Transcript: Denny Hamlin - Press Conference - Kansas
THE MODERATOR: We'll shift to our race winner for today's Advent Health 400 at Kansas Speedway. We've now been joined by Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota. Congratulations on that win today. Take us through those final laps with your battle with Kyle.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I knew we were better. I saw him starting to get loose pretty early in the run, but we were able to kind of pick through William there, and then it was just a slow, slow march towards Kyle.
It really started with about three laps to go or so. I was able to get beside him a few times.
But there was one where we caught a couple lap cars and I got to the inside of him and the lap car chose my lane on the bottom, and that really hurt us. I thought that was our best opportunity to pass him. So we were 2 to go.
I knew the only way I was going to have an attempt to get near him was to get a huge run off of Turn 4, so I ran way up high in Turn 3, really kind of a Kyle Larson line, way up by the fence, and I just pulled it down and got a huge run, and that run down the front straightaway allowed me to pack air on him getting into the corner and get him up the racetrack so I could get beside him.
We were both pedaling the throttle on the exit. I was sideways and he was sideways, and as he started to -- I knew it was going to be close whether he was going to clear me, and I'm just trying to grind on his left side, trying to keep the side draft as tight as I could, and it's just a super sensitive part of the car if you get to the left rear, and obviously it hooked him to the right, and we won. The end.
Q. The racing out there, I was just talking with Chris, obviously really aggressive all day long. What was your perspective from behind the wheel, and do you feel like that level of intensity will continue into the playoffs?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, this is a Kansas track thing, right. This is just a perfect racetrack for this race car. The match between the car, the tire and the racetrack, it's just a perfect match. That's why you saw today really nobody running away from the field. As many leaders as we saw side by side, two, three laps in, I saw these guys dicing up three wide for the lead. It has just enough falloff where track position is very important but it's not everything. You can still get position on someone, like you saw there on the last lap.
It's a Kansas thing. So what happens is that the preferred lane is up high, so you have to drive in the corner and pull a slider on someone, and sometimes that slider doesn't work, which is why you saw most of the wrecks I think were probably a product of that.
Q. Have you spoken with Kyle yet? Did he come to Victory Lane at all to see you?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, I will later, I'm sure.
Q. Denny, just your reaction to the crowd when you got out of your car on the frontstretch there?
DENNY HAMLIN: Just kind of depends who's there on the reaction you're going to get. Yeah, I don't have any reaction to it. Kyle is a little more popular than me, so they're not going to like me winning.
Q. In all your racing history, where does that rank as far as like a battle between what was two guys who are part of the 75 greatest drivers coming to the end of a race?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was exciting. I wish it wasn't contact that decided it, but who knows what happens in Turn 3 and 4. I would have loved to have had that opportunity, but he may have got the better end of it. It's certainly high on my list.
Again, if I want to get to a win number, I've got to capitalize on every opportunity that I can, and to me, Kyle is just exceptional. I think my crew chief called him the greatest driver -- that's tells you what he thinks about me.
We have that kind of respect for Kyle. He's going to far exceed my win total. But the time that I'm here, I've got to capitalize on every opportunity.
Q. Have you seen any highlights of the Gragson/Chastain fight --
DENNY HAMLIN: No, I saw Chastain in Victory Lane.
Q. Did Ross come visit you in Victory Lane?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah.
Q. What did he say to you?
DENNY HAMLIN: He said congrats, that was a hell of a run, I thought you would never get there. That was it.
Is there something I need to talk about tonight?
Q. You haven't seen it yet?
DENNY HAMLIN: No. (Laughing.)
Q. Do you think there's a chance that Kyle is not going to see it the same way you did --
DENNY HAMLIN: Oh, for sure, yeah, no doubt. Roles reversed, I'm like, dammit, I'm pissed for sure. It's just different.
You know, racing is so different now than it used to be. Man, I've certainly lost that way for sure.
But yeah, you definitely have a difference of opinion, especially you're in your cocoon, you see things your way, you don't necessarily see all the things. He's leading the race up until the back straightaway. Definitely would respect any opinion he might have.
Q. You were once teammates with him but now you're actually tied with Tony Stewart for all-time wins. What does that mean to you being tied with somebody like that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it's big. Certainly that's why I want to get at least 11 more, is that it just puts you up there with some of the really, really big names of the sport. But again, being matched with Tony is unbelievable. I don't know what to say.
I certainly didn't think I'd ever have won, much less that many.
Q. A couple weeks ago you said you were going to get hot, so how hot can you really get?
DENNY HAMLIN: You can get white hot. It's official.
Q. Going back to tying Tony Stewart, you're one away from 50. As you mentioned yesterday, now you stand with lone with four wins at Kansas. No one has any more. What's it like kind of breaking all these milestones in such a short time?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it's a special place anyway. I got my first start here at Kansas back in '0 -- oh shit, long time ago, '05, something like that. It's special for sure. Like he said, doesn't matter kind of the car, the tire, whatever the aero package that changes, I have a feel at this track that I like to get, and when I get it, it certainly equals wins.
Really proud of that.
Q. The broadcast announced that this was the most lead changes, I believe it was 37 on a 400-mile 1.5-mile track. What was your experience from being in the car all day? Did you have fun? Was it stressful?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I actually said over the radio on lap 5 or 6 that -- when we had that early caution, I was like, man, it looks like fun up front. I started eighth but I kind of got to fifth or sixth pretty quick, and I saw that they were dicing like crazy for the lead. Again, this is a perfect match of track, car and tire. When you match them all up perfectly, you get the kind of racing like you saw today.
Q. We had all the cautions today, we had a ton of heat. Talk about the mental toll it took for all the restarts that were going on as everybody was going for position pretty hard out there.
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, the challenge it gives us is that we only have a certain amount of tires, and so when you have a car that you think is the best, which I thought ours was the best, I thought that you don't want to lose because of a tire strategy. You don't want a late-race caution to come and you don't have tires, next thing you know some guys that stay out through all these cautions actually have a set and they blow right by you. You don't like to lose that way, so at least I felt like the best cars were towards the front at the end and it played out naturally.
But certainly it was frustrating because I knew our car was really good in the long run, so we just couldn't get anything longer than about 10 laps there during that third stage for whatever reason, and certainly was agitating from my standpoint because I needed my car to come in later in a run, but luckily the race kind of played out perfectly for me towards the end.
Q. You say this is a perfect car for the perfect track. What is Kansas doing that other mile-and-a-halfs aren't doing? Is it just kind of luck of the draw, just a perfect track, or is it something other mile-and-a-half tracks can be doing?
DENNY HAMLIN: A lot of it has to do with how wide the racetrack is so you're able to get away from the wake of the car in front of you. Generally race cars don't like to be in the wake, so the narrower the track, the tougher the racing and the passing is going to be, and if you look at the times, there's about a second and a half of falloff at this track.
Like I said, when your car is good, you can still make up positions by taking a different line than someone else can. It's just a great match for it. It's got just enough grip to where you're hanging a lot of throttle so there's a little bit of the drafting going on down the straightaway early in a run, and then it's all about handling and maneuverability of your car late in a run. It's a perfect mix.
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