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April 11, 2021

Denny Hamlin

Martinsville, Virginia, USA

Press Conference

Martinsville Speedway

An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's third-place finisher, Denny Hamlin, driver of No. 11 from FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Denny, talk us through your run today from your perspective.

DENNY HAMLIN: Had a really good car on the short run all day. Got great restarts. Was fast for 25, 30 laps. Then it seemed like guys would start catching us. Unfortunately it was just too many laps there at the end that we couldn't hold those guys off. At least gave ourselves a chance by getting a good restart there and getting in front of Martin.

Ultimately they were running better, turning the corner, getting off than we were. Came up short again.

Q. Did you have a lot of hope you were going to be able to hold off Martin or did you think it was a matter of time?

DENNY HAMLIN: I thought it was a matter of time. With about 25 to go or so, he already got into my rear bumper, kind of beating the back end off. It was just a matter of time.

The only hope, we had an extra set of tires over everyone. Hell, we would have pitted, taken tires, restarted 20th. That wasn't going to work either.

Tough to say. We weren't stuck in a box where we could make good in a long run. The reason we led so many laps is we had a lot of short runs, great starts in the middle of the race, not much green flag racing. When we had green flag racing, again, we were fast a little time, not a lot of time.

Q. NASCAR told teams they're going to start letting some sponsor people potentially in the garage at Darlington. Are there any parameters that you want to see in place or are you good with whatever NASCAR comes up with?

DENNY HAMLIN: I'm good with whatever they come up with, whatever they deem safe.

Q. Obviously it's hard to complain in one sense about thirds and fourths, top fives at the beginning of the season. Only three Playoff points at this point. If you continue your points, you'll get a bunch of Playoff points at the end of the regular season. How much of a concern is it, 30% of the way through the regular season, three Playoff points for you right now?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, we definitely would like to have more, for sure. But the way we're running, we can win any given week. We've just gotten beat by one or two cars each and every week that have just hit the setup a little bit better than we did.

But it is, like you said, hard to complain. I don't know what the record is for most points scored in eight races, but I think we pretty much got to be there (laughter). We don't finish any worse than third in every stage, obviously we're finishing in the top three or four every race.

Just keep building on that, look at the positives, try not to be negative. Wins, we're getting closer. We're getting there. We just got to -- nothing saying we can't win the next three races in a row, so...

Q. A lot of different tracks the first eight races. How do you feel to be able to have this consistency? Is there something a little bit off in the sense of not getting those wins? What do you see that's held you guys back at this point?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, we're just getting used to some things here and there. I think similar to the fall here, we were good for the first part of the race, but we faded there towards the end. It's just something about when this track goes to the night that's not suiting either myself or the driving style, which the car reacts. Just a lot of different things that are factored into us not winning.

Honestly, we've been really close. But each time I feel like that's the best we could do that day. We're not losing with dominant cars, although the stat sheet looks like we're dominant. But it's fake news. We just had a lot of short runs there, when others, Blaney and whatnot, were having issues.

We've been the third best most weeks, and it's been one or two guys, seems like they have just a little better balance than we do, and we get beat by it.

Q. Does today feel indicative of your season? You guys were very, very good, but kind of missing that little part to get over the hump.

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, yeah, there's just nothing I could have done I feel as a driver differently today. I feel like I executed well on pit road. Obviously we were the only car that was able to take the lead on the restart on the outside multiple times. Sometimes the cards are dealt to you where you got a short run car, and at the end of the race comes down to a 40-lap run. That's just outside your window of greatness.

It's just been amazing the execution that our team has had over the first eight races. Short of a pit road penalty I had on the last pit stop at Homestead, we finished top three every single week.

It's hard to be disappointed with that. We're executing phenomenal. We just haven't had that dominant car that we've had a few times last year that we just beat up on everyone. We just haven't had that car yet. We've just been next best.

Q. After stage two, most of the leaders had pitted, kind of a rash of cautions. You stayed on the racetrack. What was the thinking there?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, we saw how many tires we had left. Actually cycling the tires for us was better for us in the long run. It seemed like my car held on slightly better any time I had a short run, then a caution. If I stayed out, my car actually held on better in the long run. It was actually good for us to get those tires prime, then we'd finish off the run on those scuffed tires.

The last run was kind of a worst-case scenario because we had new tires and no cycles, where during the middle of the race we kept cycling our tires because of the cautions. It was the worst-case scenario, really exploited kind of our setup and our weakness there with 15 or so to go.

Q. You mentioned taking the positives out of the first eight races. Is there a little bit more frustration out of leading 200-plus laps and coming up a little bit short or can you find the positives in this race?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean, I definitely can find the positives. I did the best that I could do. That's what I need to come out of every weekend. That's my goal, is to, like, make sure I do the best that I can as a driver, do everything that I possibly can to win, not make mistakes.

This was just the seventh of eight races that I've done that, where I feel like there's nothing else I could have done to change the outcome. So all you can do is concentrate on your job. Chris will concentrate on his, making the car better. Pit crew is getting better every single week. Everyone, as long as they stay calm and continue to focus on their job, nothing more, we're going to continue to get better.

Q. How much can you take out of this, especially with Martinsville being an elimination race in the fall?

DENNY HAMLIN: That's a good baseline for us. I mean, I think that we were better here than what we were in the fall. When we got back in the back of the pack in the fall, we just were not very good in traffic. Luckily for us we stayed up front all day today. We didn't have to fight much traffic, other than lap cars. By then our car was starting to fade anyway.

We'll just have to really look at the data and see where our strengths and weaknesses is, really digest into the 19 car and see where they're different, what approach they have that's different that's making them so good at the end of this race.

Q. You mentioned the last run really exploited kind of the weakness in your car over that longer run. Was there a lot that you and Gabehart could do to adjust it to make it much better for a longer run or was it a case of where this particular weakness you just kind of had what you had?

DENNY HAMLIN: I had what I had. So the only thing that I could -- what I would do is since I had such a good short run car, I would run as hard as I could for the time that it was good. If I could build a gap over the guy that was behind me, it would just take him longer to get to me. Instead of me trying to ride and save my stuff, all I did was let those guys, when my car started fading, they were right on me instead of half a straightaway back. Those are the cards we were dealt.

The reason we even took the lead on that final restart is because we were good on the short runs. We made sure we preserved what strong suit we did have, which was the first 20 laps.

THE MODERATOR: Denny, thank you for joining us. Good luck next week in Richmond.

DENNY HAMLIN: All right. Thank you.

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