2024 NASCAR Busch Light Clash Post-Race Press Conference. The race was won by Denny Hamlin
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Ryan Blaney
- Joey Logano
THE MODERATOR: We’ll welcome tonight’s race winner, driver of the No. 11, Denny Hamlin, to the stage. This is your fourth Clash win and first at the Coliseum. Thoughts on tonight’s race?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, exciting from my standpoint. Yeah, it was a perfect day. We didn’t lead every lap, but certainly a perfect day in the sense of being fastest in practice and fastest in qualifying and then winning the race. I haven’t had too many of those in my career for sure, and the Clash is obviously is one of the ones we had won at Daytona. To knock off another venue where we’ve won is obviously very special.
I was curious how your shoulder is doing and whether it was worse or better than what you thought it was going to be?
DENNY HAMLIN:: I appreciate your concern. It is very good. We knew that this race was going to fatigue it a little bit. Adrenaline is such a factor. Like last year even though it was really, really bad, adrenaline once you get in the car, it’s a lot different.
But overall it feels better than I thought it would, considering how far you have to crank the wheel at this racetrack. But the race is just short enough to fatigue it a little bit, so when I get to Daytona, I’ll be nice and strong.
It’s easy to dismiss this race and say you won this race, it’s an exhibition, et cetera, et cetera, but you look at Joey Logano two years ago, wins this race, wins the championship. You look at Truex last year, wins this race, wins the regular season title. Is there any correlation or anything that you can take away from this that applies to that, or is this just a happy coincidence?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it’s tough to say. I’ve got a sneeze that’ll happen in the next 20 seconds or so, but I’m trying not to get too far in my thought before I have to stop.
I would say this track, there’s some correlation to some short tracks that we run. It’s not like a complete throwaway that we don’t have any idea whether we’re going to be good or not.
I guess the correlation would be for me personally that the first year here we had some issues and our setup wasn’t very good. Then we went to the Martinsville spring race and were terrible also, and then when we ran really good here last year, we went to the spring race at Martinsville and ran really, really well. I think there are some small correlations that seem to be somewhat substantial.
I always said there’s not really — I don’t know, you’ve seen different circumstances where someone wins this race and then nothing happens in the regular season. It just seems like the last two, there’s been something. I was at a Clash thing because it is a short track. I’m not really sure. But certainly believe that I’ve told you guys that this year I’m really optimistic about this season and how much we can win.
What is the challenge of starting — restarting behind your teammate in a late-race situation and especially a teammate that doesn’t have a lot of experience? It’s a physical race, and not wanting to rough him up too much and what that line is.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it’s tough. I certainly knew Ty battling for his first win, I certainly wasn’t going to do anything to try to compromise that. I was just lucky I drew the right ping-pong ball with the circumstances that happened off of Turn 2 with him and Joey, and it just kind of opened up the bottom for me.
I was really fortunate. I didn’t feel like I really knocked anyone out of the way in the second half of the race. Sure, there was some bumper tag, but man, once you get in that sandwich and you’re getting pushed from behind and you’re pushing the person in front of you, it’s almost like you can’t stop it. It’s just interesting how it all plays out.
My goal was certainly to not have contact with Ty or affect that just simply because it’s a kid’s first opportunity, real opportunity to go win, but also I’m going to do everything I can to win in a very fair manner, and I feel like that’s what we did.
Given how quickly the rescheduling happened today, what do you think the vibe was out there, given the last-minute nature of the crowd?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think we should consider tonight a success, only because if it didn’t happen tonight, I just didn’t think it was going to happen at all. While there would be some people that were upset about not being able to use their ticket for tomorrow, they weren’t going to use it Monday, either, and Tuesday I’m not sure was an option. This thing was just going to snowball into a really — strange the teams, all the people here at the Coliseum that have to get this thing converted back over. Tonight was the only option to get this thing in, and I’m happy that NASCAR made unprecedented changes to make sure that the fans at least saw a race.
If we go somewhere else next year, how do you sum up this initial three-year experiment?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think it was a success. Certainly you can’t argue it from a viewership standpoint. I certainly think that it’s got merit in going different places, but I think LA was very good to us, and I think we were good for this community, as well. If you look around at the stands, it’s more diverse than what you’ll see at most racetracks.
I think it was a win for everyone.
You mentioned Ty. What did you see from him tonight? Obviously he led 84 laps. He was a strong contender. What did you see from him, and I guess as part B to that, how have you seen him mature over the last year and a half?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, he’s just gotten better. He’s very young. He’s green. He is definitely green.
I have a lot of interactions with Ty. Obviously he flies to and from races with me each and every week, and he asks a lot of questions. That’s certainly something that it’s going to take time. I think he’s going to have tremendous success this year. I think he’s going to be part of the playoffs. I don’t think that’s going to be a big shock to anyone.
But he’s far ahead of where I was when I was his age for sure. When I was his age, I was definitely still running late models for sure, and I don’t even know if I had won a late model race yet at this point. He’s certainly way ahead of that step.
We’re going to be talking about him for 20 plus years. He’s got a great foundation. He’s going to be with a great team for the rest of his career. He’s got everything lined up right for him. It will be very easy for him to be tough on himself or pick apart what he could have or should have done, but he’s going to have so many more opportunities. It’s hard to look that far out when you’re that age, but he certainly needs to put in perspective that he’s really making some big strides and he’s starting to race with the big boys.
Going back to the correlation of this Clash and future success, building momentum from the weekend, how significant is that for the 11 team to start off on the right foot? Obviously it’s been a great five or six or so years for you and this team, but to build momentum tonight into the season, how significant is that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, probably the 11 team is the only thing that really got anything out of tonight. Realistically speaking, I mentioned on another interview that like if your favorite driver didn’t even make the race, I’m not really sure it’s a huge deal. There’s only one winner that comes out of this weekend. Ask Kyle how he feels about it. He’s probably, meh. I think he was on the podium last year. There’s just not much correlation. There is some but not a lot. There’s only one winner, and certainly it’s the 11 team tonight.
We’ve got a few new members on our team, both on the road team and engineering, so to break them in with a victory, we spoiled them early.
It looked like every corner your car was smoking going into the corners. How did you win the race with your car not being able to turn that well, and how did you not get run over by Kyle on the last restart that said he wanted to knock you out of the way if he had a chance?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I didn’t know it was locking. I could feel it locking up but I didn’t see the smoke or know how bad it was. With these cars, it’s the configuration of the track. We’re braking heavily and we’re starting to turn. Smoke it one good time, that thing has a flat spot, so as it goes around and you go to the next corner, it’s going to find that flat spot again and it’s going to keep making it worse.
Once I did it one good time, that was it. I was destined to do it just about every corner unless I really backed up my breaking, and then I was going to get run over anyway. I just said, screw it. Hopefully the tire stays together. I’ve got to smoke this thing to keep my entry speed up high enough to where I don’t get pummeled.
Fortunately for me, Kyle was behind me. There was probably no other person, teammate or not, there’s no other person I would rather have third in that situation because he’s just always been super fair to me.
How does the shoulder feel, and does winning cure some of those ailments?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it feels good to me now. Certainly I can feel now that I kind of let things go. It’s aching and whatnot, but that’s very normal. When I do PT it aches the next day, as well. It’s all just part of getting better and stronger, and I found while running the sim that this race was far more strenuous than a Las Vegas or a Daytona will be.
I think we’ve kind of passed the test that we’re going to be good to go to start the season, and it’s certainly not going to be a factor for the 11 car.
Compare your thoughts off lap 10 restart versus lap 1 restart, and if there is a second season of “NASCAR: Full Speed,” should this race be featured in it?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, certainly. The collaboration between the city and NASCAR these last three years has been awesome. It would be great to see. There’s probably very few people that watch that series on Netflix and know that, hey, by the way, they built a track inside of a football stadium, as well. That’s not part of the story.
But certainly I think that it just gave the fans just a little bit of taste of what this sport is about and what it can do, and I think there’s still really a lot of stories to be told.
I think more than likely you’ll see something like that again this year. This is a great opportunity to tell the story about LA and that collaboration.
And your thoughts between the lap 10 restart and the lap 1 restart?
DENNY HAMLIN: It’s so different because each situation is different. I only controlled a couple of the restarts, but obviously I didn’t do a great job because I kept overshooting the corner and then that’s when I flat spotted the tires. I was nervous. Not nervous like, oh, I’m excited and worried about making a mistake. I was more nervous that I’m going to get knocked out of the way here. Like I just knew that, well, we’re up front again. Just going to wait on the, as Jeff Gluck would say, the piano to fall right on top of us, the road runner, and boom, there we go.
I just think that when we’ve had as much bad luck as I have, you always kind of wait on the bad shoe to drop. But it was fortunate for me to be in the situation I was, and would I be able to get around the 54 had he not had the issue right there in the first — no way, but I was able to capitalize on that opportunity when it happened.
The restarts are tough, especially at this track where you have high braking. The second- and third-place car don’t care about your agenda, and they’re just going to run through you and force you up off the bottom, and that’s how most of the passes get made here.
Did you notice any discernible difference with the new Toyota body style versus the previous two iterations here at the Clash?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, not really. There’s not enough corner speed to really tell. We’ll get an indication of kind of like drag at Daytona. We’re going to get an indication of downforce when we get to the mile-and-a-half racetracks. But certainly feel like it had a lot of speed. We got on the pole by more than a tenth on a track where everyone runs nearly the same speed.
Obviously they spent a lot of time between Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota and 23XI developing this new XSC, and obviously it’s one for one now, but I still think it’s too early to draw any conclusions to where it’s going to be better.
You were a big part of the early part of the Netflix series. Were you happy with how it all came out in terms of how you were shown, and if you had the editing pen, what would you have changed?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I don’t know. When you set out from the very beginning that it’s going to be X amount of episodes, this amount of time per episode, they’ve got to get through the 10 weeks, and so you average that out, that’s two weeks per episode. There’s a lot that goes on in that two weeks.
But you also just — if people want more, that’s a good thing. I think what I’m saying is there is more stories to tell, and when this thing comes back around in a year or so, you’re probably going to see maybe some different characters in it. You’re going to see more in depth information and more lifestyle stuff from other guys.
I think there’s a lot to tell, even from the technical aspect of it.
We didn’t tell a whole lot of the stories of what makes these cars go round in circles every week. What you see on Sunday is just the end product. What goes into all that, it’s amazing to see hundreds of people that all have a hand in making those cars making the show happen, and even from a NASCAR standpoint, what it takes to put on a show.
I think there’s a lot to tell, but certainly I thought it was a very good snapshot of NASCAR, and it kind of told a story of we race for this long, then we have a playoff, and here’s how the playoffs work. That helps with the new NASCAR fans. It essentially was about four hours of a NASCAR 101, for any new by that had just — hey, I don’t want to watch a race because I don’t know what’s going on. If you watch that, now you’re going to know when you flip the channel what’s going on in the middle of the race now. I think it accomplished that, and hopefully going forward they have another one and you’ll see even more stories.
It’s only been five days since the series debut, but I was wondering in your role as owner, have you heard — we’ve heard some data about the show is top 5 in the U.S., top 10 in the UK. In your role as an owner have you heard from NASCAR any concrete data about how many people have consumed this out of the gate?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I don’t know. The only data I have is on my social media, and I would think most of the avid fans probably follow me in some sort anyway. What I’ve seen is just a big jump of following over the last five days.
When you look at the area where they’re from, their gender, all that stuff, it’s a different crowd. I think that certainly it’s getting out to people that probably have not seen NASCAR before from what I can see.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by tonight’s second-place finisher, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8, and driver of the No. 12 Ryan Blaney. We’re also joined by the driver of the No. 22, Joey Logano.
Kyle, you’ve podiumed in all three of these. Why? Are you like the master of quarter-mile tracks or something?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I wish I was better, to tell you the truth. Second, third, second kind of hurts. I don’t know what it really is. It’s just tight nature, tight bullring kind of stuff, the things we all grow up doing with legends cars, late models, all that.
Always kind of enjoy getting back to those every once in a while whenever I can. Last year I remember I went up to New Hampshire and ran a late model race at a big quarter, small three-eighths mile racetrack and finished second there, too. This second stuff sucks.
Ryan, could you have ever imagined having to take a provisional and coming all the way from last to where you finished on the podium?
RYAN BLANEY: Yeah, the plan was not to take the provisional. Our group was pretty slow. I guess we just couldn’t go. So we were lucky we got in the race.
We did a good job all night just kind of staying clean, and our car was fast, too, to drive up through the field. A couple restarts went our way as to where our lanes went, and just had a shot. I got a terrible restart on the last one. Probably wouldn’t have won anyway, but came from a long way back, so it was fun. I think every time I’ve been I’ve been spun backwards about two or three times, so it’s not nice to have that one at the last one, so it’s good.
In the last three years you have raced the Clash at the Coliseum. Is there anything in particular that you like about racing here?
KYLE BUSCH: I think it’s interesting. It certainly lends ourselves to a different demographic as well as a different venue, as well, and being in a stadium like this. Kind of opens up the box a little bit on where else we can do events like this. So I think that’s been a real test of whether or not we’re capable at these types of tracks.
It always kind of turns into a little bit of calamity there. It did a little bit there towards the end. We always kind of expect that. Fortunately for us we were on the okay end of it.
RYAN BLANEY: I agree with Kyle. It’s a different demographic, and the way they kind of pulled the trigger on today trying to get it in, I think that was really smart by NASCAR. Maybe it doesn’t show it in the stands just because of what it was, but it gets a lot of support, and then also to have the NASCAR México series here, too, is good, as well, to kind of grow their side. Just a neat area to do it in.
JOEY LOGANO: Just ditto a lot of it. I think it’s very entertaining. Sometimes it’s real frustrating when you’re out there because it’s a tight bullring and you’ve got big cars and they’re sliding around, especially on refires with all tires you’re sliding a lot.
But I know from rewatching races and sitting in the grandstands for one of the LCQs last year or a couple years ago, it was like, this is really entertaining to watch. It becomes pretty crazy at the end, obviously.
But you kind of see that. I think we were actually a little better than we were last year.
Kyle and Ryan, since you were closest to Denny there on the final restart, what was going through your head there? Were you thinking about just knocking the crap out of him or anything like that —
KYLE BUSCH: It’s Denny. Yes. (Laughter.)
Take me through that, I guess.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I got a decent restart on the final one, and then I got a pretty good 1 and 2. He kept having issues of left front lockup and sliding off the bottom pretty bad, so I knew that was going to open up the door for an opportunity, and I got to his side off of middle of 2, but I just never had any acceleration off the corners. I could not get my forward momentum started. So that was kind of my hindrance.
As bad as he was on entry, I was as bad on exit. If we could have had three, four more laps or whatever, I felt like I would have had enough to be able to get close enough to make a move.
You’re also — Blaney was really fast. He might have been better than I was, so I was probably going to have to play defense on him. So it was just going to have to see how it goes. But glad it ended when it did.
Ryan, apparently you thought that Denny jumped the final restart?
RYAN BLANEY: Yeah, by a few feet. Obviously he kicked my ass on the restart so I’m going to say he jumped, but I thought it was a few feet early. It didn’t make a difference.
If this was the last Clash at the Coliseum, how would you guys sum up this three-year experiment in south California?
RYAN BLANEY: I mean, I’d say it was a success, honestly. I think all three years has been received really well, and okay, the racing side can get a lot of chaos at points, but I think everyone enjoys it. Like the fans enjoy it, and it gets good coverage. I think it’s been a success. I don’t see any negative sides to it, really.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I thought it was net positive. I said that the first year we came out here that the old car would not have allowed for this type of track, but this car lends itself to having the opportunity to bump a little bit and not crush fenders and noses and tails and things like that. Overall what happens from here, where do we go, who knows, but if we can find other venues that will put us in, it would be pretty cool to do.
JOEY LOGANO: The experiment was a great success, and we proved that we can do it anywhere. I said it the first year we came here; it was a huge win for the sport. Now that we’ve raced at one of the most historic stadiums in the world, it’s pretty cool.
I think you can pick this up and place it somewhere else if you needed to or something completely different. We’ve done crazier things at this point. There’s dirt races. There’s little small tracks like this, street races. You name it, we can do it.
Figuring that you’ve all seen the Netflix show, since these things are always so creatively edited, how do you think you each came across, and are you happy with it?
KYLE BUSCH: I came across amazing. I think I was the star of the show. How about you guys?
RYAN BLANEY: I loved watching you in it. I loved it.
Yeah, I thought it was pretty good and showed people a different perspective of — gave people a different perspective of the at-home life and then the pressures of the final 10 weeks of the year and the ups and downs and the positives and negatives. The playoffs are pretty brutal, and I think it put a lot of emotion on where these teams and drivers are at and whether you’re a die-hard fan or a brand new fan, I think it gives you something kind of neat to learn. Obviously I can say I like the ending because the ending was great. But I thought they did a good job with it, Netflix, and I hope it keeps going.
JOEY LOGANO: I wish they did it one year sooner. Of course he likes it. He won the championship, and it’s cool. I had a hard time after the second episode watching myself get knocked out of the playoffs again, and I can’t point I couldn’t watch anymore. I couldn’t handle doing it again.
But I will say it’s a huge win for the sport for sure when you see it there in the top 5 or so on the Netflix shows, and how many households that reaches can only be good. It seems like the response has been pretty positive. Really good. I wish it was one year before.
Watching it from up high, it felt like the veteran guys like you guys were trying to walk the line of being aggressive and using the bumper but not so that you’re going to use up any favors that you need later in the year like for an exhibition race, but I felt like maybe some of the younger guys were a little more aggressive and may have gotten some little rivalries going. Is that in your mind as you’re making those moves? Are you trying to walk that line? Do you care? Is it expected that you’re going to get moved and have to bump people out of the way?
JOEY LOGANO: I mean, you try. The racing is usually an eye for an eye more times than not, or trying to come out with some explanation of what happened. Mistakes are mistakes. Here obviously lends for a lot of things, and I’ve been on both ends of it. I got Kyle last year, so —
KYLE BUSCH: I still owe him.
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, he does. It’s part of racing here, and you try not to because you know, yeah, there’s bigger races down the line, but sometimes you’re in a bad spot and you just make a mistake. That can happen, too. Or it’s just flat-out aggressive in doing that type of stuff. I don’t know.
KYLE BUSCH: There was a couple moments there, I was running with Truex, and he was behind you, and he was holding up the line, and then he kind of got a little bit of separation and then Truex kind of was holding me up a little bit, and I got a couple good runs off of the corner to make up just — and then bombed him and tried to do it early enough on the straight away that then he was like, okay, it’s happening, and just concede the position.
It depends on who you’re running with. A lot of those guys don’t — they probably haven’t learned any respect over the years in the series that they race, and it’s kind of found its way to our series, unfortunately, on times.
Knowing how aggressively people drive here, do you try to prepare for this race by intrinsically telling yourself —
KYLE BUSCH: That’s a big word. I don’t think we know what that word means.
Do you try to convince yourselves not to get too upset when people bump you and bang you?
JOEY LOGANO: None of us went to college, man.
KYLE BUSCH: Yes, you’ve kind of come in here with the right mindset. You do your homework and you do your study and stuff like that. If you watch the races from the years before, you see that it’s a little bit like that. So you just have to be mindful that it’s going to happen and not lose your cool and not have your helmet fly off and just keep working and repay the favor if needed.