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February 23, 2014
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP:Â Let's roll into our post race for tonight's 56th running of the Daytona 500.Â We're joined by Denny Hamlin.
Denny, certainly not the win that I'm sure you wanted, but you had a solid Speedweeks.Â Talk about today's race.Â Certainly started earlier today and finished late.Â Talk about the emotion and the performance of the No.11 car.
DENNY HAMLIN:Â Well, I think our performance declined a little bit as Speedweeks went on by a little bit.Â I think the competition got a little bit better and worked on their cars.
But, I mean, this is a tough business.Â You're out there with twice the amount of cars of what you were earlier in the week.
Our car I thought was okay.Â Given the right circumstances, it was a race winner.Â But we were just stuck in the position we were in.Â Our radios got wet after the rain.Â I didn't perform as good as I could have 'cause I was trying to spot myself at the end of the race.
It's hard to win a superspeedway race when you don't know when runs are coming, when you have to time your passes and everything, especially when you're trying to guard against causing a wreck, knowing you got radio silence.
It was tough and disappointing because I definitely could have used my spotter there at the end for the green‑white‑checkered to possibly time a run on the 88.
I'm at least happy we finished the race and didn't get in big trouble.
KERRY THARP:Â Questions for Denny.
Q.Â Denny, did you lose complete radio communication with the spotter, with the pits and everything?Â You didn't get any help at the end.Â Could you have gotten by with a car or two behind you?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â I don't know.Â Like I said, I was looking in my mirror trying to get a run on the 88.
Yeah, the radios were intermittent a lot.Â I'd say when we first came back from the rain, I didn't have the radio for about 50 laps or so.Â I thought that it dried out and we had radio communication for about another 60, 70.Â Then starting with all those cautions about 12, 15 to go, pretty much went radio silence at that point.
I'm in the middle of the pack trying not to cause a big one, trying to hold my line, but yet advance my position to get myself a chance at a victory.Â It's too hard to do it on your own, honestly.
We were fortunate to finish where we were.Â So, yeah, I definitely could have used him at the end.Â I'm trying to look up at the scoreboard, trying to figure out how many laps are left.Â Not knowing anything that's going on, you start to appreciate what those guys do up there.
KERRY THARP:Â Also joining us right now is our top‑finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, Austin Dillon.
Solid run for you here today.Â Maybe talk about your race.
AUSTIN DILLON:Â Yeah, I think the yellow stripes on the bumper showed a little bit tonight.Â But we made it through it.
It was fun.Â I had a blast.Â The car was fast.Â After we got in the wreck, I don't know how we didn't hit the wall.Â Had a little damage, but was just a lot freer after that.Â Car was still fast, just a little loose.
All in all, it was a great start for our season, and hopefully we can carry it.
KERRY THARP:Â We'll continue with questions.
Q.Â Austin, are the stars kind of aligned?Â You had the No.3 on the track, and Dale Jr. wins the race.Â Talk about that.
AUSTIN DILLON:Â Yeah, it's very awesome.Â Junior has been so supportive of me bringing back the 3.Â I've gone to him for a lot of advice lately.Â I can't thank him enough.Â He's been awesome to me.Â It made this whole transition a lot easier.Â If we didn't have him onboard, it would have definitely been tough to do this.
I want to thank him and congratulate him.Â That was an awesome race.Â He led a ton of laps.
For me, he's been a little bit of a bigger brother right now.Â It's been pretty cool.
Q.Â Denny, how do you look at how Speedweeks wraps up?Â Does it matter going into essentially the rest of the season?Â Do you leave this behind and take off?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â I'm so 50/50 on whether I'm pissed off or I'm happy.Â I just don't know (laughter).
Any other year I probably would have been like jumping up and down.Â We can hardly finish these races much less have a shot at a victory.
Like I said earlier, I felt like our car wasn't as strong as the week progressed.Â The competition definitely caught up, for sure.Â Then, honestly, me not being able to drive to my ability because I was being conservative, trying to spot for myself, that's not a way to race.
Track position was so important, I couldn't come in for a radio change when it went totally dead.Â You know, I'll be happy tomorrow, I think.Â But right now a little disappointed.
It puts us in a good spot.Â Obviously you're going to need to win to be in the Chase, or if you keep doing this.Â Unless there's 16 race winners, it's been a long time since that, I don't mind keeping myself up top in a safe position.
It's definitely a good way to start the year, especially how we've run these last four races or so.Â It's been pretty solid.
Q.Â Austin, did you have contact with Larson and Newman on those accidents?Â What happened?
AUSTIN DILLON:Â Yeah, I had contact with both of them.Â The 31, I had a run and everything was good.Â I don't know.Â I haven't seen a replay of either one of them really.
His rear bumper cover was off, I barely touched him.Â It turned him to the left quick.Â Definitely didn't want to do that, he's my teammate.Â I think I touched the 1, it backed him up.Â It happened quick.Â Like I said, getting aggressive, 10 to go, just trying to make something happen.Â It was hard once you got back up there to get back up front if you weren't making moves to side draft.
Hopefully I can take this, go to Talladega and do a little better.
Q.Â Denny, I know you're disappointed.Â What are your thoughts about Junior winning?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â It's big.Â It's big for a lot of reasons.Â Obviously going into the last year with his current crew chief, they're going to start making Chase plans now early.Â It's going to be good for their race team.
They're very flexible right now as far as going forward with what they can do and try.
As far as the race win, it's obviously very significant, any Earnhardt wins at Daytona...
I knew it was going to be tough for anyone to pass him.Â It is kind of tough to pass a little bit once you get kind of bottled up.Â As long as you're the leader, you got two‑wide behind you, you can play both lanes, which is what those guys did to perfection the entire fuel run.Â It's what we did to win the two races we won.
For whatever reason, blocking has become easier, it seems like, and guys are getting better at it.Â Of course, you're going to have a tough time getting around an Earnhardt in a green‑white‑checkered at Daytona anyway.Â It's obviously a significant day for their family and great for the race team.
Q.Â Denny, the problems with the radio was across the board with Joe Gibbs Racing cars?Â How much did the No.11 Toyota change through the course of the period where you were waiting to get back to racing?
DENNY HAMLIN:Â From the little bit I heard from my guys is they said my mic was keyed solid.Â Obviously they couldn't communicate to me.Â I don't know, it's a heck of a coincidence if he says that's what was happening to him.Â Rain caused it or something like that.Â It's tough.
We didn't have any indication.Â Everything was fine when we cranked up and pulled out on pit road.Â It took to the first caution that we started having serious radio issues.Â That part was tough.Â Matt will attest it's nearly impossible to try to do this yourself.
Our cars, I don't know, we just weren't as good as the week progressed.Â Maybe we were the same, but I thought the competition got a little bit better.Â But definitely we weren't able to pass as easily as we were earlier in the week for whatever reason.
All race our car was handling pretty good.Â But no game changers, I felt like, from day to night.
Q.Â Austin, does this 10th‑place finish take some of the pressure off of you as a rookie or do you have just as much pressure facing you in Phoenix and Las Vegas?
AUSTIN DILLON:Â I don't think so, man.Â It's such a long year.Â We got to keep the pressure on as far as our team.Â We want to do well.Â We got a lot of goals we need to accomplish.
Superspeedway racing is so much different than the mile‑and‑a‑half's and the short tracks.Â We have a lot to learn.Â That's what this year is about:Â experience, trying to finish races and getting better each week.
We have a long year ahead of us.Â I'd like to use some of this momentum going forward.Â I know it's going to be a long, tough year and hopefully we'll be there to the end of these races and try to learn something.
KERRY THARP:Â Congratulations on a successful Speedweeks.
Third‑place finisher, Brad Keselowski, has joined us.
Brad, certainly was quite the race out there today and tonight.Â What are your thoughts about the race and how you thought you performed?Â Certainly looked like you were there at the very end.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â I thought our car was really, really, really strong.Â Best car I ever had here at Daytona.Â Proud of it.Â Got to the lead from the very back twice.Â Didn't quite pull it off the third time, but got really close there obviously in the closing laps with some help from a few others.
A strong night, for sure.Â Didn't get the win, which is most disappointing as a racecar driver.Â You don't get cars like that all the time, at least most of us don't.
We had the opportunity tonight.Â Came up a little bit short there on that last restart, but really proud of the effort and happy for my friend.
KERRY THARP:Â Questions for Brad.
Q.Â Obviously you're not going to be happy if you don't win, but how good is it just to get one in the books, a solid top five to get the season started?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â Points days don't mean anything anymore.Â That's the great thing about this format.Â There is no good points day, as far as I'm concerned.Â What matters is a win, especially when you come to Daytona.
Q.Â Brad, you've been such a close friend of Junior.Â I know you're obviously a competitor as well.Â Driver to driver, your thoughts about him winning this race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â I thought he did a great job.Â If there's ever a guy who is due, it's the guy who finished second three out of the last four years.Â That's really saying something.Â Hopefully that will work out for me at Watkins Glen.
He's been right there.Â He's knocked on the door.Â He runs restrictor plates as an elite driver, probably in the top three.Â Hasn't got the win that he probably deserved a couple times from a whole bunch of circumstances out of his control.
He was due.Â Today was his day.Â So I'm happy for him and happy for all those guys.Â A lot of great people over there on that team that I really like.Â Really like Steve.
Dale obviously gave me my big opportunity.Â He's probably my best friend in the garage outside of my teammate Joey Logano.Â His spotter is my neighbor.Â There's a lot of cross‑pollination there.Â It's good for them.Â I'm happy for them.
Q.Â You're a good big picture type guy.Â From the sports perspective, better tonight for Dale Jr. to win than the 3 making its comeback?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â I don't know.Â There's no shortage of storylines this year.Â It's just a matter of which one suits your fancy.
Dale's a very popular driver.Â Is he more popular than a number?Â I would like to think so.Â I would like to think a person is more popular than a number.Â Nowadays you never know.Â Certainly both are important stories and both would have been very rewarding for the sport.
But I think the great thing about Dale winning today, I followed him and passed him and did all those other things.Â I think this particular race, there's no drama, there's no feeling I think anybody could legitimately have that there's Voodoo magic that he won.Â I think that probably stands out the most.
Q.Â Brad, this is the closest you've ever come.Â Denny was in here earlier after finishing second and said, I'm 50/50, I don't know whether to be happy or pissed off.Â Coming that close, are you leaving thinking there's anything you could have done definitely or are you pretty satisfied with third?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â Having the benefit of getting back to the bus, changing before coming here, that's got to be a first, right?Â I had the opportunity to watch the replay.Â I don't feel like there's anything I could have done differently.Â When the 11 and 18 broke apart, then the 17 split the 18, that was the end of my night.Â There was nothing I could do.
It was just circumstances outside of my control.Â I could have blocked the 11 and ran second.Â That's all that was going to happen if I would have blocked the 11.Â But I really wasn't interested in running second.Â I took a shot at a different move that would have given me an opportunity to win and finished third.Â That's just the way it is.
Q.Â How does that prolonged delay affect you?Â Is it boredom, anxiousness?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â Everybody kept telling me over the radio, There's more rain coming, more rain coming.Â I think that really added to the anxiety and rush of pace even more so than the break.
I think everyone raced a hard 500‑mile race.Â I don't know what you guys saw, but I never saw a lull in the action from where I was sitting.Â That has to be the hardest 500 race ever, probably one of the best.
You look at this rules package, the way the cars ran today, you could run the bottom, the top, the middle.Â At one point in the race, handling started to come into play and skill level really showed up from a driver's perspective.
I couldn't be more pleased as both a participant and naturally a fan of the sport with how the 500 went from a competitive standpoint, how things went there.Â Obviously disappointed I didn't get two spots higher, but the actual racing I really thought was great.Â I really hope they don't change this package because I thought it was very, very solid.
Q.Â I think back a couple years when you got those 100,000 Twitter followers in a matter of moments during that delay.Â Social media really exploded during this rain delay as well.Â Talk a little bit about that.Â As somebody else said, you're a big picture kind of guy.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â We seem to do really well when we have delays here in Daytona.Â Maybe we should run 50% of the race and pause for four hours.Â We're stumbling upon something.Â The racing gods are trying to tell us something.Â We need a four‑hour intermission during the 500.Â That will be our next format change.
Whatever works.Â I'm glad that it's working.
Q.Â Brad, it's about two and a half minutes from midnight.Â Is this when you put Daytona aside and start thinking about Phoenix and what you need to do there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â I haven't thought about it that much.Â I'm a night owl.Â This gives me a good excuse to tell Roger Penske why I'm staying up late.Â I'm still in my A game zone.Â I'll move on to Phoenix tomorrow and go from there.
Q.Â Certainly we saw the strength of the Gibbs' cars, especially Hamlin, throughout the week.Â He thought his car maybe wasn't as strong as the week progressed or everybody got better.Â Did you see a difference with that car?Â Also, did you see a difference with Dale Jr.'s car?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â I guess, first off, from Denny's perspective, I thought at the halfway point of the race, probably around lap 80 or whatnot, a bunch of other cars picked up speed for whatever reason.Â It was interesting.Â I'm not sure why, but the back half of the field seemed to really adjust on their cars and make gains.
I thought before that, there was a little more of a separation, especially in the sun.Â It would have been interesting to see how the race played out under those circumstances.
In Dale Jr.'s perspective, I never come here and write off the Hendrick cars.Â Seems like come Sunday they pull something out that no one's ever seen.Â They obviously were faster in the race today than they had been throughout the rest of Speedweeks.
KERRY THARP:Â Brad, thank you for coming in.Â Congratulations.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:Â Thank you, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports