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July 23, 2020

Chris Gabehart

Kansas City, Kansas

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winning crew chief, Chris Gabehart, with the No.11 Toyota.
We'll go straight to questions for Chris.

Q. Denny talked about a pre‑season meeting where you laid out your goals. Could you tell me about that more. How many wins did you think you were going to get?
CHRIS GABEHART: I don't know if he shared with you any of those specifics. I'm not going to because really it's not about specific numbers. What it's about more for our team right now is executing.
Truly right now we're in a special spot where I believe our biggest competition is ourself. I think there's a few races this year where that's evident. I'm not going to say Indy was our fault by any stretch. There were a lot of tire issues up and down pit road.
Bristol, we had that one in the bag, kind of just jumped (indiscernible) there late. For Denny and I, we just realized this race team is in a special spot. It's about capitalizing on that because some of the great ones put together really long runs with Chad and Jimmie and Rodney and Kevin, Adam and Kyle. I'm not putting us in that category, but what I'm saying is that magic is not easy. We got it right now. We're just looking to capitalize.

Q. Denny talked about how he thinks he's a smarter driver right now, winning more with his knowledge than the speed of the racecar. Is that something you agree with?
CHRIS GABEHART: I think he would tell you it takes everything. I'm sure you got to give credit to everybody, right? You got to give credit to FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, all these guys. Certainly Denny's wealth of experience that's brought him to this stage of his career.
I think he believes in his race team. That puts him at ease. All great athletes really and truly want to do it in a lot of ways on their own. They want them to be the differentiator between winning and losing. But this is a team sport. There's a million moving pieces every week to give Denny the platform he needs to make that the case.
I think he knows he's got that now. Every single week if we execute, he's going to have a shot to win, and he knows it. I think that puts him at ease and lets him really focus on the mental aspect of winning these races.

Q. When you say one of your biggest competitions is yourself, do you mean that from a mental standpoint or execution standpoint?
CHRIS GABEHART: I think from top to bottom on the 11 team, it's about process and procedure. I feel like right now we got that where we need it to be. It's really just about execution. 400, 500 mile race, so many things can happen. We got into the fence a little bit off of two tonight. It wasn't bad, but it tore up our right rear quarter panel. The car was never quite as good after that.
Whether it be a pit stop you miss out on, an adjustment you wish you could have back. We didn't make the greatest adjustment in the world at Texas last week when we took lefts. I still think we were going to give Blaney all he wanted with having track position. We were way too loose.
Any of those things, it's a competition amongst ourselves. I feel if we execute to our ability right now, we'll have a shot to win. That's all you can ask for.

Q. How big a deal are these wins when it comes to Denny's mentality going into Homestead? Beyond the Playoff points, does it matter whether you finish first, second or third today?
CHRIS GABEHART: Put a dollar in the jar. What you meant to say is going to Phoenix (laughter).

Q. Right.
CHRIS GABEHART: I think for sure. I think the Playoff points and their importance are undeniable. Really it's about winning. It's about continuing to solidify in all of our minds that our process is working. The way we go about this is working.
That type of consistent gratification, peace of mind is going to be invaluable going into the Playoffs, no doubt.

Q. You and Denny have talked about the trust you have for one another. What do you think it is about the two of you that allows you to be so versatile at each of these tracks over the past 18 months?
CHRIS GABEHART: I think it's in general attention to detail, I guess is the best way to say it. I'm very much a person that, like so many these guys we race against, I just try to get all the water out of the rag every week, whether it's setup or pit strategy, working with my guys, getting Denny's frame of mind where it needs to be for what the game plan is for that weekend.
He's very much the same. He's very methodical. He tells you, right? He tells you he's thinking at the very top of his game right now. I think that's always been one of his strengths.
I think you put those two things together, I think we get a lot of the details right. We certainly don't get them all right, nobody does, but I think we work hard to get a lot of the details right.

Q. You said earlier you're not putting yourselves in the Chad and Jimmie kind of combination yet. With what you've seen over the last 18 months, what do you need to see for however long to think you are one of the all time best duos?
CHRIS GABEHART: Let me be very blunt. I think Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson are the two greatest ever to get it done, period. Write it down, that's my opinion. Doesn't mean anything more than the piece of paper you're writing it on, but I think they're the two greatest ever to get it done.
The reason is sustainability. The years upon years upon years upon years that they did it, it's hard to burn the candle that hot for that long. Bar none, I would never put myself in that category. That's not for me to do. I'm really embarrassed to even be talking about it to be honest with you.
But I look at Rodney and Kevin, they've had lots of sustainability. Adam and Kyle have had years of success together.
I think for us, again, all I can say is it's about the process. Right now the 11 team, we have that figured out to where if we execute to our ability every week we're going to have a shot to win. Hopefully that doesn't change any time soon.

Q. You have 28 Playoff points right now. What is the goal for that number? Do you want it to be 40 so it's a one‑race deal you carry through each round? What number would be a good number to end the regular season?
CHRIS GABEHART: There's seven races left in the regular season. That's 35 wins. That's 14 stage points. 49 more would be great.
You know what, this race team, we go to win every week. That's our goal. I'm not saying we're going to meet that measure, but I go into every week planning to do our very best to do it.
Yeah, last year we went into the Playoffs in the mid to upper 30s. Right now it's shaping up to be able to do that again. The schedule has changed a little bit. While we don't know what the final schedule is going to be, I think at one point, Talladega and the Charlotte Roval were in the same round, the second round, round of 12. That's a tough, tough sled. Those are two very difficult races where anything could happen.
The more Playoff points the better. I would love to get one more win heading into the Playoffs. The truth of the matter is there's seven more left. I'm going to try to get those, too.

Q. Are you superstitious in the fact that Denny talked about a goal you set to win, a number. He didn't divulge that. You were asked specifically about it. Do you feel it's a little superstitious not wanting to put the exact number out there or am I reading something different?
CHRIS GABEHART: It's not about superstition. I just think that's a personal conversation between Denny and I, what we feel this race team is capable of. There was a goal, for sure.
I'll be honest with you. The goal was to win all 36, so we've already fell short of that. I just think that much of this race team and Denny Hamlin, all the resources we have behind us. There's not a single race that I go to that I think we can't win.
It's really one week at a time. Try to win the next one. For us, the next one is Loudon.

Q. Why does it seem every year that it takes JGR to heat up in the second half of the season?
CHRIS GABEHART: Well, I think we just exited the first half of the season. We got five wins for the 11 team. I'm with you. I hope it takes the second half of the season for us to really heat up. If that's true, we're going to be on fire. I look forward to it.

Q. Earlier this year Denny felt this was his prime year at age 39. Do you feel it's important to help capitalize on one of his best years?
CHRIS GABEHART: That's a good question. Yes, absolutely. There are statistics that would suggest most drivers peak in their very late 30s, early 40s. I think you can look at many drivers, great drivers, over the years and say that's when they were at their prime.
I think that's because drivers meet that perfect blend of experience and talent. They still have the agility of a younger man, the reflexes still work at their peak, but they have an experience of someone who has traveled the circuit for years, experienced the highs and the lows. I think that perfect blend is where it comes from.
Certainly I'm looking to capitalize on it. Really just thankful to be involved in this part of Denny's career. It's a real honor. I'm just really thankful for it.

Q. The criticism of Denny is always no matter how successful he is, he doesn't have a championship. You've won 11 races in the last two years. He's won three Daytona 500s. Where do you think Denny should be considered of his place in the sport regardless of that championship?
CHRIS GABEHART: You got to remember Denny and I now have won 11 races together. If we don't win a single race between now and Phoenix, but we make it into the final round, then we'll be going to win our 12th race together. That race will happen to crown the champion.
It's much different than the way this sport has been years past. Don't get me wrong, I think it's way more entertaining this way. I think it gives a real treat to the fans, to the bitter end of the year. Builds a great crescendo to the final race. I think that's great. I think that's where our sport should be.
But it's just one race. There are a lot of things that can go on in that one race, one of which is a 30 square inch piece of tape that wasn't put in the right spot. That is no knock on Denny Hamlin's career whatsoever. It is something that needs to be put to bed right here and right now. Again a piece of paper that I'm writing it on doesn't mean anything, but that's how I feel about it.
The goal is to make it to the final race in the final four. For me last year Homestead was a party. There was no pressure. It was just our race team belonged there and we made that goal. What happened out of that one race was just one race. Phoenix will be no different for us. It will be the same party if we're fortunate enough to make it again.

Q. Ways it you that came on the radio afterwards and said, This race team is a dream?
CHRIS GABEHART: Yes, that was me. Absolutely.

Q. Are there times when you feel that you have to pinch yourself because of the good fortune over the last two years, your first full‑time ride at being a crew chief?
CHRIS GABEHART: Yeah, yes, that's an excellent question. It's hard to really stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Our job is always what's next. That's what we get paid to do is focus on what's next.
But when someone asks me a question like that, I think back, I've been racing really professionally, traveling regionally and beyond for 28 years now. I started out in go‑karts with my family. They were fortunate enough to carry my driving career a long way.
Racing has been a major priority of mine for 28 years. It's led me to Joe Gibbs Racing with the resources of FedEx and Toyota and Denny Hamlin and all these extremely incredibly brilliant professionals that are on this race team.
It's just humbling certainly to be in this position of being able to truly only be limited by my abilities and Denny's abilities. There's no resources in our way. There's really nothing this race team can't do on any given weekend. There are so many people who race their whole lives and don't get such an opportunity at sport's highest level.
Yeah, it's awesome. I do not take it for granted. There's not a single day I take it for granted.
THE MODERATOR: Chris, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on another win here. We'll see you in about a week and a half in New Hampshire.
CHRIS GABEHART: Thanks. I look forward to it. Hopefully similar circumstance. I'd be all right with that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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