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February 23, 2017
Daytona Beach, Florida
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by tonight's second‑place finisher in the Can‑Am Duel at Daytona, Race No. 2. That is Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford for Stewart‑Haas Racing.
Clint, a successful run out there for you tonight. Describe how that's going to get you ready for The Great American Race on Sunday.
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I mean, just a confidence booster. First and foremost, that's our first time drafting, practice or anything. We didn't run the Clash, so to be up there with those guys that had done that and had those races under their belt, I was pleasantly not surprised, but just happy.
Car is fast, just like it was in qualifying trim. Gives you a lot of confidence going into the 500. I knew right off the bat with the speed that it had, immediately you go in the thought, in the car even, Oh, my gosh, I got to get to the end of this thing in one piece and keep the fenders on this thing because I need this for the 500.
That's what makes the race so tricky. They've added the points system, which adds some incentive, but, man, this is my bullet ride. I needed this thing in the 500. It's been fast since we unloaded. If I tore it up and didn't get a chance to run it, it would be a shame.
Happy to get back up there to second. Happy to be giving this interview. Damn, it's been a while since I've been in here.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.
Q. Clint, last year the Daytona 500 was decided by Toyotas because they worked so well together, just stayed in a line. There was a lot of talk that Fords would be doing that. Tonight Chevy pushed a Toyota to a win. How do you think Sunday is going to shape up? Do you think it's going to be manufacturer cars working together?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, the 500 is a lot longer race, a lot different circumstances than you see right there in the Duels. You don't have all your dancing partners in one Duel.
We got together with Kurt there. We were trying to help as much as possible. Just seemed like the way the momentum and everything was going, you could go sometimes with your teammate, it would help you, but you couldn't other times. If you did, it would probably hurt you and maybe both of you.
That's the tricky thing, is I've always kind of had‑‑ clear back from when I started learned from Kevin, if it helps you both, go; if it hurts you to help me, probably ought to go on.
But the 500's a lot different. 500 miles around there. You get lined up. You get acclimated to that. It seemed like when Junior got us single file up there on the top, you're just kind of riding along. Those moves were getting dicey. There was some blocking going on. That was creating opportunities to either gain or lose right there.
I think it just kind of got jumbled up and did away with the teamwork aspect of it a little bit.
Q. Clint, after last year, what did it feel like to be out there tonight and take this finish emotionally for you, to turn things around?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I mean, you knew it was going to be. You move over here to Stewart‑Haas Racing, everything that they've done, everything they've accomplished over the years, you know you're in plenty good equipment.
To be honest with you, you're just concentrating right now. I've got a lot of things that I want to try to work on and perfect a little bit with the handling characteristics that I know will help me in the 500.
That was my first crack at‑bat. We didn't have drafting practice or the Clash or anything. So there were some gremlins in there that I want to work on that will help me smooth in and be a little bit better in the 500, be a little bit more comfortable.
Man, that thing has been a rocket ship since I've been here. That's what you expect out of these teams. Mike, all the guys on that 14 car, exceptional. Hell of a lot of fun to drive it.
Q. Clint, you said the other day you've had a year and a half to dream about this. You got in the seat tonight. Was it as good as you dreamed?
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, to be honest with you. It's exactly what I dreamed. One position off, you know. Obviously Denny over there with the Monster crowd is looking a little better than I am here with you (smiling).
Just you in particular. No.
But, you know, I mean, hell, it feels good to be talking to you guys, to be in here, be talking about success on the racetrack, speed on the racetrack. Kevin was fast. I watched it on top of the box. It's just going to take time. I know there's being to be bumps in the road.
We get on into the better part of our season as we move into Atlanta, the West Coast swing. To be honest with you, you're already thinking about that. You're hoping you have the same success that we have there.
What a great opportunity to win the biggest race of the year that I have here. This car is fast. The Roush‑Yates horsepower is awesome. Everything that I thought it would be. The dream, yeah, I mean, all these things are really adding up to the reason why you were champing at the bit to get in this car.
I was just teasing. Don't get sensitive on me (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: I want to introduce DJ Kennington, driver of the No. 96 Lordco Castrol Toyota. Also I think maybe the happiest man in Daytona Beach right now after racing your way into The Great American Race.
Can you describe the feeling coming here to Daytona and making the Daytona 500?
DJ KENNINGTON: No, I really can't. Clint said it's a dream come true for him. It's everything he dreamed of. Well, I'm not with Stewart‑Haas, but I'm with a small team of Gaunt Brothers Racing that put a car together; TRD helped us. We went into the wind tunnel and actually tested at Talladega.
With Lordco and Castrol behind me, Castrol has been my sponsor for 25 years now. Very fortunate to have them behind me.
I can't explain it really. Coming off of four, I wasn't in the race. When we crossed the line, I was, so just an unbelievable feeling for us. The small race team, like I say, with TRD helping us, all the information we gained, so on, it definitely helped us.
I wish we could have practiced a little bit this morning. Never being in one of these cars, never drafting out here before, it was a pretty big deal for me, a lot of learning, I tell you. At the end we made it in. That's huge for us.
The hard part is over. We're going to have some fun now.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Clint, nobody had practiced since Saturday. You go out and do two pretty good races. Was practice pretty much overrated?
CLINT BOWYER: No. I would have liked to have had some practice.
It's a really difficult situation. We used to come down here and work and work and work and practice and go out there and put that thing in situations, and come back in and really find gains, find all that stuff.
Unfortunately, these darn engineers, as smart as they are, as good as they are, the wind tunnels, everything that we use for tools, all that work is done for you.
To get in the swing of things, to get acclimated to things, you're darn right, I wish I would have been in that Clash so I could have had that under my belt. I was a little rusty out there.
It's the same for everybody. The rules are the rules. I got a good team, a fast hot rod. Fortunately we kept the fenders on it. We'll be ready for Sunday.
Q. DJ, I was wondering if you could talk about how long it took to put this program together. Can you talk about Robby Benetton's involvement with the team.
DJ KENNINGTON: Absolutely. Robby and Marty have teamed up to put together a team that want to run all four restrictor plate races and possibly a couple road courses maybe.
It was weird how it all started. I drove for Premium Motorsports in Phoenix last year. Got talking with Marty about an opportunity to run the 500 with Premium. I was actually talking to Triad about getting some engines to run Daytona.
It all kind of ended up falling together with Marty and myself making a deal to drive his own car. Lordco and Castrol came onboard, my sponsors from Canada, to help out. We put it together I would say within the last month.
A lot of my guys from my race team up in the Pinty's Series came down. We've been working 18, 20 hours a day at Robby Benton's shop to put this car together ourselves.
They actually flew back on Sunday. Four of them worked 24 hours to have the backup car here in case we needed. Just been a group effort. Robby Benton has helped Marty out with the shop. Amazing equipment to work with, pull‑downs, everything. A lot of work in a short period of time.
It probably all came together in the last four weeks.
Q. Is Robby serving as crew chief?
DJ KENNINGTON: Actually, no. Robby is spotting. He came on the radio on the back straightaway. He says, You got to get in front of the 7. Do what you got to do. I knew what I had to do. I didn't know how to get there.
Really lucky off of four. I picked the right line. I didn't think the middle would work. The only spot I had to go was the middle. We shot up the middle. I think we got ahead of Elliott by half a car length. That's huge for this race team. Marty has put a lot into it with TRD, done a lot of hard work. I'm proud to be able to drive this thing.
Heck, to be in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, that's a dream for me. From St.Thomas, Ontario, Canada. There's only been eight of us Canadians that have made the 500, so that's huge for us.
THE MODERATOR: Clint, thank you.
CLINT BOWYER: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for DJ.
Q. We had it figured differently apparently. We thought when Timmy Hill went out, it put you and Elliott in the show no matter what. Brendan didn't need the fast qualifier clause.
DJ KENNINGTON: 83 made it in from the first race. Brendan was locked in. If we didn't beat the 7 car, Reed Sorenson would have been in on time. The last chance we had was to beat the 7 car. We knew exactly what we had to do. I just didn't know how to get there. Thankfully we got there.
Q. Castrol has been on your car forever. Can you explain how important it is to have that kind of a relationship to take you from Elko Speedway to the Daytona International Speedway.
DJ KENNINGTON: I don't know how many people in motorsport right now can say they've had the same sponsor for 25 years. Very fortunate. They're like family to me. This deal all came together when I was trying to put some money together to come to Daytona.
Quick story. I went to the Castrol Christmas party. I wasn't even going to go because I wasn't feeling the best. My wife actually told me, Here are a couple Advil. Get your butt to the party. Go see your friends.
I went to the party, started talking to people there. They were really excited about how we did at Phoenix, racing with Premium Motorsports. Congratulated me. I said, Hey, I'm working on the next chapter now. I am trying to get to the Daytona 500. The owner of Wakefield, which is Castrol in Canada, he stuck his hand out right there and said, I got your back for that. Make it happen.
I never even asked him for it. Just tells you what kind of sponsor they are for me. Unbelievable what they've done for me my whole racing career. Without what they've done for me, I wouldn't even be here today. I can't explain to you how important they are to me.
THE MODERATOR: DJ, congratulations on making the Daytona 500. Good luck on Sunday.
DJ KENNINGTON: Thanks. We appreciate it. The hard part is done, now we can have some fun.
THE MODERATOR: We will now conclude our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series media availability today with the winner of race two of the Can‑Am Duels at Daytona. No stranger to this media center today, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, and your defending Daytona 500 champion.
Denny, walk us through your race at the end as you captured the lead and pulled away to victory.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was definitely a tough race for us. The reason it was so tough for us, a lot of guys were content to run in single file for most of the race. We obviously were trying to buck that trend for most of the race by going to the bottom. We'd get hung out. I was just trying to make it interesting for the most part because I knew I wasn't going to get back up in line.
But it was an interesting race. I thought we definitely, by choosing four tires‑‑ you know, I thought the call with four tires there at the pit stop, because my car wasn't quite running or handling the way I thought it should for being at night, so I wanted the extra grip. We ended up having a penalty anyway, even though we were at the back. It didn't really matter.
But we started in the back. Luckily those guys got two‑wide. We could make some moves to get some track position. We got some good pushing from the 3 car at the right time. The 41 and 48 also helped us at the right time when we needed it. We were able to come through.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor up to questions.
Q. Denny, it's a Duel qualifying race obviously. In the grand scheme, looking towards Sunday, does this send a message, We're still the guys to beat?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I'm not sure what it means or what it says. I honestly had my concerns with kind of how my car drove tonight. I wasn't overly excited about it. I think we still got to work on it just a little bit in practice to make it a little bit better and do the things that I need it to do.
But overall pretty happy with the result, nonetheless. I think we had a little bit different racetrack tonight. I'd say a lot different racetrack than what we're going to have in the 500. If you're struggling at all with handling tonight, you're going to have some big issues on Sunday.
We got to go to work and make sure that we got a car that can win on Sunday.
Q. Should we start now on the over/under for your pit road penalties? How do you overcome those?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, we were at the back. I think there were two cars that were side‑by‑side as I was leaving my pit stall. I wanted to be safer than sorry, leave them room. I didn't want to damage my car. I drove through more pit boxes. I was going to be at the tail end anyway because we had a four‑tire stop that was really, really long.
It was more kind of trying to avoid an accident kind of penalty. Speeding ones are the ones I have to keep an eye out on this year. I think with these stages, you can't afford to give up track position in the middle of the race any more.
Q. When you're trying to get by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he's zigzagging in front of you, he's come back after being gone. Is there any...
DENNY HAMLIN: No.
Q. No? Does it even cross your mind?
DENNY HAMLIN: No. I don't feel bad. No, no, not at all (smiling). He's won a lot. He's still going to win a whole lot more. His position was a lot like my position on the last lap of the Clash. We were coming so fast, it's like a free kick in soccer. As a goalie, you guess which way they're going to kick the ball. He thought I was going one way and I went the other.
In the Clash, I guessed right on Keselowski. Unfortunately we collided together. That's kind of the predicament you're in as the leader when those cars are coming that fast.
Q. I wasn't asking him about beating him more than were you worried about getting in a wreck with him?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, it never crossed my mind about getting in a wreck with him. He can control his car on these tracks amazingly. He does some pretty incredible things on these superspeedways. I feel like I can control mine pretty well.
He's the guy in my mind that I know I can run within inches of and I know he's going to hold his line, I'm going to hold my line. I was pretty comfortable with that.
Q. Denny, a lot of your teammates were in that first race. You only had Erik Jones. He had issues early. How much does that change the way you ran through this race? How much of a statement do you think it makes you were still able to bring home the win?
DENNY HAMLIN: It was different. Last year I was in my own Duel, as well. It always ends up that way. We're on our own.
We had a great shot to win last year before I made a bonehead move and let Junior get position on us.
You find teammates. You find people that you work well with. Tonight it seemed like the 3 car especially is one that our car worked especially good with. So we'll be looking for him this Sunday and trying to link up with him, if we're not around one of our Toyota teammates.
The 41, as well, I thought we ran really well with. You just find other guys that you get along with. You know you can trust them. Tonight it was those guys.
Q. Do you win this race without the help from Austin Dillon? Is there another way to get to Victory Lane without that push? With all the talk about manufacturer alliances, how well the Toyotas worked together in the Daytona 500 last year, Chevy pushing Toyota to a win tonight, does that mean anything for Sunday? Do you think we'll still see manufacturers decide things?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't think so. I guess allowing him to play in my basketball league paid off, you know (smiling).
That's what I'm saying. I just gather up all these guys. Eventually you just get teammates in different kind of ways.
No, I don't know. I think that we just worked together the entire race. It's no different than if it was the other way around. I'd have a hard time not pushing him if I had worked with him the entire race. I would have a hard time not pushing him to a win.
The 88 is a manufacturer teammate but not a car owner teammate. It's kind of a weird line there.
Q. Will Sunday look the same as last year, seven Toyotas together?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't think so. I don't think that works. You got to do something different.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, congratulations on the win. Good luck on Sunday.
DENNY HAMLIN: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports