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February 14, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post Gatorade Duel press conference, Duel No. 2. We're pleased to be joined by Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 44 UPS Toyota, who raced his way into the 50th running of the Daytona 500 today.
Congratulations. Your thoughts.
DALE JARRETT: Yes, my thoughts are that I'm really happy that I got UPS and Michael Waltrip racing's third car in this thing. That, to me, I know that everybody kept talking about Dale Jarrett getting into the 50th running, and it certainly is important. I'm just kind of piggybacking on UPS. That's what I wanted more than anything.
Gave me a great race car. The first part of the race was just to kind of hang out and see what was gonna transpire. I saw a lot of cars looked a little out of shape up in front of me. Found myself what I thought was a reasonably comfortable spot. Then after we made our pit stop and went back to racing and Michael got back there, my car was good, especially through the corners.
Needed just a little push to make that extra pass. Michael came back and gave me that whenever I needed it, and it really meant a lot. Car drove well. Engine ran good. Now we'll just work on a few things for Sunday.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Dale Jarrett.
Q. Dale, after the first duel we heard a lot of drivers talk about how much the car was sliding and slipping. Was that your experience? If so, are there obvious reasons to you? Does that make it more fun, more frustrating?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, "fun" is a good word (smiling). Yeah, I think we're gonna see that, especially as the weekend goes on. I think we're expecting to see a lot more sun, higher temperatures. As more races happen, more oil and grease gets on the racetrack, it's not going to get any better.
If you walk out there and look at that racing surface it's pretty worn. We don't want it to be any different. That's the character of the racetrack. That's what we want. But it certainly makes it exciting, especially when you get long runs like we had there. I don't know how many laps that was, 30 some I guess that we ran. The tires start to get pretty worn at that time.
These cars just have a tendency to do that anyway. You need more racetrack to drive these cars in. When you get side by side, the air affects these cars quite a bit more than the cars we've had here in the past. And so you have to really be careful in some of the moves that you make and calculating in those moves.
Q. Could you get in the Daytona 500 without Michael Waltrip's help? If the answer is no, does that take away from it a little bit? Is that the nature of the beast at this place? If your car isn't quite up to speed you need help to get up there?
DALE JARRETT: No, it made my job easier knowing that I had someone there at my back. But, no, my car was good enough to drive up there and do what I needed to do. I told the guys early on when they asked about my car. I knew my car was really good. I was just free enough that I knew I shouldn't be hurt in the right front tire, and that I could run around the top when I needed to do that.
But to have the luxury of knowing you have a gap. But he got lost there a couple of times from me and I was still okay. But, no, my car was good enough to do what I needed to do. Kind of like an insurance policy basically, and we all have that. So it was nice to have that there.
Again, we were good enough to make it even without that.
Q. You had all this planned out, and then the Penske guys did what they did. I guess that's within the rules. You can't change that. As you were sitting through this off-season waiting for this day, you had your plans lined up, somebody else threw a monkey wrench in them, you had to do something different. Is this immensely personally gratifying for you? This is probably the biggest race you've run here in a long time.
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it is very gratifying personally. I mean, to know that you have to go out there and you know what you have to do, to be able to take the car and put it up in the top five and run there, you know, right around that for the majority of the race, especially the latter part of the race, that was very gratifying that we were able to work on the car.
Personally, hey, when it comes time to get this done, yeah, I enjoy that challenge, feel very good about what we were able to accomplish.
Q. Could you tell us at what point in the race did you feel like you had it, that you were going to qualify? Was there a lap or a certain point?
DALE JARRETT: When the checkered flag fell and I saw that. I saw those guys coming hard there at the end. I was trying to be still aggressive enough. I was wide open. I never lifted those last two laps. But those guys were just coming.
We kind of got fanned out two-wide up there. That was allowing them to come at a fast pace. I knew it was Biffle, but I didn't know who else it was coming. I knew the other guys had gotten tires.
Really before that I thought that I had myself in a position, before that caution flag came out, that I can drive this thing home from right here. If I don't run over something or something like that.
But you can't take anything for granted. I mean, I was trying -- I tried to move up a little bit, and Biffle jumped on the outside of me there. That automatically slows your car down just like that.
But I felt like I had a good enough cushion. But not until I saw that checkered flag and I crossed the stripe.
Q. Your three Waltrip cars looked very good, but the Hendrick and Gibbs cars looked great. Are you going to have anything for them on Sunday? What are your expectations for finishing in the 500?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I mean, you make a great point there. You know, I think there still is that separation. There's no doubt. I mean, our race team is a lot better than it was last year. It's tons better than it was at this time last year and a lot better than it was at the end of the season.
But those are still the two premiere teams. Doesn't make any difference what bodies and engines you put in 'em, they have things figured out better. It's the two largest organizations out there. I think that shows you that that manpower works.
Not taking anything away from those drivers, because they obviously have seven very talented race drivers there, and That helps the matter too.
We're going to need to work on our cars a little bit, but we can compete. I think Michael showed he can compete up there. But can we do it at the end when it's really going to make that difference? I think we're going to have to work on them just a little bit, but those are still the ones that you're going to have to outrun.
Q. Dale, were your parents here? Was your dad here?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, my dad's here somewhere, yeah. My mom wasn't sure I was going to make the race so she said she'd wait and come down if I did (laughter). No.
I'm not sure if she's coming or not. Kelly and the kids are coming now. They weren't waiting. They have school. They got to stay in school. When you have a former school teacher for a mother you go to school every single day. That's what they do.
They'll be down tomorrow night after basketball games and everything. Hopefully my mom will come, too.
Q. Dale, given how frustrating last year was for you, the entire bunch over at Waltrip, how much thought did you give to just not even coming back for these first five races?
DALE JARRETT: My thoughts didn't really go in that direction, because what I told UPS was, I'll do whatever you want me to do. If they would have said, Okay, we're going to be finished. We're ready to put David in at the beginning of the year. I'd have been cool with that.
This whole thing, the idea of that, was sponsor driven. I wanted to do what UPS needed for me to do at that time. The whole thing wasn't driven by the frustration of last year. It was just a lot of signs there to say, you know, all of this, you could do something different at this point in time.
You can still be of great value to Michael Waltrip racing outside of the race car, so I think all of that's working just as we planned so far.
KERRY THARP: Dale, thank you. Good luck on Sunday.
DALE JARRETT: Thank you.
KERRY THARP: We're now pleased to be joined in the media center by Tony Stewart and David Reutimann. Tony drives the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. David got in on his time, congratulations, David, driver of the 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota.
We'll talk to Tony first. Good run out there today. Your thoughts?
TONY STEWART: I'm happy. Obviously if the caution doesn't come out we think the outcome might have been different.
But, you know, the important thing was to keep Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2 no matter what the order was. That's what I told Denny during that red flag period. One of the two of us has to win this race. If you get a run, you've got to go. Don't try to help me and get yourself in a bad spot.
He got a run that he couldn't stop. I mean, there's no way. If he would have tried to go with me we probably both would have ended up fourth or fifth. I thought he did a great job. Really happy with our guys. We just kind of took it easy at the beginning. After the midway caution, just went ahead and tried to work our way forward and got there.
Definitely handling, like we talked about in the Shootout, handling is at an all-time premium this year. Everybody is going to take what they learn today and try to make their cars better for Sunday obviously.
KERRY THARP: David, your thoughts about getting into the 50th running of the Daytona 500? Congratulations.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, I've actually managed to be down here however long we've been and haven't thrown up once, so it's been good. It's a lot different than last year (laughter).
On top of that, you -- you're not going to ask me anything else, are you? (Laughter).
TONY STEWART: They will. Trust me.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Just to be able to get down here, get in a race, function somewhat normal, has been quite a relief. So it was good to be able to start the race today and know we were locked in, we had a spot in the 500 no matter what.
KERRY THARP: We'll open it up to questions. We have John Andretti up here, as well.
Q. Tony, when you're sitting there at the red flag, are you pretty much resigned to the fact you're a sitting duck and there's pretty much nothing you're going to be able to do at restart?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, to a certain degree. I mean, obviously having our teammate behind us provides a little bit of comfort there. But you have to be a realist. I mean, I got on Denny's channel and I told him exactly to a T what Jeff was going to do on the restart. It's the same way I lost the Daytona 500 here.
I know his trick on restarts like that. It's a good move. It's just making Denny aware of what was coming. I told Denny, I said, You do what you got to do. Just watch Jeff. Don't worry about me. I'm going to do what you do.
That's why we took off so late, was Jeff was hanging back. As we started to go forward a little bit he was trying to get a gap there. That's his textbook maneuver for this. Which, like I said, it's a good move. It's just knowing what to try to do to counter it.
We were pretty successful doing it. I mean, like I told Denny, I said, If it gets to a situation where he has to run, he has to go. He got a huge run there. There's no way that I would have asked him to stop and try to carry me on the deal. I was just glad I could get in a position there the last lap to be able to duck down and help him and get him going forward.
KERRY THARP: We have John Andretti, driver of the No. 34 Makoto Chevrolet. Congratulations. A couple quick comments. Go ahead, John.
JOHN ANDRETTI: I don't know what to say. I didn't expect to be here. I think the team has done a great job. I mean, in the race, there were some guys that really did treat me fair. One of them is sitting to my right (David Reutimann.) Tony helped me at the beginning. It looked like he was hanging on at the beginning.
No, he was just taking it easy (laughter). I was driving my guts out. He was taking it easy, keeping up.
But, anyway, it was a good race. The last lap for me was everything. I wasn't in the race till I came off turn four. I guess that's all that matters.
I'm really proud of this race team. Really happy to see and want to congratulate Dale Jarrett making the race. What an awesome thing to make the 50th running with him because he's such a great champion. Probably more excited about him making the race, probably not more, but equally excited about him making the race as me.
I don't know what to say. Kind of wore out just talking, not used to people coming up. I even have a little sign here with my name on it. So it's been a good day (smiling).
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for all three.
Q. Tony, you talked about Denny getting the run, him doing what was best for him. Was it because of where you were on the track that you couldn't go with him, or it would have knocked the crap out of you?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, it would have knocked the teeth out of my head, I think.
You know, Jeff tried to get a run up high. By the time I saw him move up there was too much of a gap for me to be able to really do much with it. I could have moved up, but he was going to end up going down anyway. That's what he did.
It was just bad timing for me. That's kind of the nature of the beast here. You look at every start and restart, it was hard for the guys up front to stay there because guys were getting runs from behind and able to get a second line going.
Q. John, you say your chances were so slim. You didn't think you'd be here. Did you have anybody spotting, telling you you need to get one more spot? Did you know as you went along you were in, or did you not know until the absolute end of the race?
JOHN ANDRETTI: No, I knew the whole time. I knew who I had to pass. I knew who was the transfer spot. You know, I could never get there. I could always get one away from the transfer spot. But on that last lap, I knew if I got around Mike. It was a little bit of confusion. I didn't really want to know whether Michael counted or not. I knew when I passed him that put me in the race.
I mean, I wish I would have put money on me in Vegas, on me making this race. We were definitely not somebody expected. I think the car handled well. We could do a lot of things with it. Whenever I'd move, you know, you always need help when you move. Sometimes I'd get going and do things.
But, you know, otherwise, I mean, it was a good race, I just -- I mean, I knew when I passed Michael that was it. I knew when I got alongside Dale that he was the guy, coming to the checkered flag. I can't say that I wouldn't have passed him, but I really didn't want to pass him at that point. I didn't think it was cool. We kind of finished side by side. For all you newspapers out there and stuff, and NASCAR.com, if you put Dale Jarrett I'll be in the same picture, so that's a good thing, too (smiling).
Q. Tony, you said the other night that the usual suspects were up front. Now it looks like six of the top ten starting are Gibbs or Hendrick. Is this setting up to be kind of a Gibbs/Hendrick showdown, the 500?
TONY STEWART: I think there's a lot of good cars also that are in that mix. But, I mean, if you look back, it kind of is the normal list of suspects up there.
Yeah, I mean, for you guys I'm going to say, yeah, just because it makes a great story line for you guys. I know I can help you guys out a little bit today.
Yeah, it's going to be the epic battle. It could be the battle of a lifetime, of the century. May not be another battle of this proportion for the rest of my life, career, or for this century. We'll start there.
If you need more than that, call us. Call Arning. We'll try to create something else (laughter).
It probably will be, but I think you just can't limit it to those two teams. We got John Andretti in the field. As long as he's in the race, he's a contender. There's a lot of good cars. You look at Matt Kenseth's run today. He had a good run till he got shuffled. Like I said, I mean, if it helps us to make a better headline for tomorrow, yeah, it's going to be the battle of a lifetime (smiling).
Q. John, did you realize it was Reutimann that you had to pass to get in?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I didn't know if it was David or Michael because I knew Dale Jarrett was up there. Michael, I didn't quite understand whether he was a transfer or how that worked.
When I got around David, I felt like I was in. That was off turn two. But I didn't pass Michael until coming off of turn four. Once I passed him, I knew for sure I was in. I just needed to get, I don't know, whatever distance that is to the checkered flag and we were in good shape.
The restart scared me a little bit because it got really bottled up. I don't know what happened up there in the middle part. But there were two cars between me and David. I almost ended up right on his rear bumper. We were just lucky to get through that part and get the last two laps in, I guess.
Q. Tony, after the first race, several drivers were talking about how much the car is sliding and slipping around. I'm wondering if, from your point of view, there was more of that than normal? Does that make it more challenging, more fun?
TONY STEWART: It's definitely for challenging, for sure.
Q. And why might it be slipping so much?
TONY STEWART: Well, if we knew that we'd fix it.
You keep in mind, these cars were designed and built to not drive as good as the cars we used to run. I can't say it's a surprise that they don't handle as good, because that's what they were built for.
But, you know, it's still our jobs as teams and drivers to try to figure out how to make them drive as good as we can.
You know, it makes you definitely -- I mean, track position's very important. You need to be as close to the front as you can get to get the cleaner air. It helps your car drive quite a bit better. If you get in the back there, get behind a bunch of cars, it's a handful for sure.
You definitely want -- I think Dale Jr. said it best. You definitely want to try to take full advantage of when you have fresh tires at the beginning of a run to try to get as many spots as you can early.
Q. David, I believe you were penalized for jumping at the start of the race. Can you talk about that, what was going on?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah. Michael told me before the race he was gonna be a little soft on the original start. I didn't anticipate him not -- I didn't anticipate him being in a coma when they dropped the green. My spotter says, Green, green, green. I took off. Michael was still sitting there.
Before I realized it, it's like, Oh, dang, here comes the start/finish line. Then I thought, Well, maybe they didn't see that (laughter). What do you think the chances of that were?
I knew as quick as it happened, Oh, I'm in trouble. We came down, did the pass-through, and then run around there by ourselves for 15 laps or whatever before we got a yellow.
It ended up working out okay. Just disappointing. Pretty disappointed in myself. You're not supposed to beat the leader back at the start/finish line. It's only been like that for like a hundred years and everybody knows it but I managed to do it anyway.
Q. Temperatures Sunday are supposed to be much warmer. The high line today was a line. By Sunday maybe it won't be. In this race in general the flexibility to be able to run wherever and with whomever is always important. Talk about how you decide when to run where.
TONY STEWART: The biggest thing for me was just -- you know, when we got in a position there where John and I were side by side, we kind of lost touch with the lead group there for a while. When we got going again, you know, when we all got back in single-file line, I kept running the bottom in three and four just to give myself clean air and not run the line that everybody else was running.
With it being a shorter distance, you could at least break even with the guys on the top, even though they were running faster in the draft. To me it was worth being easier on the tires trying to catch up than it was trying to beat your tires up just trying to get caught up to the pack.
I think you just have to gauge according to what your car's doing. I mean, there were times that my car felt better on the top than it did the bottom. Toward the end of the race I felt a lot better on the bottom than the top.
That characteristic is one that always happens here. I mean, it seems as the race goes on and you keep running a spot on the racetrack, it gets warmer and warmer and warmer from the friction. Seems like a lot of times if you can change your line and find a different spot, I mean, that's why they pay us to drive these things.
We're supposed to be smart enough to know to look for those things. That's where you search. I mean, sometimes the middle is going to be decent, but sometimes, depending on whether you're tight or loose, depends whether you're going to run the top or the bottom.
Q. David, in this race you had to worry about getting yourself in, you had Dale Jarrett, you have Boris Said sitting on your pit box. How aware are you of all these different scenarios? Do you have to put it out of your mind, or how do you deal with that?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, you know, you go out there and you know kind of the format or what you think you need to do. Trust me, all the guys at Michael Waltrip Racing weren't going to not let me know what we were supposed to be doing at any given time. We knew the 44 car needed to finish ahead of the 00. It's irrelevant where you start, to me, at this point, as long as we get three cars in the field. That's what our goal was.
So, yeah, I hated it for Boris. He got me in last year, so I definitely feel like I owed him one. I feel like we let him down there. Yeah, all these guys wanting you to do -- you do what you can when you can. You run as fast as you can and try not to knock the fenders off of it.
That's what I was concentrating on doing the rest of the race. One part of the deal was we got the 44 car in. At the end of the day, as long as we got three cars in, that's kind of all that matters.
Q. John, you were talking about wishing you went to Vegas or got online or tried that deal. What do you think your odds were?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Oh, gosh. The field? I mean, I don't know. I don't know what it would be, but it wouldn't have been Tony's odds.
I think for us, again, I feel like when we got in the race, I felt pretty good about the race car, but I don't have maybe as much experience in these COTs. I didn't come down here and test. I only did two drafting practices yesterday in this car.
But I felt pretty good about it. I felt like we made changes to it. The car was sensitive to them. It drove well. It drove well the whole race. I felt like, you know, when I get in the corners, I could do what I needed to do. I could stay wide open at any given point. I never had to lift except to keep from running over somebody.
I had to keep myself from trying to go through the middle. There were a couple times it was pretty tempting to try to muscle your way in there. But that usually -- that's last-lap stuff, not stuff you need to be doing at the beginning.
I just tried to be somewhat patient and try to hang on to the back. If we lost the draft, that was it for us. There were a couple times when it got close, because you get shuffled out, seems like you go backwards a lot faster. Like somebody throws an anchor on you.
It was a lot of fun. I don't know. I mean, we're in this race. For us, the big step has been made. But the other part is we still want to be respectable on Sunday to think, you know, illusion -- you know, visions of grandeur is not us. I think if we just have a good, solid run, top 15, it would be just unbelievable for us. Of course, you know, 'cause there's all those Gibbs and Hendrick cars in front of us that are going to be fast.
TONY STEWART: The epic battle.
JOHN ANDRETTI: The epic battle is going to be in front of us, so we'll be behind watching it. Hopefully the battle is fun to watch. I'm sure it will be. It was fun to watch on the Bud Shootout, I can tell you that.
Q. Tony, you always talk about you want to win every race, but the two races you haven't won are here and Indianapolis. To win the 50th Daytona 500, would you be okay with not ever winning Indianapolis at that point then?
TONY STEWART: You know, John knows what this means. We both ran the Indianapolis 500 a ton. He's run it more than I have actually.
You know, it's opposite ends of the spectrum. There's nothing that ever takes the place of the Indianapolis 500 and there's nothing that's going to take place of the Daytona 500. One doesn't offset the other or make you feel better about not winning the other.
If anything, it probably makes you want to win the other one more. You know, from my side, I'm one of those guys that have taken pride in winning in a lot of different divisions and different championships. You know, I think if we were able to win this, I mean, it would make it just that much more tempting to want to go back to Indy even more and try to complete all of it.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations.
TONY STEWART: We got a question. Where do we get the Kevin Harvick bobblehead dolls (laughter)? I only need one.
KERRY THARP: Load him up.
TONY STEWART: I think I'm going to mount it to the dash of the car for tomorrow's practice. We should be able to adjust our shock. I don't know if he's going to shake his head yes or no, but he's going to do something one way or the other.
KERRY THARP: Joe Nemechek has come in. He's made the Daytona 500 based on his qualifying time. He drives the No. 78 Furniture Row racing Chevrolet.
Congratulations. Your thoughts about racing on Sunday?
JOE NEMECHEK: Thank you. Just good to be in the Daytona 500, getting hooked up with Furniture Row, Chevrolet. These guys have been down here, a team being three years old, never making the 500. All of a sudden we have two cars in the 500, so it's a really, really special day.
KERRY THARP: Let's take questions for Joe.
Q. Can you explain what the success you had today means to your team, to get both cars in.
JOE NEMECHEK: It definitely means a lot. I mean, for a team -- you know, we put Kenny Wallace's car and that whole deal together right at the last minute. There's basically nobody left in the shop in Denver working on California stuff. Kind of spread the team really thin.
But I think we have our cars handling pretty good. At the beginning of the race, was able to lead some laps. Stayed up there. Towards the middle part of that run, you know, my car got extremely loose. Really didn't know why. You know, without having experience, without having another team member to fall back on to ask some of those questions, just had to learn how to deal with it.
We made some adjustments on that stop and then it was kind of being defensive, trying not to get in a wreck. It seemed like all the star cars there towards the end of that first race, they started beating on each other. Here I'm right behind them. We kind of backed up, tried to help Kenny, whatever we could do to try to help get him in.
Q. You're from Lakeland. Do you feel you had a home-field advantage? Like John Andretti, did you feel like a longshot on the track?
JOE NEMECHEK: Being locked in from qualifying, it's just a good feeling. It's tough. You know, you look at Boris Said, he's right there. He's the next guy to get a spot. It just didn't happen.
Very fortunate for qualifying. I think we've seen the Furniture Row team come a long, long ways from where they were last year. I mean, there's huge improvements within their team. For just being a single-car team, it's pretty special.
But being from Lakeland, right down the road, it's good to have a good run in Daytona. If we can come out of the Daytona 500 with a top-15 finish, man, that's going to be a big deal getting started on the 2008 points.
Q. Brian Vickers was saying he felt like you took it easy on him that last lap. Any reason why you maybe didn't challenge him harder? That did get him in the 500. I don't know if you were aware of that.
JOE NEMECHEK: I am now. We were kind of on the defensive there, and then all those guys pitted. We tried to go there at the end, but there's no substitute for new tires. I think that was his advantage coming there on the last or next to the last lap. He caught me going into turn three. He caught me pretty quick. As soon as he stuck that fender to the right rear, it bogged me down and let him have enough momentum to just clear me.
Just fortunate the rest of the guys didn't get a good restart and they were farther back. I think we saw on that second race, too, what new tires do. You know, you come in, get new tires with the 'green-white-checkered', that was pretty impressive, how John Andretti got up through there.
It just shows that handling is going to be the key in the 500.
KERRY THARP: Joe, thanks a lot. Good luck on Sunday.
JOE NEMECHEK: Thank you.
KERRY THARP: We're pleased to be joined by the winner of the today's second duel, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FexEx Express Toyota, and his crew chief, Mike Ford.
Denny, your thoughts about your performance this afternoon.
DENNY HAMLIN: I thought we definitely had a very strong car. I definitely thank the motor room for doing such a good job of hard hours getting these motors down here and prepared for us to try to run this race.
You know, luckily we were able to find a problem earlier in the week. So we haven't exactly remedied it with this motor, but the ones coming hopefully we will.
I definitely give credit to them and Mike for obviously the great-handling race car. I couldn't really ask too much more of it. Just kind of made the moves there at the end that we had to make to ensure that one of the two of us was going to get a win.
KERRY THARP: Mike, your thoughts?
MIKE FORD: A lot similar. In our race we had teammates, and it's the first time that Denny and Kyle and Tony could all work together. We think that's going to be the strength to our team come next Sunday, so we got an opportunity to all draft together. We didn't have that opportunity in the Shootout. Cars all worked well together.
Like Denny said, our car handled well. It's going to come down to that in the longer runs come next Sunday. That's really what we're shooting for, is a good-handling car. We had that today. We know that one of the three Gibbs cars can win the 500.
Circumstance played out where, you know, we were helping Tony for a little bit and the 24 got a run on us. Denny did what he had to do to put the 24 behind us. We're working hard at one of our three cars winning the 500.
KERRY THARP: Questions for either Denny or Mike Ford.
Q. Denny, this is the first time a Toyota Camry has driven into Victory Lane in the Cup Series. I want to get your reaction to that.
DENNY HAMLIN: Very proud. I definitely was a big guy that liked to switch over to a Toyota. We knew they had a lot of resources that we were not able to do with the 400 or so employees that we have at Joe Gibbs Racing.
I definitely was a guy that was behind it a hundred percent. It's finally starting to pay off. I think they had some engine issues last year they said they wanted to work on, mainly being corner exit. It feels like from my standpoint they've got that fixed.
So as soon as us drivers come up with something else that we need to work on with the engine program, I'm sure between Joe Gibbs Racing and TRD they're going to get it fixed. That's something that we just can't do with the allotment of people that we have at Joe Gibbs Racing.
So really to give those guys their very first win, and so early into the season, is definitely a proud moment for myself and everyone at FedEx.
Q. Mike, drivers have to adapt to tracks and changes and engines. Of course, teams have to, too. Is there any way for you to instill that in your team, to help them adapt to the changes?
MIKE FORD: Well, I think the key to that is you have to understand what you're working with. If you understand the workings of the car and understand the physics of the car, then it really doesn't matter what you're working on, you're going to understand what you're working on.
That's the key that we have. We don't worry about what the rest of the world's doing. We worry about our issues and use our resources and the resources available to us to answer the questions that we have.
We probably have a little bit different aspect on racing than most of the other teams. You know, we focus on our issues and we stick to those and we put people in position that understand what they're doing.
Q. The run on Tony, he said you guys talked on the red flag. He said, If you get a run, you got to go. I heard you say after the race there was no way you could not have gone or Jeff would have passed both of you and gone.
DENNY HAMLIN: Definitely. I kind of waited. Tony kind of clued me in on Jeff's habits over the years of what he does on restarts to try to, you know, get guys at the very end. I think I was more on the brake there after they threw the green than I was actually on the throttle making sure, you know, me and Tony didn't pull away and he had basically the whole field behind him with a huge run.
So basically just I wanted to stay, you know, my rear bumper to his front bumper instead of him driving up to my rear bumper. I was using the brake to make sure I was attached to his front bumper, that way I had a huge run on Tony.
Obviously, we knew with the huge run we had going down the back straightaway, if I would have chose to hit Tony there that would have been a huge opportunity for Jeff to pull down and pass really both of us with relative ease.
We knew at the end it was going to be tough for us to finish 1-2 by simply riding that way. We needed to kind of almost exchange positions to kind of get that finish we needed at the end, because we knew the 24, the 8 and the 9 were all planning something behind us.
Q. Denny, I realize you didn't have all 43 cars out there, but does it give you a sense of accomplishment that for once there's not a Hendrick car winning?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah. I mean, definitely it feels good. I mean, we had opportunities during the course of that race where I think we were 1-2-3, myself, Kyle and Tony. That's what we were looking for.
Unfortunately Kyle got in the situation where when we were 1-2-3 the rest of us can't sit behind, we have to make moves or the guys are going to make moves on us. I chose to go with Tony the mid stages of that race.
We knew with Jeff having such a strong car he was going to be on his own as far as working. I think he wanted to work with us, and we wanted to work with him. I needed him in the middle stages of that race, end of the race obviously to pass Tony.
But I think, really, we're going to look out for our team first and foremost, manufacturer probably second, and then the guys that we work well with third. And Jeff's one of those guys. So really I think that's why you see the finish at the end that it was.
Q. Denny, seen a couple races this week where passes were made the last couple of laps. Is it almost a detriment to be in the lead at the end? Can you hold off people? Is this any different than years past?
DENNY HAMLIN: I think if you're on old tires you want to be in the lead, other than a restart for sure. You know, had we gone green there, Tony probably would have won the race no problem simply because I think myself, Tony and Jeff had pulled away from the field by about five car lengths or so with just a couple laps to go.
They probably weren't going to catch us. Being on old tires, you know, you can't do it. You just can't get runs like you can on new tires.
I say at the end, if you're on a Shootout with new tires, second, third is probably as good as first. But I think in situations where we don't pit, we're on very old tires, you want to be the guy out in front.
Q. Denny, did finishing 1-2 tell you anything about Toyota's ability to be competitive out of the gate that you didn't already know going into today?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah. I mean, I'm actually a little more excited about the races to come: the mile-and-a-half, two-mile racetracks, California, Vegas, those racetracks. All the hard work that we did in the off-season, that's where it's going to show up, not necessarily here at Daytona.
Here at Daytona you're going to see what hard work paid off in the engine room, both from Mark Cronquest and the engine guys at AGR and TRD. That's what's going to show up at the racetrack this weekend.
Everything we worked on in the off-season will show up the rest of the 34, 35 races throughout the season. We definitely know we have the engine thing heading in the right direction right now. We just got to make sure we've got the mechanical stuff working.
KERRY THARP: Thanks a lot, guys. Good luck on Sunday.
DENNY HAMLIN: Thanks.
MIKE FORD: Thank you.
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