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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: STP 400

Stock Car Racing Topics:  STP 400

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: STP 400

Jimmie Johnson
April 21, 2013


KRISTI KING: We begin with Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Kobalt Tools Chevrolet who finished third in today's STP 400. Jimmie is currently our points leader, 37 points ahead of our second place in the points standings, Kasey Kahne. Talk a little bit about the race out there today.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, it's hard to believe we've got a huge gap like that in the points already. Just very proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. We've been off to a great year and even had some trouble at Bristol and didn't finish as well as we did there and 37 points up on everybody is pretty awesome.
Last two days we've had a comfortable race car, but just didn't have the speed in it for qualifying and for the fast lap time that you would see in practice sessions, the first lap out. But our car was comfortable over the long haul and we just kind of waited and hoped that the comfortable balance that I felt in the race car would be there come race time, and it was.
A strong performance, solid on pit road. I think Chad's strategy today was flawless. About two stops from the end we started to get a little tight, and it was the first time I was tight so we probably didn't react as much as we should have, just trying to be cautious because the car was so loose at other times in the race, and just lacked a little bit there at the end.

Q. All four of your cars were slow initially in the practices and in qualifying. Was it just that you kind of let the car come to you or did you guys have to make wholesale changes and what did you do to get competitive?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, there was a lot of changes going on through the practice sessions. I think the only car really happy was the 88. I think the 5 was optimistic, but the 24 and the 48, we made huge changes throughout the course of the weekend and couldn't get the car to respond.
And then today we tried to make smart decisions and put a setup into the car that was very similar to a run that I made in practice that I liked so much and was as at least consistent, if not the fastest, but consistent. And then today, I guess everybody slowed down to our pace. I don't know why or what, but today we were far more competitive than what we were yesterday or even on Friday.

Q. You've won here twice on the old track, Matt Kenseth is now 2 for 2 on the new track. What's he got that everybody else doesn't right now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't realize that. Matt is good, and he always has been. He's an awesome race car driver. He impresses me in his ability to lead the team and make adjustments on the car and his knowledge of the car. But more than anything inside the race car in finding that little bit more. The guy can do it and always has, and I've always been impressed with him. Sheer speed, and then when you get in traffic and making good decisions and knowing how to work traffic and race cars, it doesn't surprise me to see the success that he's having.

Q. Could this racetrack in particular, could there be a trick‑‑
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, it's weird because I have tracks that we go to and we're the favorite there and we're fortunate to win often, and I can't tell you why. There's places you show up to and compete and it fits your style as a driver and as a crew chief and race car and team, and everything just fits and goes. I wish there was a better reason behind it. But you can count on guys to run well at certain tracks, and it's just that way.

Q. You said you're going to be watching how the 2 team responded. I don't know if you're aware of all the adversity Keselowski had today, but he finishes sixth. Does that reaffirm what you said Friday, that that's a championship caliber team?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I didn't know the troubles they had. I could tell they were off sequence, but they had significant speed in their car and they've got some stuff stacked against them right now for sure, but they're responding like I thought they would. Paul and Brad are a good combination and they're both very good at what they do.

Q. I wanted to follow up on what you were talking about. When he moved from Roush to Joe Gibbs Racing, did you think that would make him more of a threat to win the title or any less?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's hard to say. I didn't think much more about it. I didn't think he would be more competitive. I thought it was kind of a lateral move. Both companies are very capable of winning championships.
When I saw him flying at Martinsville, I realized that the car had something to do with it at that particular track. He's been on the record and told me time and time again he hates that place, and having passed me for the lead and take off, he certainly showed something there. But I probably mentioned it, too, in our preseason media gatherings, I really felt Matt would be somebody to worry about, and he's proven that.

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