DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
What did winning the Coke 600 mean to you and the experience you had honoring our fallen soldiers?
“It really is special for sure. I thanked Marcus (Smith) and his whole team for allowing me to go and experience it. It was a great experience and obviously, a very humbling experience to see the cemetery. It was an honor to see the changing of the guard there. Our sport does so much for the military, week-in and week-out. When we get to the Coke 600, the Department of the Defense thinks that this is their biggest event to honor their military. Certainly, very humbling for us to go out and put on a show for them.”
What is like for you to see cars that you own run not as well as you would expect?
“I think it is a little bit easier to assess when my team struggles because I know I have all the information on what our team is running and what we are doing, and so my first question is how far off the reservation are you guys when it comes to that. So, it is a little bit easier to assess when you have an alliance with a team like Joe Gibbs Racing that usually strong, week-in and week-out. It forces you to look in the mirror when you’re not performing, but if you do it on your own, there is a lot of questions and speculation about what could, or could not be wrong.”
Is there anything you can do with the radio to prevent what happened over Bubba Wallace’s radio last weekend?
“I know the team internally talked about it – about what they wanted to do to prevent it. We are working on stuff on our end to prevent it. I haven’t heard what the exact fix is for that.”
How did the strong runs for both 23XI Racing cars last weekend make you feel?
“It makes me feel good. It means our team is a high-level, elite team, and one that kind of carried the Toyota banner last week. It makes me feel good about it that they are taking the information and fitting it to their drivers, and the drivers are doing a good job. Bubba (Wallace), especially, in this past year has taken huge strides, and Tyler (Reddick) has been a proven winner. He has continued to work on his craft to get better as well. It really says a lot about that whole team, and what they have been doing on the competition side to get better, working on the small details that make a difference each week.”
Was there a fire at your parent’s house this week?
“A little attic fire, but everyone is okay. Just have some repairs to do.”
What does it mean to you have a fallen soldier on your car this weekend?
“Kevin (J. Smith) from Georgia was a victim in Baghdad back during the Iraqi Freedom Operation. I like listening to their parents or relatives to hear their story. You can read about them as much as you can, and you hear their stories through words on paper, but hearing from their relatives touches you in a bigger manner, especially for me. I will get to spend some time with his dad and stepmom this weekend and really understand his story and what he has done for our country and say thank you to them for making that sacrifice.”
When you pull the cars down pit road for the moment of silence, what is it for you as a driver?
“It’s definitely different. We’ve done moment of silences before for some stuff. It just seems like during that 600, we are all pumped full of adrenaline and then we are thinking about all of these things, but no matter how busy our minds are and what the crew chief is maybe thinking about, on which direction he needs to make the car better when we come down here and pit, everyone just stops. Myself personally, I stop everything. I stop my brain and sit there in silence and reflect. Hopefully, all the competitors, I’m sure, do as well. It is a moment where we need to stop the game for a moment and just say thank you.”
Are there any future plans to expand on Bubba Wallace’s documentary on Netflix?
“We would like to for sure. Obviously, that was really well put together. I’m proud for Bubba (Wallace) and the whole 23XI team, and the guys that helped put that whole deal together. They just did a phenomenal job with it. Certainly, I think it was a very good inside baseball type of thing where we get to educate fans beyond what you see with us going around in circles each and every weekend. It shows the work that goes on for the drivers and the teams do to make that show go on every weekend. I would love to see it expand and have another season or another version of it in NASCAR, we just have to keep working on it.”
Has anything internally changed with Bubba Wallace recently to allow him to seem more relaxed?
“I think the results, honestly. There was a turning point during the summer of last year where he started getting some really good runs and he started to believe in himself. I think he’s a guy that can definitely question his own abilities at times, but I think that he’s had enough sustained good runs that he now knows in his ability, and he knows when he puts in the work – he sees the results from it. I think this is the new Bubba Wallace that you are probably going to see as an upfront contender, week-in and week-out, more times than not.”