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NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: STP 500


March 29, 2015


Joe Gibbs

Denny Hamlin

Dave Rogers


MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA

KERRY THARP:テつ Let's hear from our race winner, today's 66th‑annual STP 500, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at Martinsville Speedway.テつ Winning for the fifth time in his career here at Martinsville is Denny Hamlin.テつ He drives the No.11 FedEx Express Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, and he'll be joined by his crew chief Dave Rogers and team owner Joe Gibbs.テつ Congratulations on getting back into victory lane, punching your ticket to the Chase.テつ Also here a little local note, you've got 25 wins now in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.テつ That ties you with Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly for the most wins in the Sprint Cup Series for a Virginia native.テつ So congratulations on that.テつ Coach, congratulations, Dave, congratulations.テつ Talk about the win here today.テつ I'm sure that has to feel pretty good.
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Yeah, definitely, and we had a great idea after Saturday that we had a car that was capable of winning.テつ It had the feeling it needed to have, and we just had a race where things worked out for us.テつ It wasn't scripted by any means, all the adversity we had to go through.テつ But really the last 60, 70 laps played out how they needed to play out for us to win today.
It was an up‑and‑down day, obviously.テつ It seemed like we could get to the lead pretty easily, and once we got to the lead, our car, our balance changed quite a bit and we fought it after that.テつ But that allowed the 2 to get to us, and my strong suit all day was then his strong suit, and it put us in a tough spot, and obviously we had some great short track racing those last few laps.
Glad he chose the latter decision on that last corner, but that's something that you build up, the respect from your competitors, and he'll get that paid back to him.
KERRY THARP:テつ Dave, talk about the significance of winning here at Martinsville and getting that win over there with the 11 car.
DAVE ROGERS:テつ Yeah, it's a big deal.テつ We get the monkey off our back early, build some confidence with this race team.テつ It's a new race, got a lot of new faces on the team, guys from the Truck Series, guys from the XFINITY Series, a bunch of new faces, and Denny and I are rekindling our relationship, so a lot of learning to do, and a win leading into an off weekend where we can talk about it, enjoy it, dissect what we did good, what we did bad and get better, it's just a great opportunity for this race team right now, and I'm really excited about it.
KERRY THARP:テつ Coach, this has got to be a big win for you and for Joe Gibbs Racing.
JOE GIBBS:テつ It is.テつ I want to say a big thanks to everybody back at the race shop, all those guys back there.テつ We've worked extremely hard.テつ This sport is a humbling sport.テつ It shows you how hard it is.テつ We work hard, extremely hard, and yeah, it's been a long time since we've won a race.テつ But I took‑‑ I really felt great that we were able to run that well last week and led laps, had a chance with two of our cars, and then this week to come back on a short track and run the way we did.テつ I felt awful for Carl and ARRIS, they cut a tire down late like that, cost him a chance to have a good finish and have everybody up front.
Denny and the guys, David, really overcame a lot.テつ But the thing I kind of focus on, and it tells you how hard our sport is, so each one of these things, when you win one, it's a humbling experience that you really want to enjoy, and we're going to do that this week.

Q.テつ Denny, on Friday you came in here and you said normally you'd say that this would be a good place for you to win, but you didn't really think that it was going to happen this weekend, that mile‑and‑a‑halfs were probably better for you guys.テつ What changed?テつ And then you also said that even a win for Toyota this weekend would be huge, but it wasn't necessarily going to cure everything.テつ How important is that for Toyota, what happened today?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Yeah, it's a big win for Gibbs and Toyota.テつ It's been roughly a year for both of us, and really myself.テつ We're just not used to not having success, and especially with the resources that we have.テつ Boss man over here expects a lot from us and we expect to be in victory lane and be up front.
You know, even though it doesn't cure things, it makes things better, and what this does for our race team in particular is that we've got some kinks in our team right now, but like Dave says, this allows you‑‑ this buys you months of time to get everything worked out and get all the kinks worked out because we know we can go on a championship run, and knowing that this racetrack holds the key to that top four getting into Homestead, I like our chances.テつ I told you last year, get us to that Eliminator Round, whatever that was, and we were going to be tough, and with the package that Dave gave us this weekend and the entire Gibbs team obviously, we're excited to come back here and be part of a championship.
But it doesn't come easy.テつ You don't just rest on your laurels.テつ We had the longest competition meeting I've ever been a part of this past weekend.テつ Joe raised his voice, which doesn't happen very often, told us to get off our tails and go to work, and we all did it, and great result for this race team.
Sometimes you need a leader like that to kind of put things in perspective.テつ Not that people weren't working hard, but it just takes that extra 10 percent out of everyone to get to that next level, and I'm very proud of the speed that we've shown with our 11 team so far this year.テつ We've run top 5 every single week except for Phoenix, and we're going to work on that.
We're excited.テつ We're excited about what we've got going on and what's to come for us.
JOE GIBBS:テつ I think we have our competition meetings on Tuesday and everybody kind of shares what they feel, and I think ours was a long one, and I think everybody kind of‑‑ everybody is frustrated and kind of expressed their feelings.テつ But I will say this:テつ We've kind of charted a course for us to work on, and everybody there, Todd and all the guys in back, our technical people and everybody, Jimmy Makar, everybody has set out a plan, and we're after it.テつ But I think Denny, he said it best:テつ You don't get many of these, and we're going to enjoy this one.
But I was really pleased that all of our cars ran good today.

Q.テつ Denny and Joe, obviously it was an emotional week with the news about J.D.テつ What's it like to cap it this way?テつ Joe?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Yeah, it was a very significant week because of the news that was shared about J.D., but it was‑‑ about 12, 13 years ago really when J.D. happened to just show up at a Hickory test where we were running some late models, and he made a phone call to his dad and thought maybe he had something there that was special.テつ They signed me up, and J.D. was the key to making that happen.テつ I got propelled into the Cup Series, and one year from late models to the Cup in just one year, and it was a lot for me, but they believed in me and they gave me opportunities to succeed.
I thank my lucky stars every day that I was able to get in the car that I was able to get into because so many young guys come into this sport and don't get an opportunity with a good team, and I was put with a great race team, and things worked out for me in my future, and it's amazing looking back on it how everything played out.テつ But these guys gave me my chance, and J.D. was a big key to that.
JOE GIBBS:テつ I was honestly thinking that down the stretch with Denny.テつ I thought, man, that would be awesome to have Denny be able to win this race because J.D. really came back from meeting with Denny, and I think he purchased some late‑model stuff and put him in a test, and J.D. said, let's put him in a truck.テつ The truck wasn't a real good one.テつ Denny finished 11th‑‑
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ 10th.
JOE GIBBS:テつ 10th?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ I passed Kyle on the last lap.
JOE GIBBS:テつ And then J.D. said, let's put him at Darlington, we'll see what he's made out of.テつ And we put him over there in an XFINITY car and he finished ninth‑‑
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Eighth.テつ You're close, though.
JOE GIBBS:テつ Yeah, it's pretty close.テつ And J.D. said, Dad, I think we ought to sign this guy, and I go, you've got that right.テつ The crazy thing was if you think about him and what he did, he raced a half a year in XFINITY.テつ That was it.テつ He went late models half a year, we were struggling with the 11 car, and it was kind of going to be an experiment.テつ Put him in there and let's see what happens, give him seven, eight races.テつ He sat on the pole in his third race and was gone.テつ I think it's one of the great stories in sports.テつ We appreciate Denny.
But for me it was emotional and thinking about J.D. and all that he means to our team, so it was a big week for us, but a great finish to a story there.

Q.テつ Denny, can you talk a little bit about your short‑track training school?テつ Most of you guys come up on short tracks but you've given a lot of your secrets away to your teammates about Martinsville‑‑
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ You've got that right.

Q.テつ A lot of them have run up front and what have you, but if one of them had beaten you today, would that be bittersweet?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ That's something I think about all the time, whether‑‑ because it's so hard to win, do you withhold information to give yourself that edge, and I just never have.テつ I just have never‑‑ it's never crossed‑‑ I've never withheld any information that I could give to my teammates that I shouldn't have.テつ I feel like it‑‑ because I'm going to be the guy that's going to lean on help from them.テつ I couldn't find my rear end around Charlotte until I had Kyle Busch, and we talked about short tracks and what I do there, and he took off and ran really well, and then next thing you know, I needed help at tracks, and I got that help back.
It's important for Joe Gibbs Racing to run one, two, three, four, and unless you give all that information, that's hard to do.テつ And Carl obviously ran up front all day today, and Matt, as well as David.テつ That's an awesome feeling to know that you can race your teammates for a victory.
You know, it's tough because those guys are good.テつ They can take whatever we've got and put it in their car and they can beat me on any given weekend, and so we know that's the risk, but we know that that comes back to us tenfold when we need their help.テつ I'll always be a total open book to those guys, and they've been awesome teammates to me this year.テつ I'm really excited about what Joe has put together, his driver lineup, and the way we've worked together so far.テつ It's really been fun.

Q.テつ When you started to race looking for a sign looking for things are turning around and you find yourself near the front with 60 laps to go, does your history here and your success here kind of override any negative that you've had about the way the year is going, and does that kind of raise your confidence, or is it still kind of a hope thing?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ No, I mean, I knew what kind of car we had, and I knew that the runs I needed to work out, the way they needed to.テつ But like I said earlier, we've run top 5 every single week except for Phoenix.テつ So yes, by the point standings, is it a lackluster year, yes.テつ But we have shown speed and we're way‑‑ we're leaps and bounds over where we were at this time last year I feel like.
We left this race last year finishing awful, and I just spent three days at a short track trying to figure out what in the world is wrong with our program.
But you know, now, this is a lot different feeling.テつ Now I'm like, get me back here in a Chase race.テつ I want to get to Homestead again and give myself another shot at a championship.テつ This racetrack holds the key for us, I think, if we can get to this stage and still have a shot.
Even though we don't have the wins to show for it as Gibbs as an organization in the last year, I mean, Matt Kenseth easily could have and should have won last week, but just the cautions didn't work out, he had mechanical failure, and that was it.テつ There's a light at the end of the tunnel.テつ We're getting better as an organization.テつ It's just it takes a long process.テつ When we were as far behind as what we were last year, it's just not going to be two months in the off‑season, next thing you know you're going to show up at Daytona and be the fastest cars.テつ It takes a process.テつ It's a long time to make up that ground, and we're getting there and we're chipping away.

Q.テつ This is your fifth trophy, grandfather clock at Martinsville.テつ Have you given any thought to what you're going to do with it?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ I don't know yet.テつ I've got to track down where the rest of them are.テつ It's Taylor's first clock, so it will probably go in her room.テつ That's actually a pretty good idea.
I don't know.テつ You know, you worry about where you're going to put them later.テつ But it's an awesome trophy, and it's one of a kind.テつ I've dreamed about winning a clock for a long, long time.テつ I remember going to my old late‑model guy, Bugs Hairfield's house all the time, and he's won a late‑model race here, and it says Martinsville winner right there and he's got it in his living room, and I just thought ‑‑ when I say a kid, I was racing late models with him, I was thinking, how awesome would it be to win at Martinsville.テつ I came close to getting it done in late models but I never did.テつ It took coming here in a Cup car to get it done, and now here we are a bunch of wins later.
My goal at the end of my career is to be just whispered as one of those great short‑track guys that I grew up watching, and hopefully we're able to continue the success on it.

Q.テつ Denny and Dave, at one point, I think it's fair to say your pit crew didn't have its best game today, and at one point Dave was telling you you're being a leader, doing a good job, but also being critical at other times.テつ Especially after the last stop, how did you kind of stay within yourself and how were things different for you today than they might have been in the past handling it on the radio?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Yeah, there's just different pieces of our pit crew that Dave can touch on that are different, and it's tough to get all that to mesh well.テつ I just think it's early in the season, and there's just kinks that you have.テつ Teams work it out all the time.テつ Other professional sports teams, they get in the groove when it really becomes time to get in the groove.
We were able to overcome the pit road issues that we had, and to be fair to them, we had some engine issues that didn't allow me to be as good on pit road as what I could be with my job, so I think that that was a bit of a challenge, and so trust me, I didn't like to see any cautions fly because I knew there was a chance we were going to lose positions.テつ But we just got it worked out, and that was the first time I've ever pitted way back there in pit stall 43, so that was new to me, trying to figure out how to do that.
It's just a process.テつ We're trying to learn for the Chase race here.テつ That's the golden ticket for us.テつ We're trying to get better, and Dave will get it all worked out with these guys.
DAVE ROGERS:テつ Yeah, today was a perfect storm on pit road to be honest with you.テつ First of all, we have one of our pit crew members is injured.テつ He's out.テつ Last year the 11 pit crew was the fastest on pit road every week.テつ We had a guy step in.テつ He's doing a great job, but you just can't put six guys together and expect them to be the best.テつ It takes time to gel.テつ There may be some rust in the pit crew there.テつ Our rear tire changer has got the flu.テつ He had three bags of IV before the race, half hour before the race he's getting bags of IV.
I tried a really aggressive setup on Friday.テつ I told Denny, one of the luxuries of having him drive our race car is I'm not scared.テつ We'll try anything because I think he can carry this team.
I put us in a box.テつ I made some bad calls and Denny did the best he could with it but it was 16th, so now when you go to pick pits there's not a whole lot of good options.テつ We tried 43, it's one of those things, hey, let's try it, if it works out we'll try it in the fall.テつ It didn't work out.テつ And then the one stop we were leading the race, we just got to the lead and usually you pick up the pace car and you roll around a lap and then they open pit road, but for whatever reason race control opened pit road quicker than I expected anyways, and next thing you know we're in our pit box.
We had a lot of things going against us, but on the other hand, I thought Denny showed great leadership characteristics.テつ I mean, it's go to the be extremely frustrating to drive the race car and have that going on.テつ He didn't yell, he didn't scream, he wasn't derogatory, he just said, hey, guys, we've got to pick it up.テつ I thought he was a leader.テつ He told us what he thought, and then he drove the wheels off the car and showed us that he wasn't going to lay down on us.
It was a perfect storm for a bad day on pit road, but at the end, everybody picked it up, and we came out with a victory.テつ We've got some room for improvement and a Martinsville clock, so a good day.

Q.テつ Following that up, Dave, what possessed you to try to crack a joke to Denny after the tire got away?テつ You tell him that the tower told him to put on a show. テつDid you think he was going to take that good or bad, or did you just want to see how he would react?
DAVE ROGERS:テつ Well, I mean, I was probably as frustrated as Denny.テつ It's terrible, I think we had the fastest race car for a good portion of the weekend at California, and we just didn't execute as a team.テつ It kind of spiraled out of control, and now we're talking about not running as good as we should be.テつ So here you have a‑‑ we knew leaving yesterday we had one of the top‑three cars.テつ We know we've got one of the top‑three drivers.テつ You just take the lead, and you start to see it spiral out of control again.テつ It's like, wow, this is frustrating.テつ This is two weeks in a row.
So I knew inside I was frustrated.テつ I knew he had to be even more frustrated.テつ So I just tried to lighten it up a little bit and put him at ease, get him to relax.テつ I knew he had a tough task ahead of him to come up through the field and keep the fenders on it and not burn it up, not burn the tires off it.テつ So I was trying to do my best to put him at ease the best I could, and that's what came to mind.テつ I didn't think about it, I just said it.

Q.テつ And then he responded with a little bit of snip?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Yeah, I just told him, fine, I will, but stop making me do this.テつ It's not very fun.
DAVE ROGERS:テつ See, I had the crew chief radio on.テつ I didn't hear the snip part.
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ He doesn't get my jokes.

Q.テつ Kind of along the same lines, Denny, there were a couple times that Dave told you it was going to be fun but they didn't tell you it was going to be easy.テつ There were a lot of reasons today why‑‑ there could have been a lot of reasons today why you would not win the race.テつ What do you think about what took place today and the victory says about your team this season?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Well, by no means did we have a smooth race at all, and we still won.テつ So that to me shows what we're capable of, and once we get everything worked out the way it needs to be and we're back to our normal selves on pit road and we don't have any penalties and everything just runs a smooth race, we can win a lot of these things.
I'm excited about the summer months now.テつ Now that kind of the stress is off, we can go out there and have fun and try some things and really let Dave just kind of do his job and work on some things that's going to make us better in the fall.

Q.テつ Dave, this was a race where you had one fewer set of tires than in the past.テつ How did that play into things in terms of strategy, and how it did it change what you had to do, how significant was it?テつ Denny, I see you shaking your head.テつ Can you talk from the driver's perspective what you had to do or I guess you had to run on an older set of tires longer, how that impacted you today?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Yeah, it did.テつ He'll probably talk about how it affected him the most.テつ But any time you're limited on tires, you have to try to predict when you're going to use them, and you want to have tires sitting on pit lane when you need them with five to go.
Normally I think there was a couple instances where we had about a 10‑ or 12‑lap green flag run.テつ Normally we would always just come in and take tires.テつ But with the limited set of tires, that definitely put Dave in a position where you either try to protect the track position you have or make sure you don't put yourself in a bad position by staying out.テつ It makes it tougher for the crew chiefs to make calls when you have limited sets of tires like they did today.
DAVE ROGERS:テつ Yeah, it's definitely a new element to the game.テつ It's much like the XFINITY Series.テつ Like Denny said, you're trying to predict cautions.テつ You don't want to run out of tires, but then on the other hand there's times that in the XFINITY Series I've gotten myself in trouble because I'd be the only car, and several crew chiefs have, you're the only car with an extra set.テつ So now that last caution comes out that Denny talked about with five to go, you've got a set of tires laying, but you can't use them because there's 16 cars in front of you that don't have the tires, and you can't pass them.テつ It's a really complex element.
I think Goodyear did a good job of bringing a tire this week with the weather the way it is, the track not taking rubber, the tire performed really well, and it wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be.テつ If it got really hot and slick, these drivers would probably be cussing out the crew chiefs a little bit more.テつ It would be tough to do this on a hot, slick track with that number of tires.

Q.テつ (No microphone.)
DAVE ROGERS:テつ No, we did have one set laying there ready to go for that.テつ I knew it was going to be a green‑white‑checkered.テつ What can go wrong?テつ A yellow can come out.テつ So we had one set ready to go for that.

Q.テつ The storyline all week long has been Kevin Harvick, Kevin Harvick, Kevin Harvick.テつ How does it feel to beat that streak and change the story?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ It's good for me.テつ You live in the moment and you enjoy this, and this is great because it's on an off weekend, and like I say, we all get to enjoy this for a couple weeks, but we all know the bigger task at hand is that big trophy that they give out at the end of November.テつ It's going to take a lot of work from a lot of people to get that trophy.
You know, you can only celebrate victories for so long before‑‑ it's tough for the crew chiefs because I get to celebrate it right up until I hit the racetrack in Texas.テつ These guys have to go back to the shop this week and shift their focus to the next race.テつ Although you do enjoy it and you enjoy it like it's your last one, there's still a lot of work to be done, and we're glad to put ourselves as one of those race winners in 2015.

Q.テつ Denny and Coach, a lot of people rooting for David Ragan to have some success and sort of build up his rテδゥsumテδゥ by having this opportunity.テつ Your thoughts on him finally breaking through today with a fifth‑place finish to kind of help that process?
JOE GIBBS:テつ Well, I think it did.テつ I thought David did a great job today.テつ He told me before the race, him and his dad, we were standing there talking, he goes, "Hey, I like short tracks.テつ I grew up on them."テつ And he certainly raced that well today.テつ We're hoping for the same thing for him for his career and everything.
I think we've had a couple of tough breaks for him this year that kind of kept us back there around 20th, but you know, I was sure happy to see him and for M&M's and everything going on.テつ Kyle came to our meeting on Tuesday, and he looked good.テつ He's standing up on his right foot now and kind of showing some of that energy and stuff that he's got going.テつ He drives a mean wheelchair.テつ We're excited about him coming back, but I think it's good for David, and we're really pulling for him, too.テつ We want him to do well.テつ Hopefully we have some good runs here still left for him.

Q.テつ Could you talk about the gamesmanship at the end of pit road?テつ More than once I saw you guys checking up to let the other guys go through.テつ Talk about that a little bit.
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ Well, this track is probably the most critical for starting on the bottom line, and luckily for us we had a lot of teammates that were up front a lot that was either letting us in or us letting them in.テつ Seemed like we were letting them in a lot.テつ I think that's the tough part about it is that like you have to start on the bottom to give yourself a chance.テつ When you're letting teammates in, you just keep putting yourself further back and a caution comes out, next thing you know you're on the top line.
It's a tough game to play, but it's just whatever reason this track does not‑‑ the top line just does not work.テつ You know, you try to do your best to like count how many cars are beating you off pit road, but then there's an element of who stayed out, and then there's an element of what if the guys in front of you have a penalty.テつ That was key for us is the 24 on the last stop got a penalty, I think, and it put us in the bottom line.テつ So that was key for us.テつ If we didn't have the penalty, we didn't win, I don't think.テつ You just have to be on that bottom line, but it's part of what makes this racetrack great because when someone gets rooted up out of the bottom, you get freight trained, and that's how passing happens here.テつ If both lines were equal you'd just see passing would be very difficult.
I think it's just part of the game, and a lot of guys are doing it, it's just as much as you try to do it, you just can't count that fast at the end of pit road and then you can't count on who's not had a penalty.

Q.テつ Denny and Dave, you've always showed a propensity for being really good on flat tracks, and we've got a new engine rule this year with the tapered spacer that's kind of got the horsepower down which makes getting that drive off the corner a challenge.テつ Did you have to change your style in order to make that work today?テつ And for Dave, did you have to change the way the car was set up because of that tapered spacer being used?
DENNY HAMLIN:テつ It didn't change much about how I drove.テつ Surprisingly it was very, very similar.テつ But you still kind of felt the same issue.テつ Your car doesn't turn in the center, it doesn't have any drive off.テつ You fight some of the same issues.
But it's the same old Martinsville.テつ You race the same guys every single time you come here.テつ It really doesn't matter what kind of car it is.テつ The guys that get it really have got it, and I'm just happy that it looks like our short track stuff is starting to turn the corner and kind of hopefully will get back to where its heyday was in 2009 and 2010.
DAVE ROGERS:テつ Yeah, definitely completely different setup.テつ You know, Kyle and the 18, my engineering group, we went one way last year, and Denny and Darian and their group went a different way last year.テつ So we had two good notebooks to go from.テつ Qualifying was more along the lines of some stuff that we did last year.テつ We sat on the pole last year in the spring race, so we tried to sprinkle some of that in, and we just didn't do it right.テつ We messed it up.
So I looked at Darian's notebook and said, well, what are the things that you guys did last year that worked for Denny, because Denny and Kyle, they're both great short‑track drivers, but they're different, and you're right, it's a different rules package.テつ We took both notebooks, and my engineering staff, Chris Gabehart and Kenny Oates, we worked‑‑ it was a long night Friday night.テつ We slept very fast Friday night.テつ We put together a pretty good setup, but it's completely different than anything that we've ever raced here before.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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