CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Denny Hamlin has already won two of NASCAR's six completed races this season, but the consecutive Daytona 500 winner is not yet satisfied. He wants to take the checkered flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday more than anything.
"It's a race that's the highest priority for me to win in my career," Hamlin told The Charlotte Observer.
Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., won last year's Coca-Cola 600, but the No. 11 driver has never won the crown jewel event himself despite his 39 Cup Series wins.
The morning after Hamlin secured a victory at Wednesday night's Darlington race, which ended early due to rain, he hopped on a Zoom call with The Charlotte Observer to discuss his creative 'face' face mask, his thoughts on the Kyle Busch-Chase Elliott incident and the texts he receives from Michael Jordan.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Alex Andrejev: I've got to ask about the mask. How did you come up with the idea? Was that your face that was actually printed on it?
Denny Hamlin: It was. We probably had to pretty it up a little bit because this (motioning to face) is a mess. You never get to see anyone's facial expression. I wanted my mask to look like my face so it looks like I don't have a mask on. Masks look awkward at times. (My team) got it done in a very short amount of time, but yeah, it worked. It was funny. I remember walking down pit lane before the race and having it on, and seeing all the crew guys kind of nudging each other and laughing, so I knew it was a hit. Luckily after the race, I kept in my car to be ready to head back to the bus -- win, lose or draw -- and it just so happens I won the race, so I was happy. The face worked.
AA: Did you show your kids before the race?
DH: No, they didn't see it. I got it literally a couple hours before I had to drive down to Darlington, so they didn't see it until it was on TV.
AA: What's been the weirdest or most unexpected thing (at the track) with the new protocols in place for coronavirus?