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November 1, 2020

Denny Hamlin

Ridgeway, Virginia

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Denny Hamlin, one of our Championship 4 drivers. We'll go right into questions for Denny.

Q. You and Erik Jones were having a pretty heated battle towards the end of the race today. Were you surprised or frustrated with how he was racing you or did you expect to be raced hard being that he's fighting for his position as well?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, we obviously had a big goal in mind. We were 12th or 11th. Really wanted the spot. We obviously picked up lap times there at the end to ward him off. Got the high line going a little bit.
I put myself kind of there because I was kind of getting roughed up a little bit with some other guys, didn't want to cut a tire. I just kind of backed off and didn't really run as hard as I needed to early in the run. Obviously the 4 was going for it a little bit.
But I don't fault him or anything. He finished behind us. We had enough to go on.

Q. With Kevin Harvick not advancing, does that affect kind of your thoughts heading into Phoenix on who you have to beat?
DENNY HAMLIN: No. I mean, you still have to win the race so you're going to have to beat everybody. I don't think one guy in or one guy out really changes anything. You still have to beat 37 others.

Q. Did you know you were going to be that close to Harvick or were you surprised a little bit there at the end that the points were going to be so close?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, I knew it was close. I thought would be fast enough. When he kind of got to me, I'm like, I don't want to give him any chance to do anything there. I just kind of let him go, figured I'd tack onto his rear bumper, whoever he passed I would pass.
We faded. We had a couple different codes with our Goodyear tires that didn't match up there at the end. Just wasn't a good combination for our car. We just struggled. 11th was pretty much all we could muster there at the end. Luckily those guys didn't have a stellar race.

Q. I assume NASCAR got everything they wanted, everything coming down to the last lap today. Is this a good system? When the two guys that have won nearly half the races are fighting to get into the last race, is that an issue?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, they wanted a Game 7 moment. The only issues I have is that you can't ignore the first eight innings. Myself, Harvick have dominated for most of the season. But it's a three‑race schedule.
Heard him say in his interview that these championships are a little different than what they used to be. Obviously they come down to one race. It's not a full body of work for your whole season any more.
As far as excitement, sure, we had some excitement this week. The guy with the nine wins not in the Final 4 somehow.

Q. While it was a tough night, you did make the Championship 4. How important is it to have short‑term memory of tonight to be ready for Phoenix?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, we won the first stage, finished third in the second stage, then we had to go to the back. 11th is all we could come back to.
I don't think we had an awful night. We ran good for the first half of the race. Once I got back into traffic, changed the tire codes, it was just awful. We can win any week. We know that. Wouldn't bet against us. Do it at your own risk (smiling).

Q. We know how strong you are at Phoenix. How confident are you for your chances after such a good season?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, we've achieved our goal for the year. Our goal was to get to the Final 4. After that it's all about circumstances. You have to have a fast car and you have to have things fall your way if you want to be a champion.
Like I say, I agree with Kevin, it's a little different than it used to be. Now it just comes down to one race. We've achieved our goal. Two years in a row now making the Final 4. Hopefully we can finish this thing off.
We obviously had a great Phoenix last year. Things were a lot different. You had a different aerodynamic package. Certainly I feel like when I go there I'm going to roll off and hopefully have a race winner.

Q. You're advancing to the Championship 4. As Toyota's only hope of winning a championship this season, it's hard to believe you need extra motivation for the title, but does that weigh on you at all?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, not really. I mean, to be honest with you, I'm more concerned with my own personal goals of winning a championship. Toyota has won the last few years with Truex and Kyle.
I mean, listen, selfishly I want to win for myself. Then right behind that I want to win for J.D. Gibbs and that whole family. After that, you got a lot of partners. FedEx has been supporting this thing for a very long time. 15 years I've been with them. It would mean a lot to give those employees a championship that they deserve. They believe in NASCAR and they believe in me. To give another opportunity for them to win a championship would be great.
Then right after that would be the Toyota folks. They obviously are big supporters of Joe Gibbs Racing and myself with the new team we're starting. I can't tell you how big it would be. I know it would be big to a lot of people, but selfishly I want it for myself.

Q. You said as night fell your car's handling started to go away. What was the biggest swing that you saw? You went 40 laps and faded as the race went on.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, definitely wasn't as good, especially as the sun started setting. For me, I just struggled with the balance. I don't think it was necessarily a this race thing. I think the last four years or so at Martinsville, it's been kind of the same thing where we get to the end of it, we're not as good when the track cools up, it rubbers up, whatever it may be.
I told Chris after the race, If I have to spend a week working on Martinsville where when it gets to nighttime we're not as good, let me know when you want me to go to the simulator and work on it.
Obviously definitely want to get better.

Q. This was an unusual spot for Martinsville, it was the first time it was the final race of the Round of 8. What do you think of the type of racing we saw here today?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I obviously thought it was a fairly tame Martinsville compared to the ones we've had in years past. I don't know. I mean, it did get strung out there (indiscernible). Certainly tire issues.
THE MODERATOR: Denny, I think we lost you.
DENNY HAMLIN: How about now?
DENNY HAMLIN: I didn't think this year's Martinsville was really any different than the normal one. I thought the fall Martinsville races in the years past have been more crazy than what this one was (indiscernible).
THE MODERATOR: Looks like we have lost Denny again.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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