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April 21, 2018

Chase Elliott

Denny Hamlin

Richmond, Virginia

THE MODERATOR: We're going to roll into our post race media availability. We've been joined by our third‑place finisher, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No.11 FedEx Ground Toyota.
Denny, considering where you started off yesterday, finishing third is a strong improvement. I'm sure you're slightly disappointed as well. Tell us a little bit about your night and ultimately coming home here third.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, probably would have taken it after yesterday. But we got close there. We just got better as the race went on. We were 13th, 15th, something like that in the first half of the race. Just weren't very strong. We just made some really good adjustments that got us rolling towards the front, especially on long runs.
We got to the top five, then we had some pit stops there. We gained a few spots there. But, you know, restarting on that outside line, it was a huge deficit. I just couldn't get the grip that I needed to try to run with the 18 side‑by‑side into turn one. That's all I wanted, to be within one car length getting into turn one, and I just couldn't get it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Denny.

Q. Yesterday in here you said your issues were pretty major, said you hadn't had them in years. Is that an A plus for your crew to get your car from that in a position to win?
DENNY HAMLIN: Definitely. I definitely consider that a great job by my team to get me in the ballpark, for sure. I mean, the last thing you want to do is come here and kind of get embarrassed, not run well, especially when you know what you need out of your racecar.
So they did a good job of making good adjustments overnight. We still weren't that good. But we just had some good circumstances that got us up front there at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by our second‑place finisher, Chase Elliott, driver of the No.9 NAPA Chevrolet.
Chase, we'll go to you quickly for a quick recap of your night to come home in second place here at Richmond.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, just very fortunate circumstances there at the end for us with the way the restarts went. Having a short run there at the end was definitely in our favor. So it was nice to be on the good end of things for the first time in a while.
Looking forward, we have to be realistic about how we ran tonight. I think the result shouldn't weigh into how hard we worked this week because we have some work to do. I think that we have to keep that in mind.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Denny or Chase.

Q. Denny, if you don't mind talking about it for a second, Kyle is awfully good on restarts. Do you have any idea what makes him so good? Is it a real challenge to try to beat him off the line in those situations?
DENNY HAMLIN: It is. He's really good at gaining the restarts, kind of mixing it up with where he takes off and everything.
I think this one is more so that the top has got a real big deficit. Especially at this track, if you're just a millisecond behind, when they get on the throttle, they have the preferred groove, they can really take off. I just wanted to be within one car length of him getting in turn one at some point. I just couldn't hold it up there.
Yeah, he's real good on restarts. Whenever you can dictate them, he really looks strong.

Q. For both of you, the first two stages went clean and green outside of the competition cautions. Are you surprised by that? What creates the long green‑flag runs?
DENNY HAMLIN: Less debris cautions really is the biggest thing. These cars are fairly reliable now. The drivers take care of their cars more so than they used to. It's just kind of a product of that. I mean, NASCAR has chosen to let these races kind of play out fairly for the competitors. Might not always be the best for TV, but it's certainly fair for us.
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, I would say similar response. I think, you know, we have two planned debris cautions each race. I think that's kind of how they view that now, which is perfectly fine. It's how the race would naturally play out without them. I don't have an issue with it.

Q. The night races here typically start a little after 7:30. This one started after 6:30. How much does that affect the track and change your race and your respective plans throughout the course of the evening?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, it was definitely a little different. The sun was a little bit of a pain there as it was setting on the backstretch. It's a different dynamic than I've been used to here, at least in my few starts on the Cup side.
I feel like the track did take a little bit after swing. I thought the guys‑‑ there were a couple guys good at the beginning that were really bad when it got dark. Definitely a swing of events there.

Q. Denny, talk about how your pit crew helped you to get up there. What has been key to them being so consistently strong, putting you in those positions?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, they did a really good job today. That's for sure. We've been mediocre. I think if you look at stats through the year, we've been mediocre on pit road. I've been atrocious on pit road. But we had a good stop there towards the end of the race.
I don't know if the other guys had issues or not, but I know the 78 looked like he had some issues on pit road. We capitalized, did a good job. I could feel it was a clean couple stops there, and that really helped us with our track position.

Q. Denny, when Kyle is winning back‑to‑back‑to‑back, is he in any sort of zone? Are you like, Wow he's just...
DENNY HAMLIN:...kicking ass? He is. I think he's winning them different ways. I thought tonight, I don't know how much he was up front. He was just right in front of me for most of the day, maybe two, three spots ahead. When we were struggling, he was struggling.
Obviously our cars, all the Toyotas, got a little bit better when it turned night there. Then I thought really honestly his pit crew did a good job getting him out first there. Once you can start dictating these restarts on green‑white‑checkered, 10 laps to go, it's really hard to beat you.
So they're winning them in dominating fashion, and they're winning them by being up front and putting themselves in position. Tonight they probably won on pit road. It's several different ways.

Q. Denny, have you seen any big change in Kyle over the past couple years? He wins the race, goes into the stands, the fans are accepting him. Part of that is Dale Jr. giving him the baby face rub. Is he becoming a softer Kyle Busch?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't think so. I think he's the same guy. He's obviously matured. He's got kids. Obviously Samantha is a good support group for him. I think he's just gotten older. That's the biggest thing. Once you get in your 30s, it seems like a lot of things change personally for you. He's got a ways till that happens, but...
It's just different kind of fun that you have when you're a little bit older. He's really ultra‑focused on trying to win more championships, as we all are. But I think he's been a great teammate, especially this year. I think this year we've probably talked more than we ever have. I think our relationship, me and him personally, is as good as it's ever been. We obviously need to look to them and see what we can do to be better because obviously they're just a tick better than us on a consistent, weekly basis.

Q. Chase, there's been a lot of fan reaction on Twitter throughout the earlier course of the race saying it's all a Ford and Toyota show. Do you feel Hendrick is catching up? Where have you seen gains if that's the case?
CHASE ELLIOTT: Yeah, I mean, I think we've been getting better, for sure, over the course of the past handful of weeks. I thought last week was really probably our best effort as a company. Obviously we crashed at the beginning. I felt like our car was solid throughout the whole weekend. Obviously our teammates ran well.
I think we have to continue to be realistic with ourselves. We can't look at the results tonight and think we're right there, because in reality I think we still have some work to do. I think anybody amongst our team would say the same thing. I'm not knocking anyone, anybody on my team or whoever, but we all know we need to do better. I think we just have to be realistic with ourselves.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, Chase, thank you both for your time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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