DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
What one area do you think if you get it fixed you will be better?
DENNY HAMLIN: “Everywhere. That’s what we stay on Mondays. I’m not sure honestly. It’s just a little bit everywhere honestly. It just takes time learning a lot of different new things. There were some setbacks with our testing car. There was a big crash in Texas last year with it and it set us back with some data and whatnot that maybe has an effect in it, but we’re trying to get our cars driving better and going faster.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: “There is a lot that goes into it. One of the biggest things for us has been not showing up on weekends close enough. Not a lot of people I think have talked about the schedule, but 15 minutes of practice, literally impound racing, you can’t change springs and major setup components during practice, so basically what you show up with you fine tune with wedge and shock clicks and small adjustments and then you go racing. Really if you are off, you are off. I think for us that’s a big thing. We’re sim racing right now. We’ve been behind throughout testing, and I feel like that has definitely hurt us, so we are definitely searching and at this point doing some testing.”
Are you concerned where you are in the point standings?
DENNY HAMLIN: “I don’t think we’ve been through this for sure. I think you can catapult up the standings really, really quickly – the way things are. Other kind of short of Ross (Chastain) who has been really good the last three or four weeks, everyone – their finishes are bouncing around all over the place. If you have a couple solid weeks where we don’t get crashed or cause a crash, those things add up. We’re not happy with where our speed is at, for sure, but certainly we are not a 22nd-place team and am I worried about making the Playoffs, if that is what you are asking, no.”
As an owner and driver, are you concerned about the wheels?
DENNY HAMLIN: “They had – from the evidence I’ve seen – is a loose wheel from the very beginning of the race and it just kept getting worse with each set of tires that they put on. I don’t know what caused it – I don’t know how or why – but it looked like this problem probably started on lap one of the race. There is some concern – there is a lot of wheels falling off. You would think with the single lug that we wouldn’t have that. If you missed one or two lugs before, you always would have backup. When you only have one, that’s it – it’s going to come off. There is some concern, but the concern I heard earlier in the year was you would mount the wheel a few times and the next thing you would know is it’s not good anymore because it gets all mauled up, which is what they RFK guys were doing at the beginning of the year – trying to fix that. I don’t think the teams have really perfected anything that looks like the fix right now and I don’t know what the fix is – if there is any fix – if it’s just you need to wait longer and get the wheels tight to be sure.”
How do you view Richmond as the barometer for Joe Gibbs Racing with the Next Gen car?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: “I think we have high expectations. We have a lot of people at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) that understand the track and understand what it takes to win here, but obviously this is a whole different deal now. I think for us this season – the short season it has been so far – is whatever you think you knew and the way you thought about these tracks before and the way you approach these things – just forget about it, because this is a whole new ballgame with this car and everything, we are doing this year. Forget everything you knew in the past and focus on what it takes to make this thing go, which we are still trying to figure out. Hopefully, we can make some steps in the right direction. Obviously, it’s been a great track for us, driver wise as well. You just try to use what we know about it and apply it to practice this morning and throughout the weekend.”
DENNY HAMLIN: It’s more just kind of anxious for me because I run the simulator and what not. I run this guy’s setup and that guy’s setup and they are on different planets and I’m like somebody’s right and somebody’s wrong. We will know within two laps – are we in the ballpark or not? The tough part is – like he said – is you are kind of locked in springs and whatnot, so your adjustments are somewhat limited when you get here. It’s almost like a COVID schedule, only you just get some laps with your car, and you can fine tune it or tweak it, so if you are way off you just can’t really wholesale it like you used to. For me, I’m anxious to see after lap two, did we guess right?”
Do you like the new car’s road course package?
DENNY HAMLIN: “It’s just different. No preference one way or the other. From a road course perspective, I think the car races better on road course with the independent rear suspension, the shifting. The gearing was interesting. Last week, we had five gears, and we only used four of them. We didn’t use fifth gear. We kind of mis-aligned what that was going to be, but it’s fine. Just getting used to it all.”
Looking at this season with one off-weekend, are you worried about burnout?
DENNY HAMLIN: “I’m not sure what we can do about it. We have to work extreme hours. We have to wait on parts, like my crew chief told me on the plane this morning – don’t tear the splitter up. We have legitimate concerns that we won’t have a splitter for Martinsville. Just be gentle, but how do you do that and race too. The short supply is causing extended hours and eventually people – I think I saw some stuff on Twitter yesterday – teams are losing a lot of people just because of workload and eventually it becomes a problem. You can’t afford to just pay them more – we’re trying to do everything we can to tread water right now. It’s just a tough position that we are in. The supply chain is just not coming through to us as good as it needs to, but we’ve designated one supplier to do all the work and when that one supplier doesn’t get the stuff we need, we are stuck because we told everyone else to pound sand. It’s just a tough spot to be in right now and the teams don’t know what else to do. It’s tough to retain your workforce right now and all of the teams are losing people.”
Are there any consequences to the rough racing that you referenced on social media?
DENNY HAMLIN: “Not really. I don’t think there is any consequences to it. We’ve seen you can kind of do whatever. You might be worried about getting wrecked here and there in the future, but I think it’s just become accepted. The art of passing is just something that isn’t quite used as much now-a-days. The easier route is getting them out of your way as quick as possible by moving them. I’ve done it – every time I’ve done it, it has been unintentional, but I think it’s become more of an intentional move in the years lately.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: “I think it’s part of the way kids come up racing. It’s funny I flew with (Kevin) Harvick a few weeks ago and we had a conversation. He goes and watches his kid go race go-karts and it’s crazy. They all go out there and drive through each other from lap one of practice. It’s just a normal occurrence. Everybody comes up through racing a certain way. I learned a certain way. Denny (Hamlin) learned a certain way. Kids now-a-days maybe it’s different. I know when I was making my way through the ranks I was working, I was building my cars. I didn’t want to tear the nose off of the thing because I knew I had to fix it on Monday. I had to keep the car in one piece. We had to keep our stuff – we couldn’t just go out and buy new stuff. We didn’t have the money when I was doing it. Maybe that’s it – I think it’s different. You see racing, you see short track racing, it’s every race there. They race for the win. It’s exciting because they are knocking the hell out each other. That’s what everybody wants to see these days. There is a lot of things from different angles that’s different in all of those things. It’s different and it’s made its way here. That’s the way it goes. The field gets younger, new guys come in and what used to fly or didn’t used to fly maybe can now. I think it’s a lot different than when I started here.”
Do you feel a lot closer with this car every week?
DENNY HAMLIN: “We’re starting over from our perspective. We’re trying to find a point where we are good. We are decent. We’re not shit. We are decent, but we are not where we have been for the last three years. We are trying to find that point where we are good, and we can build off of that.”
Do you think anything should be done to speed up these caution periods?
DENNY HAMLIN: “I told y’all before the season started that these races are going to be really long. There’s going to be more cautions and cautions are going to take longer. As far as that particular track and Road America, caution laps are I think 10 minutes. It’s huge, but I don’t know how you really fix it. It’s kind of what we got. I don’t know how you fix it. I don’t know that it’s broken either. Maybe we like sitting around for four and a half hours.”