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May 28, 2020

Denny Hamlin

Concord, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: Denny, congratulations on another fine run tonight. Walk us through your run this evening.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, we had a good run. Just we struggled a little bit on the short run. Pit crew did a phenomenal job the last couple stops. They picked us up three spots every time at least, and 29th to second in half the distance of a normal race, I mean, that's about all we could even ask for.

Q. Denny, you saw obviously what happened to Chase on Sunday as far as having to make‑‑ having a crew chief decision not go the best way. What's it like for a driver when you have a situation like that and you don't win? Is it tough to kind of have that conversation with a crew chief afterward to talk about it, or as long as you have fast cars does it‑‑ you know that you're going to have those decisions to make and sometimes they'll go your way and sometimes they won't?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it's 50/50 at the end of the race, especially when you're leading. It's just a matter of how many choose to pit with you or don't. It's 50/50, and it's just that one happened to go against them. But certainly you'll win your fair share if you continue to stay up front and the cautions don't fall at ill times.
You'll take the latter. You'll take fast cars and you'll lose a few every now and then knowing that you've got a chance every week.

Q. Do you see any difference in the 9 car or the Hendrick cars as a whole this year?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, it's just Chevys in general. They're fast, and they're really the only manufacturer that got to build a car directly for the package that we run. These other cars, the Toyotas and Fords, were built on the low downforce package and then we added a bunch of spoiler and splitter to them. Certainly there was an advantage knowing that, okay, this is the real package, how can we optimize downforce and drag, and I think Chevys have done that.

Q. Denny, when you look at this stretch and packing the races that we have into such a short amount of time, does it make it easier as a driver to carry the momentum from‑‑ you've had a win, a second now, a lot of strong runs. Does it make it easier to carry that momentum from race to race when you pack them into a tight calendar space like we've had here?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, when you're running good, certainly there's some momentum to be had for sure. I think our results specifically, I don't know what it was last year, but I know what it is this year. Every time we go to a racetrack the second time, the results are amazing. We're making the right adjustments, we're doing the right things, and that's good because the end of the year in the playoffs you're going back to racetracks for the second time, and that's when we need to run well, and that's what got us to the Final Four last year.
I like our chances. I think even though we're still maybe off a little bit with our organization on speed, I think that we're still getting good finishes out of it, and we're weathering the storm until we can get our stuff a little bit better.

Q. You mentioned weathering the storm. I know you didn't have Gabehart and won't for a couple of races here, but having a veteran like Eric Phillips who's been the car chief to still come in and be a part, how big a help has that been for you and your team to not really fall off even though you don't really have those key players?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, one advantage that we did have was we left Eric at the race shop to prepare the cars before the whole weight thing happened, and because we had depth, we had essentially two car chiefs on our team. Brandon was our car chief the year before, in 2018, Eric came on in 2019, and Brandon never left. So he just‑‑ the team player he is, he stepped aside and let Eric take over the car chiefing role last year, but we had two car chiefs, so we left one at the race shop, and now we just switched them essentially when we had the suspension.
Still a big penalty. It still cost us a lot, a chance to win, I can assure you of that. We had a much faster car here on Sunday than what we did today, and the results were still good. We're definitely going to miss Chris, but also within our roster we've left engineers at home, so now if anything he's able to be at the race shop with the engineers and coming up with decisions in not such a chaotic environment like a racetrack.

Q. Did you have any concerns coming in with three key crew members suspended, or did you have the faith that you had the depth?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think the one‑day format definitely makes it easier for us. If we had practice and qualifying and had to make some quick decisions during practice, certainly, it would definitely hurt. But I think just under these unique circumstances that we're in, it doesn't hurt as bad. But like I say, if the penalty was bad enough being nine laps down after nine laps of the Coke 600, a race that I've been marking on my calendar for years now trying to win. That part of it stinks, but I'm glad that we've got the depth to still go out here and run good.

Q. Do you think with this stretch of racing and how much work there is at the shop for the teams that the big teams are really going to separate from the pack through this stretch?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I think certainly it probably lends it hand to those guys. You know, any time you have to do something quickly, it's the teams with the most people, right, that's going to get stuff done. But you know, we're not going back‑to‑back to racetracks here now. We're going to start spreading it out and going to racetracks one time, so it's going to be more important for us to get our stuff together right from the get‑go and have a good race right in the first one. But certainly think in this type of format, yes, the good teams with a lot of people will certainly have an advantage.

Q. When you're in a situation like Chase was in on Sunday, how do you get past that and not hold a grudge, if you will, against your crew chief or anybody on your team for making that decision?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, you just shake his hand and say thanks for the fast car. It was a race‑winning car. Like I said, as a driver, that's all you ask for. Give me a race winning car. Sometimes cautions are not going to fall your way. I've experienced it enough to know that sometimes they do, most times they don't. And so I think everyone just feels bad because it's Chase and everyone loves him. I don't know.

Q. Do you feel bad?
DENNY HAMLIN: No. Why would I feel bad?

Q. Normally at this time of the year in a normal season, if a team was struggling, an organization was down a little bit on speed, they'd probably have new equipment and have a better idea where they were at this point. How long do you have to wait? What's the process like? And how much in the big picture does a day like today maybe become more meaningful and just gathering points?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it does. I mean, we didn't gather any stage points obviously because I started so far back, but still, the finish in the end is what matters. I'm in it for bonus points. I want to finish as high as I can in the regular season. That is bonus points. But I think it's going to take when we start to get the schedule spread back out a little bit more before you're probably able to make some big changes, and still, you're not able to make huge changes because the cars are essentially locked in with all the new kind of ordinances on new parts and whatnot. So you've kind of got what you've got. You will make some developments and you will find some things in aerodynamics through the year, but I think that you'd better have your stuff together come early to mid‑August.

Q. And might this be a year where it takes a little bit longer because the teams have staggered times for their crew guys to work in the shop, so I'm guessing maybe they're not able to devote as much time as in a normal year?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, absolutely. Everything is different, but the most important thing is we're here putting on a race. I think all these teams, instead of griping about, hey, we don't have this, we're not able to catch up, I think we're all just kind of grateful in these situations that we're able to put on a product and race and make the best of what we've got. We can gripe about what we don't have all the time, but essentially it's days like today for us where, A, maybe we didn't have the best car, but we optimized our day, we got the best finish we possibly could, and that builds some momentum, and like I said, we're weathering the storm until we've got lights‑out, lightning‑fast cars and we don't have to start 29th in a 300‑mile race.

Q. Denny, during this stretch of races, since we restarted, there have been different things as far as the schedule goes that people have said, man, we might try this out in the future. What were your thoughts on the 500K race on an intermediate track as far as what it was like as a driver but also I don't know how good a view you got from inside but from an entertainment standpoint?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I think it's right around the length of an NBA or football game, somewhere in that range. NBA is about two and a half hours, football is three plus. I mean, I think it's good. Obviously we're really getting stung by the weather right now. All these races have got delays and stoppages in the middle of it, so it makes it really, really tough. It makes the nights and days really long. But certainly you can look back on my quotes from two years ago; heck with tradition; you've got to advance with the times. I think that keeping people's attention span for three hours is a good thing. It's a very good thing. These cars are different now than what they used to be. It used to be a battle of machine, you're going to wear out your tires and your brakes and whatnot. They just don't wear out anymore, so essentially it just becomes a long race after that.
I certainly like the change, and on a weeknight time slot that we have, it's got to be tightened up anyway, so I think this was a good taste of it, and they'll gather the data and figure out what's best for them in the future. Maybe it's keeping them long, I'm not sure. Let the people that know a lot more about it speak on it.

Q. If you had to guess, how much of a factor has the weather played since the season restarted? Do you think it's really had a large effect in general on the teams?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, yeah, I mean, we're already doing some three‑day splits between races, and that comes almost two days off, then you're back at it. So we've got tomorrow Friday, Saturday, then we're right back in Bristol. It's tough. Listen, I don't work in the shop, but I know I can only imagine for some of these teams that are with less than 10 or 10 employees having to turn this stuff around and get it ready for the next race, I'm sure they're working some crazy hours right now, but I think that if you talk to them, they'd say we prefer this over the alternative, and that's not racing.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, thanks for taking the time to join us. Safe travels to Bristol.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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