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July 27, 2014
KERRY THARP:¬† Let's roll into our post race press conference.¬† Our top‑finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate is Kyle Larson.
Seventh‑place showing here today for Kyle, another solid finish for you as you contend to get in the Chase.¬† Talk about your run out there today.
KYLE LARSON:¬† It was a good day for us.¬† We were a top‑10 car the whole race.¬† Had some good restarts there for most of the race.¬† Then that last one we had to restart on the outside and lost a spot.¬† Lined up fifth.¬† Denny got to third.
But still a good day.¬† The Target car was really good.¬† We were just too tight on short runs, then we just kind of would build tighter, looser off.¬† Everybody was struggling with grip out there.
It was fun.¬† Cool to finish in the top 10 at the Brickyard.¬† To see Jeff Gordon win is pretty special.¬† It's kind of like Junior winning the 500 this year.¬† It was a really good day for everybody and all the fans, too.¬† So happy about it.
KERRY THARP:¬† Questions for Kyle Larson.
Q.¬† Talk about what was the thing you took away from your first Brickyard experience.
KYLE LARSON:¬† Yeah, I don't know.¬† It was kind of just like any other race.
But restarts were definitely intense, just like they are everywhere.¬† Inside lane was definitely the dominant one.¬† I'm not sure what happened to Kasey on the last one.
For the most part if you were on the inside row, you were going to pass a couple cars.¬† So, yeah, just being aggressive to try to gain as much as you could on restarts because it was really hard to pass once we got going.
Frustrating that it is so hard to pass.¬† But makes you better at hitting your marks.
Q.¬† Is this a race that you circled that you needed to come out and do well to have a chance at making it into the Chase?
KYLE LARSON:¬† I think everywhere you have to make sure it's an important one to try to make the Chase because it's getting closer and closer every week.¬† We can't make any more mistakes or have any more bad luck.
Every track is important to us right now.¬† Now we get to go to Pocono next week where we finished fifth before.¬† Set fifth as a goal, but hopefully try to do better.
Q.¬† Kyle, what do you think can be done to the cars?¬† Like you said, after the first five laps, seems like everybody hits a brick wall.
KYLE LARSON:¬† Cover it with dirt and put some wings on top (laughter).
I don't know.¬† I'm not an engineer.¬† I don't know how to answer that question.
KERRY THARP:¬† Kyle, congratulations on another solid run.¬† We'll see you at Pocono.¬† Continued best of luck the rest of the way.
KYLE LARSON:¬† Thank you.
KERRY THARP:¬† We're now joined by Kyle Busch, race runner‑up.
Talk about your run out there and trying to get that Brickyard win.
KYLE BUSCH:¬† We had a good day.¬† Certainly better than expected.¬† All the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing have worked really hard the past few months in trying to make better racecars, TRD guys making better horsepower.
It all paid off good today.¬† We were able to come home 2‑3‑4 for JGR as an organization.¬† We're proud of that.
You certainly see the guy out there in front of you beating you and you know you got a lot of speed to gain.¬† Those guys were really, really fast.¬† I don't think he even went 80% the whole last run of the race and was driving away from us.
We have a lot of big areas to gain big speed in, then a bunch of little areas to gain a little bit of speed, too.¬† We have to continue to work on that and get better.
Great day for the Snickers Camry here.¬† Proud of the guys.¬† The pit stops were great today.¬† They were the ones that got me track position much of the race, being able to pass people on pit road, not having to burn up your stuff trying to pass them on the racetrack.
KERRY THARP:¬† Questions.
Q.¬† Is this an indication of what we can expect in the Chase with JGR's performance today?
KYLE BUSCH:¬† I don't know that you pin it on one race.¬† I finished second at Kentucky, Loudon and here.¬† We had some good races going. ¬†It would be certainly more beneficial to pick up some trophies, take some trophies home, get some of those benefits for the Chase.¬† Three second places, that's 11 extra points that you miss out on.¬† That sucks pretty big for the Chase and for those bonus points.
But, you know, if we keep going that way, then things will pay off sooner or later.¬† We'll start winning some.
Q.¬† How often in a NASCAR race do you see a guy jump away as well as Jeff did today?
KYLE BUSCH:¬† I've been unfortunately seeing it quite a bit lately.¬† The 2 car jumped me and killed us at Kentucky.¬† There was nobody in the field that could keep up with him there.¬† The same thing happened at Loudon.¬† The 2 car was lights out on the rest of the field.¬† Here today the 24 was.
It seems like there's been one car that's been hitting it a lot lately.¬† They've just been the dominating car, being able to get out when it matters.
I mean, Jeff may not have led a lot of laps today, maybe he did, I don't know, but he was always behind somebody in dirty air and traffic, being able to make passes.¬† Not a lot of other guys could do that.
You'd see us get strung out, kind of stall out on everybody, be an ill‑handling race.¬† But Jeff was doing a good job with all that, so they certainly had a good day today.
KERRY THARP:¬† Kyle, we'll see you next week at Pocono.¬† Thank you.
KYLE BUSCH:¬† Thank you.
KERRY THARP:¬† Our third‑place finisher, also for Joe Gibbs Racing, is Denny Hamlin.
Denny, certainly you had a car that was a contender today. ¬†That had to make you feel good about moving forward as the season gets into the stretch run here.
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Yeah, proud of the whole Joe Gibbs team.¬† I mean, it's a testament to what hard work is going on in the shop, bringing good racecars to the racetrack.
Definitely wasn't very optimistic going into the day obviously.¬† But as the pace slows down, track gets hot, we typically get good.¬† That's when our car really took off today, was when the track slickened up, the pace slowed down.
Proud of the adjustments we made.¬† Everything was great.¬† Everything was looking good.¬† We had us a big lead with enough fuel to make it.¬† Just didn't get it quite full on that second‑to‑last stop.¬† The one thing we had to get done to win the race, and just didn't get it quite full.¬† Had to go to the extra stop.
Had to go back to the teens, 15th, 16th, battle our way back.¬† That's a very strong comeback for us.¬† Regardless, my pit crew has done a phenomenal job all year long.¬† It's a great overall team effort today.
KERRY THARP:¬† Questions for Denny Hamlin.
Q.¬† Do you think you win the race if you don't have the mistake on the fuel?¬† Is Matt Kenseth your landlord now?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Yeah, he has been for about a month.
But, yeah, I mean, I was pretty confident.¬† I was pretty confident we were going to win the race.¬† Our car was just fast.¬† We didn't get passed by anyone.¬† We didn't.¬† All day long, nobody really passed us.¬† We were just faster than everyone that was around us, faster than everyone that was behind us.
I knew with the right track position we could win the race.¬† I had one bad restart.¬† The trouble was when that caution did come out, we were in the lead with that big lead, everyone had just stopped.¬† We didn't have to stop, so that put me out there with 10‑ to 12‑lap tires older than the field.¬† That's when we kind of got slid back.¬† We still maintained top five with old tires.
I knew that we had a car capable of winning, for sure.¬† It feels good to have a car that is capable of winning.¬† Really, we've been turning the corner here the last couple months.¬† It's been a lot of fun going to the racetrack.
Q.¬† Your battle with Matt towards the end.¬† You were running pretty much neck‑and‑neck up to the caution.¬† Was the restart the difference?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Yeah.¬† The 5 slid back on that restart.¬† My goal on the restart, I'm not going to win the race from fifth.¬† Matt was restarting fourth, which is a really bad place to restart.¬† I was trying to give him a lane on the bottom of turn one to let him get in and get down.¬† Maybe he could make some hay up there.
So he got down, which is good.¬† He got under the 5.¬† They were side‑drafting each other through the corner.¬† It allowed me to get that big run down the back straightaway.¬† Of course, after I feel like I gave him a break, I felt like I was going to take a little bit down the back straightaway and try to get the position.
It's good that we were all able to finish right there in a line.¬† Wish it was 1‑2‑3, but it's the next best thing.
Q.¬† In a young man's sport, what is it about Jeff Gordon that allows him at the age of 42 or 43...
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Really fast racecars.¬† Really, really fast racecars.¬† And he's pretty good, too (smiling).
Q.¬† How would you describe the competition level today compared to some of the races we've had here the last few years?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† You know, it's all pretty close.¬† Every year it's pretty much the same in the sense of, you know, you get a car that is decently fast, just call it a top 10 to 15 car, put him out front, he's probably going to pull away from the pack.
This track, it's a one‑lane racetrack.¬† We had big, huge spoilers on the back of our cars that make a big wake.¬† We rely so much on downforce now to keep our cars stuck, that the front car has an advantage, then the second‑place guy has the next best advantage, on and on.¬† The person in 25th doesn't have a chance to run the speeds of the leaders.
I thought relatively the competition today was pretty good.¬† You saw cars running fairly close to each other.¬† There was some passing.¬† I was able to pass a little bit, which is pretty good, because we had our car I felt like just right.
It's tough out there.¬† When you have a bad qualifying day like we did yesterday, it's easy to get discouraged and think you pretty much got no shot at winning.¬† But when we had a car like we had today, we saw pretty quick, regardless of where the competition was, we could make some ground up.¬† I thought it was obviously a great race today.
Q.¬† With the way the pit strategy was with the Nationwide race, did that show you guys what you could do?¬† Early on you took your own direction.
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† We really didn't do anything crazy.¬† We just didn't short pit like everyone else did.¬† Guys were trying to play it like a fuel‑mileage race, obviously run it backwards, short pit.
We took four tires every time.¬† We never took two tires.¬† So we just ran it, our car, till it went empty, pitted and went again until it was empty.
We didn't do anything crazy, we were just able to make up a ton of spots.¬† We had awesome, great pit stops.¬† That kept me inching forward every part of the day.
The way the strategies all worked out with everybody else, they put me up front by pitting so much, by short pitting.¬† We were sitting really, really good there when we had our huge lead, and we had enough fuel to make it.
That's the breaks.¬† You don't always get stuff to go your way.¬† But really this track allows for whacky strategy.¬† Really, this race, you know, I saw a quote some driver said that this is a very frustrating track for the drivers, and I totally agree because a lot of this race is out of our hands.¬† It's about how fast our car is and how strategic our crew chiefs are.¬† We had it all put together, I felt like.
Q.¬† Did it surprise you, the lack of strategy?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† It concerned me a little bit.¬† Once I saw all these guys pitting and we were not, it was weird because I didn't want to get beat on tires.¬† But the great thing was is we were running such fast lap times on old tires, we weren't giving up that time.¬† When we put on four tires, we were just mowing through the field.¬† Our strategy worked because our car was fast.
Another reason the strategies all played out in so many different ways is because you had a tire that didn't wear out that much.¬† Even though it did drop off, which is a good thing, it didn't wear out.¬† So guys were able to stay out and change lefts or rights or four or none.¬† Crew chiefs can do some crazy things when they have those options.
Q.¬† Kyle also said that Joe Gibbs Racing has been focused on turning the page.¬† Is there specifically one thing you've been working on to get ready?¬† And give your thoughts on Pocono next weekend.
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Our focus all year has been to build the best racecars we did for September because that's when it really, really counts.¬† You can lead the regular season.¬† You can have 10 wins before the Chase starts.¬† If you have one bad race or you don't run as well for those first three races of the Chase, you're out.
So our biggest thing is trying to time this correctly and trying to get our cars to run well in the fall when it really, really counts.
So we're starting to turn the corner, I feel like, for that reason.¬† We've been working hard to try to run well all year.¬† We really have.¬† We've been off.¬† But our cars are starting to turn that corner and become more competitive, obviously.
Pocono will be a lot like this.¬† It's going to be the same thing, strategy plays.¬† Everything is going to be the same pretty much next week.
Q.¬† How does the communication between you and your teammates and all the different crews change from when you are at the top of your game compared to earlier in the season?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Well, I was talking about the strategies, the different strategies you can play.¬† If your car is slow, you're going to be in the way and fall back anyway.¬† When your cars are fast like we had, we're able to play those different strategies.
Early in the year we'd be lucky to run 10th some weeks because our car just wasn't capable of getting there, all of our cars.¬† So now it is, and it's becoming a lot more fun to get on the racetrack and be competitive and be able to pass cars that have been superior to you all year long.
I feel like the door is open for the crew chiefs now at Joe Gibbs Racing to start playing those strategies and doing successful things that is going to make us better in the long run.
Q.¬† In the shop during the workweek, what is the communication like?
DENNY HAMLIN: ¬†It's the same.¬† We do things all the same way.¬† We still meet and talk about our weekend, what we can do to be better.
Even though morale isn't at its highest when all the teams were not running well, we still see light at the end of the tunnel.¬† Days like this gives us that light.
Q.¬† There was originally a schedule to put aprons on the inside of the turns.¬† Is that going to be a big advantage for you guys to be able to make at least two‑wide going through here?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† It will be tough.¬† I mean, I don't know.¬† Until you see it, you don't know.¬† I know Pocono attempted something like that in the tunnel turn.¬† It doesn't work at all because it's like running through a ditch, it's so deep.¬† Our cars run so low to the ground, there can't be any transitions.¬† The banking has to be close to what it is in the corner.
I don't know.¬† It's tough to say until you really see what they're planning on doing.¬† You don't know how it's all going to play out.
Right now there's one line and it's right along the bottom.
Q.¬† Jeff Gordon described the restart as the restart of his life.¬† What did you see up front from your vantage point?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Well, my crew chief told me that the 24 had a bad restart on top earlier in the race.¬† So I thought that the 5 was in prime position to win the race.¬† It looked like he had the dominant car until he gets put back in third or fourth place.¬† He becomes just like everybody else, can't go anywhere.
It was all about who was going to get to the backstretch first was going to win the race.¬† The 24 did the best job of that.
Then with that the 5 got jumbled up with me, the 5 and the 20.
Whoever is going to be clear down the back straightaway down the restart is going to win the race.¬† You can't catch guys with this aero deal.
Q.¬† 2‑3‑4 at one of the most challenging tracks of the circuit, what does it say about the overall strength of Joe Gibbs Racing right now?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† We'll get a lot of attention this week about we've turned the corner, but it is just a small victory.¬† We're still just inching our way there.¬† Even though today we competed for a race win, we've got to do this on a more consistent basis.¬† Next week will again be a big challenge for us.¬† Pocono, Michigan, all the big, fast motor racetracks are going to be the challenges for our race teams.
We feel we've turned the corner on the short track stuff.¬† Feel like we have a good package there.¬† We showed pretty strong at Loudon last week.¬† We're starting to put it all together.¬† It's all coming together slowly, which is frustrating from a driver standpoint, because you want to be competitive from February to November, but it's hard to do in our sport, to stay on top like that.
We're trying to crest at the right time.
Q.¬† Obviously 2‑3‑4, but at the same time frustrating you couldn't give Toyota their first win at the Brickyard today?
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Yeah, it's frustrating.¬† The way I woke up this morning, I would have taken 13th probably, so...
It was only until lap 10 I realized, Maybe we got something a little better than that today.¬† Like I said, we were miserable on Friday and Saturday, over a second off the pace in qualifying.
Once the track slowed down to normal pace, our car was really fast.¬† I was confident to see a lot of Toyotas up front today, mostly up front as in the top 10, where normally here lately on these big tracks, we've all been in the teens or worse.
Hopefully as an organization we're all getting a little bit better.
KERRY THARP:¬† Denny, good show here today.¬† We'll see you at Pocono.
DENNY HAMLIN:¬† Appreciate it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports