NASCAR Media Conference
Sunday, November 7, 2021
An Interview with:
DENNY HAMLIN: Obviously there’s disappointment, but there’s just nothing — again, there’s nothing else I felt like I could have done differently.
You mentioned the pit stall, the whole narrative all week was no reason to focus too much on qualifying because the top 4 guys are going to get top 4 pit selections. But Kyle Larson gets that first pit stall because he qualifies first. Is there any regret that maybe you should have focused on it more?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really, because I don’t think we would have qualified as fast as he did anyway. Those cars were just superior to ours for the second half of the year in every aspect on the short run. So I don’t know if we would have qualified any different.
This is the third straight time you’re here, fourth appearance overall. How do you get past it and not think, am I going to keep getting shots at this without winning the title?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, you think about it, and I think about it, that this is a great opportunity. This is the last generation of this car that I took a very good liking to over the last three years. We don’t know what the Next-Gen car brings. We don’t know will our team be as good. Like there’s just many, many question marks that happens after this.
That’s why we really put so much emphasis on let’s try to win this, win this this year. But honestly, there’s just nothing else I could have done. There’s nothing else. I drove as hard as I could every lap. I didn’t have the speed for the first 20. It was evident in a lot of the restarts we had. It was actually overachieved in quite a few. But that was it.
I have to live with the result because I can’t change it. Disappointed, absolutely, for sure. But I knew kind of going into today I was going to need the race to go a certain way. If it goes the way it did last year, it goes green out, we’re probably winning.
But it didn’t. We knew that our percentage was low, and that was the case. Many of these races come down to green-white checkers or shootouts at the end, and that just wasn’t our strength and hasn’t been ever.
You kind of answered this actually in your last answer, but how many more laps or at the end of that race did you feel like you needed to catch up to them? Did you think you were going to if it was just longer?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, with every lap we just kept reeling the 19 and 5 in. I had to get back around the 9. Once we did that, we just started making hay towards the front. Track position just means so much. It doesn’t matter, big spoiler, small spoiler. These cars just put off such a big wake. We don’t have the horsepower we used to be. 750 is probably down 150 from where we used to be. So track position, no matter what racetrack, is just a big, big deal.
You kind of know like when someone gets a restart and controls the race late, it’s so hard. You’re going to need them to really make a huge mistake.
My crew chief kept telling me how bad the 5 car was handling. You could see he was just plowing, but the clean air made up for any deficiencies in that setup.
You talked about having the race needing to go a certain way. When the caution came out right after Martin had made their green flag pit stop, from that point where they stayed out and took the lead and you I think came off first on pit road —
DENNY HAMLIN: Third.
That seemed to change your fortune for a good while in the race. Was that the kind of situation you were looking for, or was that just —
DENNY HAMLIN: That was actually bad fortune because we were going to come out first, but those guys were on pit road when the caution came so they got to cycle to the lead with no laps on their tires, so it actually put us further back than what we were.
We had just run down, were passed — I can’t remember, we were right on the bumper of whoever was leading, the 9 I think it was. So we were about to pit. We both entered Turn 3, and the caution came out.
It just kind of flipped the top 4 guys around.
— NASCAR —