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October 20, 2019

Chris Gabehart

Joe Gibbs

Denny Hamlin

Kansas City, Kansas

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the winning crew chief and the winning owner of the No.11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. We have crew chief Chris Gabehart and team owner Joe Gibbs.
We'll open up the floor for questions.

Q. Joe, the final restart you had all four of your cars up there kind of vying for the win. How nervous were you? Was there any message to any of the teams on that final restart?
JOE GIBBS: No, no message. But I was nervous, for sure. There's so much at stake at the end of a race like that for each one of our teams. They got their sponsor, they got their career, their drivers do, crew chiefs. There's so much at stake. I get the most nervous when we have two of our cars up there or three of our cars up there.
Big day for us. Really appreciate everything. Kyle fought back from some stuff. Erik was really good all day. Thought we had a chance maybe with him. Then Martin was up there for a while. Denny was up there all day.
Chris has done a great job with Denny. They've really paired up. You can tell they have a lot of confidence. Denny on those restarts and everything tonight, he was on two tires, some of the guys were on four. Big deal.
I think right now, he's got a lot of confidence. One other thing I get emotional when I see the car because it has J.D.'s name over the door with Denny. That means so much to us, my family. I called everybody. I called Melissa, J.D.'s wife, the boys. It's a big deal for us emotionally.
I just thank the Lord for a great day for us.

Q. Your team has been really dominant this season, up there with the likes of Hendrick Motorsports back in 2007. How do you explain the dominance and strength that your team has displayed throughout all four full‑time cars?
JOE GIBBS: It is so hard in pro sports to stay up and keep performing. This is the best people in the world, the best teams, drivers in the world that race NASCAR. This is it. So it's hard to stay up there.
The only thing I would say there, it's about the people. We have great people back at the race shop preparing everything. I just wish a lot of them could be here. Then our drivers, our crew chiefs, their teams.
I just think it's kind of for us about people. I think we got great people. Right now we have very good chemistry. It's not going to buy us anything next week, the problem is (laughter). I get so nervous. I was all excited about the day, then somebody mentioned next week, and I almost threw up.
I said, You mean this doesn't get us to Homestead?
It was certainly a great day. I always say for our sponsor, I had a chance to call Fred Smith, everybody there at FedEx, it means so much for our sponsors.
This is different than other sports. They're actually in the game with us. They're on the car. They're a part of it. Three and a half hours, they're with us.
It's so great when you can call them afterwards and say thanks.

Q. Chris, during the day long green‑flag runs, not many opportunities to make changes on your car. Your thoughts going into today?
CHRIS GABEHART: Well, we had a really good practice, honestly. We were really good Friday during practice in race trim. This was a tough track for us. We didn't run very well here the first time.
I'm just so proud of my race team, myself, the engineers, everybody to come to these tracks for a second time and make the improvements we've made to be as good as we were.
Clearly once the race got going, they got strung out, it was evident we had a really good car, we were going to have a shot to win. We got a few key adjustments in the car. Between those and once we got out front, turned it into a dominant car, we were able to control the rest of the day until the last caution.
Then it's scrambling. It's a matter of figuring out a pit call, hope it's the right one, then Denny executing. He did a great job.

Q. Joe, do you allow yourself to think about that modern day Hendrick mark that you are two races away from tying? Is that a little bit more pressure?
JOE GIBBS: I think more about the championship. I'm more focused on that. But certainly we love the wins. I think for all of our cars, I mentioned each one of those sponsors, it's a huge deal for us. Obviously to get through them into the next round is a big deal.
This format for Playoffs, Kyle won the regular season, which was a huge deal for us. But when you get in these three‑round Playoffs, anything can happen. We know that. That makes you so nervous.
I think what you're doing is constantly thinking about Homestead, how do we get to Homestead. That's what I think about the most.

Q. Denny is maybe considered the best active driver not to have won a championship. Based on what you've seen this year, is this his best chance to win it?
JOE GIBBS: I think pairing him with Chris, Chris has meant a lot to Denny, and I think it did start off with the Daytona 500. That 500, everything it meant, everything about J.D., everything about the 11 number and everything, it was a huge deal. I don't think that was something that just happened. I think God really was a part of that weekend. We started there.
But I think Chris and Denny really developed a relationship where they fight on every single lap. I think tonight was a good example because Denny, he had those restarts, and there were people all over him, some having to win, some having four tires. Somehow he got it done.
I think Chris deserves a lot of credit, but I think Denny is on it right now.
CHRIS GABEHART: I would echo that. I think clearly he's shown the ability throughout his career to elevate. I think that's the difference between a good driver and a great driver, just like any athlete, is the ability to elevate when the pressure is on.
Clearly he's shown the ability throughout his career. But now he has the experience of the good days and the bad days, the good years and the bad years. He's just on it right now. I mean, this race team shows up to win every week. We're disappointed if we don't, quite frankly.
I think that's the key. I don't think it's about Homestead for us, it's about getting us to Homestead. At that point the mentality will carry us through the race or it won't. It's the same mentality we go to the racetrack with every week.

Q. Chris, obviously this is a really strong group of eight drivers that are left. You have almost half of them, your organization. Where do you feel like you guys stack up in that group? You've had your waves over the course of the season, haven't always been where you wanted to be. Do you feel confident enough to feel like you're going to have all three of them by the time you get to Homestead?
CHRIS GABEHART: You mean all three of them in the race at Homestead?

Q. Yes.
CHRIS GABEHART: That's so hard to say. Certainly, without question, the organization has the potential to get there. I think we've more than proven that this year.
You're talking about a three‑race series to get there. These racecars have a million moving parts on them, most of which we try to control, but some of which we can't. You have another 38 racecars out there that have a million moving parts on them, most of which you can't control. Can't control any of those. Blaney had his issue, brought the caution out.
A lot of circumstances determine whether or not you're going to get to Homestead as a race team or an organization. Clearly we have shown the ability to be the favorites I think. It's just a matter of executing, with a little bit of luck these next three, and I think we got a great shot at it.

Q. Chris, you say it's just a matter of executing. What goes into that?
CHRIS GABEHART: Again, the stuff we can control, it's just those million little moving parts we are talking about. Those are easy, right (smiling)?
It's staying focused. For us, the 11 team, we've made it in a lot of ways through the hard part. We're now really to the round where it's a real sweet spot for Denny. Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix, excellent racetracks for him. Couldn't be more excited about getting to Martinsville with the effort this organization has put into the cars there. Denny is excellent there.
Execution‑wise, it's just doing what we've been doing. I feel like we've worked hard all year to build a process and procedure that clearly is good enough on any given Sunday to get it done.
We don't have to change anything. We have to keep doing what we've been doing.

Q. Coach, are you worried about Kyle?
JOE GIBBS: I think what you see, I think the top drivers, you can kind of go through a little bit of a slump. I call him on the phone, he has a great sense of humor at night when I call him, When are you going to give me the good car, stuff like that.
Yeah, third doesn't get it for him, I'm afraid. But I think his competitive spirit and everything, I think he's made a lot out of what happened today, so we're excited about that.
I want to say for all of our partners, Toyota is a big part of what we do. It's just a huge deal. Their partnership, the fact that they are right there with us battling every single week, it's a huge deal to have all of our partners, and particularly Toyota with us. Big deal for all of us. Our driver is pretty good, too.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, walk us through your victory today.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, just really a dominant car the second half of the race. When we were able to take the lead from Martin there, I knew it was obviously very strong.
Once we got out front, I could really give what I felt like was the right information as far as what my car was doing to Chris. He made adjustments as the race went on. We got better. Held off a charge there from the 18.
I felt like when I needed to get a lap to keep my distance, I could go out there and get it, but didn't make unnecessary risk of putting my car in bad spots.
I thought the strength of us really was being able to move around the racetrack, run close to the same lap time no matter what lane we were in. That kind of allowed me to get through traffic the way we did, then obviously hold those guys off at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.

Q. The last two restarts, the top four was Denny, Kyle, Erik and Chase. When you have that situation where you're up there with two of your teammates, how much coordination is there among drivers? How much can there be to ensure a Gibbs car wins?
DENNY HAMLIN: There's no guarantees at all. You just hope, from my standpoint, that the person that's behind you gives you a push. I think that all of drivers are smart enough now to know that, like, the power is in numbers. When you start pushing down the frontstretch, through the corner, that line will go.
There was one that was really crucial for Kyle and myself where he pushed me all the way into turn one. If he dips out and takes us three‑wide, one way or another our lane is dead and the whole outside line just freight trains right by us all.
I think you had a bunch of experience right there of guys that kind of knew what they were doing. At the end I was definitely worried about Chase sticking us three‑wide. I was able to time the restart to where once I took off, he gave me a shot. It wasn't a push, it was a shot that sent me out where he couldn't really do anything at all anyway.
It was just a good time to restart at the end.

Q. Any coordination, Chris?
CHRIS GABEHART: Obviously we have communication with one another. We do talk back and forth a little bit. For the most part, no. It's really mostly between Denny and myself. He would bounce a few ideas off of me, look for a little reassurance, What do you think about this?
Yeah, you're thinking right about it.
It really is typically, like, 55 /45 type scenarios. Really depends on how good everybody gets their tires hooked up when they launch, and when they launch. Do they push or make contact...
Again, it's a lot of experience the first couple rows in that scenario. Everybody is pretty smart about playing chess at that point. It's about he who executes best. My guy did it.

Q. This has been a really good season for JGR as a whole, maybe one of Denny's better seasons in his career. If J.D. was here, what do you think he would say about this season?
JOE GIBBS: One of the things his boys at his service read from his daily log, one of them read something like, Worst day of my life, we had a horrible day at Pocono. Everybody laughed because the seriousness of everything with J.D. at the end.
I think he'd be thrilled. The thing about J.D., which everybody here knows, he spent his entire occupational life, there from the first nut and bolt when he first got out of school, and he was there till he went to be with the Lord. Huge deal for us.
Coy and myself, we're trying to fill in for J.D. Coy sacrificed and moved over from his kind of dream working with motorcross and everything.
We got grandkids coming out, they're all excited. I was talking to one of them about coaching. He goes, I don't want to coach.
What do you want to do?
He goes, I want to do what my dad did.
He wants to be there and work in J.D.'s office. We're excited about that in the future coming for us. Thanks for asking.
THE MODERATOR: Coach and Chris, we will let you go. Congratulations on your win.
We'll continue on with Denny.

Q. This is your fifth win of the season. What does that say about your team and how good you have been this year? What has been clicking for you so well lately?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, everything really. Everything is good. The cars are fast. We're executing well. I feel like I'm giving the right information to the crew chief to let him make the adjustments he needs to make it faster.
I thought practice was really a telling sign for us, that every time we came into the pits to work on it, when it came out, it was better. We really did a good job of making our car better through the weekend.
Even though it didn't qualify all that well, being 23rd or so, I knew we were going to have a car that was going to be able to go to the front. That's what we had.

Q. The situation with the white flag, coming to the white flag, did you know you were short or were you a little bit surprised when you were going back green?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, I knew it was really close. I knew they had the technology to figure out if it was good or not. I knew it was really close.
But I definitely didn't want to see it happen, knowing that we had just held off those guys. We were in good position coming to the white right there with the guys behind us. Of course, everyone behind us and around us had four tires. We were at a little tire deficit there.
My car handled good enough and we made the right adjustments that made it able to hold it wide open there the last few laps and do what I had to do to win.

Q. You had three Hendrick cars lined up on the inside on the restart, what was the decision as far as inside or outside?
DENNY HAMLIN: I had so much success starting from the inside earlier that day that I just was committed to it. I wasn't comfortable with taking the top, being unknown of whether my car was going to accelerate correctly or not.
Also with that you have kind of the white line up until the start/finish line to be your security blanket of someone dipping low. I was just able to time it where when I gave Chase the signal to go, as soon as he hit me, I took off. It lunged me out there enough to clear those guys.
With them racing side‑by‑side, that was key for me.

Q. This is statistically one of the your best seasons of your career. As it gets later into the Playoffs, you have experience in the Playoffs towards the end of the season. With that experience in mind, do you and the team feel more prepared this year to make a charge at a championship?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I think certainly we're running as well as we ever have. We're contending for race wins week in, week out. We have great engines, great cars, great engineering. Everyone from TRD to JGR has really put together some good race packages at all types of different racetracks.
Even though the next few weeks there's a variance of you got a short track, a mile‑and‑a‑half, then you kind of got a short track hybrid in Phoenix, we feel like we can win at every single one of them.
That's one thing that not a lot of drivers can probably say, they feel like they can win at every single track they go to. That's been the case for us this year.

Q. During the race obviously track had a lot of grip today. The sun came out for a period of time. A lot of the drivers were complaining about tightness. Did you experience that today?
DENNY HAMLIN: I thought our car was better than most. The cars we were racing around, we were kind of always marching forward. We got a good restart there at the end of stage one that put us in a good position to start fifth I think in the start of stage two. We took the lead from Martin not long after that. My car was handling good.
I think we prepared for conditions like this. Obviously it showed up to where we were slow in qualifying, but we were fast when it counted in the race.

Q. Since the beginning of the year, you've passed drivers like Dale Jarrett, Fireball Roberts on the all‑time wins list. Is that something you take a look at, pay close attention to, or not really?
DENNY HAMLIN: There's hallmark wins. Once you get to 30, you want to get to 40. Once you get to 40, you want to get to 50. 40 is my next goal. I think we can reach that very, very soon, hopefully early next year would be a nice thing, unless we can run off four in a row here over the next four weeks. I can't believe kind of the success we've had. My career has been way beyond anything I ever expected.
But it's been because of the people I've been aligned with. That's no joke. I mean, I've been with a race‑winning organization with JGR, with the same sponsor, the same team, Toyota now for over 10 years. Most of the success has come with those guys.
I feel like we've just got everything I need to go out and win every single week. It's up to me to do it.

Q. 2018 you came off of a winless season. This year you have five wins under your belt with you and Chris. How strong has that bond been?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's been a game‑changer. He prepares differently. He does a lot of things, asks a lot of the right questions, questions I don't necessarily think of, when we're debriefing between practices or even during a race.
I think he has the bigger picture always in his mind of what we need to do to be better. A crew chief/driver relationship, that's such a huge part of success in the Cup Series. Obviously switching to him has equaled success for us.
We really got a good thing going. Hopefully we can continue that momentum for at least four more weeks.

Q. On the late restarts, how much information are you given about the drivers behind you points situation? How do you use that information in determining which lane you want to choose?
DENNY HAMLIN: It is a determining factor. I think I asked on the final restart‑‑ Chris actually volunteered the information, He only needs one more point by our numbers to make it anyway.
That's even more of a reason to push us into turn one. Everyone who pushed me into turn one came off of turn two second. Obviously he came off second. I think it was important for us, if we could keep that inside line all aligned, to push, the outside line really didn't have a chance there.
He did that, and got in.

Q. The end of stage two you had just put Jimmie Johnson a lap down. Green‑white‑checkered, looked like you slowed up. Any reason for that? That gave Jimmie his lap back, Austin Dillon the free pass.
DENNY HAMLIN: Just trying to be a nice guy. Never can have too many friends out there, especially this point of the season. You go a lap down, it changes your race. Obviously he was up there racing in the top five there towards the end.
Just putting another coin in the deposit box (smiling).

Q. You talked many time times about the pushes you had to get from behind. How has the racing this year changed the style on restarts, trying to figure out picking a less preferred groove knowing it's more important to get a better push from behind?
DENNY HAMLIN: We take all that into account, especially with this aero package. It's more about who do you think you can push you all the way into the turn one.
It just seemed like the top didn't have quite as much traction as the bottom did for whatever reason. The bottom people just stayed aligned, and that really is the key.
If someone behind me pulls out or someone behind them pulls out, our line is done, and the top will prevail. It worked out well for me to be able to control the bottom. It worked every time that I restarted there because I didn't want to second guess myself on the final one.

Q. Were you confident once you got into clean air you were going to be able to hold the rest off?
DENNY HAMLIN: I knew I was going to be able to hold my car wide open after the first restart. We took two left side tires, I believe it was. I just know for me and my car's speed, it was going to be more important to keep the lead even if I was on lesser tires.
Chris made the right call there because we were able to hold those guys off. My car fired off as good as it would on four, even though we only took two.

Q. Would you be disappointed if you did not end up winning the championship this year with how strong you've been?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it just depends. I think we believe that a successful year is making it to Homestead. Anything can happen in one race. I don't think you should necessarily deem your season a success or a failure off of one race.
I think this year as a whole, we would consider this a very successful season, even if something were to happen in the next round. We've certainly wouldn't be pleased about it. Everyone tries to do the best of their job and let the chips fall where they may.
But we are not going to let one race dictate whether this year is a success or not.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, congratulations on winning this race and good luck the rest of the Playoffs.
DENNY HAMLIN: Thank you.

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