NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Autism Speaks 400
Topics: Autism Speaks 400
May 31, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by today's winning race driver, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, who won today's race with a perfect driver rating of 150. Tell us about your run today.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: What does it take to get a 150?
THE MODERATOR: That would be perfect.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Cool. The day obviously was a very fun one for us. Chad and Greg Ives and our whole engineering staff, we sat down earlier in the week and worked on some ideas and -- kind of like Bristol, after I finished third there, I told everybody that we sat down and made a wish list, and these guys made it all work, and they did it again.
Very, very proud of the race car that these guys brought me. We had a solid day on pit road, and at the end, we came out in eighth, and with cars in the lap down lane, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I was just trying to get what I could. I didn't want to make a mistake like I did in Las Vegas and tear the car up trying to get back to the front, and before I knew it I got by the guys that were on 4 and was in third, and kind of stalled out for a lap or two and searched around and found a new line and ran him down and caught the 16 as he was getting passed by the 14 so that helped me make quick work of him, and then set the 14 up and took a few laps.
It took a lot of commitment to get to his outside. I wasn't sure the car was going to stop sliding up the track. I thought it was going to hit the fence. Fortunately it grabbed just in time and changed directions and off I went and got alongside of him. Very good day.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by today's winning crew chief, Chad Knaus. Chad, your view from on top of the box today?
CHAD KNAUS: It was obviously a great day. When you can come to the racetrack and have a car that runs as well as what the Kobalt Chevrolet did today, it's the days that crew chiefs dream of. We were real fortunate to be able to lead a lot of laps. We were very fast in qualifying practice and qualified respectable.
The thing I'm probably proudest of is the fact that our car actually responded to the adjustments that we were making to it. There's a lot of times with the cars that we run now that they don't really respond and they don't take adjustments very well. We could make very minor adjustments as the track was changing and the track would respond. It was nice.
It was really a good day, and obviously Jimmie did a fantastic job there at the end. Unfortunately we had a little hiccup on the last pit stop. We felt like we were going to come down pit read leading and be able to leave third or fourth with four fresh tires and make quick work of the guys ahead of us. Unfortunately we came out I think it was eighth and really had to lean on Jimmie a little bit to carry us out, and he did a great job.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by today's winning team owner, Mr. Hendrick. Your view on today's win?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, there at the end it was awful exciting. I didn't know if we had enough time to get back, and Jimmie just did a heck of a job. Chad, the car was unbelievable. You'd like to come to the racetrack with a car like that, and at the end there I thought maybe it was going to get away from us, but Jimmie just did an awesome job of finding a groove and getting back to the front, so it was a great day.
Q. To start, this is sort of half tongue-in-cheek, but are you guys so good now that you can actually come up with a little bobble to go from stinking up the show to making a great show of it? Seriously, what happened exactly on the pit stop, and Chad, after the pit stop did you think you guys were sunk, or did you think Jimmie was going to go out there and get a few guys anyway?
CHAD KNAUS: As far as the pit stop goes, we have to go back home and really take a look at it and break down film to see exactly what happened. It's difficult to say. Everything goes on in a short 14-second sprint, so it's hard to pinpoint anything while you're at the racetrack, but when we get home we'll analyze it and see what it is and we'll make the proper adjustments to get that better.
As far as coming out of the pits where we did, I felt like we could get back up to the front, but we had to have some long green flag runs. Unfortunately the first restart right there we got into the back of the 17 car, damaged the car pretty badly, and I was a little concerned about that because if we had continued to have a lot of short runs, we would not have been able to get to those guys.
Being up front in clean air, it's pretty nice. It's almost priceless. Fortunately enough he was able to get by a couple guys, make quick work of them, get to the front. It was good stuff.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We were only beat by two cars that took four tires, so it was a small hiccup. There's some guys that took two tires is really what put us in eighth. So I guess that's it.
Q. Chad, Jimmie, that last stop looked like you were a little tight to the wall. Pit lane here at Dover has been reconstructed. How did you find pit lane here this time around?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: They made some great changes to it. I think it's a much safer pit road. Having 43 stalls for 43 cars, that was needed, and I'm very thankful for that.
The only thing, if I was king, if somebody asked for my opinion, I would have taken it around Turn 1 to allow us to have a little more time to get to pit road. Pit road is very difficult to get to under green flag conditions, and there's a blunt wall that's sitting there. If I could have, I would have carried the extra stalls around into Turn 1 where you could have never spun out and got down to that wall and hit it or coming onto pit road it would be a problem. But it's a small thing, and they should be commended for changing pit road. And thank you for the soft walls.
Q. Chad, isn't your timing off? Aren't you supposed to wait until it's almost the Chase where y'all start beating the hell out of people like this?
CHAD KNAUS: You know, we come to the racetrack every single event with the hope and the desire to try to win. That's been our mindset since we started in 2002. We've changed our approach a couple of times to try to make that happen. Right now we're doing everything we can to try to learn the car, especially with the new tires we've been bringing.
Goodyear brought a great tire this weekend, and I think everybody saw that. There weren't that many tire issues, so I think that's a good thing. It allows you to work on your car and make your car better. If we would have come here with a different tire, we would have had to try to learn with a limited amount of practice the characteristics of the tire, and we could have potentially had more issues.
So as far as us peaking or starting to win races too soon, you can never win races too soon.
Q. Jimmie, after the last green flag, it looked like you were running significantly higher, particularly in 1 and 2, almost like you were trying to slingshot yourself down the back stretch. Were you doing that on purpose? Were you trying to get that pickup going into the back stretch, or what was going on there?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I knew that, one, to get through traffic, if I could get -- since the car was comfortable enough to run around the top I would make up more positions because I would have clean air on the nose through the turn. Once I got to the front, I tried a couple laps on the bottom -- or up to third I should say, tried a couple laps on the bottom, and just with the two cars in front of me, I was equal with them, where up top I was a tenth better than them. I just made that commitment to run the remaining laps of the race up top so I had clean air on the nose through the center of the turn.
It worked well, and I was able to luckily catch the 16 when the 14 with a passing him, and that allowed me enough time to set Tony up and really work on that last little bit to find my line and perfect it and get by Tony. So it was more about clean air than anything.
Q. Jimmie, late in the race I believe you split Truex and Gordon in your charge to the front. From this vantage point it looked totally bold and thrilling. Could you just recount that and talk about strategically what that did for you, and was it as tricky as it looked?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It was thrilling because I wasn't expecting them to jump out to the gas and let me go by. I was dead on the gas and Jeff stayed up high and jumped out of the gas and Martin shot to the bottom and let out of the gas. I was like, where do I go? That's why it looked so exciting and so dramatic with the speed difference. They were just being respectful to me to let me go up and race for the win.
Q. For Jimmie and Chad, obviously this past week a lot of news with your teammate. I was just wondering for each of you, has it been easy or difficult to concentrate on your own task at hand during this time?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For us teammates are family, and we want our teammates to be successful and win races and championships and all those things. So in one respect it is difficult. But at the same time, we have to worry about what the 48 team is doing and how our performance is. Once we get into the motions of the weekend, we're just really worried about our setup of the car and our strategy and our shocks, our tires and really into our world. And when we have our debriefs we're able to share what we've learned and hope that the other guys can use that for their setups and stuff.
The hardest part truthfully is answering the questions. Once the helmets go on and once cars fire up and we're on track, that's really the easiest part. I'm sure Junior would probably say the same thing. Once you get in the garage area and get to work, that's the easiest part of the job.
CHAD KNAUS: From my standpoint it's actually been a blessing in disguise. We had some poor weather last week at Lowe's Motor Speedway so we weren't able to race on Sunday as everybody knows, and then there were some storms that came through South Carolina where we were supposed to be testing on Tuesday and Wednesday. We weren't able to go test, so we postponed the test until this coming week.
So quite frankly with Tony taking on a new role in the research and development department, I've called on him to go to South Carolina with the 48 car next weekend on Tuesday because I can't attend and help conduct that test and get everything going in the right direction for us there. They just tested last week at VIR, had a productive test, and I think he's going to help contribute, and hopefully we can get to Sonoma and have a better run than we've had in the past. For me it helped me concentrate on Dover this week because I didn't have to worry about next week.
Q. A lot of talk about the restarts going to double file and the fast guys up front. After today, other than you out front in the beginning there kind of ran away, but there was some good racing in the back and then your charge at the end. If they go to that, it wouldn't have been as epic, wouldn't have been as good for the fans, and would it at this point be a knee jerk reaction by NASCAR to change to that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I think that first thing you've got to look at is the tracks that the COT puts on a good show at. We have seen some awesome racing here. Last year you had three Roush cars side by side three wide racing for the win. So I think this track because it has so much banking, it suits the COT car well. The mile-and-a-half- and two-mile tracks, we're dealing with some issues there, and with the meetings we've had and the conversations that exist in the garage area, I think we'll be able to make some cost-effective adjustments to help that, and that's the goal that everybody has in mind.
I think the fans, based on a lot of research, have shown that they like to see the double file restarts. There's a great reaction from the all-star ranks. At the same time all the short tracks across America have that every Saturday night.
So as long as we can sort it out to make sure that the lucky dog situation works fairly and the guys that are a lap down don't end up with some type of advantage and that it's fair to them, there's some other things to work out there, it's not going to hurt anything. At times when you're the leader -- definitely when you're the leader and there's a row of lap down cars inside of you, you're not going to like it, but the other 42 guys are going to love it. I think we all need to step back and say, if it's good for our sport, if it helps the show, we need to seriously consider it.
Q. Jimmie, I have two quick questions. First, early in the race there was a close call for you on pit road where you were making a green flag stop and the caution came out. How close did you get to maybe getting caught a lap down? And the second question, how do you kind of carry this momentum over next week into the race at Pocono?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm so confused when you're on pit road. Sometimes you're okay, other times you're not. I figured we were dead in the water and we were going to be down a lap. When I pulled off of pit road they said us and the 17 I guess crossed our finish line in time and we were okay. Thankfully that happened because it would have made for a longer day being down a lap or killing the lead lap. So that worked out well for us.
And then for Pocono, momentum is important and helpful, but you couldn't pick two tracks that are further apart with setups and the way that you drive them and approach them. We'll have our chests out and feel good about what we accomplished today, feel good about our pit stops, feel good about the adjustments and all those things and take that into Pocono, but it's just a different animal.
Q. Looking at the road course test, from the driver's seat, and particularly with what's gone on lately, how do you look at working with a new crew chief, and from Chad's perspective, given your road course history and the successful test you mentioned at VIR for those guys, how much of a program do you give Tony, Jr., and how much do you let him run the show?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I'm certainly excited to go test, and we're doing everything that we can to get better at road course racing. That's a goal that we've had for a long time is to be competitive and win a road course event. Chad has a conflict, Tony is a great crew chief, great man and can come down and conduct the test, run the test, look at the things that Chad wants to work through in his test plan and matrix and go from there.
You know, as Chad said, it's taken the pressure off of him to worry about the test and really focus on Dover and focus on Pocono. Testing takes a lot out of the guys and out of the crew chief for sure because there's a lot of time and effort that goes into those things.
Q. Just back to the racing action, on the last few laps there when you caught Tony, I noticed when he stayed high, you had to go low, and like you were saying, if he went down low you couldn't make the pass. Then he started to go down low. He said he tried to keep you guessing. Do you think that was to your advantage when he went down to the bottom and tried to stick there?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I knew he was keeping me guessing. You just don't know what's going to be the move. As soon as you have the opportunity, you've got to jump on it and really be committed, especially with five to go, to pull it off. I ran the bottom all day long, felt that I was the fastest down there and preferred being on the bottom. But with him moving around and trying stuff, and I was, as well, you know, that one time coming into 3 I guess it was, I had a great run on him and I got position, and as soon as I got alongside of him where his spotter would say, "outside," I knew I had him.
On the inside I would have to probably fight for a few more laps and he could kind of trap me down and pin me from getting by. So one goal was to be on the outside because once I got alongside of him I'd motor by. And two, he wasn't running up there that much, and that's what I did to catch him. So I had that rhythm going up top of how to run that line.
Q. Jimmie finished first, Mark finished 10th, Junior finished 12th and Jeff finished 26th. How would you assess your day as a whole from Hendrick Motorsports?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think it was a good day. At one point the 88 and -- Mark had a great day. He drove up to the front and stayed there. I don't know what happened there at the end. I felt for Jeff because he was so good in practice and lost the primary car, and toward the end of the race they made some adjustments. But overall I was pleased with the day. I mean, you know, as dominant as Jimmie was, it looked like the rest of our guys were running for second. But you know, you never can tell.
All I ever want our guys is just to be competitive, and I think all four cars were competitive.
Q. Mr. Hendrick, could we get your thoughts on Tony Stewart taking the points lead using your equipment.
RICK HENDRICK: What do you want me to say? I mean, I think Tony has done a super job. He's run good every week. I hate to see Jeff have the problem that he had, but again, you're going to have these things where halfway through the Chase, I think Jimmie said this before, those guys have done an unbelievable job, and the information flows both ways. You know, it's just good to see all of our guys, the teams we support with motors and cars run well, too. We're proud of that. But at the end of the day, when it gets down to the Chase, we want to win with these guys.
Q. Mr. Hendrick, you kind of touched on this already, but how important was it to come into this weekend after the disappointing effort in Charlotte and the week you had this past week to come in here and score the win with Jimmie today, and even with Brad on Saturday?
RICK HENDRICK: I think any time you have a rough week and you're disappointed with the outcome of the race the weekend before, nothing makes you feel any better than to show up and win on Sunday. It kind of -- it doesn't fix the fact that we've got some work to do at Charlotte, but had that race not rained out, I think for three of the cars it would have been different.
It was a disappointing day for the 88, but I think we're going to work on it. And again, today, now we're focused on going to Pocono, and that's a track that's been really good to us, and hopefully we can go up there, and again, run up front and win another race.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you, and congratulations.
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