Originally created 03/09/06

Racing Newsmaker: Denny Hamlin



r winning the season-opening Budweiser Shootout all-star race for the Nextel Cup Series, Denny Hamlin won his first Busch Series race last Sunday on the road course in Mexico City. Hamlin, who will drive on both series this year, talked about his win and what's ahead for him at Joe Gibbs Racing during his post-race press conference. Here are excerpts of that interview:

Question: What was the key to winning last week?

Hamlin: We pretty much executed perfectly -- everything from our pit strategy to on the racetrack. We just didn't have any altercations at all. We chose to come in on Lap 6 for our first pit stop and that put us in a window where we could go to half way and then pit again. So, it was a great job by Dave Rogers, my crew chief. I give a lot of credit to him for getting me that track position. I told him before the race started to try not to put me in a situation where I have to drive to the front. That just leads to a lot of problems as you saw with Kyle Busch. When you've got to drive to the front, you risk yourself. We were just real patient. There at the end, I just said in my head that it was 50 laps to go, not five laps; and it's 20 laps to go, not two. I just kind of put that in my mind. To beat Boris Said is a huge accomplishment. The guy is flawless and what can I say? We just had a great car.

Question: How do you feel about having your first Busch Series win in Mexico?

Hamlin: I tell you, there is no other place I'd rather have it than here in Mexico. It's a racetrack I was looking forward to going to. This track just fits my driving style perfectly and it's a great racetrack. The fans are great. Everybody in the Busch Series feels very welcome.

Question: Should the Nextel Cup come to Mexico?

Hamlin: Since I run both Cup and Busch, I'd love to come here. I think it won't be long before NASCAR reaches out and goes somewhere outside the country. Hopefully they'll pick this racetrack. It's a great racetrack and you've got everything you need here. On top of that, we've got great hotel accommodations. It's a fun place to be.

Question: Is there something about road-course racing you like a lot?

Hamlin: There are a lot of different things about this track that are put into one. I like road-course racing. I like going left and right. But it's also tight corners, so it's a short track. But it's also a flat track because there are no elevation changes. Those three tracks right there -- all put into one. It's laid out on a platter for me. All I've got to do is execute and that's what we did today.

Question: Your strategy was to pit early in the race, then gain track position later as everyone made their stops. Were you worried?

Hamlin: If I see somebody else doing something, I start to panic and I wonder what's going on and why they are doing that. When Boris stayed out there for as long as he did, I started to wonder what he was doing. Is there something that he doesn't know, or is there something that we don't know? Fortunately, our pit strategy, I think all the cars that finished around us are guys who were on the same strategy as we were. You can win on strategy, but you also have to have a great car and make no mistakes and that's what we did today.

Question: Did the Mexican fans recognize the American drivers?

Hamlin: I think they definitely know our names a whole lot better this year. Just walking through the garage and they call me by my name and I don't even have my suit on, that's a great thing. I hope they look forward to us coming as much as we look forward to coming here. If we're here from now on, that would suit me just fine.

Question: What did you think of the Mexican drivers in the race?

Hamlin: They're so hard to beat. They know this racetrack like the back of their hand. It's amazing how well they do in race cars they don't race very much. I know how hard it was last year getting in a Busch car coming here for my third race and not really knowing what I was doing. But those guys can adapt that quick. It's amazing.





-- compiled by Don Coble