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October 4, 2020

Denny Hamlin

Talladega, Alabama

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on another win and securing your way into the next round of the Playoffs. Talk us through that wild race, hanging out in the back, getting the win.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was certainly uneventful for 490 miles for us. We didn't do a whole lot. We led the first part of it. Once we got shuffled there and I put‑‑ we came off pit road I think fifth, we came out fifth. I didn't want to put myself in a position where I could get wrecked early. I didn't want a mid 30s finish. I would have taken mid 20, but not mid 30s.
In my mind I needed to pick up about 20 points over the next two weeks to lock myself into the top eight. I just kept watching as the wrecks were happening, kind of counting points.
I hate that's the way I had to do it. You got to play the game the way it's designed to be played. We put ourselves in a good position there. Got really fortunate where the wreck didn't seem like it was going to happen. We were in the 20s I think on the first green‑white‑checkered. Come in, let's get fuel just in case there's more green‑white‑checkereds. At that point we were just kind of punting hoping that we were going to get somewhere in the top 15.
It just kept wreck after wreck. Made it to where we didn't have to worry about fuel. Everybody else did. Just things worked out for us. We made the right move at the right time.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions from the media.

Q. Were you even thinking there was a chance NASCAR would penalize you?

Q. How‑‑
DENNY HAMLIN: Called it all day. It's a non‑story.

Q. I think some of us were surprised they called it on DiBenedetto at the end there.

Q. Because, I mean, I think on the last lap it's always tough for them to call it, right?
DENNY HAMLIN: They're supposed to, right? Call it the same on lap one as the last lap.

Q. Do you agree with the rule?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, absolutely. I've been a victim of getting forced down there all the time. Finally they put their foot down and said, This is the rule, we're going to enforce it.
You can't as a leader, wherever you are, use the yellow line as a defense. You have to play within the boundaries that they set. In NFL they had force‑out rules, things like that. They got rid of it. It's the same kind of thing.
They set the precedence early so you know you weren't going to get away with it. It's part of it. I wouldn't say I would have done anything different if I was Matt. I don't know. I'm not a huge blocking guy. I don't know. I don't always think you have to block to win.

Q. With less horsepower and maybe the runs not as fast, does that make these type of moves somewhat doable which creates this situation we saw today?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, the runs, even though they're a little bit smaller at this track than what they are at Daytona because of the width of the racetrack, you still get massive runs. It's really reliant on the car being behind you.
I thought I had a good push on the last lap and I ended up going backwards. I think I was fifth or something going into turn three. I saw all those guys blocking. I'm just going to run the line I think I need to run, let's see where they end up.
I saw them go to the wall, hit the wall, bounce back down the raceway. I got into position, whoever was on the outside of me. I had to turn left, had to go to the apron to avoid the contact.

Q. Does this win help get over some of the last couple weeks where you had wins slip away?
DENNY HAMLIN: It makes me feel better, for sure. The marquee one was the Brickyard 400. I hate we didn't get it. Yeah, we got one of the probably two that we should have had. I don't know. Probably should have more than that.
Vegas obviously was disappointing. We dominated last week. I think we finished third. Certainly, yeah, it makes me feel a little better. The odds are starting to even out a little bit. Definitely happy about that, especially considering where we were with two laps to go.

Q. As this is unfolding, this race is getting crazy, are you sitting there laughing because your strategy is coming into play, working in your favor?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, we did it last year. I mean, I think we locked ourselves in actually earlier than last year. Here I think it was kind of dependent on where the 18 was going to finish. Once he got in that wreck, I knew then it was kind of reliant on the 88, where he was going to finish. I saw he had damage. We just kind of need to beat him.
I was confident with two laps to go that I could actually go to the front, see if I could actually win the race. The spider chart or graph of where we were to where we finished in a very short amount of time was pretty amazing.

Q. We heard on TV the conversation that you and Chris had talking about points. Am I reading it right that that sort of changed your mentality for the final overtime period, knowing pretty much points‑wise you were in?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, once we saw a lot of the guys that were either on the cut line or below it crash out, it makes it, well, you really have to have a perfect storm for you not to make it. I still didn't feel comfortable. I don't feel comfortable unless it says 'locked'.
Even when three laps to go, before the first green‑white‑checkered, I was in the 20s. I still didn't like where I was. I'm assuming they're going to wreck at least one more time. If I can avoid it, then I'll hopefully be mid pack, then I can make some quick moves, another caution will be out.
The perfect storm worked out perfect for us today where we avoided the big wrecks, we got the green‑white‑checkereds there. People were light on fuel, so they pitted in front of us. Things really kind of worked out fortunate for us.

Q. Your situation now the career win list, Bill Elliott all that, pretty amazing for a kid from Virginia.
DENNY HAMLIN: 100%. The 11 car, I've been No.11 my whole life. A lot of it is when I got into go‑kart racing when I was a kid, Bill Elliott was running the Junior Johnson No.11. I've always been No. 11, purple and white 11. Crazy it all worked out that way. Tying a guy that I considered the best, a guy I idolized, it's very surreal for me.

Q. Your answer to Bob's question.
DENNY HAMLIN: Don't even...

Q. Was the precedence set? You said the precedence was set because they called it earlier in the day, which they did, twice. Other previous races that's not necessarily a call. Are you reacting to something if they set the tone early in that race, it sort of supersedes other races in the past in your view?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know. I mean, I can tell you in that particular instance I was not thinking about whether they called that before, I can go down there. I was flat out avoiding a wreck. They went up, hit the fence, come back down the racetrack. I already got an inside position.
I don't know how Miller explained it. I have no idea about NASCAR's statement as I'm talking to you. I would think they would say, well, he had inside position on somebody, they were coming back down the racetrack, he was forced down below the line.
I don't know if that's what they said, but it's a pretty simple rationale from my standpoint.

Q. With the wins that have gotten away over the last couple weeks, what is the balance in your mindset between not getting too upset over that and focusing on the fact it's all about getting to Phoenix?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, that's our number one objective, is getting to Phoenix. You only got to win one race, believe it or not, to win this championship. Usually it's the last one.
These wins are great. Obviously this is icing on the cake for us. But we try to win each and every week. Obviously getting to Phoenix, that's kind of what dictates a good year, a successful year versus a non‑successful year for us. It's not necessarily winning the championship, because anything can happen in one race. If you get there, that means you had a really good season.
Obviously we had a really good season so far. To me, my focus won't shift to the Round of 8. I'm still going to put in the same amount of work this week getting ready for the Roval as I would if I wasn't locked in. But certainly the stress level will be less. Certainly we can be a little bit more aggressive with our strategy calls starting at the beginning of the race.

Q. How mentally tough is it to stay so patient when you're used to running at the front in the superspeedways?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's agitating. I mean, I hate it. It's the game. I mean, when someone lays out all the rules of the game, you got to figure out what is the best way to win. For us, this was the best way for us to.
We put in the work at Las Vegas, right? We dominated the race, finished first, second and third through the stages in the race. That gave us the liberty to use this strategy. It wasn't given to us. We earned it.
It's the game that you play. You got to be at plus 57 at the end of this race if you want to go into next week and sleep easy. So we try to figure out how to get there.
For me, it's about managing my risk. When I'm leading, okay, I feel pretty good about staying up here. The moment we lost track position, Chris knew that I was going to bail. I got out of there. I think I was running fifth or something like that. This isn't the right place for me, right time. I think they crashed like six laps later.
You just got to play the odds, look at statistics and try to figure out when the cautions come. All you try to do is guess. I try to put myself in statistically the best spot to succeed at these tracks.

Q. You're regarded as one of the best today on superspeedways. Coming into today you only had one win at Talladega. How much does getting a second win here mean to you?
DENNY HAMLIN: It means a lot. We hadn't won in six years. This one's special because of kind of how we won it, right? We came from fifth on the last lap. It locks us into the next round. It's different than the first one. Obviously the trophy that they switched to a few years ago I've been wanting to get my hands on. It's also good to take that home.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, that is all we've got for you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. Congratulations on another win. We'll see you at the Roval.
DENNY HAMLIN: Thank you.

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