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February 21, 2021

Denny Hamlin

Daytona, Florida, USA

Press Conference

Daytona Road Course

An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Denny Hamlin. Thank you for taking some time with us. We will get right into questions.

Q. The caution for rain there really changed the whole dynamic of the race. There's been some other cautions, whether it's for tire debris or stuff, in other road racing series, that would be like a local yellow. There's so many road races left. Do you want to see any change in the way that NASCAR calls a caution for these races? Are you comfortable with the full course yellows?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, it's tough for me to say because where I'm at inside the car, I don't see the wreck and the severity of it. I don't see the debris always, where it's at. So it's kind of hard for me to say on that.

But certainly we just ask that they're as consistent as possible. Sometimes there's a wreck, and there is none. I think at times their patience probably runs out like we do. It's like, We're done throwing cautions (laughter). It's just part of it. You just never know. But you got to deal with the cards that are dealt. Everyone has the same cards.

Certainly when you have a caution that doesn't help one person or another, everyone has the same decisions to make whether to pit or not. But certainly it was pretty wet. Turn two on the big track, it was wet, it was really changing shades. At that time I probably didn't want a caution.

Yeah, it's tough. All we can ask is they try to stay at consistent as they can. I can't really speak to any one particular caution that they did or didn't throw.

Q. After having the Clash, then this road course race, your perception of the road courses and the number of courses on the schedule this year, how do you feel about it?

DENNY HAMLIN: More road courses for sure.

Q. Is that sarcastic?

DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know, is it (smiling)? Oh, more. More of everything.

Q. Christopher Bell has been in the Joe Gibbs system for a while now. To see him get the win today, what have you seen out of him over these past few years to where he is today? Are you surprised his first win comes on a road course?

DENNY HAMLIN: On a road course, yeah, I'm surprised. But honestly he's got an experienced crew chief over there, Adam Stevens. Once he got track position, he was very, very fast. I noticed he was able to stay honestly closer to the 9 car than what I was when he was leading.

He's definitely doing some good things. He was very, very fast. It was a well-earned win, too. It's not like he backed into it. He had to drive to the front. A great two days for JGR, really the future of JGR.

Q. You look at the success that the young guys had this weekend, the newcomers to the sport, what does this say about the future of Christopher Bell now that he's a Cup winner?

DENNY HAMLIN: It's great for our organization. The more competitive cars that we can have in the Toyota stable, the more information that we can share, and it will be good information. It's very, very difficult, as we know, in our sport to have four cars that are all very good and competitive. Certainly I believe that we can have that this year. It's already starting off really well.

Q. With being around the 9 car, did you see anything different in terms of what he's been able to do last year and even in the Clash? Do you feel like you are catching up? Is there still that gap?

DENNY HAMLIN: I think I'm catching up. I think I got 20 to 30% there today. I mean, he's still lightning fast. I mean, honestly, when he got the lead, I beat him maybe a couple laps, but who knows. He's probably just sitting back one-handing this thing just cruising. Who knows.

I definitely feel like I gained a little bit today, but I still got some work to do for sure. There's nothing I could see honestly that was, like, earth shattering, wow, he's just killing me here. It's a little bit everywhere. It's just going to take time for me to figure out.

Q. Next road course race isn't for three months now.


Q. Is that enough time to get things figured out? Is it still expect the 9 car to be the dominant car in three months?

DENNY HAMLIN: I think how I'll get better is on-track time. I think in general, the more that we run road courses, the tighter the field is going to get. Everyone is going to get better. The gap is going to shrink. Really Chase passed the 19. Those two guys got a gap fifth to 10th to 20th. That will shrink the more we do road racing.

For me, I'm stuck at par right now. I can't break par. I'm just right there third to fourth fastest, and that's where I'm at. I think the more times I run, the tighter that gap is going to get.

Q. Is it a surprise that Christopher won this early?

DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, sure. I think today is a surprise. Who really expected it, right? I think you would say based on history he definitely could run in the top 10 and top five. But certainly once he got the track position, it was like three or four laps. I was like, Wow, he's got great speed.

It certainly is surprising, but again, he's got an experienced crew chief there that has been doing this a very long time, who is very, very good. I'm happy for them. This is a great step.

Q. Since it is a surprise, two weeks, two surprise winners, are there some teams sort of mid pack that should be worried about the Playoffs?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. I think the 34 certainly is a surprise. He's going to be in the Playoffs. 90% of the people that know anything about the sport, 95% really would put the 20 car in the Playoffs one way, shape or form anyway. I don't think that that's really taking up a spot that wasn't already probably pegged.

Q. We saw Christopher Bell, he made his winning move on Joey in the oval turn three and four. Kind of looked like a sketchy moment. Can you describe what it's like jockeying for position in the oval turns under the circumstances where the draft comes in heavy effect there?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it is. The cars actually have a decent amount of grip on the banking. With us slowing down to such a slow rate of speed before we go on the NASCAR big track, we never really get to a speed where the cars become unstable. The banking, as you can see, we're going from the top to the middle to the bottom pretty quickly. Any time you have an excess amount of grip, you can do that.

It's not really dicey, it's more you're just trying to get cleared or trying to get to someone's quarter panel to position yourself to be side-by-side in the next corner, make that person make a decision whether they're going to lift or not. That's the dicey part of it.

THE MODERATOR: Denny, thank you so much for taking some time with us. Congratulations on the good finish. We'll see you next weekend.

DENNY HAMLIN: Thank you.

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