Denny Hamlin Admits Shutting Down During Summer, Pushes For More Communication At Joe Gibbs Racing

Following Denny Hamlin's 16th-place finish at Kansas last week, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver made some eyebrow-raising comments about the state of his team.

"I think we know what direction to go in; whether we can get there or not, got to have cooperation from everyone," he said then. "People need to be open-minded to make changes."

Hamlin expanded on his comments Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, saying it was about "getting everyone at the shop to buy in to what I feel like we need to work on."

And after some "big meetings" that took place during the week at JGR, Hamlin said he feels like "everyone's on board."

"I think that you're going to see a change in performance because of it," he said.

Hamlin made an important admission on Thursday: He told reporters that during the summer, at the height of JGR's struggles with mechanical problems and engine failures, "I kind of shut down to them a little bit" in terms of communication.

That's significant because ever since Tony Stewart left JGR, Hamlin had been one of the most influential voices in the organization.

"I wasn't giving up on them, but I was just like, ‘What does it matter how fast our cars are if we can't finish?' type of attitude," he said. "That's not the way to approach it by any means. Opening that communication back up, it's going to send us in a different direction, and I think that direction is what's going to make our cars faster."

Hamlin recalled the end of the 2009 season, where his No. 11 team steadily improved throughout the Chase and then entered 2010 ready to contend for the title.

He's hoping for a similar situation at this point.

"I see a few employees at Gibbs here this weekend that you don't see all the time, so I think that everyone is starting to buy into the fact that knowing our performance is not where it needs to be," he said. "You look and (Kyle Busch) hasn't been leading as many laps here lately as what he has in the past. Everyone's starting to figure out that we have to go to work."

Where does the team start to get better? Hamlin recently drove a Michael Waltrip Racing car during an electronic fuel injection test and said the car's handling sparked some ideas to bring to JGR.

"You got to kind of mesh those worlds (between JGR and MWR)," Hamlin said. "It definitely opens up your eyes to see different changes that you might want to have."

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