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June 27, 2020

Denny Hamlin

Long Pond, Pennsylvania

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Denny Hamlin, the runner‑up for today's race. We'll go straight to questions.

Q. Was there anything you could have done differently trying to catch Kevin in the final few laps?
DENNY HAMLIN: The only thing I kind of saw, I probably should have ran the bottom there coming to the white. We were making some good time on the bottom. I overthunk it, thought he was going to try to go down there. I ended up running his line and messed up. That's about it.
I thought I optimized my lap time that whole run. I think we ran him down from four or five seconds, something like that, on the same tire strategy, on the same lap. Just didn't work out.

Q. It's been a unique return since COVID. The buy‑in in the industry has been universal. The amazing displays of solidarity, a unique moment for the sport. How would you describe this moment for NASCAR over the past couple months?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, it's been a unique time, for sure. We go from iRacing to racing with no fans. We're the first kind of major sport back. Everything is just different. The way that we work our weeks, weekends, everything is different now. You're trying to adapt to that.
Then we have the whole thing going on with George Floyd. That sparked conversations and protests, whatnot. We had the incident, we thought the incident, with Bubba. It just all kind of has been crazy.
I just want to get to racing and talking about racing. It's difficult to ask us to be able to compartmentalize all this stuff. We're racecar drivers. To ask us our stance on public issues and things like that, we're not always that good at it. We don't always say the right thing.
Certainly I feel like I did my part, am still doing my part to continue to listen, things like that. But this is a long process that's going to take time for major change, and we're all in on it.

Q. Did you get a chance to look at the tires, have any idea what was wrong at the end?
DENNY HAMLIN: I'm assuming it's the tire. I don't know. I mean, I just got off the phone with Chris. He's asking me what's going on. I did miss a shift, which is a little bit concerning, on the last restart. I think it's a tire. I don't think it's mechanical issues. Usually when they vibrate that bad, they just go ahead and break.
Hopefully they'll check it out here over these next few hours, see what they can find. If he called me, it wasn't a tire because he didn't see anything wrong with the tire. Maybe it's a misbalance or something.

Q. It wasn't because of too many lug nuts loose or anything like that?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, no. We didn't have any lug nuts loose. We only took two tires there, right sides. It started after that pit stop. It's almost like it threw a weight off or something.

Q. Where does Joe Gibbs Racing stack up right now compared to the other organizations?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I think the Chevrolets came off real strong in the first few races, especially the West Coast Swing. Seems like certain teams have stuff going right now. We're in contention to win each and every week. The 12 has been up front each and every week. The 4 and those guys.
It seems like it's not as much about manufacturer right now and how good your car is as what teams are hitting the setups, getting them close right off the truck. That seems to be the most important thing right now. But I think we have closed the gap a little speed‑wise, for sure.

Q. Your thoughts on when this whole COVID pandemic thing kind of slows down or is over, would you like to see practice and qualifying come back or do you like the format as it is now?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I like it kind of as it is now. Certainly it's easier on the road team. I don't know about the people in the shop. Certainly on the road team to not have to spend multiple days on the road. I'm sure from a financial standpoint it's probably advantageous to do it the way we're doing it.
But if they did any of that, I'd like to see it be the same day that the race is. Nothing that keeps you overnight, for sure. Especially with everything going on right now, I don't think these guys want to stay in too many hotels.

Q. Talk about last week, you ran the special paint scheme with the National Civil Rights Museum. What did it mean to you to go there?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think it certainly just gave me more information, educated me on some things I didn't know about. That's all I can ask for. When I hear both sides of the argument, I can understand the other side a little bit better now because I haven't experienced it.
I think if anything, it's woken myself to what American history is from the very beginning, how it all started, to get us to where we are today. I think we're making strides overall.
We got to remember, we are the most diverse country that's out there. There's all different types of people from all different heritages that live in the U.S. now. That's what makes America great essentially.

Q. What were you hoping when you went with the two tire strategy?
DENNY HAMLIN: We were just in a box. I knew I was racing essentially the 18 and the 4 going onto that last restart. I didn't get a good restart. The 4 got around me. I was on the bottom. I knew that was going to be the race for the win. I knew I had to optimize lap time. I lost a spot there after I got tight on one of the corners on the restart.
It wasn't a total clean day. If it was a clean day, I thought we had the best car and we were going to win. I let the Ford get out there five seconds before we pitted because he got that great restart. I think he restarted eighth and was second two laps later. I was stuck back there in seventh after restarting fifth. That inside line was dead. You couldn't go anywhere. I just drew the wrong straw.

Q. Going into tomorrow's race, is that something that will definitely play a role again?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, it's going to play a role. You want to be on the outside for sure. On the bottom you're the first lane that gets stuck three‑wide. That's going to slow you down. Everyone is aligned at the wall on the top. They're getting momentum. The PJ1 has been moved down. They're sucking down on the door of the inside lane cars.
It's a bad, bad deal to be on the inside, that's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Denny, for your time. Good luck tomorrow.
DENNY HAMLIN: All right. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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