An Interview With: DENNY HAMLIN
THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota.
Denny, this is your fourth time here in a position to be the champion. You came in very confident, very self?assured. Is this the toughest of the four defeats because you came in so really ready?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don’t know. It’s tough to say. I feel like I did all I could, so probably not. I mean, I don’t think I could have done a better job. I don’t think I could have ?? I didn’t leave anything out there. So for the first half of the race we just weren’t fast enough, we weren’t handling very good, and all of a sudden it went nighttime and we took off, and suddenly I perked up and got a little more and was thinking that we’ve got a chance.
Then just didn’t work out. Definitely, like I said, last week, I was going to come in here and do the best I could and live with the result either way. I definitely feel like I couldn’t have done anything different. Certainly we got a little aggressive there, and it cost us, but I mean, he’s also been really aggressive and won us races, too. It’s just he’s going for it. He saw an opportunity there to really add some speed to the car, and it just didn’t work out.
Denny, knowing that you guys have been aggressive and obviously were tonight, is it a case where you would rather take the chance, be aggressive and miss out like this than not have taken the chance and run second or third maybe?
DENNY HAMLIN: No. We don’t know. I mean, you always would like to live to race another lap. Obviously if you have to come back down pit road, it’s pretty much over. But even ?? I think we had nailed ?? with the other two guys running long on their strategy, we were going to be second no matter what, and just a stone’s throw from the 18. So a caution could come out, we’ve got the No. 1 pit stall. We can beat them off pit lane. There’s always an opportunity until the checkered falls, anything can happen.
I don’t think it’s a do?or?die moment, but I think it was an opportunity that Chris saw to ?? we came one lap earlier, we wanted to catch everyone off guard there. We did it. I didn’t get to pit road clean because the 34 kind of was coming off pit road and I had to check up. It didn’t matter because we added too much tape anyway. But he just ?? he was going for it, and I don’t fault him for that because I’ve gotten really fast cars because he goes for it every single week.
In 2014 when M.J. was here, he was one of the first people to greet you. Do you expect Michael Jordan will have some things to say to you later? Is he hanging out with you? Are you still going to have a birthday celebration?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I told you at the beginning of the week we’re going to celebrate our year. Our year was fantastic in every way you can think of, and it just didn’t pan out in one race in our favor. You know, I don’t know about those guys. I talked to them briefly before the race, but I don’t know, I just ?? right now just got to gather all the thoughts and think about everything.
Kind of along those lines, I know you want to be the one celebrating, but as an organization, considering everything that happened in the off?season, the passing of J.D., you started the season winning the 500, you guys end the year as an organization winning the championship, could you have a better kind of statement as an organization, what you’ve all had to go through?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it’s ?? the 20 finished third, so ?? dang. Yeah, I mean, it’s just a great year. We won 19 races as an organization. That’s the most in this era. That’s a good thing. In the world where we just keep getting more common with everything, right, common pit guns, common this, common that, JGR continues to set itself apart, and that’s the people and the effort that they’re putting in. I think that it really says a lot about the organization, no doubt.
I’m excited about next year. I really am. It’s not like I’m going to go through the off?season upset or sad. It’s like, I’m looking forward to having the momentum that we took through this year with a first?year crew chief, and we’re going to win a lot, like a lot next year. I just think that we’ll have another opportunity. There’s no question.
Just your outlook going into next year off the heels of this compared to other times when you’ve come so close, does it feel different?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, they all feel different. They’re all different. They’re in a different time, they’re in different circumstances. They’re all so different. But certainly I’ve had my fair share of being responsible for not winning at times, but I was confident I did everything that I possibly could. I kept us in the game when we were not very good at the beginning of the race. We stayed in it, stayed in it, had a good restart, took the lead, and then just kind of hung with Kyle there and made a little mistake on that restart and gave the lead back to him.
But you know, they’re all different. I don’t know how it’s going to be. I just am really excited with the group that we have, what we can do next year and get another shot at it. It’s definitely not a do?or?die situation. It’s going to be okay, and we’re going to be strong, and I guarantee you it’s going to motivate Chris even more than what he already is.
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