NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 4, 2021
An Interview with:
Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: No.
Q. Any plans for this weekend, like a distraction schedule or any plans for --
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really, I don't. It's kind of business as usual.
Q. Business as usual typically means a little bit of work...
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, over the last handful of years, for sure. When we've had an opportunity to win, just try to stay as loose as I can, have fun.
I'm not going to change what I do or who I am. I'm just going to have fun, enjoy it, go out there and win it.
Q. Statistically you have the fastest car on 750 tracks so far this year. Does that give you a lot of confidence going in?
DENNY HAMLIN: Certainly more than last year, for sure. We were obviously not in the same ballpark last year. But this year, certainly feel very, very confident considering our short track performance on those types of tracks.
Q. Wally said earlier this week JGR feels like the underdog. Do you agree with that?
DENNY HAMLIN: We haven't won as many races as they have. The championship is decided on this racetrack, not any of the others.
Q. Do you feel like it's a JGR versus HMS kind of deal?
DENNY HAMLIN: It certainly is. I'm not sure that anyone's really going to be working as teammates, I guess. But, yeah, it certainly is two of the most successful organizations of the season with two representatives.
Certainly it's going to be a battle amongst who can bring a fast race car.
Q. How can your teammates that aren't in the championship hunt, only so much they can do in terms of helping you guys? Where do you lean on them, or can you?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, a lot of times, the guys that are in the Final 4 and your teammates are not fast enough to help you that match. Short of like restarts, lane choosing, stuff like that, there's not much you can do.
Q. What is the difference between you?
DENNY HAMLIN: I have a huge amount of respect for all of them. I think they've all accomplished a lot in their careers. They've all had their own special - what's the word I'm looking for - their own special techniques and specialties that they're really, really good at. They all bring an equally big challenge for any team that thinks they're going to go out there and just beat them.
Q. How would you handicap the other three?
DENNY HAMLIN: They're all going to be fast. The HMS guys, pit crews have been really, really fast this year. JGR has been really good on the shorter tracks. It all kind of weighs out to however the race plays out.
I think that's going to be the bigger factor in what decides it. Is this going to come down to a green-white-checkered finish or a long run at the end?
Q. Do you think at the end of the day practice and qualifying will end up playing a role in the race?
DENNY HAMLIN: Maybe a little bit. But these teams are so dialed. I honestly believe that no practice and qualifying is better for us. I think our process works, and it works really well. We usually hit the balance pretty close right off the truck.
I think our goals and practice in particular is just making sure we've checked out all the other things that we need to make sure we've got in line for the race.
I don't know that it's going to be necessarily we're going to wholesale our car or panic based off of times. We know we're going to do the best job we can, dial the car in, go race what we brought.
You're not going to change that much, in my opinion, in practice.
Q. Last week you said you feel like it might be a disservice if anybody other than you or Larson won this year.
DENNY HAMLIN: Finish the rest of the quote. That's the problem, right, is guys take just little clips. Then I said all four would be very deserving to win the championship.
Q. If you lost to Larson, would that ease I guess the pain of losing out, if it's to him instead of the other two?
DENNY HAMLIN: I certainly feel like we've been 1 and 1A or 1 and 1B for the whole course of the year. Consistently we're the guys that are up front every week. We don't really have a lot of bad weeks between the two of us.
What I was speaking to is that this format can knock out someone and not even have a chance to make it to the Final 4. That would be a disservice, if myself or Larson wasn't in the Final 4, it certainly would be a disservice to not have a shot at a championship given the years that we've had.
I think the champion that goes out there on Sunday and wins the race certainly is deserving because that's the format we run. It's one race. Our four seasons will be decided in a championship off of what happens for 300 laps.
Q. Given the importance of track position here, controlling the race, how much emphasis will you put on qualifying?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not much for us. We won't really pay much attention to it.
Q. Do you know what car Chris is bringing?
DENNY HAMLIN: No idea, honestly. I don't have any idea. I'm sure he's put all the effort he can into it.
Q. How do you get over something like Sunday? A swirl of talk, controversy, boos, then you have to focus on a championship. How do you move from one thing to the other?
DENNY HAMLIN: How do I get up every morning and take my kids to school at 7:30? How do I go to 23XI and work for a couple days in the middle of the week during a Playoff run? I live in chaos. My life is chaos. I thrive under chaos.
Honestly, you can ask Kyle. The more shit is stirred up around me, the shore I come at it. I don't mind things like that.
Q. You embrace it in a way?
DENNY HAMLIN: Absolutely. To me it's fuel. Like, I have so much fuel in my tank right now from just motivation. There's a lot of motivation there.
Q. Does that go back to the tweet thread this week? Feels like now is the calmest you've been in the last couple days.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, a little bit of it for sure. I mean, I really wanted to make a pretty strong statement at Martinsville, starting in the back, going back to the back again, driving all the way to the front. Winning that race would be like the old foot on the throat heading into this weekend, right?
I feel like that momentum was taken away, taken from us. Again, the momentum then in my head swings back around into now I'm ultra motivated. I love the feeling of, like, just proving people wrong.
Q. Does fan popularity matter to you?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, no, because it doesn't correlate to common sense. Honestly, we were the guys that were crashed. We were booed? I'm confused. What's going on?
Obviously people were passionate about their driver, which that's okay. But, honestly, it doesn't make any sense in the grand scheme of like what's actually going on.
It's just bitter fans from half a decade ago. They just cannot get over it. There was controversy a few weeks ago, right? Eventually one of the drivers said, I've had enough, I'm done taking your shit, I'm going to crash you. I think that probably needs to happen a little bit more often to get some respect back.
Obviously NASCAR's not going to police the stuff. This is stuff that certainly fuels popularity. The drivers have to get back to self-policing I think. That probably is going to have to come through the hard way.
Q. After Bowman jacked you up the first time and got by you...
DENNY HAMLIN: He didn't give me the spot back. That was incorrect. I got it back, yeah.
Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: He didn't. He knew what was coming. He moved up the track. Instead of running into him, I just went to the inside of him and passed him.
Q. Earlier in your career, I'm sure when a driver comes in the series, if you're going to get booed or something, a lot of younger drivers are like, I don't want this.
DENNY HAMLIN: You would rather be booed than ignored. The moment you get ignored, it's bad news, you're on your way out.
Q. You're comfortable enough in your career to accept that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, because you know what happens, new fans come in, when they hear -- Kyle was overwhelmingly booed for a while. All of a sudden people said, Why is he booed? Well, he says stuff. People were like, I like that.
You start to see a change and a transition of, like, people are like, I'm not just going to follow the herd, let me try to be original here and like what I like.
I think I can tell you from an engagement standpoint, there's a boost (laughter). They're actually doing me a favor more than anything.
Q. When you see Instagram, Twitter numbers after something happens like Sunday --
DENNY HAMLIN: It's huge. It's huge. Of course, it's not all positive. Again, NASCAR fans in general, a lot of them are bandwagon fans. They'll just latch on to whoever they used to like. They're related so let me jump on this bandwagon, whatever. It's not really on race results as much or direct incidents. It's kind of a let's follow the herd.
As our sport changes over time, you're going to have fans that rebel against the herd, start to follow someone they actually can relate to.
Q. When did you notice the biggest uptick to you either positive or negative?
DENNY HAMLIN: The negative was 2017. Certainly me and Chase were battling for a spot inside the Final 4. I crashed him, took responsibility for crashing him, which they forget. They forget anything that he's ever did after. It's all about whoever does something bad to him.
Again, it's not his fault. He doesn't ask for it. Dale Jr. didn't ask for the popularity he had back in the day. They both handle it really, really well. I mean, that's a big, big weight to put on your shoulders, to have most of the NASCAR community rooting for you because you're always trying to make them proud.
Again, to me that's the turning point. As soon as you do something negative towards someone who is very popular, you will forever have that kind of badge on your uniform.
Q. The self-policing stuff, I remember where they used to give out penalties for rough driving. Have you all abandoned the idea they're going to basically...
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it doesn't exist. Yeah, there's no rough driving penalties anymore. We had 1-under caution, whatnot, for one of the guys.
Q. Seems to be always for somebody who retaliates.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, the racing stuff, they'll say that it's up to the drivers to police it. My question is, Okay, if you want us to police it, how far do you want me to go? I know how far I want to go. Is that going to be okay?
Again, it's up to us to police it. Kevin Harvick policed it. People might not like it, but that was a guy that had had enough.
Q. What is the reaction going to be if you get out of the car Sunday?
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm not sure. I'll be so happy for myself and my team, I won't care. I really won't. I know how hard we worked to get here, how hard I worked, all the sacrifices my family has made to get me to this point.
I'm going to try to find my family as soon as possible, give 'em a hug.
Q. Are you motivated that if you win, that will piss a lot of people off? Is that part of the fuel for you?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, certainly, everyone's go-to is, You haven't won a championship. There's nothing else they can say. There's just nothing else they can say.
To me, I'm so motivated to go out there and show 'em what's up. I think it's fuel for me. It really is fuel for me. People don't get in my head in a negative way. I turn it into positives, into motivation.
Some people like to go in a hole and hide from it. I do not. I go at it head on. Anyone who's around me knows, a lot of you in the media who have followed my career, when things go haywire or shit hits the fan, I usually come out swinging.
We will come out swinging again.
Q. What do you think gives you and your team the biggest advantage this weekend? Why do you think you're going to win?
DENNY HAMLIN: Just knowing how I've performed for the whole year. I mean, that's the bottom line. Every single week I've showed up I've had a chance to win. There's just not been many years, except for the last couple, where that's been the case.
I don't see that changing overnight. I just think certainly I'm a stats and analytics person, but I also have a feel. When I have a feel, and it's positive, the on-track usually backs that up. It gets confirmed pretty quickly that we're able to win races or move on, whatever it might be. My gut is usually correct.
Q. How does this championship week feel different than previous times you've been here?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I don't know that it really feels that much different other than I just am more confident in our speed this time around than what we had last year. Certainly being ranked 12th last year in speed, it was not good.
We really made all of our wins up on big tracks like Larson did this year. That's where we got the bulk of our wins. When we looked at the schedule, All right, we got all these road courses, our 550 tracks, a lot of them have been taken away, where are we going to get back this big win total? We need to win on road courses, short tracks.
Then we started to shift our focus into what we needed to do to win. I think that this year our focus has always been on this particular weekend. I'm more confident, based off of that and our recent performance on these tracks.
Q. When you say you use the negative as fuel, come out swinging, is that different from 2010? Do you feel you've grown a lot as a driver and person since then?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yes, certainly I'm more comfortable. That's not even a question. But, yeah, I mean, I'm comfortable in who I am. Back in 2010 I didn't have the big race wins that I have now.
I certainly know that I am a championship-caliber driver. There's no question in my mind. Circumstances have not always worked out in my favor. Performance hasn't always been good enough. But certainly we are as deserving as any.
In 2010 I would have said, Am I really good enough to do this? I mean, I had a ton of wins in 2010, I was battling Jimmie, and honestly things out of my control took us from locking it up to losing it.
I got in my own head, then I messed up. I just wasn't as comfortable then as what I am now.
Q. You've broken in two eras of cars now. How much different is it now that you own a team that you look towards next year with the NextGen car in terms of the way you plan for it?
DENNY HAMLIN: We don't know what to expect. It's going to be a bunch of changes. To me it's going to be like the Car of Tomorrow. The bigger car change we've had in years past.
I don't know how we're going to prepare. I'm trusting the team to really kind of guide the ship in the right direction.
Q. How much of the notebook do you think you'll throw out after this week?
DENNY HAMLIN: Oh, all of it. There won't be much that will correlate from that car to this one.
Q. What do you think is wired about you to thrive in chaos?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's always been that way. I don't know why.
Q. Even young?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know when it started. I mean, people that have worked with me for a long time, Rod, Eddie, they would just say the crazier, the more distractions, the more locked in.
I tore my ACL. Go out there and, like, win. It's always just been that thriving in chaos that I made my living at. When things get boring honestly is when the performance is, like, mediocre. I don't know why that is. There's just something. I just think it's my competitive fire.
When I think about like the last dance, the motivation, Jordan always said he had to come up with his own thing. He would come up with a shit-talking statement from a competitor that they didn't say to just motivate him.
I feel the same way. Like, I want that. I want to get pushed. I don't know what it is. I can't explain it. I'm wired the same way.
Q. Did you make up any statements for any of these guys?
DENNY HAMLIN: I didn't. I didn't. A lot of it just comes from outside, little quotes here and there, little poster board stuff here and there.
I just file it away in the bank, figure out how I'm going to use it.
Q. You and Kyle are friends. You also have your teammate. Are you able to still get the same sort of not motivation but at the same 'I hate you' level?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. I don't have really any animosity towards anyone in particular. While me and Kyle have been friends for a very long time off the racetrack, I don't know that it necessarily has correlated to us driving differently on the racetrack.
We haven't really got into any incidents together, but we also race each other really hard. I started racing him very, very hard in the middle of the summer when the regular season points started getting tight and we weren't fast enough. I got to find a way to slow him down a little bit.
I don't know how the friendships or the animosity towards any other driver really correlates to on-track. It's almost like a poker player, though. If you are on tilt towards a particular driver, you will make more mistakes around them because you're trying to -- sometimes you're trying to keep them from winning.
Q. The Roval?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah. Than doing what's right for yourself. I never try to get too on tilt about anyone good or bad.
Q. Are you at the point, last lap, you're in second, would you wreck someone to win a championship?
DENNY HAMLIN: I wouldn't try to. I certainly wouldn't try to wreck them by any means. Move someone out of the way, shove them up a lane, maybe. I don't know. I feel like I'm just more of a purist than most.
Again, that's what fires me up so much about stuff like last week or even Indy. It's like, Man, we didn't even have a chance to, like, battle. Let's go toe-to-toe, two drivers, battle for a race win.
In today's world people will just accept getting knocked out of the way. People accept it now. We used to show highlights of the bump-n-run with Rusty and Jeff Gordon. Now no one gives a shit. It's just part of normal everyday racing.
The craft of actually being good at technique and passing and working someone over, that craft has kind of just gone away. It's not for good or bad. Everyone can race their own particular way, but it's just a different certainly mentality when you look at what's coming from the Truck Series, on up to Xfinity, and now it's making its way all the way up to Cup. It's a different mentality.
Q. You said it's a bit of a shit show in Trucks and Xfinity. Do you feel that these four --
DENNY HAMLIN: Certainly. I'd say I have no problem any one of them behind me on the last lap. I would have no issue with any of them being behind me on the last lap, racing me as hard as they possibly can, trying to work me over.
I believe that these guys certainly are purist racers who really appreciate the craft of passing.
Q. (Question about what Denny means by 'working over'.)
DENNY HAMLIN: It doesn't take any skill to run into things. You can get in a car and run into me if you so choose and win a race. It doesn't take any skill really to do that.
The skill of it is taking someone's line away. You see where their weaknesses are, then you adapt your style to work them over, then get position on them to now you can take their line away.
There's just a lot that goes into it. A lot of it is seeing what your competition is doing and changing your craft to get around them, especially when you have equal cars.
Q. What was a situation where you felt like you did it in the right way? I think back to 2017.
DENNY HAMLIN: No shit? You think back to that (laughter)?
Q. What did you do right that really worked well?
DENNY HAMLIN: There's been a lot of times. I think there's been a lot of short tracks where I've just really spent a lot of time working someone over to try to get a race win.
Man, I think back to, like, me and Kurt Busch actually, Xfinity, at Richmond. I worked him over. I caught him from a long way back. I just kind of refused to shove him off the racetrack, which I think probably would be acceptable today.
There's just a lot of those instances where you really work someone over, and you have a lot of pride in doing that. I can't name specific instance, but certainly there's been a lot of last-few-lap moves that I've made that I've been proud of. Certainly other ones I haven't.
I think what people take for granted sometimes is, like the incident with me and Chase in 2017, while it looked awful, it didn't take much. I was trying to put a bumper into him, get him up the racetrack. He flat out spun out. The bump was too hard. It was two guys that were obviously trying to put their way into the Final 4.
If I remember right, we weren't in a great points position. We were kind of getting to that kind of panic mode from my standpoint of like, oh, man, we got to get through here. We can't give up control of the race.
I made a mistake. It happened. It's just been irreversible from the world's standpoint.
Again, eventually time will just go away. But, like, it's been four years, guys. It's time to move on.
Q. Is the skill how you hit or where you hit? At some point you're going to run out of laps. Somebody has to do something.
DENNY HAMLIN: You're saying you have to do something. Why do you have to do something? Sometimes you're just not good enough or your car is not good enough to pass. If not, you have to finish second that day.
That's okay, right? My anger and frustration, if I hit the wall hard enough, I don't finish, I'm out. My whole season is done because of someone else's choices or lack of respect for my position during that time.
That's what drives me absolutely crazy, is that some people think that their win is more important than yours. That win is no more significant to them as it is to me. That's what I don't get. I got to do something. Why? Does your career rely on it? I don't get it. Why do you have to do something?
Q. What if your career did rely on it?
DENNY HAMLIN: Who says your career relies on it?
Q. Making a Championship 4 spot.
DENNY HAMLIN: Sure, okay. That's an argument to be had. You got to make the Playoffs, right? The season was over for the 48. At that point they just didn't respect my position. They thought that their win meant more than the spot meant to me, which it did not. It definitely could have taken us out. That's what pissed me off.
Q. His apology didn't make a difference?
DENNY HAMLIN: I did not think it was on purpose. At no point do I feel like he said, I'm going to go in there and wreck him. I think he went in there and says, I'm going to run into him, and whatever the result is the result is.
To me, that's just a lack of respect, thinking that that spot means more to you than it means to me.
Q. Are you mad at him?
DENNY HAMLIN: I am because it's just a lack of situation awareness. If the roles were reversed, there's no question that team would be as pissed off as I was, that their season was nearly taken away because of someone's irresponsibility.
I don't care what people think. I'm telling you what I think because it's my team, my year. All that's on the line. That's what I'm pissed off about. I made the Final 4, great. Well, I nearly didn't, you know what I mean? That's what I don't understand, whether it be the Chase thing or whatever, Briscoe thing.
Wait a minute, you (expletive) crashed me. Well, yeah, I thought you knew what I was racing for. Am I not racing for the same damn thing? I'm racing for a regular season championship, which I got (expletive) taken out of. I don't get it where people think their win is more important than yours.
Q. What would you do if you weren't in the Final 4?
DENNY HAMLIN: Race 'em as hard as I could race 'em. I would try to work him over on the bottom. That's what I would try to do.
Q. But is that win important to you?
DENNY HAMLIN: It is important to me. But I understand the risk. Again, I go back to I'm more of a purist, not necessarily right or wrong, I'm more of a purist in believing that if you've earned your spot there, it's up for them to take it from you in a respectful way. That's your spot. It was my spot. I was in the lead. We weren't side-by-side. It was my spot.
It's up to you to take it from me. You can take it from me however you see fit. If you see it fit one way, I see it fit another, I'm probably going to be upset with that.
I've flipped the roles. I've done the math in my head. I understand what people think when it comes to, like, What if the roles were reversed? They've been reversed. Flat out, I've been taken out twice while leading inside five laps to go, and both have been very, very significant.
I'm going to feel a certain way about that.
Q. When you see Alex doing something with the 'Hack' on the T-shirts, what is your reaction to that?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I don't have a reaction to it. They're going to thrive off of any kind of bump or hit that they can get during that time.
Certainly I think drivers in general in our series lack originality. I'm glad I could help with that.
Q. Do you feel like this anger is kind of fueling you this weekend, pushing you a little bit harder towards this championship?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yes.
Q. Why? Do you think you will do whatever you have to do to get to the front and hold the lead? Care be damned, do whatever you have to do to get to the front, make them make a decision to get around you? How do you race this weekend?
DENNY HAMLIN: The same. I race the same as I've always raced. I race the same as if I had to replace my own fender and control arm when I crashed in late models. I race the same way.
I made mistakes then. I still make mistakes today. But certainly I know in my mind that I'm trying the best that I can to do it the right way. I came into this deal the right way, and I'm going to go out the right way. I'm not going to change my style for anyone whether they like it or not.
It's not always going to be the most popular. My breed, like Harvick's breed, is a dying breed. We understand that. But we're not going to change just because other people want us to.
Q. All of this has left you the driver in the black hat. Are you comfortable in that role?
DENNY HAMLIN: Sure. I mean, I don't care. I don't mind. Again, before you guys got here, I was talking about it, it's just fuel for me. My tank is absolutely full with motivation.
Q. Did he reach out to you this week?
DENNY HAMLIN: No.
Q. How is it a fuel rather than a distraction?
DENNY HAMLIN: Distractions are even better. I like those even more.
Q. Will you talk to him before Sunday?
DENNY HAMLIN: No. I mean, I'm not reaching out to him. Again, it just shows a lack of respect, right? I think they think, well, I said sorry on TV, so that's good enough. Guys aren't men anymore.
Q. He should have reached out to you?
DENNY HAMLIN: Sure he should have.
Q. What is the Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick breed?
DENNY HAMLIN: Tony Stewart.
Q. What does that represent?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think some people, they have chaos and they get cross-wired. They get nervous. They want to shy away from chaos or any kind of crazy shit going on.
For me, I love it. I live in chaos. Again, what was the conversations earlier this year, right? Oh, my gosh, starting a team, you're going to be so distracted. I haven't heard that at all this year because our performance has showed otherwise. I find a way to compartmentalize each part of my life and am able to turn on the switch to this one at this time, that one at that time. It will be no different when I strap in and put the helmet on on Sunday. Now it's time to go win.
Q. It's a mental toughness?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I don't get too excited. Whether you're talking about, you know, the analytics from the heart rate in the car, right? I really work on my craft to make sure I keep myself very level. I do not get too excited. I do not get too high; I do not get too low.
That doesn't mean I don't get emotional about some things, but certainly in the car I know that I do my job at best when I'm flatlined. I think I'm able to turn things on and off as needed.
Q. As you've gone through the Playoffs, has your ownership perspective played any kind of role? Have you learned anything about yourself?
DENNY HAMLIN: Nothing that really has changed how I am as a driver. That hasn't changed. It's just how I manage time is different. Certainly there's less time for hobbies and things like that. Me, I'm a workaholic. I really am.
The whole reason I started this damn race team is because I got bored during COVID. I realized I can't play golf every day. I need to come up with something that I can do. I started a race team.
I think I like working. I really like working. Whether it's working on a race team, working on building it, or it's working on my craft as a race car driver, how I can get better, I do not stop.
Q. Pretty expensive hobby.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, no doubt. That's for sure.
Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: It is. Everyone will have a legacy in this sport of some sort. I don't even know why I care. I want to give back to the sport. Beyond my driving days, I want to continue to stay in this sport in some capacity. I always knew that I wanted to go back and run a business. I thought I was just going to open another trailer shop that me and my dad had back in the day, just manage that. I talked to Toyota about buying some car dealerships, running that.
I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I just thought that the race team was the thing that I was most knowledgeable about because I knew a little bit about each part of our sport. Again, I've gotten an education this year unlike another, and I'm still learning quite a bit. I enjoyed that process of building something.
Q. Is tomorrow a must win? How much of it is a must win?
DENNY HAMLIN: You'll have to win, there's no question. There's no secret that these cars will be up front, probably, 1-2-3-4 at some point.
Q. Can you focus on long run speed or do you have to mentally prepare for a late-race restart?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's a balance. I'm not really sure. Last year was long run. I don't know. I don't know what the balance of it is. You better be good at all of 'em.
Q. Can you focus on that in practice?
DENNY HAMLIN: We will. We'll pay attention to it. We certainly will. We'll pay attention to the first five laps, then we'll pay attention to what happens after 20.
Again, you're not going to just spray some magic fairy dust and make your car magically better during practice on one of those or the other.
You can hedge a little bit when you leave the shop, the main parts of the setup are geared towards shorter runs or longer runs. You pretty much got what you got when you get here.
Q. What about Chase Elliott fans makes them not think straight?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I just think they bleed pretty much whatever he does. They're just like anybody else who's a Green Bay Packers fan, Washington fan. They know what they see is not necessarily correct, but they bleed it true and true. It just doesn't matter, they're going to support whether that person does the right thing or the wrong thing.
I just think that's some of it, is that they don't think, Wait a minute.
Q. He's their hero.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, for sure. Has the roles been reversed at any point, right? What was your opinion then? Was it, He didn't take Joey out at Bristol. It was just an accident, racing deal.
Well, flip it over, it's different. Jeff actually did a very good job of calling them out on that, saying, C'mon, guys, you got to realize it's a little bit hypocritical.
Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: But I don't mind it because the passion. That place was (expletive) on fire after the race. It's great for our sport. From my standpoint, all I'm doing is getting fuel the whole time. It's like, This is a (expletive) good thing.
Q. When you keep hearing the boos, what are you thinking? In your own state, your hometown track.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, sort of, sort of. I don't know.
Q. Are you chuckling?
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm not chuckling. Honestly, I was so heated, I was seeing red at the time. Looking back on it, it's like, Man, those are the moments that hopefully our sport can get new highlights from, right? How many times can we possibly watch Dale Earnhardt win at Talladega?
Gosh, we need new highlights, right? Their sport is really good now, racing is really good. I really wish we could really start to focus on the stars of today, this young group coming up. We're starting to slowly but surely build whether it be rivalries, great racing, great finishes. We're starting to get our bank of that now where we're not having to rely so much on things that happened 20 years ago.
Q. Did you buy a shirt from Alex Bowman that says 'Hack'?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, I didn't.
Q. Is it okay that he sells shirts off of that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Sure, sure. I mean, again, I said earlier a lot of drivers lack originality. Anytime I can help them with that, I'm sure they appreciate it.
Q. At what point do you let what happened with Briscoe and Alex go? You never forget about it, but what stops you from being mad about it?
DENNY HAMLIN: When I go race the next week.
Q. So Sunday?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I just go race. Certainly right after, the Chase thing, I think we won two weeks later. We go race. I'm a professional. When I get in the car, all I care about is winning.
I talked about it earlier. I never let anyone move my blood pressure high or low based off of my animosity or like towards them on the racetrack.
My friendship with Kyle off the racetrack, I do not drive him any different than I do someone that I have strong feelings or dislike with. I know that if I'm going to beat them, I have to be my best version of myself on the racetrack. That's the only way to beat 'em. I can't let them alter what I do.
Q. You say you learned a lot this year being an owner. What is the biggest thing you learned?
DENNY HAMLIN: How hard it is. That's the biggest thing, is just how hard it is to sustain. When we put a dramatic investment, I put a dramatic investment to help grow the sport, I wonder am I just giving it away or am I going to be able to get that back? You know what I mean?
I'm all for helping grow the sport, bringing in Michael and his team into this. My thing is that I also spent a lot of time acquiring what I have. I'm certainly not going to lose it all trying to give back to the sport.
I feel more positive, I will say, than I did probably six months ago that it's all for the greater good.
Q. (Question about Bubba winning.)
DENNY HAMLIN: That hasn't changed it as much as seeing the things we're working on, seeing the growing of the team, seeing where hopefully we're headed with the NextGen. Maybe it works out. I'm crossing my fingers.
Q. (Question about advantage racing at Phoenix.)
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. Chase didn't have any experience in that situation last year, they just showed up with a car that was dramatically faster than anyone else's. He motored through the field like he was in a Cup car rather than an Xfinity race. It was not close.
I don't think experience or anything, that's probably one of the most overrated things that people take into account. Maybe not on the mental side, but again, to me it's more about how fast is your car and is it capable.
Q. There's a lot of talk out there about who the favorite is. There's a lot of talk about you're one of the favorites. Does that add more pressure or not?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, it doesn't. I mean, we've won two races, as Mr. Hendrick has pointed out. I think we've won less than -- have we won less than anyone here? We probably should run fourth.
Q. Do you really mean that?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know I know better than that.
Q. Has there been any conversation about whether there's any team splitting strategies?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not that I'm aware of.
Q. Would you entertain any conversation like that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Listen, I hope my teammates screw them over as much as they possibly can. I just don't think we've seen that in the past.
Q. Will Michael be here this weekend to support you?
DENNY HAMLIN: Probably.
Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: Performance, knowledge. I just feel like 2019 was the other year where I'm, like, we're fast enough, we're good enough, we're ready, this is it, we're good.
We had a shot, then we made a bad strategic call with a piece of tape. 2020 was just very different because we weren't as fast. The shorter tracks... My team was trying to convince me for weeks and weeks we're not as bad on the shorter tracks as you think. I knew better because I drove the cars all year.
The roles are reversed a little bit this time. I understand. We've been in contention to win most of these short tracks. I'm confident from that standpoint.
The only thing that, again, I'm not confident in is the things that I cannot control. That's the only thing that worries me is the things that I can't control. But how can you possibly let those things worry you because you cannot control them?
I was very content in 2019 and '20, like leaving the racetrack saying, I did my job to the best of my ability, I drove the car as fast as I possibly could, I wouldn't change a thing. We didn't win for various reasons.
I just hope I do my job again. If I do my job, don't make any mistakes, I will have a chance.
Q. Do you feel like there's more to prove (indiscernible) how you performed this year?
DENNY HAMLIN: Certainly this year I've just been more comfortable in general with who I am, the accomplishments that we've had. I've accomplished way more than I ever would have imagined for sure.
I'm content. I'm content. I'm at peace with, like, myself and my career. I could quit on Monday, maybe I will, maybe I don't, and be happy with everything I've done.
I just feel like I'm at peace with whatever the result is.
Q. Will you really do a mic drop if you win?
DENNY HAMLIN: Maybe.
Q. Billy Scott next year as crew chief?
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm not sure legally whether I can answer that question. Thank you. If that makes any sense.
Q. You know I know about legal stuff.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I get it.
You all done? Thanks.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports