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January 28, 2019

Chris Gabehart

Denny Hamlin

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today in advance of the start of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. We're now joined by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart for the No.11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The 2016 Daytona 500 champion will embark on the 2019 season with a new full‑time crew chief and a brand new look.
Denny and Chris, thanks for spending some time with us this afternoon. I'll pose a question to each of you. Denny, you just unveiled your new paint scheme for the 2019 season. Tell us a little bit about what your car will look like when it debuts in Daytona.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, well, you can check it out on my Facebook or Instagram page. We just posted it, but it's kind of the return of the white branding for FedEx on the race car. We haven't had that since the inaugural season in 2005 on a full‑term basis, so I'm very excited about it. It's something that ‑‑ a paint scheme that I was involved in a little bit more. I like the cleaner lines of it, and white race cars with proper lines always look really, really good.
Excited about that, and really just the whole rebranding of our car this year, suit and everything. It's a new year, fresh year, and kind of ready to get going these next two weeks.
THE MODERATOR: Chris, can you talk to us a little bit about making the jump from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series and your expectations for 2019.
CHRIS GABEHART: Yeah, I'm excited to get over here. That was definitely my goal, trying to move up through the ranks, when I proved to the company and such that I was ready to do so and an opportunity like this with Joe Gibbs Racing has all the equipment you could ever need to perform, and FedEx I think is one of the very best if not the best sponsors in the sport, and then of course Denny with all the capabilities he has‑‑
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm the best, of course.
CHRIS GABEHART: The best, of course, without question. I was getting to that. I just couldn't be more excited. I think the opportunities are endless, and I look forward to proving that this year.

Q. This question is for both of you. As far as I know, you both will be participating in a test later this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but without giving away any secrets, what are some basic things you both will be looking for during that test while on the sideline?
DENNY HAMLIN: I know for me personally, it's all about kind of driver data, seeing how my teammates are driving this new package, the things that they're going to get speed out of it. That's kind of the gist of what I got. I think Chris will have a lot bigger scope of things that he happens to look at other than just the driver aspect. He's going to have more data to look over than certainly I will.
CHRIS GABEHART: Yeah, I think Denny hit it, like he's been doing this for a long time. Yeah, with this year's rules package, it's really exciting because there's just so many different ways to attack it, and it's really going to depend on the weekend and the track. I think you're going to see a lot of people, especially early on, trying to figure this out, and that's going to change from racetrack to racetrack, which is going to create good racing and I think a lot of comers and goers week to week.

Q. Denny, obviously not the season that you wanted in 2018, but how have you used that as motivation for the upcoming season?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, certainly it's not up to the expectations of what I believe we're capable of, but sometimes in sports you just have those seasons where things don't go right or you just don't get the job done at the level you expect to, and you've got to reset and refocus from that. I think this year with there being so many different changes within the cars themselves, it's going to be pretty much a reset for everyone. That allows us to get back to square one. I'm working with a new crew chief who's coming from the Xfinity side, so it's kind of‑‑ he's got more of a square plate to kind of work from now. He doesn't have to look at too many old notes because of the drastic change in the cars, so it allows us all to just come in here like a new race team, like a lot of our team will be this year, and come in there refocused and get ready to hopefully win the first race of the season.

Q. I had a meeting this weekend, talked to people off the record and stuff like that, and one competition director was told by his driver he desperately wanted Chris Gabehart as his crew chief. I know, Denny, it was kind of a hard thing to take, but how have you found him to be, and do you feel like he would be pretty sought after in the garage?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, to be honest with you, they gave me a list of probably three or four guys when they said that we wanted to make a change for next year, and Chris is the obvious one that stuck out to me, even over some that had already accomplished a lot in the Cup Series, just because of his fire. I believe‑‑ he's sitting here beside me, but I believe he feels like he has a lot to prove, so you've got to have that mentality to be out there to get everything you can. Obviously I know through talking to him, he's laser focused on what it takes‑‑ it's going to take for us to be successful this year.
That, and I knew that we had had chemistry before. I knew that we had had in‑race communications and practices before that worked well and were successful, so it was a very easy simple decision for me, and Wheels still remains a great friend of mine and always will be, and the good news is for us he's kind of still working under the same umbrella. So there will still be some communication there, which is great, but obviously sometimes you've just got to mix things up to kind of get the chemistry all where it needs to be, and certainly I'm excited about where we're heading.

Q. Denny, you mentioned fiery and that's a good description because he may push you‑‑ not that you needed to be pushed, but some of the drivers kind of on the edge there. Will that help you? Do you think there will be moments he'll push you even harder?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I think there's certainly a fine line of that for sure, but certainly I like to be‑‑ I like to understand where I can be better. I certainly will go to work on anything that I need to do to do better, but sometimes need to be shown that direction. I think Chris does a great job of analyzing that and lets me then go to work on how I can be a better race car driver, and certainly the last thing he needs to worry about when he's preparing a race car is, oh, I need to make sure that I have it running this way because that's the way Denny likes it even though it's not the fastest way. My job is to adapt to the fastest way, and so that's what I'll be doing all year, and hopefully it equals success.

Q. Daytona is coming up soon, and that means you guys are going to be racing in the Clash. How important is that race going to be just to get one race under your belt chemistry‑wise for both of you?
CHRIS GABEHART: Well, Denny is letting me answer first on this one. It'll be great, obviously, to get‑‑ a lot of the behind the scenes stuff worked out that maybe even won't show up for the race on Sunday. It's a lot about just working with a new team, working with your driver, working out the bugs of all the off‑season improvements and that kind of stuff, and then of course so many new team members, not just myself, but it really is a nice way to‑‑ I don't want to say no pressure because you want to win every race, but it's a nice way to roll out the new year and kind of shake the bugs out and get ready for the 500 where they start keeping score.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time today, Denny and Chris. The Daytona 500 takes place on Sunday, February 17, at 2:30 p.m. eastern time on FOX, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR radio.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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