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September 27, 2020

Denny Hamlin

Las Vegas, Nevada

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by tonight's third‑place finisher in the SouthPoint 400, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No.11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Q. How did the choose rule kind of change the dynamic of the race, and did you feel like being able to choose there late gave you the best opportunity to win?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, I like it. Maybe I would have been fourth instead of sixth, but that's just one instance. I think overall it's been a good change, at least lets you decide‑‑ try to make an educated decision when you get to choose. I definitely like it.

Q. Were you distracted at all the last few weeks over trying to get the team deal done and the fact that it was done did it relieve any sort of pressure or mindset tonight?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, I mean, I've been working for like 10 weeks on stuff, so not just racing stuff but just stuff in general. It doesn't‑‑ we've had bad breaks‑‑ tonight was just another bad break like Darlington was to be honest with you or Bristol. We led laps tonight. We were obviously I thought the best car, but people look at the results instead of actually paying attention to the race.

Q. Denny, before that last restart on the choose situation, you took obviously the outside of row 3, you could have taken the inside of row 2. It seemed like I know a lot of people preferred the outside lane, but there was a lot of movement on the inside lane. What was the decision on that, or was that an easy call for you?
DENNY HAMLIN: It wasn't an easy call. We talked about it. I wasn't sure. They left it up to me ultimately, but I thought‑‑ I didn't want to box myself in on the bottom. On the previous restart I'd got on the bottom and just‑‑ we were fast through the corners but everyone that couldn't run the bottom was just freight‑training us down the straightaway on the top. I just thought at least if I got the top I have an option to go to the third lane. If I get on the bottom I'm just boxed in and I think I have no shot to win. I think it was going to be a lot to ask for us to win from either the third or the sixth position on a green‑white‑checkered anyway. I thought we were going to have more time being that I think the caution fell with like six or seven laps to go, and we ended up in the green‑white‑checkered for a debris situation.

Q. You also on the radio after the race were talking with Chris, kind of asking questions about the pit procedure and pitting during that‑‑ before that caution during that green flag cycle. What was the concern with going in at that point and kind of get a better understanding of that or still frustrated as you leave Vegas?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I called it before it even happened, that we're going into the last stage and he mentioned to me on the radio that the strategy would be similar to what it would be in Stage 2, and I just knew that we'd been caught‑‑ I don't know how many times this year by people that just stay out because they're having a sub‑par day. They're doing the best strategy for them, but it traps the guys that are up front all day.
We just got caught again. Told him that we were going to get caught if we came early, but our hand got forced by the 88, by them coming in early there. We both had a lead over most of the field, so I would have thought we would have ran a little bit longer, but we had to answer their strategy because they were within one second of us. We didn't want to just kind of give them the lead and then count on running them down at the end of the race. You have to keep yourself in front of them and essentially we were going to stay out as long as the 88 was. They forced our hand there. They didn't make us pit, we decided to pit, but it's a lap too late again.

Q. 58 points going to Talladega; how are you feeling about that?
DENNY HAMLIN: If you would have asked me before the day I would have definitely been happy about it, but I just hate missing out on victories to be honest. We're so much better than the six victories that we've got. It's just disturbing. I've never been this fast in so many races and just not finishing it like I feel like we should. But if we're up front, that's what counts and that's what's going to get you to Phoenix is to keep getting stage wins and keep battling for race wins, and you'll get yourself to Phoenix and hopefully you'll get a championship out of it. That's what we're all here for, and that's what I'm trying to do.

Q. That kind of advantage going into Talladega, 58 points, what does that do for you guys in terms of strategy? Are you going there looking to earn points, trying to be aggressive, run up at the front?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I'm not sure what we need to do. I think realistically, I don't know, just offhand we probably need to gain about 25, 30 points over the next two weeks total, and I think we'll be in a good position. But you just never know. I mean, my teammate, looks like he's out of the cut. He can win either one of those races easily. You just never know. You want to go out there, and I wish we had locked ourselves in tonight, but we still put ourselves in a really good points position going into 'Dega. So I don't know what our strategy will be, to answer your question. We'll discuss it tomorrow.

Q. You mentioned Talladega; you've also got the Roval coming up. Which one do you worry about more, 'Dega or the Roval?
DENNY HAMLIN: I'll let you know after 'Dega. I don't know. You know, I would say off of normal racing conditions, I'd say that we're stronger at 'Dega, but you never know. You can finish dead last there or you can win the race. Roval has statistically not been a good track but neither was Vegas. I think we're showing that we're capable of winning each and every week. Daytona road course was one where we nearly won. I just don't think we have any weaknesses at this point, and we treat them all the same.

Q. The news earlier this week with your buddy Michael Jordan and announcing Bubba, you said Bubba was your driver, you knew that. How big is this for the Denny Hamlin brand, to team with Michael Jordan on a Cup car? I know you had the iRacing and stuff, and to bring Bubba into the fold with everything that's going on in the sport and to see this sea change of effort for NASCAR's progress?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think that he's outperformed his equipment. He's in, I think, his third or fourth year in the Cup Series. Still got a lot to learn, but I think he's proven himself to me out on the racetrack as someone that overachieves a lot. I think hopefully we can get him race‑winning equipment. If we can do that, maybe I can help mentor here and there, but ultimately he's going to grow as a driver and he's going to continue to get better. For us it's going to take time to build this team to where it needs to be. I think that we have a great opportunity and we'll have great resources to do that, but you know, these things don't happen overnight. It takes time. The good news is I've kind of watched how Joe and his kids have built JGR over the last 15 years, and you've got someone there that you can really kind of model yourself after.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, thanks for your time, and best of luck next week.

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