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April 30, 2017

Denny Hamlin

Richmond, Virginia

THE MODERATOR: We'll continue our post‑race media availability for the Toyota Owners 400, top‑finishing Toyota driver, finished third in today's race, Denny Hamlin, he led 59 laps today, was out front pretty much all day. Denny, can you just give your impression from inside the car of today's race?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was about as good as we had. You know, we just didn't have the speed that the other cars had. We talked about that Friday during media. But we optimized our day. It's the best we could do. We finished right where we should have.

Q. I know last week you were talking about that you felt like the team was making small strides in the right direction to have more success with the Toyota team. How do you feel today's race went for you in that effort, and then of course coming back to Richmond under daylight circumstances, I noticed that in the first segment cars were running pretty high to the wall compared to sometimes at night.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I think that some of the issues that you might have with speed is masked just a little bit on a short track, so by no means does this indicate that we've fixed anything. I think we know that we have some shortfalls, and when I'm running out front my balance is very, very good, where I need it to be, and we just don't have a car that was quite fast enough. Aerodynamics matter, skew matters, things like that, and we're just a little behind. So we've got to just take solace in some small wins and goals, and today was a good finish. We executed great, didn't make any mistakes, and finished right where we should have. We at least can build on that and try to survive this time of the season where we don't have the fastest cars.

Q. Denny, kind of piggy‑backing off that, how much does racing in daylight conditions lend itself to the type of racing that we saw today compared to night where it's maybe not as adventurous and action‑packed?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, you know, the night‑‑ Richmond is such a great day or night race. I like racing at night here just as much as I like racing during the day. But it just seems like during the day you really can make up some positions because the track is so slippery, that if you have a little bit more grip than the person in front of you, typically you can make a move, where nighttime the speeds are a little faster, you're always buried on the bottom for the most part, and it's a little bit tougher to pass. So it just makes the racing a little bit better the slicker the conditions.

Q. You mentioned you made small gains today, small victories. Was there any one particular thing that you people did as an organization to get better, or was it just a lot of little things that contributed to today?
DENNY HAMLIN: We haven't gotten better. We're really right where we were. I mean, if we go to a mile‑and‑a‑half next week, we're just as far off as what we were a week ago. Literally it's just a short track, and so driver can make a little bit more difference in aerodynamics and skew and all that stuff doesn't matter quite as much, but it's still an issue for us. You've still got to have raw speed. You cannot just have a better setup than those guys and go out and beat them. You have to have a faster car, and we just‑‑ you know, I'm optimistic. I hate to be pessimistic about today, but we've got to be real about it and realize, hey, it's just a short track. We still have a lot of work to do to catch up.

Q. Denny, all those things you've been talking about, no mistakes, working it right in the pits, a slick track and making the most of it, are these the kind of things that it takes a lot of experience to do? We've been talking about young drivers and young guns and young this and that, but it seems like this was a race when experience really counted.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I think that a lot of the short tracks I think experience does matter. I think that you can lean on the veterans to give you good information to put a good setup in the car and at least be in contention. It's the same thing I talked about on Friday. You still have the organizations that have more speed than you, but you as a veteran know what it takes to get around this track. So we're always going to be in contention, but it's just going to be harder to get a win than it was before.
Yeah, that's typically why you see these types of racetracks where the old guys at least have a chance.

Q. Denny, it seemed that your pit stops were really good today, getting you consistently back out front; is that one of the positives you take from this weekend because it hasn't always been the case, but it seems like it's getting a lot better?
DENNY HAMLIN: It is getting better. We struggled with our pit crew early in the season, but they're definitely hitting their stride and did a great job all day. Hats off to them, and I think we missed one lug nut on the last stop, so we'll get a little fine for that, but for the most part they've been spot on and doing a really good job in these races that we're contending with.

Q. Denny, the crowds just weren't what they were for the night races here at Richmond. I was wondering how much you noticed that as a driver, and obviously there's forces at play here well beyond your control, but what you guys feel you maybe need to do to spark this event.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it's 90 degrees and coverage on TV is pretty excellent. It's tough to sit in the bleachers when it's 90. But who knows, I mean, I think there's more to it than just people not watching NASCAR. I think that sports in general are way, way down, attendance is down, a lot of other sports, as well. It's just viewing sports is different now than what it's ever been. People with smartphones, they're watching races and they're watching games in the back of their car going up the highway. You don't have to attend these races anymore, you get such a good experience through your cell phone.
The way we measure attendance and we measure TV ratings and all that, it's always skewed because we live in a different world now.

Q. You talked earlier in the week about how you're kind of a summertime racer; you kind of tend to get better as it gets warmer. There's obviously a lot of frustration in what you're saying today. How much concern is there?
DENNY HAMLIN: There's not much concern because I think we know where we need to work. We know where we need to get better. The tough part is sucking and not knowing why. That's the tough part. At least if you know why, then you can go to work on those areas. And we have 500 employees at JGR that's working very hard to make sure we're going to be fast when it really counts at the end of the season, and until then, we've got to just do what we did today, and that's get a good finish and stay as high in the points as we can. That way when we have cars that can win, we can capitalize on those moments.
I'm not really worried. It's just frustrating. I knew going into today that we were at a disadvantage before we even rolled off pit road. But you've got to just do everything you can to fight as hard as you can and maybe the chips would fall just perfectly for us, but they didn't, and we still had a good finish.
I'm optimistic that we know where we need to be, and we'll be there soon‑ish.

Q. Did you gain any optimism from watching the way Matt started, leading the first 163 laps?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. I mean, I think that the track goes through huge changes here, and the cream is going to rise to the top after halfway, and you really see who's got the cars to beat. I knew that even though we were making up positions and getting towards the front, there was a handful of cars that we were going to have to battle that were just a little bit better than us.

Q. You talked about short tracks, you talked about mile‑and‑a‑half. Next week we go to Talladega. Can you talk about your anticipation for that, and are you looking forward to it or dreading it?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, definitely looking forward to it. Our Superspeedway program has been great at JGR. I've really gotten pretty good on superspeedways, so it's a race‑‑ it's honestly probably the best chance I have at winning until a few months from now. Everything is pretty level. I'm optimistic we're going to have a car that can win, and I'll do the best I can to fight for every position.
Really, the superspeedways are tracks where we get excited because we know we can go out there and win.

Q. Denny, you knew you didn't have the fastest car today, and you said a moment ago that you knew there were a handful of cars that you were going to have to get by somehow. With the pit stops working as well as they could and your experience on short tracks, was there ever a point where you thought, I might be able to steal one today?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, there was a moment where the two Penske cars stayed out and we pitted, and that's where I thought, okay, this could be the chance that we have to steal it. But then we had another caution, and then they came in and pitted with us.
We were constantly‑‑ we knew we had to do something different to beat those guys. We weren't going to be able to beat them straight up. We had to either beat them off pit road or we had to be on a different tire strategy, and the only way to be on a different tire strategy is we were going to have to hope they didn't pit, and they didn't, and it really‑‑ my eyes got big at that moment thinking, this could be our chance to level the playing field and race these guys. But we had another caution, and it kind of screwed all that up.
THE MODERATOR: Congrats on the third‑place finish, Denny. Great job, and we will see you next week at Talladega.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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