NASCAR Media Conference
September 10, 2007
DENISE MALOOF: We are joined here at our lunch break at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series test at Talladega Super Speedway by Denny Hamlin, who is one of our Chase for the cup NASCAR Nextel Cup participants. Denny, what kind of morning did you have out there?
DENNY HAMLIN: Our morning was relatively uneventful. We went out there to go right off the bat, and we were bottoming out, really throwing a lot of sparks out. So we kind of aborted our very first run. And that's basically all we were going to do here today was to assess what kind of ride height we were going to have in the car during running here.
So we had to raise the car up a little bit. We ground off most of the bottom side of the car. So we went back out there and ran, and our lap time looked very competitive amongst everyone else
DENISE MALOOF: In a few days we'll go to Newâ Hampshire International Speedway and kickoff the '07 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. What is your outlook heading to Newâ Hampshire?
DENNY HAMLIN: Really I'm looking forward to Newâ Hampshire. It's where we won the spring. Typically, by the stats, it's probably my best racetrack. So yeah, I'm really excited about going there and taking the same car we won with.
So I feel very confident in what we have. And I think with a few minor adjustments, we should be pretty tough there.
DENISE MALOOF: Sounds good. We're going to take questions for Denny. We're going to take care of the media group here in the media center at Talladega Super Speedway first, then go to the phone lines.
Q. This race is always considered a wildcard among the ten chase races. Is it being a Car of Tomorrow race going to make it any more or any less?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think it's tough to say how the drivers are really going to take it. But I think the way the cars are set up and the big hole they punch in the air, it should be way wilder than anything we've ever seen here.
I'd say it's going to be a lot like the truck races where, you know, they talk about how big the closing rate is. I really don't see that the car's going to be pulled apart very much. We'll see when we get in action this afternoon.
But I think these cars are going to punch such a big hole in the air, really we'll be stuck together like glue, and if one guy makes a mistake, it could be a big one. So you're going to have to weigh out your options if you're running for points where do you want to run? Do you want to put yourself up at risk and run up in the front or be hanging around the back to the end.
DENISE MALOOF: Other questions for Denny. Go ahead.
Q. Denny, we've heard a lot about the feel of Car of Tomorrow versus the old car. This is the first time you've had Car of Tomorrow on the Super Speedway. How does the feel of the Car of Tomorrow here at Talladega Super Speedway compare to the old car?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I really didn't notice that much difference. Not really as much as what I thought. Of course you feel a lot of wind buffering in this car versus the other car, just with the huge hole that it punches in the air. Really other than that, the way it actually steers and everything is not that much different.
We have a little more steering wheel angle in this car than what we had in the previous car. Because the other car we just fine tuned it to drive itself around the racetrack. So, really, it's not a whole lot of difference from the driver's seat.
Q. If y'all didn't get to drive this morning, I may be asking you for conjecture here. But in addition to the closing rate, do you have any idea yet of whether this is enough to bring back sort of NASCAR's dream of bringing back the old sling-shot pass? Do you think not only will you all be able to close, but will you be able to pass people with some sort of wild regularity?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think you're going to have that. The only issue that I think we're going to have with having kind of that old sling-shot pass is, you know, we're running so many RPM's right now even by ourselves. You know, most of these motors are making max power probably between 75 and 8000 RPM. By ourselves we're running close to 8400. So we know that we're going to be upwards of 9 grand, probably, in the draft.
What that does is it takes away a lot of throttle response. So you're not going to be able to just lift off the gas and get back on it and really have that extra power, because you're already so far past your power band.
The problem with that is we're stuck to this gear, so we can't go down in gear to kind of compensate for it. But if they did go down in gear, it would just make the speed so ridiculously fast that they'd have to slow them down some other kind of way.
So really we're kind of stuck with what we have. But I still think you're going to have a lot of passing.
Q. With the new car making up about half of the Chase this year, how much of it do you think it's going to play a factor into the role? Or do you think the guys that are in the Chase have the wherewithal and the knowledge of the new car with how you guys have run it at all this year, to just be like any other normal race with the old car?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, I'm not sure whether you're talking about this race in particular. But I think, you know, for the most part the guys that are in the Chase are the ones that have been so strong with the Car of Tomorrow.
I don't think it's going to play any factor of, you know, the guys at Hendrick or the guys at Gibbs have relatively been the stronger cars in the Car of Tomorrow races, and there are a few other teams coming on strong.
I think all of that's going to be wiped clean. I think you can have the absolute slowest car and qualify here this weekend or when we come back to racing. I think you'll be able to sling-shot yourself right into the lead with no problem.
So really, I mean, there's not a whole lot of speed that you're going to try to find out here today and tomorrow to make your car better, because ultimately a guy with the worst car will be able to win.
Q. Denny, just trying to clarify on getting the car to turn. Are you saying that basically even with the huge, sweeping turns at Talladega, you've got the same issues getting the car to turn as you would at a tight-turn short track?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, you definitely don't have those issues. That's why I think, you know, the stronger Car of Tomorrow program were the guys that made their cars turn. Hendrick and Gibbs were the first ones to really get their cars good, I think. Now with set-up being kind of out of the issue where, you know, the biggest problem with these cars were that they didn't turn well.
Well, now that equation's taken out, you're allowing the whole field to catch back up as far as when we come here to Talladega. And with a huge hole in the air, it's just going to make everyone in a tight pack. I mean, really I don't see anyone really being off the pace here when it comes to race.
Q. A lot is said about home field advantage in sports. Do you think racing this weekend like at Richmond near your home, does that give you an extra boost for the next race or two?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to Richmond. But you know, really, it's so week to week in this sport. You can be on top one week and on the bottom the next.
But really you try to carry as much momentum as you can. But really we knew that coming here to test today you would totally forget about Richmond, and Richmond seems like it was a week ago. So really there's no real momentum that we can carry for the next couple of weeks.
Q. They're talking about making a change to the wicker when you guys go back out. What exactly are they talking about? And do you know what they're hoping to accomplish with that?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, I'm not sure what they were going to do. If I think anything, they're not going to speed the cars up, because I think the speed's already relatively fast.
So what I'm thinking they're going to probably do is I think we have a one inch wicker on the back now, I think they're probably going to go to somewhere around an inch and an eighth, inch and a quarter to slow them down.
We're able to change our wing angle, I think, from 14 or 15â to 10 here. So we're laying it back, but yet we're using a bigger wicker.
So they're probably going to use that bigger wicker to slow the cars down. However, that's just going to punch a bigger hole in the air for the guy behind. So you're definitely going to have, if they do that, you're going to have more of a closing rate than what did you before.
Q. The season is so long, but with the Chase now beginning, does it kind of give you a little rejuvenation to the long schedule?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, all it does is it kind of forces us to reach down and, you know, dig down deep for the last ten. Because we've kind of been in somewhat cruise mode the last eight weeks or so, feeling like we were in a comfortable spot in points.
So really now we've got to get back to points racing, basically. Get back to reality and try to get good finishes, instead of just going all out for wins.
But as far as the grind in the schedule, it hits you every week. This week in particular, the guys that made the Chase have not one day off this week. We'll all have to go straight from here to New York, to then Loudon, so it's tough.
But, you know, this is what we'd rather be in our situation than people not being invited to New York this week. So really you got to just suck it up. We know that the end is in sight, we've just got to dig down deep to get it.
Q. Based on practices this morning, what kind of race do you think the fans will expect to see when we come back in October?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think you're going to see a very similar race to what the truck races are. And you know, everyone would argue that the truck races are probably the best Super Speedway races, simply because guys can just really pull out and pass at will.
So you're not going to haveâ -- you know, it's tough for me to say premature lie, but I think you're not going to have as big a deal with side drafting as what you did in the old car. Because basically that side drafting would just push air on the guy's spoiler beside you. I just don't think you're going to have that as much now as the wings are lifted up off the trunk.
I think you'll have more front to back drafting as you would side drafting, which is a lot like the trucks. However, the trucks have a lot of side drafting because their wing is right there on the back tailgate.
So really, it's tough to say until we get out there what we're going to have. But I think it's going to be pretty exciting.
DENISE MALOOF: Denny, thank you so much for joining us.
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