thankful and happy for them that all their hard work is paying off.
Obviously it was a lot of fun to drive that today. Just a cool day. A very important race because of the championship race. Very special. It’s always nice to check a new track off the list.
Q: Last year at this time you had just run at Phoenix, then were shut down. What do you remember about that time? How great is it to be back racing in front of fans, winning?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I just remember getting ready to go to Atlanta. I literally woke up out of bed, was getting ready to go to the airport and fly out. Yeah, the race is canceled. That was like the strangest thing ever. I never had a race get canceled I don’t think my whole life. That was definitely a strange feeling.
But obviously glad that we were able to get the whole season in. Everybody did an amazing job of coming up — being able to do what we did from the team standpoint, NASCAR, everybody involved. What an awesome job to get all those races in, finish the season on time. That was really good.
This year, I feel like everything has gone smoothly. It’s been nice to have more fans at these tracks lately. Hopefully we can continue to bring more.
THE MODERATOR: That’s all the time we have. Thank you so much for taking some time with us. Congratulations on the win. We will see you in Atlanta.
Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our second-place finisher, Joey Logano. Thank you for taking some time with us. We are going to get right into questions for you.
Q: Can you talk about why you chose the inside on that last restart? Did you think you had enough momentum to keep Truex at bay?
JOEY LOGANO: I chose the bottom because I’ve chose the bottom every time I’ve been the leader, and it’s worked every single time. I was batting a thousand on the bottom the last, I don’t know, two years here. I was kind of actually surprised that Truex was still out there. Felt like I created enough distance down there on the bottom shortcut in the dogleg that typically I can have someone at my quarter to where I can control them.
Looked down, gosh, he’s still door-to-door with me. Their car accelerated really well, surprisingly well. Didn’t see that one coming.
They just had a fast car all the way through. They had a fast car from the get-go. Once they tuned it in the end of the second stage, they were lights out.
To be honest with you, I’m not sure even if we got in front of him in that last restart, I’m not sure I’d have been able to hold him off or not. Would have been a hell of a battle. He probably would have gotten me eventually.
Q: How would you evaluate the PJ1, the traction compound? Did it work like you thought it would?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I mean, the traction compound was really strong in the beginning. It seemed like especially down in three and four towards the end of the race was less and less. It was just wearing off.
Kind of what you would expect there. Yeah, I thought towards the end of the race, you run a few laps on the bottom, four or five laps maybe on restarts before you moved up. I felt like it was pretty racy at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined here by Denny Hamlin. If you have a question for Denny, as well.
Q: Last pit stop you said you had a power steering issue. Can you elaborate on that? Did it have any bearing on the outcome?
JOEY LOGANO: Beats me. We did have a power steering issue. It fixed itself. Never had that before (laughter). I don’t know. I guess my prayers were answered inside the race car. I don’t know. It came right back. Maybe just something with lower rpm and hot temperatures or something. I’m not sure.
Q: Denny, where do you equate your performance this year for the early part of the season compared to last year when you and Kevin Harvick were dominating?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, our consistency is really good. Really every week last year we had a chance to win most weeks. It’s just whether we took ourselves out of it through mistakes or not. So far this year, knock on wood, we have been good on the mistake front.
We haven’t had that dominant car like we’ve had during some races last year yet, other than Daytona. I thought our car was very, very good. We’ve just been hanging around that second, third, fourth all year.
It’s a good start because we got something to build on here.
Q: When you won this race last year, Joey, I asked you if you thought the drivers and the people in the garage area were taking a sigh of relief in terms of how competitive the track would be for the championship race. You had a memorable quote that you thought everybody was taking a sigh of relief. After today, what are your expectations or concerns about the competitiveness of the track, PJ1, this tire, the package in general for November?
JOEY LOGANO: I’d say I think you’ll probably expect the same thing you saw last year. The tire has a decent amount of falloff which presents an opportunity for some strategy, as we saw today, if the caution comes out five, ten laps into a run, creates quite the questions on what to do. That’s a good thing, where it’s not just a no-brainer type of pit call. I like how that kind of splits the field up. That part’s good.
I think fastest car is able to win the race. I think that’s happened probably the last three or four times here, the fastest car has won. I think that’s fair. That’s what we all want. But it’s the opportunity to make something happen if you’re in the hunt towards the end, have a good pit stop, a good restart, you can do some big moves as well.
I think the track is pretty racy. I think it definitely evolves throughout the race as the traction compound wears off. That definitely changes what you need in your race car as you tune your car.
And the tire itself, like I said, it has some falloff. I still get these weird vibrating runs, I don’t know what that is, that one cost us a championship, and I got another one today. We definitely have to look into the tire, for sure.
Q: Denny, what do you think about that?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don’t know. I’m more of a probably a purist on these short tracks. It’s the dominant lane. Originally when PJ1 came out, it was meant to be an option when you come up on lap traffic or when you come up on a car and you’re faster, it’s an option to try to get around. It’s the dominant lane here at this racetrack. Again, you run in and out of it at times, but still if it doesn’t wear off, it’s the fastest way around the racetrack.
The first time here, they had it higher. We used the bottom mostly, just used the top every now and then. They sprayed it just a little bit lower for the championship race, I believe, and I don’t know, take some still pictures of pretty much all the races, everyone is kind of running in a train up top.
I don’t know. I also agree with Joey, as well, the fastest car has won for the last handful of races. But if you put Martin in traffic, he might have gotten around, I’m not sure.
I guess I’m indifferent on it is the long answer. I’d prefer it to be probably a little bit higher and less grippy.
Q: Joey, I hate to beat a dead horse, to follow up on the vibration, you told the team it was as bad as it was in the fall. Earlier in the week on radio you said it was vibrating so bad at times in the fall that you couldn’t see. What do you have to do to get this car in order so when you do come back it’s not something that keeps you up at night?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, definitely keeping me up right now. I wish I knew what it is. A lot of times you change the tires, it goes away. It’s not a loose wheel. We don’t believe it’s a misbalanced tire or wheel either. Not sure what it is.
When it happens, the lights shut off for a little bit and the car goes backwards quickly. It cost us a championship. It didn’t cost us the race today, but we lost some track position in the beginning of the final stage here.
I don’t know. I wish I knew what the answer was on that. I don’t know. Maybe we can take a look at it, cut the tire apart. I don’t know how you fix it. I’m not a tire engineer. I don’t know if it’s consistent through the field, if other cars have the issues or not. I know a lot of cars had it in the fall race. I know my teammate had it in the fall race as well.
Just something we need to look into, at least try to find the answer. I don’t know if we have the capability to fix that. I think it might be out of our hands. At least try to help find it.
Q: The mile-and-a-half tracks, there were these underdogs and surprises. The first short track, all the usual suspects, no surprises. Any reason for the difference, you think?
JOEY LOGANO: I’ll let Denny speak to it too. I think the 750 package is harder to drive. I think experience probably comes out more. There’s different techniques that I think the experienced guys have learned over the years racing cars that don’t have much downforce, a lot of horsepower.
When you come to a short track, there’s comers and goers. Knowing how to go fast on a short run versus a long run, Denny is probably one of the best at figuring that balance out. I think probably that experience behind the wheel helps, kind of knowing what you need in your race car to go as fast as possible.
Probably experience comes into play more just because it’s something we’ve done a lot the last forever.
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, most of the experienced guys, the guys that have been around for four-plus years, ran this whole package in 2017. If you have less experience than that, this is kind of a new thing for you, other than we cut the spoilers off on the short track last year.
I agree with Joey. You kind of build a notebook on it. You understand how to manipulate the car when it’s not handling perfectly. You can move your line around and change some things. That’s stuff that takes experience.
I think experience in this sport is just so underrated simply because you see so many things. We’ve all been through tire changes, car changes, aerodynamic changes, track changes, that we’re ahead of the game, I guess you could say. Especially now that we have no practice, I mean, it lends itself even more to experience.
Definitely agree with that take.
Q: Denny, do you have any thoughts on late in the race Bubba stayed out and you had a little bit of a chance to race together, your thoughts on your car with Bubba up there?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I think there was only 10 laps on his tires. I probably would agree with that call. I don’t know where he netted out on that. I knew taking off was going to be the biggest challenge. I thought once he got to the first couple corners, he was going to be fine.
I think he’s one of those drivers, if you can put him up front somehow, some way, likely going to happen more on like a 750 track, he’ll be a hard guy to pass. I was racing with them there. I was just trying to figure out how I could get around him just as quick as I could because I know I was in a very important part of the race.
I don’t know where they finished. I think they had a solid day, had some decent speed my team said. It was good. I mean, again, we were pouring the concrete of the foundation for that thing, that team over there. Got a long way to go, but we’re working really hard to get them in a position by fall where they’re competing inside the top 10 on a regular basis.
Q: Joey, your thoughts as a veteran driver, being through this before, to have a car that led all the laps, it kind of slips away at the end, your thoughts about that happening again today, how frustrating that is.
JOEY LOGANO: It’s frustrating in some ways, and in other ways you got to look at the positives and move forward. I’m usually the one that’s going to probably beat myself up a little bit on the parts where we missed it, but the positives will keep the momentum going. We need to just move on after we figure out where we made mistakes today.
As far as positives, boy, I couldn’t be more prouder of our pit crew today. They’re animals. That’s great. They really kept us in the race when we started to lose a little bit of handling in our car. I’m not even sure if we were a few balance adjustments off of beating the 19. He was fast. Really, like I said earlier, it started to show the end of the second stage where he ran us down from 4 seconds. He’s going to be really quick.
I was just hoping on the short run maybe I could get him on the short run there. But once he got out a second ahead of me, he went to cruise control and started saving his stuff.
Like I said, we’re just not fast enough right now. That’s probably the biggest thing that stands out. We were able to get our balance pretty close after the second run of the race. Just seemed like the 19, even the 11 at times, just were able to roll in more speed, have more grip to still be able to turn. Just had more overall, so…
That’s a hard thing to find, by the way (laughter).
Q: Denny, this place has been a track position type of track in years past. Do you see that evolving with the PJ1? Chase go from the back to the front to win last year. Is the track evolving or is it a case that those cars were just so strong?
DENNY HAMLIN: It’s tough to say. I think if you get the lead and you have the next-fastest car behind you, the next-fastest car has to wait 20 laps, 25 laps for the pace really to lose a half a second. Again, the dominant line is run around the top in PJ1. It’s very difficult.
When we were running around the bottom here, you could force the guy off the bottom. You could pack air and really kind of force the leader off the bottom, you could get position, next thing you know you’re on the bottom in three and four, that’s where you want to be, you complete the pass.
Here you have to run in their wake. Most of the time you’re just worried about losing a position if someone is right behind you. You don’t even want to make a move to run low and make a move on the leader because you’re likely to lose a spot.
The fastest car can get to the front, but he needs long runs to do it.
Q: You seem to be at times able to use the bottom pretty well, especially the first part of the race. Is that something you feel like you guys kind of hit on that went away as the race went on?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, maybe went away a little bit, but not bad. Again, the tire is kind of weird. You just don’t want to run a whole lot in the rubber that gets laid down.
But the bottom lane, yeah, you can run fast for a couple laps, but it just heats everything up so much you can’t sustain it. You can use it to try to complete a pass. That’s the thing, most of these passes were all slide jobs. It was all just overdriving the entry just to get position and clear yourself. Not a lot of passes were made because you just got a good run off the corner, went down low in the next corner at a reasonable speed, and you cleared them. You had to drive in there at an unreasonable speed and cut off the person behind you.
Q: Denny, can you speak on your teammate getting a victory after a long streak of losses, not winning ever here at Phoenix.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, the 19 has had a good car. Their short track program, I think they stand out to me as one of our best short track teams at JGR. I mean, it was encouraging for me that we did run in the top five all day. The 19 ran in the top five all day. We were not good on the short tracks last year. In 2019 I think our worst finish in the 11 on a short track was fourth, maybe fifth. We had all top fives at every short track.
Last year, if we could run sixth or seventh, it was probably a decent day for us. Hopefully this is a sign that we kind of worked on the right things and are heading in the right direction.
But good for him for winning. I wish it was me.
Q: Denny, your career has been different this year compared to previous years now that you’re a team owner?
DENNY HAMLIN: Ask your question again.
Q: I was curious how this year has been different for you in your career than previous years now that you’re co-owner of a team?
DENNY HAMLIN: Just no days off.
Typically when I was just a driver, I would get between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday night, Friday morning off, relatively off. Maybe a few things here and there. But now the middle part of the week is really where I focus on 23, 11, go to the shop, talk to the team, the engineers, crew chiefs, figure out how we can be better, what do we need to go faster.
This is such a growing process for everyone. Everyone is working together for the first time. This is a new team. This is not an inherited team. This is a team built from scratch.
It’s a building process. They’re trying not to overload Bubba with too much information because he’s got already so much he has to learn on a weekly basis. I try to do everything I can to help curb that learning curve. If I can help him out, give him some advice on a track that’s coming up, some notes out of the book that I keep, hopefully maybe it’s a help to him.
Q: Could you talk about how different this race would have been today without the traction compound.
JOEY LOGANO: That’s probably the million dollar question trying to know that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the last time we ran without the traction compound, we had big spoilers on the car. It was bad. I think the thing we fixed the most was taking the spoiler off the car, creating smaller wake, being able to manipulate other people’s cars by stacking air on them or whatever, that created a lot of passing.
I think the biggest adjustment, the best adjustment has definitely been taking the spoilers off the car for the short tracks and adding horsepower.
What would it be like if you didn’t have the traction compound? I don’t know.
It’s either your dominant lane is going to be on the bottom or up in PJ1. Pick your poison. I don’t know. You’ve got to eventually look at it and say, Was the racing good today? Yes. Did the fastest car win? Yes. That must mean there must be some passing out there. Yes, you’ve got to be patient because if you make a move and you’re not able to clear, you’re probably going to lose a spot. But that’s part of the game.
I’d be hard to say that we shouldn’t have it. I’m kind of a fan of it personally, thinking that it actually — I think it helps the racing, widens the group out. Towards late in the race, it’s pretty good.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, listen, we started using it for a reason. The tracks weren’t getting the passing that they wanted. I think there’s an absolute need for it at some tracks. I’m 50/50 on it here. It absolutely has helped racing at some racetracks we’ve gone through.
I don’t know. Hard for me to make a case for it or against it, to be honest with you. We’ll just keep digging and keep learning, try to put on the best race we possibly can no matter what the conditions.
THE MODERATOR: Joey and Denny, thank you so much for taking some time with us. We’ll see you in Atlanta.