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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Irwin Tools Night Race

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Irwin Tools Night Race

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Irwin Tools Night Race

J.D. Gibbs
Darian Grubb
Denny Hamlin
August 25, 2012


THE MODERATOR:  Talk about a big win for the Job Gibbs organization.
J.D. GIBBS:  It is.  They are all big wins and you think after doing this all these years you would not be as stressed as you are until that last lap, you breathe that sigh of relief and what's encouraging is I think to finish the way we did with Denny was special.  A bunch of the FedEx executives were here, which was real neat, and so that was really special for them as well.

Q.  Denny, was talking about the new style of racing, and the move you made, the winning move, it looks like Carl ran you from behind you and kept it going, talk about that move and just what that style of racing was like, the intensity out there?
DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, I mean, it was interesting.  It was a different type of racing, for sure.  You had to be very aware of what was behind you before you even attempted to pass the guy in front of you.
That was the biggest thing that I noticed is that you had to have at least two‑car length gap behind you before you could actually work a guy to the low side, because if you got pinned down there for a couple laps, the guy behind you would fill the hole every time and you would end up going backwards, so it was a constant just freight train up high of cars, and really we were one of the only cars that could really make ground on the bottom.  So the best car run tonight, no doubt about it.  I felt like we were the only car that could really pass like we could, and at any given point it was tough to get around no matter who was in front of you, simply because of the high line was just typically the place you wanted to be.  A lot of reason for that is when they grind the surface what that did is make it a little bit more abrasive.  Well, the abrasiveness was filled in by rubber and then it made it have more grip than the actual surface itself.  Even though the banking was cut out, the grip level superseded the amount of banking that was taken out.

Q.  For all of you guys, but at any point were you thinking about Chase implications here because now during the race, now you've got the three wins and you're one of four drivers with three wins; how big is that, and was that going through your minds at any point during the race?
DENNY HAMLIN:  Well, for me, it was going to be a tough‑‑ you know, if we were really going to have to battle someone at the end, if the five had not had problems, I may have been a little bit more cautious, because I want those six‑‑ before we won, I wanted those six points to count.  We saw how much one point mattered in the Chase last year.  So we didn't want to fall outside the Top‑10, and for another reason it hurts our teammate if we fall outside the Top‑10, and, say, Carl gets in, that puts the 18 or 20 guys in a tough spot.  So our best option for our race team and to get more cars in was to win, if the 18 or 20 couldn't.  I was going to race for the win, especially down at the end with 50 to go.  Any time you can smell a lead, you're going to do everything you can to win and you're not thinking about points at any point at the end of the race when you're running second.
So the only thing that would have been tricky is obviously if we would have gotten in trouble and the 99 won the race, that could have put us in a bad spot.
DARIAN GRUBB:  The first time I thought about the points situation was we were puking water out of it, we knew we lost a lot of water at that point, so then it's just a matter of managing it and make sure we don't lose the engine in the car.
And the TRD guys did a great job, that motor is going to be soft before it goes back and made it to the end, probably didn't have any water in the end after the burnout.
But you start thinking about those situations at that point, of what you can lose, but then Denny did a great job managing it after that, and never really got that hot again.  So we were very glad to be able to finish the race.

Q.  With three wins, you're in the Top‑10 but mathematically you're not quite there yet, is that kind of strange a little bit?
DENNY HAMLIN:  Yeah, there's two races left.  I think the only reason I'm not‑‑ I think I'm not is because of the 14.  If he were to fall out, he would take a spot.  And then if the five won a race that, would be 3 wins and if he's still out‑‑ so somehow, some way, we could not make it.  But I don't think that's going to be the case.
NASCAR knows what is a clinching spot and what's not.  But like I say, you finish dead last the next two races and those guys, somehow, get shuffled, then you can have something go wrong.  But we feel pretty good about where we're at.

Q.  Denny, from your perspective, is the old Bristol back, the old like gladiator magic?
DENNY HAMLIN:  It's tough to say.  Honestly.  It's just a different kind of racing.  There's nothing he's going to do that's going to make us run the bottom, that's not the fastest way around the track.  But it was the same thing; we were all running in the line, and just waiting on the next guy to screw up to get around.
So that's what you've got to do at the old Bristol and that's exactly what we had to race today.  You couldn't just‑‑ the slide job was an option to pass, which, you know, that's won us the race.
But I think it is‑‑ I mean, I don't think that we saw as much side‑by‑side racing but you didn't seaside by side racing with the old Bristol.  You saw a bunch of cars waiting in line to get knocked out of the way or mess up, and that's the same thing we had today.

Q.  I might be dreaming, but did you guys have an issue early on in the race where you were concerned about your car making it to the end?
DENNY HAMLIN:  This is the most‑‑

Q.  Wasn't there something‑‑
DENNY HAMLIN:  We had no water in the car.  We were 300 degrees early on in the race and all of the games pegged, shooting water out like it's a Super Speedway race and evident dependently we had an electrical fan, our radio fan go bad, and so we spewed most of our water out, and we hit the wall pretty good.  We hit, landed on pit road and I told Darian, the more stuff we hit, the faster it went.  (Laughter).
As soon as you think that it's over, it's like, damn, we hit something.  Oh, man, this thing's awesome.  (Laughter) this is great.

Q.  You mentioned the rubber filling up the top groove.  Kind of at the point that that happened, did you realize it was going to be okay to run up there?
DENNY HAMLIN:  I never tested it.  I just followed the car in front of me basically.  I wore a lot of guys left rear corners out of their race car, just keeping my car‑‑ there's some guys that really tested it and got close to the wall, but I always felt like my car was better about one lane down, right sides, right there on the edge of that new surface.
But we knew‑‑ I knew watching the Nationwide race yesterday, I went up in one of the suites and watched it.  You saw that that was the groove.  That was where the fast cars were going to run.  But, we made 90 percent of our passes on the inside, so even though it was a high line racetrack, look at all of our passes.  We made some serious ground on the bottom and that's what won it for us.  We passed two or three cars on the bottom, once everyone would get bottled up on top.  So you had to have a car that was good enough to run both grooves and you couldn't count on running up top and count on everyone to fall out in front of you.

Q.  What makes this bigger than your two wins at Richmond, knowing that's your home track?
DENNY HAMLIN:  They are very, very close.  But it's just you're in front of a bigger crowd.  The night race at Bristol, it's just you talk to a casual race fan and you talk to anyone that doesn't know a whole lot about NASCAR and they will always ask you, if I want to go see a race where should I go, and everyone says, the Bristol night race.  It's where the most eyes are on us.
It's the most exciting racetrack that we have on our circuit far as competition is concerned, and you know, just this is one of the races that me and my dad and my mom used to just love watching.
This is one that we could not wait to get home Saturday night to see this race, and so that's what makes it so special for me is watching this race for so many times.

Q.  This is your first Top‑10 since Indianapolis and even Brickyard was probably demoralizing because you started on pole and had the winning car and ended up sixth.  After the mini‑slump you've been in lately, now you're tied with the other three guys as the potential No.1 seed for the Chase; just seems like this win on a lot of levels is a big lift for you guys.
DARIAN GRUBB:  Every week we felt like we had a good, car, but circumstances took us out of that, or engine failure, mechanical failure or something like that going on in the background.  We had fast race cars and we are doing the work that it takes to stay up front each week and once you do that, you had the possibility to win.  Guys have been doing really a great job behind us in the background with TRD and Joe Gibbs engineering support and doing a great job making sure we don't have those issues again.  Hopefully we can keep staying up front and running stop ten.
DENNY HAMLIN:  It is for me, too.  I look just last week and you look‑‑ if looks like we have two wins and it's like, gosh, it feels like we should have way more wins than that as competitive as we were and you look at New Hampshire, had a dominating car there.  But talking with some of the crew guys and even Darian, as long as we don't have a failure or we don't get in a wreck, we can win anywhere we go.  And that's something that we have not had since 2010, you know, being able to win at every different track at any type of course.
So you know it's a good feeling to know that you can go to a racetrack and win any given week and that gives you a lot of confidence.  For me even though it shows three wins, I feel like we've got five or six.

Q.  When might we expect any announcements on personnel matters?
J.D. GIBBS:  I'm not sure what you're referring to‑‑ just kidding.  (Laughter).
No, our hope was really with Joey, we would continue with him.  I think he's looking alternate some other possibilities, some other options, and we would love to keep him in our fold.  But we are still not at the point where we can announce anything.  But I would say within the next few weeks we'll have a pretty good plan.

Q.  Darian, you're the Sprint Cup Championship crew chief, do you get the feel from this team, you guys were obviously building towards something, so when you hit the Chase, you're pumping on all eight cylinders, so do you get the feel now from this team that you are starting to crest and reach that peak right at the right time?
DARIAN GRUBB:  I really think so.  You don't want to count your eggs before you put them in the basket type thing, but it's a lot of hard work, all the way since December when I came in, I've been learning every day, the engineering staff and the mechanics, they teach me lessons and I teach them lessons; and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel on the things we have been working on and you know we are getting stronger as we do it.
So just knowing that that work each week means faster race cars and Denny's confidence gets better each week when we bring more of those things to the racetrack, that tells you that you're going to have a chance to win it, and even after we won the race there at Phoenix, we thought, man, we are going to be pretty stout.
And since then we have been making things better and making the cars better and his feedback has been getting better and better about what we are doing, so hopefully we can take all those things and just keep getting better and not slow down.

Q.  Can you put ten races together in the changes and have you asked Darian about any secrets that he had from last year on how to do that?
DENNY HAMLIN:  I reckon we can.  You always see every year, there's inconsistencies all the time.  With our points system, not that you don't‑‑ not that you take the regular season for granted, but when you have a couple wins like we had early on, we were racing for wins.  Anything else, you kind of just take in stride and say, you know, what do we need to work on; this weekend, Darian and the engineer said, I need to you just believe whatever we've got in the car right from the get go, let's just make it work.
And so there's been two tracks where they have just come up with a set up and said, this is what we are going to try to make work and that was New Hampshire and here, and the two have just‑‑ those were our two best races that we completed all year long.
So I believe that we can.  You see the Chase guys drive differently when those last ten races come up.  I think I did a good job in 2010 of working the Chase in the sense of knowing where I needed to finish at each track to have a shot to win at Homestead.  But it's the X‑factors.  If you have failures, or you have wrecks, it's going to throw a kink in everything.
So reliability is No.1 on our goal.  The 40 points that you lose by having something go wrong, a crash or something like that, it's hard to make up the performance to make up that 40 points just based on having fast cars from that point on.  I think we can make ten races together.  I think that the Chase, other than Dover‑‑ I'm so bad there, I hate that track.  (Laughter) Bruton should work on that one.
Other than Dover, I feel that I can win at any racetrack that we go to.

Q.  This is the 200th win for the number 11 car in this series, wondering if you can talk about a car that so many greats have driven; what it means to contribute to that milestone?
DENNY HAMLIN:  You know, we have been thinking about it for a long time.  It's big because it's my 20th, 200th for the car, and you look at the names, Ned, Jarrett and those guys that have driven number 11, I'm just a spec on that stat sheet of wins for this number.  But you know, hopefully by the time I'm done years down the road, whoever takes the 11 after that will try to live up to what we accomplished.
Who knows where it ends, but this is a number that it's been big in NASCAR history.  It's been connected to a lot of championships, and so I know it's big for the owner over here.  It was his number throughout his awesome racing career (Laughter).
It's big for the Gibbs family.  It's big for me.  It was my number when I grew up.  When I grew up, my very first race car when I was 16 years old was a purple and white number 11, so I'm driving it today.

Q.  What is your biggest‑‑ in the Chase, is it other competitors?
DENNY HAMLIN:  It's tough to not always keep an eye on the competition but as long as we focus on just getting me the best cars possible and working with that, then we are going to be fine.  You almost have got to keep the blinders on once the Chase starts, because you've got what you've got.  You know, all these teams plan the Chase a year in advance.  I know our team does in specific.  You know, you just‑‑ you don't battle with yourself but you know there the racing is going to be different these next two weeks it's obviously going to be about nothing but winning for us, if we are going to try new set ups and things like that, I'm all for it, because right now, we need as many bonus points as possible, because we see how tight this field is, and I'm looking at the Chase field saying that, gosh, there is‑‑ every single one of them can make a run and win this championship, so it's going to be about who manages the Chase the best and I think that we have a great shot at that.
KERRY THARP:  Congratulations to the number 11 FedEx ground Toyota team.

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