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November 16, 2018

Denny Hamlin

Homestead, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We'll continue our post‑qualifying media availabilities. We're joined now by our pole award winner, driver of the No.11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin. Denny, about this time last year we were doing the same thing in the same place. Talk to us a little bit about your qualifying run.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was a good last round for us. We adjusted well on the car. That was the key. Just kept studying where I needed to be on the racetrack and made a little tweak there at the end in the final run, and we adjusted for that, and it was enough. It was definitely a great run for us considering the guys that are up front there. We know they've got everything loaded for this weekend.
Proud of our team, and hopefully we can finish it off on Sunday.

Q. Based on qualifying, practice, everything, how confident were you you could sit on the pole today?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, a little bit. I thought that those guys that‑‑ those four that you just talked to, they're going to be tough to beat no matter when it is. But qualifying especially, it seems like we can make the right adjustments in that final round. So I was confident that we would have a shot at it, but it didn't look as likely after round 2 for sure where we were a couple tenths off, and then we turned it around to a half‑tenth gain there. So it was good for us for sure.

Q. I don't know if you heard this or not, but the question was asked a while ago if you guys would concede the first pit so Kyle could pick it since he's your teammate. Any thoughts on that?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, there's thoughts. The 78 was in the same position last year, asked us‑‑ we declined. I mean, to be honest with you, my pit crew is a second slower than Kyle's. I think everything is earned. Nothing is given. With us having the No.1 pit stall, nobody else‑‑ none of the other competitors will have it. I don't know. It's a discussion. I mean, certainly I would think that Wheels, with the pressure always to win, you've got to do everything you can to win. We'll have that discussion.

Q. And you need a win?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I don't need a win, but I want a win.

Q. What would mean more, winning and continuing your streak or winning in what would be your last race with Wheeler?
DENNY HAMLIN: They're equally significant. Obviously winning my first race with him was awesome. It would be awesome to cap it off with the end. But certainly both of them are very significant to me. Once we got knocked out of the playoffs, it was obviously the No.1 priority within our race team is to try to get a win. We've had a few shots here lately, between Martinsville and a couple others. I sat behind Kyle for way too long at Martinsville, or else I would have won that race, and so you second‑guess yourself, and you think that‑‑ being a good teammate‑‑ you've got to be a good teammate, no doubt about it, but you also‑‑ we have a big sponsor on this car. We have a lot of people that work really hard on this car to not give 100 percent, and that's something that we have to do.

Q. I know, still talking about the crew chief, but do you have an idea who you would like to be the crew chief in 2019, and how much input would you like to have in that decision?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't even‑‑ no comment on it really, right now, to be honest with you. I'm just so indulged into this weekend and trying to do the best we can. It's a conversation for weeks to come.

Q. Maybe you don't want to answer it then, but you once said that you thought Mike Wheeler would be the crew chief the remainder of your career. What changed? Was it your decision? How did it come to be?
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, I don't want to get into details, to be honest with you, and rehash it all, but certainly when it all started that I knew he was someone that had been working with me since 2004‑‑ yeah, 2004, or even when I started in that EJP truck way back in the day, he'd go up there to Maine and check it out. He was a guy that was always working his way up the ladder within JGR, within the engineering program. He's super smart, like I said, a great friend of mine. The spot was always his.
But obviously it's a big performance business, and even though‑‑ if you compare us to other drivers that people think are having a great season and we're actually having a better season, it's kind of unfair. You know, that's just the standards which we have for ourselves. We just‑‑ a change is going to be made, and that's all I can really say about it.

Q. First, you speak so highly of the friendship that you have with Wheels. Do you feel like that's one of the major aspects that has made you guys so successful together?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, certainly. I mean, I think that I'm not afraid to go in his office or hash it out with him at any point. I mean, you have that kind of relationship that you feel like you can tell him anything, and so that really means a lot, and it goes a long way, certainly.
And the bad part is we just‑‑ we had a rough summer. We had a rough start of the Chase, or playoffs, but then we started turning it up again. You know, it's a little frustrating, but also I understand it is a business and it is a performance business. So you've got to cross off things on the checklist.

Q. And talking about Homestead, you've won the pole here now three of the last four years. What is it about this place that seems to suit you so well, at least from a speed standpoint?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it's‑‑ we've really qualified well all year. This one in particular, I think this is our fourth pole. Race trim has been a little bit more challenging, but this racetrack has always been good to us for whatever reason. It just fits my driving style. I'm able to run right up against the wall or I can run the very bottom like we do in qualifying. So it's just one of those tracks for me, honestly, that fits my style, and I've always had a knack for it.

Q. What are the ethics of being the guy two years in a row that's racing against the Championship 4? They're racing for a championship, you want to win?
DENNY HAMLIN: It stinks. I mean, it just absolutely stinks because, I mean, we come to this‑‑ we come this weekend to win. Every weekend, whether we're in the playoffs or not in the playoffs, we come to win, and if you have to give up spots and things like that, you're just conceding that you are not going to win. It's tough for me to come to the racetrack with that mindset.
I think that‑‑ you saw it last year with Larson where he kind of ran those front two down, then he kind of backed off. I'd have a challenge doing that this year for sure.

Q. So on that note, obviously you want to win every week for all the reasons you just pointed out, but is there an extra pride that would go into being the guy that's able to beat the championship guys in this setting?
DENNY HAMLIN: Oh, sure. The champion has won this race every time? Yeah, every time. So sure, we want to break that streak and hope Kyle finishes second.

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