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March 31, 2019

Chris Gabehart

Joe Gibbs

Denny Hamlin

Fort Worth, Texas

THE MODERATOR: We will begin our post race media availability as we are joined by Chris Gabehart, crew chief for the No.11 FedEx Office Toyota.
We'll open it up to media for some questions.

Q. No tires call today, a difficult decision to wrestle with or a no‑brainer?
CHRISTOPHER GABEHART: Very difficult decision to wrestle with. That's what I'm going to say.
No, for our car, the performance, kind of everything we were seeing, it was not necessarily a track position oriented race because we found a way to give that away in the race a lot. Minimum time on pit road. For our scenario each time, it just made the most sense and fortunately worked out.

Q. Are you pretty clear on the uncontrolled tire rule or do you say you got to do what you got to do to have a fast pit stop and leave it in NASCAR's hands?
CHRISTOPHER GABEHART: Yeah, I mean, NASCAR has done a good job of making everything pretty black and white on that. In the heat of the battle, it's my job to argue our case, especially when I think it's close. That case we felt like it was, but the call didn't go our way.
At that point you got to play the ball where it lies, rebound, regroup. Denny and the team did a good job of that.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Denny Hamlin, driver of the No.11 FedEx Office Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, as well as team owner Joe Gibbs.
We'll continue with our questions.

Q. Mr. Gibbs, do you find it remarkable seven races into the season only two organizations have wins, two elite organizations obviously?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think what happens in our sport, you get on a hot streak, then we all know in pro sports, the hardest thing is to stay up there. I would say some of those others are knocking on the door. Today some of those teams had chances but they just made mistakes.
We're thrilled to be a part of it, I'll tell you that. I hope we can find a way to stay up there. But in pro sports, we all know the hardest thing is to stay up there week in, week out, because we got so many really good cars, many good owners, good competitors. It's the best racing in the world.

Q. Denny, the speeding penalty, uncontrolled tire, did you miss pit road or run out of fuel?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, both. We ran out of fuel. I know, it's amazing.
CHRISTOPHER GABEHART: It was a very rough day.
DENNY HAMLIN: I passed pit road and we ran out. That cost us, I don't know, a lot. Seemed like a lot.
CHRISTOPHER GABEHART: I think you passed 327 cars, by my count.
DENNY HAMLIN: Then I tried to come into pit road hot. I about spun out. I had to let off the brake to keep from spinning out. I knew I wasn't going to make pit road, checked up, lose another four or five seconds under another green flag sequence.
I was just beating my head against the steering wheel thinking, Man, we're going to finish bad with a really fast car. He just kept digging. Chris kept doing a good job of encouraging us we had a long way to go. We kept passing cars, passing cars. I think at some point we passed everyone for sure.
Once we got the clean air in the front, the 20 pulled off for his pit stop, it allowed me to be more aggressive with the way I was driving. Then we made a really good adjustment there at the end that got our car better.
Really the only time our car struggled handling‑wise was when we were in the pack of three with our teammates. Had we had the balance we had earlier in the day, I felt like we could have probably got around them.
Certainly we had a great car all day. Just a bunch of hiccups in the middle of it. We were fast enough to overcome everything that kind of got thrown at us.

Q. Obviously this rules package, one of the intentions was to close the gap with the field, keep the field closer at times. The leader didn't get way out away. Without this rules package, do you win this race with these penalties and issues?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I'm not sure. I mean, as fast as our car was, maybe, maybe not. But certainly our car was really reliant on drafting, having somebody in front of me to run fast lap times. Once I could control the pace, I got out front in stage two, I thought we were able to pull away as good as anyone from the pack. That just told me how fast our car was.
I was able to drive it more aggressively, then from that point on, I really thought I figured something out inside the car that made me be able to be more aggressive even in traffic than what I was earlier in the day.

Q. (No microphone.)
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know. It's so different now. I mean, it is so, so different. When you go to these racetracks, you can't look at past winners, trends, histories. All that stuff is no good any more. You got to start from scratch, and we're all learning together.

Q. Denny, you just talked about beating your head against the steering wheel, frustrated you might lose with a fast car. Do you take some special satisfaction in sort of defying the odds all afternoon long, nobody is thinking about you, you keep plugging away and find a way to win?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, in short really all that cost us today was we lost out on stage points in the first stage, and I probably cost us a lot of laps led more than likely. Certainly things fell favorable for us with the cautions that did come. We were able to have some really good restarts. That was key for us, as well. The final two restarts, we were really able to gain positions.
I thought we were able to go through the pack as good as anyone when we did get behind. That was key. Looked like passing was very, very difficult, no doubt about it. It seemed like our car could move around as good as anyone. That's what allowed me to be aggressive, allowed me to come through the pack multiple times.

Q. How do you feel about this major momentum this team has here at the beginning of the season?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it's good. I mean, we're really doing well with bringing fast cars to the track. Obviously me and Chris are still trying to learn each other and figure out what each other need. Each week we're learning more and more.
I think each week, when you get past Daytona, that was amazing, but all the other racetracks, I feel like we've gotten better and faster every single week from the beginning of the year, so...
I think a lot of that is him trying to figure out my style, me trying to adapt to this style of racing.

Q. Chris, you said, I can't wait till we start executing. Do you begin to guess what the potential of the 11 team can be if you clean up pit road messes?
CHRISTOPHER GABEHART: Yeah, that's subjective, what have you. It's hard really to quantify that.
What's neat about the year for me, I think Denny would tell you the same, every race thus far I can point to key scenarios in the race that had we fixed that, whatever that is, it's been different every week, we would have finished better than we finished.
We haven't optimized our races yet. That's encouraging now. You're racing against the best teams in the world. It's difficult to have a flawless race. It's not an easy thing. It's one thing to identify, it's another thing to fix. That's something we got to work on.
The exciting thing is we never leave the racetrack guessing where we could have did better. So in that regard we definitely haven't reached our potential.

Q. Denny, this looked a lot more like the Vegas test where we thought everybody was going to be closer together. Was that because of the cooler temps or VHT?
DENNY HAMLIN: You could run more wide open here. It all has to do‑‑ as soon as there's off‑throttle time, that's when the cars get spread out. Everyone could pretty much run wide open through three and four here today. So really in essence you had about a mile and a quarter of straightaway, and really only turns one and two were the places you couldn't run wide open directly behind somebody. You could run wide open behind somebody in three and four.
There was more grip at this track than what we've had at any of the other tracks. That's what allowed the packs to be tighter and the drafting to be more effective. It really has to do with when you're grip limited, you're not going to have pack racing. When you have an excess of grip, you will have tighter racing.

Q. Denny, with your second win of the year under your belt, you're still eight points behind Kyle Busch. What is your mindset going into Bristol?
DENNY HAMLIN: Try to win and be first. That would be awesome. We're doing a good job of plugging away. We're getting stage points. We're running up front.
What I care about is running good every single week. This year has just been different than the last four or five years, I guess, just in the sense it seems like we have speed. With a little execution I certainly believe we easily could be leading the points.
The 18 has out‑executed us a few races. That's really been the difference. So I really believe that this team is not even close to where it's going to be in two months, so pretty optimistic.

Q. Denny, a lot of people talked about you might see teams start to potentially close the gap off the West Coast swing, had a little bit of time to work on their cars. As you were going through the field, you passed 327 cars today you said, did you get a sense there is a gap closing? Or as an organization, JGR has spread it out a little bit more from everybody else?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, we've qualified well with our 11 team. But in general, JGR, I don't know that we've all qualified that well this season.
I don't know that the all‑out speed is where we stack up as far as raw speed. But certainly the cars are driving, in my mind, better and better each week for me. That's coming from Chris, the feedback I give him, he makes adjustments, we get better.
He told me this morning that he was optimistic we had a race‑winning car. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was full of shit. I thought we really struggled with the balance of the car all weekend. It was not a good Friday for us, except for qualifying, where we tremendously overachieved.
He surprises me. I mean, we show up California, I was optimistic, but I didn't realize we were going to have as fast of a car as we had there, then again here at Texas. He's just doing the right things.
I'm learning as a driver. I'm still learning. I mean, this is a complete different style of racing than what I used to do in the past, just doesn't work that well. I have to adapt. Seems like I'm adapting quickly.

Q. Do you really think you had something for the 18 car there at the end if he didn't have those issues? You and Erik seemed close for most of the race but he's a hard guy to pass.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, he's definitely a hard guy to pass. All I can go off of is every time I was around him, I was catching him. I don't know. It just seemed like whoever could get out front could definitely run the pace, especially through one and two. Everyone else would just have to manage their cars around that. But certainly we beat him right there on the restart before into stage two, then we pulled away, then he got passed by a couple cars it looked like.
I certainly thought we had a car certainly that was capable of winning, and we were able to get that done, so...

Q. Chris and Coach, there's always pressure to get to the top, get a gap on everybody. What is the pressure like now when clearly you and Team Penske have a step on everybody else, to keep the same momentum you have now?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think for me, that is the hardest thing in pro sports, particularly in NASCAR where you have so many competitive teams. That will be the key, to stay up there. That's our challenge. That's what we're going to have to do.
I did want to mention that we're still celebrating J.D.'s life. Denny mentioned it when he first got in front of the cameras. Anybody out there that can go to JDGibbsLegacy.com, we'd appreciate it. I think Denny mentioning that is a huge deal for us.
The other thing I wanted to mention, coming to Dallas is a huge deal for us because we had Norm and Interstate which is a huge deal, our founding sponsor, we just announced this week an extension which will take us through 30 years of being together. Norm got us started.
We have Toyota, a big partner here, that now is in Texas, so it's a huge deal for them also. Those two things I wanted to mention. It's just a huge deal coming here. So many companies are here. We do so many hospitalities. As you guys know, it's a huge deal for us, our sponsors. Really, really important for us.
CHRISTOPHER GABEHART: I guess for me, I've always found that my biggest competitor is myself. So week in and week out, I just compete to be better, whether it's with the engineers, communicating with the car chief, the aero group back at the shop, Denny, whatever it may be. How can I be better? That's always been a really good guiding compass for me. It's worked out.
I'm so thankful that now, where I'm at with FedEx and Joe Gibbs Racing and Denny Hamlin, that's really the only thing I need. If I get better week in and week out, I have all the resources around me to take this team to heights unknown. That's a tall task. That's not easy. We're racing against the best in the world.
It's like I've been saying to everybody else: winners want the ball, so let's do it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us and congratulations.

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