1-on-1 with NASCAR's Denny Hamlin: Coca-Cola 600 win is his career's 'highest priority'

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

DH: No, the playful stuff. ... He's not about playing. He's about business.

AA: Sounds right. (Wednesday) you mentioned that you hadn't seen what happened behind you between Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. Have you watched the race film since then and what are your thoughts on the incident?

DH: Not a whole lot of thoughts other than things worked out really nice for us. We were in a good position. We made a ton of time up on that last long green flag run. We got all the way to the second and (I) was kind of running Chase down there before the caution came out, so I liked our chances to win the race regardless. But that caution was actually untimely for us even though it had four cars on the lead lap. We wanted to come in and take our last set of tires and be at a tire advantage thinking that the race could go green or the rain was coming and why leave tires in the pits? So it made our bed and then we had to stay in it because another caution came right back out and we were out of tires anyway other than the two-lap tires that we were going to put back on at the end of the race if we needed them. We just hadn't had time to glue them up. There just wasn't enough time between the cautions. I remember being told on the radio, "You're not gonna like this, but basically, you need you to stay out." I liked the call, personally. I thought it was the right call. I don't know if I would have held those guys off, but certainly I thought our car was its best at the very end.

AA: Alan (Gustafson) said afterward that he thought Chase could have won since you were running on old tires.

DH: Well, the rain was coming, right? We knew the rain was coming and when you look at the time line of the caution coming out for Chase's wreck, and then the rain started falling I think on our second caution lap, so we were only going to run probably four or five more laps before the race was over anyway. (He had) dirty air and the leader has such an advantage there. I liked our chances. I don't know because Chase is really fast on the short run and he was right there on our bumper, but I give myself that chance. I like my chances.

AA: Kyle said he misjudged the timing and other drivers, including you, have said that's very possible on that track. But how do you think that's going to play out between the two of them going forward? Do you think there's still going to be some tension there?

DH: It just depends on how much Chase is influenced by either the media or his team to retaliate or drive Kyle hard or whatever. Kyle's mistake was obviously a mistake, so in my opinion, I don't think retaliating is necessary. Someone made a mistake. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to run into someone causing them to wreck and you don't want to get retaliated against, so it's just part of racing and I think everyone understands that and I think both drivers are very fair.


AA: Heading into this weekend, what do you think is going to keep JGR rolling and how is the team preparing to keep that momentum going into the weekend?

DH: We were really strong at the Coke 600 last year, and I don't know that our cars are as strong right now, in the course of this season, compared to where we were last year when we were kind of firing off and winning everything. But I definitely think that we've got a great chance. Like I said, it's the highest priority race for me to win for my personal accomplishments. It's the next biggest race to the Daytona 500, in my opinion, so it's one that we've geared up for, prepared for, and we don't know what's going to happen without practice. But it's a race of, 'How prepared can you be right from the get-go?' I like our team's chances on that.

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