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August 2, 2020

Denny Hamlin

Loudon, New Hampshire

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our second‑place finisher, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No.11 FedEx Express Toyota.
Walk us through the final laps there. Did you have anything for Brad at the end?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't think so. I mean, if I would have, I would have gone up there and passed him. We were just barely a little slower than he was for most of the day. We could make some really good moves on the restarts and whatnot. Overall I just thought that we were a second‑place car. That's kind of how we ended up.
I'm encouraged by the run simply because this is the first short flat track we have some data that we can build setups for other tracks like Richmond and Phoenix, the championship race at Phoenix. I wrecked out of there in the first run in the spring. We haven't run Richmond yet.
This is probably one of the biggest questions marks we were going to have as a race team with our setup and our simulation going into a race. I know Chris was kind of worried about it. He's always optimistic but he was a little worried we hadn't had really truly a baseline to build a setup off of.
We were a second‑place car. It's close, but just got to get a little better.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open up the floor for questions.

Q. Without any practice the rest of the season, to come with this tire back to Phoenix, how comfortable do you feel once you get there knowing you did what you were able to do today and have time to work on it now?
DENNY HAMLIN: That's good. That's one of the things we said after the race, that this is good because now we have something we can build off of. Now it's up to me to break this thing down and figure out where we need to be better.
Really got to break it down and figure out where I was getting beat, just start to figure out how we can start to get baselines for other tracks. This is a good step for us. I'm happy that we ran good because the other short flat track we had was Martinsville and we ran terrible. This is a good step for us.

Q. What prompted you to say this is awesome racing in those closing stages? The kind of mano‑a‑mano battle you were having with Keselowski?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yes. It felt like short‑track racing, half mile short‑track racing. We were crossing over each other, running into each other, knocking each other up the racetrack, slide jobs in the middle of the corner. It was fun racing those guys. They were very, very deserving today. Happy for them.
You hate to have a fast car and you don't finish it off. But I thought obviously the two best cars finished 1‑2 today. They got the better end of us. Overall just the racing part of it, I was just having a good time there racing on the short run. Even that long run, the first stage, with the Penske cars, it was fun.

Q. What can you improve or what do you need to improve to close the gap at this point?
DENNY HAMLIN: I got to break it down. Just got to spend some time and look at things and figure it out, try to think about it while it's fresh in my mind where I think we can be better. It's a process. It's not just hopefully he listens to the radio and we fix it next time around. It's a process. That's the reason I think we're successful when we go to these racetracks.
I don't know. I need to kind of dig to figure out where I need to be better. We get a lot of information that helps figure that out. I'll think about what I need to go faster in those areas.

Q. What circumstances allowed for the great racing you had today? Do you feel it was the traction compound, the tire, the track itself? Did anything in particular stand out to you?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's a better tire. It was a tire that had more falloff. The falloff was roughly double of what it was last year. It was only, like, 4/10ths and 50, 60, 70 laps last year. This one looks like it had quite a bit more. Yeah, 1.4 seconds or so.
I mean, you're going to have good racing because you're going to have guys that are good on the short run and guys good on the long run. Had a good mix of both.
Any time you have a tire that falls off this much, you're going to have comers and goers. That's going to create passing, and you're going to see some of the racing you saw.

Q. Having the fans back in the stands today, did you feel the energy? How was it out there?
DENNY HAMLIN: It was fantastic. I mean, the turnout was unbelievable. I don't know how many tickets they sold, but it was probably all of them. They did a great job. The fans are just enthusiastic. I mean, from the beginning of the race to when we're walking down pit road after the race, I mean, they're chanting and shouting. They're excited to get back to see some live racing.
Definitely encouraged to see this state allowed these fans to come here because I guarantee you they enjoyed it, especially with the on‑track product they got to see.

Q. What do you see as the biggest factors or differences in the seasons that you and Kyle Busch have been having? Why do you think there's that discrepancy?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know. I really can't answer it, to be honest with you. I just don't know. It just seems like myself and my crew chief are really dialed in right now. It doesn't take much, a bump in the road here and there, you find yourself getting off track pretty quick and you start second‑guessing what you do.
I'm not saying those guys are doing that, but I think our cars aren't the fastest right now. I think everyone at JGR would say that we've got to get a little bit faster. We were just a couple hundredths every lap today. Just not much more I could have done.
I think we get our cars a little faster, you'll see better results from all of our teammates. I think Kyle is just kind of in a slump right now where things aren't going his way. All the great drivers have had off years. We saw last year, right, he didn't win a race all second half of the season, then he won the last race of the season and was the champion. Just got to win the last race to win this whole thing (smiling). You don't want to draw any conclusions till the final one.

Q. What's Kyle been like dealing with? Has he been frustrated? Has he been voicing that frustration in meetings?
DENNY HAMLIN: Haven't saw Kyle that much. He has frustrations just like I do, just like Martin does, just like Erik does. We all have our frustrations. We just have the best results, I guess you could say.
I think we all think that we can be better. I know for a fact that our 11 team could still be better yet. Just because we're running well doesn't mean that we're happy with where we're at. I mean, Joe is not happy. Unless we're out there winning, he deems that we all need to step up. He looks at all of us when he says 'step up'.
I think we did that a little bit at Kansas. Our cars were all a little bit better. We ran 2‑3 here. Who knows where Kyle would have been. 20 had a struggling day. I think we're making baby steps.
Changes don't happen overnight. This is all a slow process. If you want to make your cars better, you realize you're off, it takes months and months to get better.
Especially with this COVID and everything, these shops work in different shifts, no one is working a full staff, no wind tunnel time. It's hard to catch up when you are behind.
I think we are a little behind. It's just going to take a little more time yet to get to where we need to be. Hopefully it's September when we really need it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Denny, for joining us. Congratulations on the finish. We will see you next weekend at Michigan.
DENNY HAMLIN: Sounds good.

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