Toyota Racing – Denny Hamlin
NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
FORT WORTH (October 23, 2020) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin was made available to media via videoconference in advance of the race at the Texas Motor Speedway:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Shipathon Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
You are running the Shipathon paint scheme at Texas and Martinsville. What can you tell us about the scheme?
“Well it’s about to be a Shipathon for our country. We are headed into the holidays and this is going to be a very important time and we know people want what they need when they need it. We encourage everyone this holiday season to shop and ship early. We will be running this for the next two weeks at Texas and Martinsville, so it’s a busy time. I’ve went to FedEx before during their peak season around Christmas, and you wouldn’t believe all of the packages going in there, so if you could spread out the love a little bit and get your online shopping done early it will help everybody out.”
How did you come up with the race team name, 23XI?
“We just kicked around a lot of different ideas and names and logos and things like that. Some that were way out of the box, and some that directly in the box and we kind of found somewhere in between. We found that it was something that – roman numerals are something that he has in his other ventures, whether that be his golf course and the 23 is very iconic to him. It doesn’t matter if we are multiple cars down the road the 23 will always represent him. The 11 will always represent me. It has been my number my entire racing life, but I also wanted to be respectful of Joe Gibbs Racing and not actually have the number 11 in the logo, being that they have that number. It’s just kind of a balance of all of that.”
Has it officially sunk in that you are a team owner?
“I’m not really overwhelmed. I’ve got a great team of people that are working on things, checking off checklists of things that we’ve got to get done between now and three months from now. It’s rapidly coming upon us, but I’m more working towards the future,’22, ’23, personally, right now. So, I think that as far as the race team is concerned, the immediate projects I already have a great team of people that we have hired that are working on that stuff.”
20 points, does that feel comfortable?
“I think that there is no one that is going to make 20 points up on us if we just preform our normal way, we’ve been preforming all year. Now, things change. We saw Kansas, things changed really quick. We go from possibly winning the race to finishing 15th, but I think our on-track performance will be enough. It’s just all of the variables that you don’t know about. It’s wrecks, it’s pit road, it’s someone pulling out in front of you and doing damage. There’s just so many little things that can affect your finish that you just don’t usually account for, but I would rather be 20 up than 20 down. That’s for sure.”
You’ve had some trouble at Texas in recent history. Do you do what you are doing, or do you race a little defensively?
“From my standpoint, we think we will the next three weeks in a row. If we do that, it all works out. If we don’t, we essentially need to think about where the people we are racing for points, where are they at on the racetrack. If they are running 12th, and I’m trying to make second and make a ballsy move up in the PJ1 to try to get second, for what? That one point is not worth the risk of losing it all and being negative, so you have to drive smarter in that sense. But if you are behind, you have to race like you are behind. That’s the advantage of being plus versus negative is that you are able to play off of your competition a little bit, make sure that they don’t get on a different strategy than you do. That’s a way you can bee defensive but also stay on the offense.”
You are going to get a home race to finish up this round in Martinsville. How do you feel about your chances there and the short track package?
“We’ve not finished strong on the short tracks this year as we were last year. I think we finished in the top-five in every short track last year, but I’m confident. We’ve run strong at times, but other times we’ve not like earlier Martinsville was a shock for us. Well, it wasn’t a shock, because I got an email an hour before the race essentially saying that we were going to be terrible because our data was wrong. I think that we really adapt well as a team. We handle the information that we get really well, so I think that certainly, I’m optimistic. I’m not going to look at the Spring and say ‘oh man, we were awful there. What have we done to change that?’ I’ve got smart enough people working within our team that I’m pretty confident that we can go there and contend for a win and that race essentially never happened. It’s so hard to draw parallels from previous success or failures to current results. It’s so hard to do in our sport, especially now.”
Was there any other discussion besides the number 23 for your team’s car?
“There hasn’t been, no. To us, it was a mere formality on that sense. We hadn’t talked about it for any other number. I just assumed that is what he would want, but obviously there were conversations between him, myself and Bubba (Wallace.) It just made the most sense for sure.”
How you would characterize where you are with manufacturer, crew chief?
“We’ve got most all of that done. We should have an announcement on that coming early, early next week.”
Are you intentionally trying to not think about the new team to focus on the championship?
“I’ll tell you regardless of the race team, I’ve been trying to find distractions for years in the Playoffs. I think that it’s a benefit to have distractions because you don’t overconsume yourself with what ifs and you end up second guessing yourself. I have the same preparation that I had for the fifth race of the season that I had this weekend. I don’t change anything. If anything during the Playoffs, I try to golf more. I’ll just do anything I can to be normal, and I have time set aside each week to prepare and to get ready for an event and I don’t change from that. I don’t change anything that I do. So, if I have six hours of open time on a Wednesday that it’s not preparation time for me, I’ll work on the race team, or I’ll go golf, or I’ll go hang out with friends. I don’t really designate anytime differently or try to weed out distractions. Distractions for me are a good thing, not a negative.”
You have a great mentor in Joe Gibbs. Have you talked to him about the new team?
“I’ve been on the phone with several teams talking about – I eventually want to build a race shop, so I’m getting all of those notes together. What will the new car bring, what departments will I need, that whole process. JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) is a huge asset to getting us ready. Our team is a little different than some of those out there, the alliance that are running out of their race shop, it’s essentially just another car of theirs. This is an independent team. This team is doing its own thing. We want to do it the right way. I have big goals for this team. I want by middle of next year people from top organizations saying I want to go work there. That team is up and coming, and that team is growing. It’s going to build a world class facility; this is where I want to go work. I’m really heavily invested in this race team and its success over the long term and he is as well. I will lean on every asset that I have and one of those is Joe Gibbs, Coy (Gibbs), the engineers at JGR. I’m picking their brain on where this sport is going and what do I need to be prepared for going forward, so yeah, I’m using all of the assets that I’ve got.”
Do you feel like there has been less of a physical tole this season?
“I would say that typically, I’m already lining up surgeries for whatever I’m going to do in the offseason to repair these joints, but all seems okay on that front this year. I feel as good as I have. Certainly, the schedule is not as taxing as it was before being away from home. So, yes certainly, I’m as fresh as I was back in March or April or whatever. There’s no fatigue factor. Now, race teams. I don’t know. There’s a lot of work, a lot of preparation, a lot of effort that gets put into these final weeks, so certainly, I’m sure they are burning the midnight oil.”
When you look ahead to running your team, what is going to be your role going forward?
“I think my role with the team will grow over time. What makes Joe Gibbs Racing successful is he is hands on. If you drive by their shop at 8am each morning, it doesn’t matter what day of the week, his car is usually sitting out front and he’s working. I just came off of a Zoom call with some FedEx folks and he’s on that call as well. If you want to do it right, if you want to make sure you have top-notch sponsors helping you pay the bills on this thing you are going to have to work hard. I realize that there’s a lot that goes into it. I think that Tony (Stewart) really reaped the benefits of being with Joe Gibbs Racing for a very long time and when he went over to Stewart-Haas, he changed the culture there. He brought legitimacy and winning to that culture. I hope to do the same thing with this new team. I certainly see myself as working on this a couple of days a week, being in the meetings when I need to be in the meetings and delegating to the people that I have in charge, which is why I’m making sure that I have the right people in the right management positions to run this the correct way. They don’t need to check in with me with every little decision that they will make. I can trust them to be able to do that. As my career ends, way down the line. Way down the line, let’s be clear on that. That will be something where you will see me hopefully in that Joe Gibbs role, being there, calling the sponsors each and every week, downloading with them, walking around that shop floor and try to figure out how we can go faster. That’s when I’m going to be a lot more hands on with it, but that’s not to say that I’m not very hands on even now because we are in the building process. I want to make sure that it’s built correctly, so I’ve got a lot of input on that. Lots of emails, lots and lots of emails.”
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