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February 17, 2020

Chris Gabehart

Joe Gibbs

Denny Hamlin

Daytona Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to present our Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin, and crew chief, Christopher Gabehart. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Denny, during the process of the race, it seemed like the leader was able to really rocket out in front of the pack and really not be punished for it. What did you feel in the car that you really felt promoted that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it's just all numbers when you get somebody pretty close to‑‑ in proximity behind you or pushing. It's like once they break that bubble of being connected, it really shoots that lead car out, and it's just kind of a product of the race package that we have.
But overall, I thought the racing was pretty good, and obviously the closing rate is so drastic with this package that you've really got to time your runs out and figure out where you want to be.

Q. Denny, I know this is probably a lot to balance right now with the accident with Ryan. Just kind of your thoughts on that, and also the fact that you've now won three and back‑to‑back, it's a huge historical accomplishment for yourself and your team.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it is. I mean, obviously not finding out anything about the 6's wreck until essentially Jamie told us no start‑finish interview, and so I knew it was bad‑‑ I knew him crossing the track there was a bad scenario in the first place. But yeah, it's a weird balance of excitement and happiness for yourself, but obviously someone's health and their family is bigger than any win in any sport.
We're just hoping for the best.

Q. Would you comment on the historical significance‑‑
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, the historical side of things. It's just‑‑ I don't know, I need time to process it. I was saying actually at lunch today, I'm like, I just‑‑ I don't feel good about today, just not because of my car or the speed, just we've managed to get to the finish of these races for a lot of years in a row, and it's like how have we just kept avoiding the inevitable, which is the wrecks.
Really we had a great strategy there at the end of Stage 1 to put us up front at the beginning into Stage 2, and I was able to kind of maintain good track position at that point and obviously got shuffled.
But it worked out.
But when I think about the names, and Chris is always quick to remind me of what a win would do here, where does it put you and the names that it puts you with, I consider those professors of racing like this, and I'm just a guy that's a student, and it's been great to be on the run that we've been on the last five years at this racetrack‑‑ well, more than five. It's been eight years or so that we've been fantastic here.
But I don't know, I just can't fathom, beingthat it's harder to win today than ever because all the cars are so close together and with the attrition, the wrecks. It's harder to win now than ever. To win it again, I don't know. You're going to have to check in with me next week in Las Vegas.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by winning car owner, Joe Gibbs.

Q. Denny, Jeff Gordon said on the telecast that all the safety measures that have been implemented in NASCAR since Dale Sr. passed away, sometimes we forget that this is still a very dangerous sport. Can you address that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, no doubt. I mean, NASCAR has done a fantastic job with the evolution of race cars. Helmet manufacturers, suit manufacturers, Hans devices. There's been so much development that has come a long way, and I always think how blessed I was to come into the sport in 2006 when all that stuff was really being implemented, and then obviously in '07, '08, the Car of Tomorrow came out. Obviously there's a next‑gen car coming next year.
The number one thing that NASCAR always does is put safety‑‑ before competition, you've got to have a car that's safe. You've got to have all your equipment that's safe, and the sport has been very fortunate to not have anything freak or weird happen for many, many years.
But a lot of that is because of the development and the constant strive to make things better and safer. I thank my lucky stars every day that I came in the sport when I did.

Q. Coach, I just wanted to give you the opportunity. I know that‑‑ if you wanted to say anything about the ending with Ryan, as well, and also if you could just talk about you finished last year so strongly and winning the championship and then right out of the gates having this kind of a wonderful start.
JOE GIBBS: Well, thank you for letting me say‑‑ when everything happened at the end of the race, I knew that there was a race, but I never even focused over there. I was focusing on our car, and everybody started celebrating around us.
So I say to everybody out there, some people may have saw us and said, well, these guys are celebrating when there's a serious issue going on. So hopefully‑‑ I apologize to everybody, but we really didn't know.
We got in the winner's circle, and then that's when people told us, later on in the winner's circle. So I wanted to explain that to everyone.
It just makes it so hard. Such a close‑knit community. You know everybody. This is one thing, kind of like what Denny was saying, if you think about all the wrecks that we've had over the last, I don't know, how many number of years, and some of them looked real serious, we've been so fortunate.
Anyway, just wanted to say and state that for everybody; that's what took place for us.
So now it's hard, we're all waiting.
I think as far as winning this race, I can tell you how hard it is. I think we were a stretch of 22 years and didn't win it. Just on our race team, you've got Martin, Kyle, been here 15 times, haven't won it, and then to have Denny‑‑ you know, in sports I think sometimes you're not quite sure why or how when you watch somebody. They just have a gift. Even last week, that was miraculous, for him to get back out there and be able to‑‑ down a lap and everything.
I think it does‑‑ I think this is one of the things as fans, we love to see somebody that's special and has a gift.

Q. Chris, you enter some cool history yourself winning your second straight 500, your first two attempts, as well. When it comes to winning this big race now for the second time and to continue that run going, what are the emotions like for you tonight winning this?
CHRIS GABEHART: Well, I told somebody coming up pit road, I'm not going to buy any lottery tickets for the rest of my life. I think it's amazing that I've won my second and as many Daytona 500s as a crew chief.
But for me personally, this one is honestly way more special for me. The first one it was my first race as crew chief for the 11 FedEx Camry with Denny, and you just have so many great resources behind you, it's really just riding the wave. I'm trying to figure out what's going on, and I felt like Denny and the team were doing all the work, to be honest with you. I was very, very lucky to receive it.
But 365 days later, after putting together the season that we put together in 2019 as a team, and me being fortunate enough to be asked to lead that team, this one is so much more valuable to me because I feel like I've earned this one. I feel like I belong. I feel like this team is capable of excellence, and this one means a lot more to me personally.

Q. Coach, you're a man of deep faith and a strong conviction, so how do you try to put everything that happened here into perspective?
JOE GIBBS: I think it's hard. I don't think‑‑ I certainly don't have those kinds of answers. I know that for a lot of us, participating in sports and being in things where there's some risk, it's just what some people are‑‑ that's what they're‑‑ in a way, that's what they get excited about, and certainly racing for us, we know what can happen. You just don't dream that it would happen.
And that's kind of the way I feel about it. We've been so fortunate for such a long time, and we're just all praying now for the outcome of this.
You know, yeah, I don't think somebody has that answer. I don't think we have an answer. It's just living life. Certainly you are depending in a lot of ways for the Lord, and you're looking up to Him.
But I wouldn't want to get too philosophical for anybody here. I'd just say it's a time that we're all searching deep and praying, and we're all praying for the right outcome.

Q. Coach and Denny, speaking to this being that third victory, that historic victory for you guys as a whole team, how will this propel you guys forward for the remainder of the year, especially with the next upcoming race being in Las Vegas?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean, I know that in 2016 and 2019, they both were‑‑ they gave us a lot of confidence for a long time. Now, nothing relates as far as the car and whatnot. Chris can speak to that. But there's nothing bad about having the feel‑good feeling of winning the first race of the season. You obviously get some bonus points for the playoffs. Winning Stage 2 was obviously another bonus for us.
So we're not starting the year in a hole. You know, even though the season is so long, still there's something to‑‑ and I've left here finishing awful and just thinking, aww‑‑ it creates a sense of urgency that you've got to catch up, catch up, catch up. Well, now you just kind of do your thing. The outcome will come, and we can race from ahead.

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