NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Food City 500
Topics: Food City 500
March 21, 2010
KERRY THARP: We've got crew chief Chad Knaus of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports. Chad, special win today. First win at Bristol for the 48 team. The 50th career victory in the Sprint Cup Series. You've been there for all of them. How does this one rank?
CHAD KNAUS: This one's pretty incredible, to be honest with you. I think more than anything, coming into this race, everything was, Man, you don't run well at Bristol. That's kind of that stigma. Everybody says as we roll in here, You have never won here, what is it going to take to win? So on and so forth.
In all honesty, we've won exceptionally well the last four races here. Jimmie has come into his own. We left Atlanta two weeks ago kind of bummed out because we had such a good racecar and didn't finish where we felt we should have. For the first time in my career, walking out of the Atlanta, I said, I can't wait to get to Bristol. It was the truth. We were excited about coming here.
We unloaded. The car was fast. Jimmie was comfortable in the racecar. He was finding his way around the track well and was able to lead us, tell us what the car was doing to where we could make significant changes to it to make it better.
It was really a great weekend and a lot of fun.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Chad Knaus.
Q. Can you talk about the decision on the last pit stop, four tires.
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, that was a pretty easy decision for us. Obviously we were running in the second position coming onto pit road right behind the 2 car. We felt pretty confident that a lot of guys were going to take two tires, but I felt like if we had a really good pit stop, we'd roll out of the pits probably fourth. If we had a bad pit stop, maybe eighth. We had a good pit stop, and were sixth.
With the amount of laps we had left, even though they were dwindling, I figured we'd have about 12 laps to go. Ended up only about 10. We felt very confident we'd be able to get back up to the front, get a solid top five. That's kind of what our goal was for the day, to come out of here with a top-10 finish, a strong run and build on for what we needed in the fall.
It was a pretty easy decision in all honesty.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the luck you guys have had this year. With that in mind, can you talk about the job Jimmie did on the final restart.
CHAD KNAUS: It wasn't a hell of a lot of luck involved in that one. That was just driving. We had the good lane being on the outside. That's where you want to be, especially with guys on two tires on the inside of you, because you're going to be able to motor on by 'em. The car was really good. The car was good the run before that. We were running behind the 2 car the whole run there. We felt very confident we were going to have a good racecar. It was really good on the short run. It would fall off later in the run. We were keeping pace with the 2 car pretty consistently the run before that. They did have us beat.
Honestly, if they'd have been just ahead of us, we wouldn't have passed them. If we would have been just ahead of them, I don't think they could have passed us either. I think the cars are pretty tit for tat.
Q. I remember last year this race Jimmie came in here before the race and was like, I'm trying to have a positive attitude, I hate this place. Then he ran really well, finishing third. Was that a turning point for him?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I think every time we've shown up at this racetrack, we've gotten just a little bit better, every single time. Like I said, about four races ago, we really started to get some things happening and clicking for us.
So being able to go out into the races and adjust the cars to where Jimmie is comfortable with them, make the changes, he can feel the changes. Before it was like we were almost flying bind, he was out there chewing on the steering wheel, going as fast as he could, throwing the car around. That's kind of what happens around here. The really good guys, the Busch brothers, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, they feel the racetrack, get the rhythm and momentum, understand what's going on. Jimmie started to get that. Once he started to get a feel for what it was that was going on, we could make the right adjustments to the car, it started clicking.
Q. As confident as you were coming in, Jimmie screaming and celebrating over the radio, does that speak volumes about what that race win means to him?
CHAD KNAUS: It was pretty high on his list. Jimmie and I write a little, you know, pre-season summary of what it is we want to try to accomplish for the upcoming season. Among other things, Bristol was pretty high on his list.
For him to say that he wanted to focus on that and get better at this racetrack, for us to be able to go out there and do what we did, I think it speaks volumes about the dedication and desire he's got inside.
It's not different at any other racetrack. We want to win every single event. This one has eluded us. We're very proud to be able to have it.
Q. Chad, one of the things that Kurt Busch said about you guys after the race was that you always seem to, every time you have a chance to win, you win. Do you think that's one of the things that most frustrates your competitors, an opportunity arises late in a race, you're able to turn it into something perhaps better than people think you're going to have at the time?
CHAD KNAUS: I hope it frustrates them. That's only momentum for us.
You know, all of what happens in situations like that, whatever it is, I think it falls back on preparation, it really does. You know, Jimmie ran 490 laps, got out of the racecar, looked like he ran 20. Some of these other guys are falling over, whipped, could hardly drive.
I think preparation on his part, preparation on our part of having an idea of what's it is we need to do at each and every racetrack to make the racecars better from Greg and Ron preparing the cars, getting them ready to go, the pit crew guys working on that, it's all preparation. You try to prepare for that situation whenever it arises.
Whatever it is, if you need that killer pit stop, if you need that spectacular chassis adjustment, if Jimmie needs to be fresh at the end of the race, if it's a real hot day, whatever situation it is, we try to prepare on all fronts.
Q. What do you feel you have left to accomplish or what do you want to accomplish? Obviously you knocked off another one of the six active tracks, there's five more on that list, but what's going to make you happy and satisfied?
CHAD KNAUS: There's not a lot. I mean, we got a long, long ways to go. Somebody said just a little while ago, Your bucket is almost full. I said, As far as I'm concerned we dump it out every week and start out. That's the mentality we have. We've got to go to the racetrack every week hungry, focused with the desire to win. We've got expectations that we have to live up to, and if we can do that week in and week out, then we're doing our jobs.
But I can promise you, there's no switch that's going to flip anytime soon. No matter what happens, that's going to make us not want to go to the racetrack and win races.
Q. There was a period of adjustment when the COT and wing was introduced. Do you anticipate the same type of adjustment with the spoilers starting next week?
CHAD KNAUS: It's going to be interesting. We've played around a little bit at Rockingham, did some small testing there. Obviously done a lot of aerodynamic research, simulation with the data that we've got for the spoiler. It's a significant change to the racecars, more from just an appearance standpoint. I know it's going to be good for the fans because it's going to look like a racecar again.
It's a big, big change to the racecar. When we get to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, it's going to be interesting to see what happens. I'm looking forward to it. I think when there's situations like though, a major rule change, with the strength we have at Hendrick Motorsports, with the people we've got, we typically adapt quicker than most people, so I'm looking forward to it.
KERRY THARP: Chad, we'll let you go to inspection. Thank you very much. Congratulations.
Let's hear from our race winner and winning team owner, Jimmie Johnson and Rick Hendrick. Jimmie wins for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway. He wins his 50th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Only three our drivers have gotten there quicker: Jeff Gordon, Darrel Waltrip and David Pearson. You're in some select company.
Here is a stat I'd like to throw out. Today was the final race with the wing on the car. We raced that wing car 93 times. Jimmie Johnson won 22 of those 93 races with the wing. Kyle Busch was second with 13. Carl Edwards was third with 11.
Jimmie, your thought on today's win?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: A couple cool stats and an awesome victory today. I'm just proud of what we continue to do. I mean, it's one thing to have some success, but to continue to do it year after year, to find tracks that really are our weakest tracks, focus on them, get stronger and better at them, is a cool thing to experience. There's a lot of work that goes into it. I wish everybody could see behind the scenes what effort goes into it from Chad's side, everyone at Hendrick, building the cars, our engineers, the focus and dedication I have to how to drive this track better, the notes that we pour through, the conversations we have, trying to find the smallest details to make us better week in and week out, at this track so we could finally win here.
Very proud of the effort. Winning here, I think the guys we've got something for them for the rest of the year.
KERRY THARP: Team owner Rick Hendrick, your thoughts on today's historic win?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, needless to say, it was a great win. Jimmie, it was one of those tracks that he and Chad wanted to win at. He's run really well here. Just hasn't had some of the finishes. When I think about this is the 50th win, it's amazing, because it doesn't seem like it's been that long.
Again, when there's kind of a challenge or something that he hadn't done, he always ratchets it up, he and Chad both, to accomplish it.
I don't know when the last time we won here was, but it's been a little bit of a dry spell for us. So it's good. All of the cars ran good. Really proud of Jimmie for just sitting there with 10 laps to go. If he's got a shot, nobody I'd rather have sitting there in the seat with Jimmie with 10 to go.
KERRY THARP: Let's go upstairs for questions for either Jimmie or Rick Hendrick.
Q. Jimmie, three of five for the year. Going to a track next week where you really dominated recently. Is everybody kind of running for second place now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. I mean, I think when we got to Martinsville, we're one of the probably three or four guys that you have to put as a favorite to win there. The 11 has been on pace. The 24 is going to be good there. The 42 has gotten good there. As much as Mark hates the place, he's been running good there.
I feel we're one of the ones to consider. But this is racing, and anything can and will happen. We're off to a great start. But we've all seen enough teams rise and fall. You never just hand it to anybody.
We're obviously proud of where we're at. We have a lot of confidence, momentum, feel we're working in the right areas, but only time will tell.
Q. Jimmie, the thing about winning at Bristol, is it more than just checking a track off your list? This is one of the places that when people get excited about NASCAR, they most talk about, particularly the night race, but just in general so many of NASCAR's champions, former champions, have been successful at this track. Is there something special about winning here in general?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Everything you mentioned. Before I was in NASCAR and competing in stock cars, tuned into a few races a year, watched the 500. If you want to watch an action-packed race, you would watch the Bristol race, the night race especially. I think back to when I was running the Nationwide Series, I was at Randy LaJoie's house. He would have a big party. Every time there was a caution, a big bucket of jello shooters, he would throw those out, everybody would have a big-time.
Everything around Bristol is what people focus on. There are parties for it. The fans get excited for it. To walk into this facility and look around, you want to run well here. It's been a really downer for me to walk through the gates, look around, Man, I'm going to suck today, wreck in lap five today. I really had that mindset coming here.
Last year we got onto the right path. I started building my confidence. We ran well, I think third in the first race, had a chance of winning the second one and had a problem on a pit stop at the end. Those two races gave us clear direction where to work, me a clear direction on how to drive the car.
We came back this race and started where we left off from the fall race last year and were right there on pace and right there on speed and started making small changes to make the car better.
It's great to accomplish that. It's great to set those things out there in front of you, try to accomplish and work hard for. Feel very satisfied for that effort.
But I know as a race fan, you get excited for this racetrack. I've wanted to be excited for this track and just haven't been until now.
Q. That said, what is the sense of gratification like? You were screaming on the radio like you won the championship.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, every win is extremely special. But when a track kicks your butt for so long and you finally can win at that track, there's just something really unique about that. That's what I experienced today.
You know, I look at Jeff's situation, that he could possibly win at every track he's competed at. I think that's an amazing stat. With five left for us, it's certainly a goal that I now have my eyes set on. Still a lot of work to get there. A few tracks that really give me some difficulties that are still out there. But I feel good for Michigan, I feel good for Chicago. I think we have real opportunities for those two tracks. Then Homestead we were better. Then the road courses, we're road course testing already. We're trying. It's a full-blown effort again. The ninth year in a row of us doing everything we can to be competitive on the road courses and have a shot to win.
Q. Jimmie, Kurt Busch said he felt like he got beat by luck of the draw, meaning on the final restart it was random he ended up in a lane that didn't take off right away. Would you agree with that or do you think your driving may have played a role?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I definitely know being on the outside lane was helpful. Each lead restart the leader chose the outside lane. At the beginning there were a couple guys that went for the inside lane and it didn't pan out. Being on the outside was helpful. I was in third or fourth before I exited turn two. 17 did not get a good restart. So, yeah, it definitely helped.
But I was able to make some really aggressive moves, get by the 14 and the 16. He finished third, so he didn't even get by the 14. I know he had an amazing car all day long. We chased him. There at the end, when the money was there at the end for that ten-lap dash, we had everything go our way, plus the fastest car.
Q. Jimmie, what do you want to accomplish? There's still five tracks where you've yet to win. Other than that, what are the numbers, what are the stats, what are your goals right now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't have any hard numbers. I just want to win races. I want to keep doing what I'm doing. I feel extremely confident in the car, in my race team. The areas that we focus on, I feel like I really understand my weak spots. There's really cool joy that comes with trying to be better in those areas. It leads into why I'm so excited about the victory here today.
I get caught up in that mind game of stuff and find a lot of satisfaction in it. I told Chad before the year was over, I don't have a number of wins, but I wanted to win a lot to frustrate the competitors. I think over the last few years, we've been able to get in some guys' heads and I think it's been helpful. I don't want to lose that advantage if we can prevent it.
Granted, it's awfully early in the year to think about that. If we can keep winning every month, every other month, stay at the tops of people's minds as we get into the Chase, you know, we know the Chase and those tracks are really good for us, and we withstand the pressure really well. The ultimate goal is to win another championship.
Q. Rick, Dale Jr. had a pit road speeding penalty. Came back. He's eighth in the points. I take it you're pleased with the progress of the 88 right now.
RICK HENDRICK: I really am. They've worked really hard. Lance and Dale have great chemistry. I think if you listen to them on the radio, they're working well together. Dale had a great car. I think he would have been in the top five or had a real shot at it himself had he been able to not have that speeding penalty.
But that team is really coming together. I'm excited about the rest of the year. So we made a lot of progress there.
Q. Jimmie, I think Kurt was pretty upset after the race because this was a much better shot at beating you here than Martinsville. He said he needed a lot of luck. He was kind of upset. Obviously you heard he said, Anybody but the 48. He was rallying up the fans and everything. Are you getting more sensitive to those who keep saying, Anybody but the 48?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I think it's awesome. I've watched from afar before I was in the sport people would say, Anybody but the 3, Anybody but the 24. I'm awfully proud to be in that category where they're saying, Anybody but the 48. I think it's awesome.
Q. Mr. Hendrick, do you think Jimmie gets his due?
RICK HENDRICK: No, I really don't. I said this in Victory Lane a few minutes ago to one of the TV guys. If you look at the stats and you look at the talent and you look at the dedication, just look at his record, I mean, I don't understand why it's not written now he's one of the best that's ever done this. You look at Jeff, and I've been around for a long time, I've watched a lot of guys from Richard Petty on up to current day. When you look at the level of competition since he's been in the sport, what he's done, what he's accomplished, I mean, I don't know what he's got to do, you know.
Q. Did you hear when Kurt said that out there and did you smile like you did just now?
RICK HENDRICK: Can I say one thing about Kurt Busch? He's been one of the most complimentary drivers to Jimmie and our organization in the garage area. I mean, I think he has been the most professional as anyone that we've had to race against at giving Jimmie credit and that team credit.
So I understand his level of frustration with the way he ran today and how he ended up. I don't think that's a knock on Jimmie at all. I think Kurt holds Jimmie and that team at such a high level that when he beats them, he's beat the guys that are the best right now.
I plan to call Kurt just to congratulate him on the run because he has been very, very complimentary of our team and organization.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations. We'll see you at Charlotte for the test and then at Martinsville.
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