Toyota Racing – NCS Phoenix Quotes – Denny Hamlin – 03.09.24

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin made available to the media after winning the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday. Hamlin’s pole is the 150th for Toyota in the NASCAR Cup Series.

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Brakes Plus Toyota Camry XSE, Joe Gibbs Racing

Do you perceive this weekend as a potential preview to what we will see in November?

“Normally, I would say yes, and there will always be correlations to who runs well in the spring and who runs well in the fall, but everyone is dealing with a new tire and new aerodynamic package that all of you have well documented. I think it will take time for some to adapt to it, and so while you may see some who – like the 11 car, who maybe found something that really works with it, hopefully we can carry that into the fall so we are not so far behind, others will eventually catch up to it. I think the answer is yes and no. It would be easy to overreact, but I think since we had those two big variables, things will change in the next several months.”

Is it important to start in the front with the difficulty to pass here?

“I saw some of the driver’s comments and I understand everyone’s frustrations and what not, but I certainly believe data doesn’t lie. It is better, while it is a very, very small amount, it certainly is better. The tire I think is the biggest gain over what we’ve had over the weekend. Having a tire that is faster on the short run, falls off more on the long run, so hats off to Goodyear for bringing a better tire to the race track. It needs to continue to evolve as they see what happens tomorrow, keep evolving it. Keep pushing it, keep pushing the limits of the tire. I think overall, the weekend is going to be good. Being up front is good. Kind of the position where my pit crew ended up being last week, with being one of the best on pit road, now you give them the number one stall, it could shape up to be a good night for sure.”

Was not cutting the dogleg give you a better angle off turn one to win the pole?

“I was kind of 50-50 on it, because I didn’t cut it during the first round, and consistently saw that I was about half a car length behind entering turn one, but my angle was better, so that was a very indecisive decision. Well, okay, I won’t go all the way, I won’t stay where I was, so it kind of looked like I netted out in a good position, where I was able to cut a little bit, but I was able to keep my angle turning into turn one. Right as I’m leaving pit road to go on the lap, I’m thinking about will I or will I not do it. I think a lot of it depends on how I got up to speed off of turn four, and since I got a good run off of four, I decided to just barely cut it, slightly.”

Do you think you have a winning car?

“Most practices over the last two or three years, we’ve been three tenths off in practice and we end up racing between fifth and 10th, so for yesterday to only be a tenth off, it shows me that we shouldn’t be a fifth-to-10th place car tomorrow, we should be better than that. There are certainly cars better than us but give my team some time to think about it overnight. We have some dialogue about things and how we are going to adjust. We certainly have the capability of getting there – to be the best.”

How important is it to get the pole at a place like Phoenix?

“I think this track is one of the biggest advantages to having the number one pit stall. They have kind of the cameras at pit out, so close to the number one pit stall, so that it’s such an overwhelming advantage for those guys. More than likely we will have somebody pretty competitive choose right behind us, because rolling it, it looks like those guys were all really fast. I think a lot has to do with pit selection, so even though this pit road has plenty of room to move the camera back, it’s always been right there right at the number one stall. We’ve seen championships won that way. It’s great for our team to not be at a disadvantage when it comes down to us racing someone for the win. If it comes down to pit road, we are certainly not at a disadvantage, we are at an advantage for once.”

What it look like, from the owner’s seat, to add horsepower back to the cars?

“You just call up Doug Yates and TRD and say we are going to go back to our old 750 plate – it can be before next weekend, and they said it wouldn’t change any of our durability we have. It can be done with one phone call with no additional money.

Would you advocate for more horsepower?

“Absolutely. I think any horsepower I think you can add will make the racing better. It is hard to pass because we are all in the gas so much. You have to get us out of the gas whether through the tire or the horsepower. That combination is what makes passing so difficult. The more you can get us out of the gas, which means if we have more horsepower, we have to let off sooner, that gives us the opportunity to overtake for the cars behind. 50 horsepower, while it may not be a game changer, any horsepower gain will be an advantage for passing.”

How do you defend the dogleg tomorrow?

“One of the things – it will be a factor because you don’t want people to gain position on you. If they want to be aggressive going down there, they can. With the simple diffuser that is on the back of the car, it won’t tear up as much stuff going down there, so you will probably have to do more defending, where with the old underbody, you had to kind of be careful not to wear the bottom of your car out by going down there quite a bit, so I think you will see more and more guys going down there.”

What do you remember about winning your first pole here in 2005?

“I was in way over my head in 2005 when they put me in the FedEx car, and I was just trying to do the best I can, but luckily this race track kind of fit my style. It really did. The easy on entry, really hard on exit type of style of driving. The old Phoenix really rewarded that quite a bit. It gave me the opportunity to then get a start in the Shootout in 2006 that I won. It really was a crucial moment all together and certainly the first pole for the 11 car for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), so it was crucial for me. I had no idea what I was doing. We didn’t have all of the information that we have nowadays, where you can kind of see what you are doing is good or bad, you just had to look at the stopwatch, and you just kind of wonder if guys are a tenth faster or a tenth slower. You just had to go figure it out yourself. I was soaking it all in trying to figure it out, but back then, that is when Tony Stewart was just killing everybody on the short tracks. I was beneficiary of some of the setups that he had.”

Is there anything more you feel like you can do to get NASCAR to make a change with a horsepower?

“We don’t need to prove it. I’ve been in the sport for 20 years now. I’ve been a part of all of these tests where we’ve squeezed it down, squeezed it down and every time we’ve squeezed it down, we would go in the building during the tests and say, that’s harder to pass – every time we’ve done that. I don’t understand – there is obviously other reasons. They are trying to get other manufacturers in here and do this or do that. There is a bigger picture that I won’t understand, you won’t understand. No one will ever understand, but we don’t need to sacrifice our actual product for trying to entice someone new. I think if you put on good racing people will want to come, no matter what. We are going to continue to beat this horse until it finally gets some movement, but I don’t know if it will happen just because for reasons that we will never understand and will never get explained.”

Toyota Racing PR