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May 16, 2015
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
THE MODERATOR:Â We're joined by Denny Hamlin, our winner tonight.
DENNY HAMLIN:Â Let's get out of here.Â Limited questions, let's go.
THE MODERATOR:Â Tell us about what it's like to win your first NASCAR Sprint All‑Star Race, and also the first for Joe Gibbs Racing.
DENNY HAMLIN:Â Yeah, I mean, like you said, the first for Toyota, the first for Joe Gibbs Racing, myself, in my 11th year with Joe Gibbs Racing.Â Joe and J.D., all the grandkids are here.
What an awesome night.Â I mean, everything came together.Â Definitely with 50 to go, I didn't see this coming.Â But Dave made a smart call on the third segment I think in taking two tires to try to get my average finish back up.
Still didn't think we were going to get on the front row coming from sixth average finish.Â But I didn't think about that number one pit stall being so close to that camera.Â That's usually worth at least two positions anyway.
Then the pit crew just knocked it out of the park.Â I mean, that was prime time, under pressure performance that they did there.Â That won it.
Obviously we had to hold off the 4, and we haven't been able to do that for about two years.Â Luckily it was just 10 laps.
The turning point I really feel like for me was when we moved up to the middle of the racetrack.Â I knew he was eventually going to get that high line on me.Â Once he did that, it was going to be over.Â I had to move to the middle.Â That's where my car actually really took off at the end.Â Hopefully we learned something there.
Really the adjustments Dave did at the end, it was total team effort because if we didn't get the pole, we weren't going to come out first.Â If we didn't have that pit stop, we weren't going to come out first.Â If Dave didn't make the adjustments on the car, didn't matter whether we came out first or not, those guys were going to run me over.Â Everything worked out perfectly for the last 10 laps.
That should cover everything (smiling).
THE MODERATOR:Â We'll open it up for questions for Denny.
Q.Â You were talking about how important that number one pit stall was and that final stop.Â With the way you came off pit road, when they told you you had gotten the lead, was that the point going into the final 10 laps where you were able to start thinking to yourself, Man, we might actually have a shot at this?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â Yeah, I knew we just needed to be on the front row.Â The final 10 laps, you got to be on the front row.Â Aero means so much with these cars nowadays that the person out front just has a huge advantage.
I thought either first or second, but I wanted lane choice, and I wanted to be the control car so I could start the restart.Â I knew once we got cleared going into turn one, we had a great shot.
But we still were going to have to hold off the fastest car over the last two years the last 10 laps regardless.Â He got within half a car length of us.Â He put the pressure on us.Â But we performed and we picked up the speed at the end where we really needed it.
So proud that we were able to do that, at least for 10 laps anyway.
Q.Â It's not the first All‑Star win for you, it's also the first All‑Star win for the coach, too.Â How big is that as an organization?Â This is a prestigious race to win even if it's not for points.
DENNY HAMLIN:Â He's got a lot of great accomplishments.Â I'm pretty sure he's won every big race or every race there is to have on the circuit besides this one.Â That means a lot, being the longest tenured driver at Joe Gibbs Racing right now.
Those guys gave me a chance, took a chance on me 11 or 12 years ago.Â Can't believe we're in this position now.
Q.Â Denny, did you learn anything tonight that maybe you could apply for the 600 next week?Â I know the format is different tonight, but did you learn anything maybe in the final stint?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â I think so.Â Definitely during the middle of the race I thought we were out to lunch quite a bit.Â But, like I say, we just got the car where I could hustle it those last 10 laps.Â That was totally the key for us.
So hopefully there's light at the end of the tunnel.Â Like we talked about, we hadn't been able to run with a lot of the Hendrick cars or the Stewart‑Haas cars over the last year and a half.Â We were able to beat them in an arm wrestling match at least for 10 laps.Â It was great.
Not only a big win for Joe and the whole organization, but Toyota getting their first win, as well.
THE MODERATOR:Â Let's hear from crew chief Dave Rogers and team owner Joe Gibbs, as well.
Dave, talk about some of the things you had to do as a team to get to Victory Lane tonight.
DAVE ROGERS:Â What makes this event so special is it is a team event.Â Denny did a great job of qualifying, laying down a nice slat, getting to pit road hard.Â Our pit crew performed on pit road.Â Behind the scenes our road crew was here all night rebuilding the car, working hard this morning, changing it.Â We changed everything on it today trying to make it better.
The engineering staff helping me with all the calls, giving me good feedback, good advice.Â Then the pit crew coming in sixth and going out first against the best in the business, that's outstanding.
Then the move of the race, in my opinion, when Denny went up top and took the air off the 4 car's nose.
Everyone performed and that's what makes this event so special.
THE MODERATOR:Â Coach Gibbs, congratulations on a big win.Â Certainly this has got to be a big deal for your entire organization.
JOE GIBBS:Â It really is.Â Been coming here for 24 years, as everybody has already stated.Â I think it says a number of things for our organization, J.D., myself, everybody in the front office, everybody back working on the cars.Â They get a chance to celebrate this along with FedEx and Toyota.Â Great partner.
But I think for us, it was a total team effort, but it shows also how hard our sport is.Â 24 years, coming here with I think great drivers, great teams, and we can't win this.Â So the best cars are out there tonight.Â For these guys to be able to pull this off, I think it was a special night for us.Â We've been blessed with some great experiences, but I put this down as one of them because it's been a long time coming and we really enjoyed it.
THE MODERATOR:Â We'll continue with questions.
Q.Â Denny, being the leader, is it your race to lose going into that last segment?Â Some of the guys thought maybe you left a little bit earlier than the zone.
DENNY HAMLIN:Â I thought I did it right at the zone.Â Maybe a half a car length before or something like that.Â But they told us they don't measure inches and feet when it comes to that.
You know, you always got to know at the end of these races you got to be on your toes the last restarts.
I thought the key for us was to get out there.Â Yeah, it is your race to lose when you come off turn two with the lead.Â We weren't fast enough to hold off those guys all race long.Â We were out front at the beginning of the race and we could not hold them off.Â We were ahead of them in the fourth segment, couldn't hold them off.Â Dave just made the proper adjustments to allow me to do my job better inside the racecar.
The 4 gave us one heck of a run.Â I could see him working, starting to burn that middle lane, really start to get it working.Â It was just a matter of time if I stayed stagnant on the bottom that he was going to get the position.
Obviously, like Dave said, I thought the key was moving up there and taking the air away from him.Â Really I thought my car took off a lot better at that point.Â It was way more stable.
It was just a total team effort, from pit crew, to the adjustments, to the road guys, the adjustments they made last night.
Q.Â Denny, J.D. was a guy that really supported you early in your career.Â On a night like this, J.D. was here, what does it mean, that symmetry, what J.D. has meant for you?Â And, Joe, there aren't many first experiences left in this sport for you with all the success you've had.Â To have that opportunity to share a first‑time experience again with your son, what does that mean tonight?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â Well, I mean, like I said, when I came into the sport, 2004, 2005, and the XFINITY program with these guys, they took risks.Â They always hired the veterans.Â They wanted the guys that were proven.Â The sport was starting to take a turn for the younger guy.
I just got an opportunity to get in a seat and try to show them what I was capable of.Â But it wouldn't have been possible had J.D. not showed up at a random test in Hickory at some short track and watched me run some laps.
He just has been the key person in the development or relationship that I've had with Joe Gibbs Racing.Â When coach was away the first couple years of my career coaching, he was the leader.Â He still is a big leader within Joe Gibbs Racing.
He's a guy that you want to model yourself after.Â The way he handles himself professionally, with his family, his kids, he's a model person.Â It's special.Â I consider him kind of like my second dad.Â When I moved away from racing with my family in the late models, came over to Joe Gibbs Racing, J.D. was my dad.Â He was the one that looked after me, called me when I did something wrong, praised me when I did something right.
He's the guy that I'll continue to respect.Â Just proud I could get them and their entire family a win after 24 years.
JOE GIBBS:Â I think for me, J.D.'s background, everybody here has maybe kids like this, J.D. gave it everything he had, every experience, every sport he ever played.Â As Denny said, he's strong, a real leader.Â He came back and told us, I think we got somebody here.Â He said, Let's give him a chance.
He laid out a little plan.Â Denny surprised us all, what he was able to do in the truck, a Nationwide race.Â He said, I think we need to sign him.Â Of course, when he went in the 11 car, it was unbelievable.Â I think sitting on the pole in the third race, he was gone.
For all of us, J.D. is always going to be there for us.Â I know he's at my back.Â He'll always be a part of our organization, part of all the big decisions.Â J.D.'s been in every meeting these last weeks here.Â He's going through a lot right now.
I just want to say this, though.Â I can't tell you how many people have come up to me, fans, just said, grabbed my arm, I just want you to know we're praying for J.D.Â It means so much to our family and everybody here, too, in this room.Â There's been people call me, say, I want to spend 30 minutes talking to J.D., is that okay?
This truly, from a sports standpoint, is a family.Â I just appreciate everybody here.
Q.Â And to be able to share your first‑time experience?
JOE GIBBS:Â Of course, we know every time we come over here every year, I was joking with the guys on the pit road, I went down for the prayer this time, I said to all the crew, I said, Hey, I got a wife and two kids, I need some money, c'mon.Â They were all laughing.
We've been here trying hard at this.Â J.D. was here tonight.Â Obviously the family.Â We're going to go up and celebrate a little later on.Â It was great.Â And Denny's family.
Q.Â Denny, you and Dave talked about the move where you broke Harvick's momentum with three to go.Â Was that something that you had in the back of your mind that you had been planning up to that point waiting for the right moment or was it more of an instinctive move at that point?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â It was more defense than anything, but it turned into offense for me.Â I don't know what my lap times were, but I at least was able to maintain and really start‑‑ my car just felt better in that line.Â I just knew it was a matter of time.
Usually it takes someone a couple laps to get that high line going.Â I saw him.Â He kept getting closer and closer.Â Eventually he gets to that right rear quarter panel and your race is done.
Initially I was looking in my mirror and I knew it was going to be a defensive move to take his line.Â But I was going to have to try something different because we were starting to lose time.Â My lap times were dropping off.Â I just had to do something different to try to salvage a win.
So that was obviously the key move for us.
Q.Â Coach, you mentioned how much it meant to you to have Denny win this race, have J.D. here.Â What does it mean to have Kyle back in the lineup for you guys?Â Does this race make you feel like your team is back at full strength?
JOE GIBBS:Â Yeah, I think Denny can probably tell you this.Â All of our meetings and everything, it's like when you're missing Kyle, kind of like part of our team is gone.Â It was great just getting him back.
We were in the first practice session there.Â I walked up to the window.Â He dropped the net.Â I said, Did you forget how to drive or you still got it?
I think it was just great having him out there.Â Denny will tell you in the meetings and everything, it's great.Â We got four guys that really communicate with each other, share everything.Â It's a big deal getting him back.
Of course for M&M, all that we've been through.Â I got to tell you, he went after this as hard as you can go after this.Â I went over to his house two days after surgery.Â He was already off all medications, everything.Â He was already trying to work out.Â I'm going, Hey, what are you doing?Â You're not supposed to be doing that.
He really went after it, Kyle did.Â We're happy for him.Â We got the baby.Â We didn't know what was going to happen there.Â We had all kinds of plans.Â It's neat to see Kyle back.Â It's great to have him back in our group.
Q.Â Joe and Dave, first win for the team in Cup on a mile‑and‑a‑half track since 2013.Â Does tonight give you confidence in the intermediate program with Denny doing what he did in the final 10 laps, maybe something in the final stint for the Coca‑Cola 600 next Sunday?
JOE GIBBS:Â For me, as Denny said, we've been behind on intermediate.Â We worked extremely hard.Â My hope is that this is going to be a sign that we're closing the gap.Â But we'll have to see.Â The 600 will be a big deal for us.
I know it was a shot in the arm for all of us and a lift to get a chance to run intermediate stuff and be up front with real good cars, be able to run with them.Â We'll just have to see what this means going forward.
Toyota's worked hard.Â Our motor program and everything, we've really put a lot into this.Â Hopefully this is going to be a sign we can get back and run with the front guys.
DAVE ROGERS:Â Yeah, I think coach covered it.Â Obviously excited to lead laps.Â Really encouraged by our single car speed out there in qualifying.Â Denny turned out a fairly fast lap for going out early in the session.Â I think we posted second, maybe third quickest time.Â That's encouraging.Â Getting to Victory Lane is always encouraging.
The whole team performing the way it did gives me a lot of optimism.Â But I don't think we're in a position where we can rest.Â We need to get back to work Monday and bring a better car back to the 600.
We played this game really well.Â We came out the victor, but we didn't get the best car.Â We need to go home, keep working on it, give him a better car next week and try to follow up with a back‑to‑back at Charlotte.
JOE GIBBS:Â I shouldn't tell you this because it shows you how smart I am.Â At the end, I thought we took no tires.Â I kind of went, That was awesome.Â How did Dave do that?
Rule‑wise and everything, he said, No, no fuel.
DAVE ROGERS:Â That was a great fuel‑only stop (laughter).
JOE GIBBS:Â I had to go to the pit crew guys and say, Man, that was awesome (laughter).
Q.Â Looking into next week, with this win, how does it look for you as far as coming off of tonight?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â I think we learned some valuable stuff.Â We ran up front, re‑ran in the middle, we ran in the back.Â I think we have an idea of what our car did.Â I have some really good information that I'll download with these guys next week.
This is a big learning process for us obviously.Â We've been working at trying to get our cars better.Â Hopefully this is a sign that we've got the light at the end of the tunnel.
We're going to keep working.Â When you're as far behind as what we were over this last year and a half, it's just not overnight that you are going to flip a switch and be better.Â It's a work in progress.
But everyone from the road team to the fab shop to the people that bolt on the nuts and bolts of the car have been working overtime to make sure we have the right stuff to go out there and compete.
Thank them.Â Total team effort top to bottom.
Hopefully with the information I give Dave, it will make us even better next week.
Q.Â Coach, you've won races and games, Super Bowls, championships.Â How does winning this event stand in all of those?
JOE GIBBS:Â For me, I get so excited every week, you know, competitive, wanting to come to the racetrack.Â It's so much fun for me.Â To get to be in a sport like this, you got the best people in the world racing these cars.Â For us to get a chance to compete in this, try and beat 'em, I get so excited about that.
When you have something like this, something that just keeps bugging you, that we just can't get a win here in this race, it was a huge deal for us from that standpoint.
For me personally, you know, it's hard to separate the thrills when you get one like this because, you know, it's hard to think back in the past.
But a big night like tonight, Pat normally says it best.Â She says, It's like having babies, you can't separate them.Â All those great wins are so much fun.Â I get excited every week.Â I really get fired up about going to the racetrack.
Got a chance to win.Â Got a chance.
DENNY HAMLIN:Â It's definitely my biggest win, for sure.Â I kind of always go back to my very first Shootout win at Daytona, my very first Cup win.Â I mean, this is probably bigger, for sure, simply because you know everyone brings the best of the best.Â It's a shootout, a short race where you go all out, and it's a total team effort from top to bottom.
When you're able to come out first against the best in the business, you have to rank this up at the top.
THE MODERATOR:Â Congratulations to Denny Hamlin, Dave Rogers, Joe Gibbs Racing, coach.Â Enjoy this win and we'll see you next week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports