DENNY HAMLIN’S MOVE ON KYLE LARSON AT POCONO RACEWAY, WHERE YOU FORCE A DRIVER TO MAKE A CHOICE BETWEEN LIFTING OR GASSING AND POTENTIALLY HITTING THE WALL. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THAT – IS THAT FAIR WHEN YOU DO IT FOR THE WIN? DENNY SAID THAT IN THE LAST 10 YEARS, THAT’S BEEN SORT OF AN ACCEPTED WAY OF DOING BUSINESS. HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY SINCE YOU’VE BEEN HERE?
“It’s not always been that way. I think it’s gotten that way with the Next Gen car because of the way the aero works. I explained this to Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. in the pre-season – the old car would get aero-loose under somebody, so you would never get that close to somebody without sucking your car around. Eventually, you’d kind of tag them in the left-rear and both of you would crash. With this car, the inside car gets tighter and comes up into the outside car. The inside car is the one at the advantage, aero-wise, so he has the control. He can move up and put that guy in a vulnerable spot where he really has no choice but to hit the wall.
I see it a little bit differently. I don’t think in Kyle’s (Larson) situation.. he’s already lifting on SMT so I think he’s going to hit the wall regardless. Like Denny (Hamlin) is the one that put him in that spot.. very similar to what happened at Texas (Motor Speedway) with us. So I think it’s just a situation where the inside guy is at an advantage – he has all the cards to play. And the outside guy is really dependent on what kind of race the inside guy wants it to be. I think it’s just a product of the Next Gen car and the way that the aero works.”
DO YOU THINK IT’S A FAIR MOVE, AND WOULD YOU DO IT FOR A VICTORY?
“Well I think it’s becoming more common with certain guys out there. So yeah, it’s becoming more common because what’s the penalty for the inside guy, right? He’s going to hit you and move on. You can’t retaliate. You can’t go up to him.. there’s nothing you can do. Like once your car is in the wall, it’s damaged and it’s over for you. So I think you have to look at the tactics of it and what that means for your race, and I think for the inside guy, he kind of goes on.”
DO YOU MAKE THAT MOVE OR DO YOU ONLY MAKE THAT MOVE ON SOMEBODY THAT’S ALREADY DONE THAT TO YOU?
“I think to me, it does matter who you’re racing. Like to me, I try to play it fair to where – if that guy hasn’t done something like that to me, I probably wouldn’t do that to him. I think there’s ways to make that move and still kind of race it off the corner. But you have to look at the trajectory of the car – like (Kevin) Harvick was in fourth and Harvick is a full lane down.. he’s on the outside, he’s in fourth, he’s running the normal racing line and both of the cars in front of him were above where he was. That’s way out of the groove.. there’s marbles up there. It’s probably hard to tell that on TV because it all looks black and dark, but the racing groove was quite a bit lower.”
THERE’S BEEN SPECULATION THAT THE YOUNGER CROWD HAS GROWN UP LEARNING THEIR CRAFT ON VIDEO GAMES. LEARNING THAT THE WAY YOU DID AND BEHIND THE SCREEN, THERE’S NOT THE CONSEQUENCES. YOU’RE A LITTLE MORE SKILLFUL, BUT YOU’RE SEEING SO MUCH MORE OF THAT AND YOU SAY IT’S THE CAR, BUT HOW MUCH IS ALSO COMING UP THAT WAY IN LEARNING A SKILLSET?
“Yeah, I mean just from my experience, I had a lot of run-ins on iRacing so I think I got all my bad run-ins out of the way and learned what I needed to when I was really young. When I was on there, yeah I would pull a lot of crazy moves and do a lot of aggressive things. I feel like I kind of learned what my code was; how I wanted to race. So I feel like where I am now, I’m pretty mature in my thoughts and how I want to race. Yeah, you want to do what’s best for your team so I think that’s ultimately what our job is.. is to try and go out there and get the best result for our team. You just have to know maybe how desperate the decision is, whether it’s playoff chances or championship chances. Now that we see how these cars race, I think you’re going to see some desperate moves probably.”
WITH FIVE RACES TO GO, YOU TRAIL MARTIN TRUEX JR. BY 30 POINTS. HOW IMPORTANT IS WINNING THE REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP, GETTING THOSE 15 POINTS AND WHAT KIND OF STRATEGY HAVE YOU AND RUDY (FUGLE) LOOKED AT TO KIND OF CATCHUP OR SURPASS MARTIN?
“Yeah, it’s really important but we can’t get too focused on the result of the regular season points. We obviously want those points, but our process has been like it is to this point, and if we start focusing on that carrot out in front of us too much, it’s going to get us off-track. Yeah, we’re 30 points behind – all that is up for play and up for grabs. But for us, it’s just trying to do the same things every week that got us to this point. We had a 60 point penalty this time in the spring and we’ve crawled all the way back and took the point lead. We’ve just got to focus on trying to knock off results that are going to get us 40- to 50-point days. Those would be really good.”
TALK ABOUT THE UPCOMING TEST HERE… (NO MIC).
“Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. I think we’re kind of wait and see on our end – just to understand the package and get back to the shop after this test and understand what it’s all about. But yeah, looking forward to testing for NASCAR over the next two days. Luckily, the weather is going to be a little cooler than today and I can just makes some laps and hopefully learn some things for our team going forward.”
KIND OF ALONG THOSE LINES, BUT WITH THIS BEING THE LAST SHORT-TRACK HEADING INTO THE PLAYOFFS, DO YOU SEE THIS WEEKEND AS BEING A PLACE WHERE SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE I’VE GOT TO GO FOR IT NOW.. WE CAN SHORT-TRACK RACE IT IF WE NEED TO? DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE A LITTLE MORE AGGRESSIVE BECAUSE OF THAT?
“I expect there to be kind of a clear idea of who’s got the speed at the short-tracks. When I look at last year’s race here, (Joey) Logano led 200-plus laps and went onto Phoenix (Raceway) and dominated. So I do think there’s some correlation to being good here on Sunday to being good at Phoenix. Yeah, it is kind of our last true test of what we’ve got for – I would say the three-quarter to one-mile race tracks. We’ve hopefully got speed here on Sunday to show that we’re good on the short-tracks and give ourselves confidence that we can go to Phoenix and have a good car.”
YOU MENTIONED THE WEATHER – IT’S GOING TO BE COOLER MONDAY AND TUESDAY, BUT I THINK IT WAS 102 DEGREES YESTERDAY AND THERE’S NO RELIEF IN SIGHT TODAY. WHAT IS THAT GOING TO BE LIKE IN TERMS OF HOW THE TRACK WILL RACE – DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE SLICKER?
“It will be slick. Richmond (Raceway) is always that way. I noticed they painted the frontstretch – they put lines on the frontstretch, so I don’t know if that’ll play into running the lower line down the straightaway for grip. But yeah, it’s just going to be about tire management. Managing the heat inside the car is going to be tough. Luckily tomorrow is going to be I think 89 degrees is what I saw, so it’s going to be way better. If it was 99 or 100 degrees, I would think a lot of the drivers would have some trouble finishing. Yeah, we’ve got to keep working on the heat but we’re just up against the climate that we’re in right now.”