NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference Kentucky Speedway
An Interview With: David Reutimann And Jimmie Johnson
KERRY THARP: If I can have your attention, we'll roll into our post race for tonight's inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway. Our third-place finisher is Jimmie Johnson.
Jimmie, you ran it up front through the entire evening. On the last restart, tell us about trying to catch the 18 car.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We decided to come down pit road and put two tires on it, which ended up being good as few guys as we had on the lead lap. Had a great lane to restart in. The car did not take off like I had had it before on two tires.
That first run, I was in trouble. These tires seemed to kind of wake up after they get a heat cycle. So the last restart, the car took off a lot better. I was able to hang with the 18 outside of turns one and two. Man, just cleared me going down the back. The outside lane had more momentum coming off of two and down the back.
If I could have stayed inside of him, would have been one heck of a finish to the end. He cleared me and went on. Then I had my hands full with the 00. I think he probably was the best car at the end.
If he would have cleared me sooner, I think he would have been up there with the 18 racing for the win.
KERRY THARP: Talk about racing here at Kentucky Speedway, how the test session went and racing out there tonight.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm a big fan of the test session. I think that was good for our sport, good for the teams, a good use of money for all the race teams to come out and get data on the track we run on. I felt like it helped us get a good baseline for the weekend. We were able to validate some things we'd been messing with, some things we shouldn't have been messing with and some other things we needed to go a little further on. I enjoyed that.
I think the racetrack has plenty of character. Wish that we could get higher on the racetrack than what we are. For some reason, I don't know if the track is not taking any rubber. I've heard from some people there's a different grooving pattern above where we're running, that's why the cars aren't comfortable up there, but something to widen out the lanes would put on a better show.
I think it's a challenging place. If I could pick, I heard there's been plenty of trouble trying to get everybody into the facility, I think coming back next year that would be the priority. Leave the surface alone on the racetrack and make sure that the fans have the experience they deserve to have.
KERRY THARP: Our race runner-up is David Reutimann. Terrific showing out there tonight by the 00.
David, good to see you out there running up front again. Talk about your race out there this evening.
DAVID REUTIMANN: It was hit or miss the first part of the race. We would make it better, then make it worse. Every time we put four tires on, we couldn't go anywhere, too tight. My guys did a good job. Kept adjusting on it. Either the track was changing or tightening up more or we weren't changing enough, taking big enough swings on it.
We unfortunately have a bit of a history of being fast when it doesn't really matter. Tonight worked out where we were fast at the end of the race, which is evidently what you got to do.
Proud of my guys. New configuration car, different than what we brought all year. Guys in the fab shop have been busting tail trying to get things done. It's off to a good start anyway.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Jimmie or David.
Q. David, can you go back and talk a little bit in-depth about the technology you have been working on. This was your first big showing of the season. And, Jimmie, talk about going for the checkered, thinking it was the white flag.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, I mean, this is one thing about this sport, it changes every week. We seem to have been behind on things. We knew we were behind. But you just don't make changes overnight. Between the help of Toyota and their engineering staff, Toyota Racing Development, all the guys at Michael Waltrip Racing, guys being in the wind tunnel, working their guts out, finally got us a car, at least this weekend, we're closer to what we needed.
Not that we've had bad cars in the past. The guys you're running against, their cars constantly evolving, changing things. We're trying to catch up sometimes. Everybody at MWR is doing a really good job.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean, I didn't see the white flag. It didn't change the outcome of the race by any stretch of the imagination. I think the 18 was going to be the winner the way it was. I thought I had a chance to race him for a second one more lap. Came by, David let off, the 18 let off. I was still hard on the throttle going.
I saw some type of flag when we were coming, which was the checkered, but I didn't see the white for some reason. Went blowing on by those guys.
Q. By every statistical measure, Kyle dominated this race. But Brad Keselowski also did. For you guys that finished second and third, had you been able to get a good restart and slip through the back, could you have done what he did tonight?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I want to think so. Track position is so important. You look at the 2, when he lost track position, he didn't go anywhere. The 18, I was around him a lot through the night. When he was in the lead, he'd stretch it. If he was behind someone, the 2 or the 22, really couldn't go anywhere. The clean air really makes a big difference.
But I don't want to take anything away from the 18. He was strong all night long. Spent a lot of time chasing him. Watched him inch away from me the longer the run went on.
Q. I know the 18 had a great night, but the top tonight was two Toyotas, three Chevys, three Fords and two Dodges. Did it seem pretty even to you guys, the teams, in terms of the championship?
DAVID REUTIMANN: You know, you can probably say that, I guess. In the end, you don't know what you're racing against out there. I just know I'm racing the 48 car. I don't know the make or manufacturer, doesn't really make any difference to me at that point. I'm just trying to beat the guy in front of me same manufacturer or not.
It appears there's some parity. Some guys get it together and run pretty well. Overall if you do look at the finish, I think there is parity in the sport. At the mile-and-a-half racetracks or at least here anyway.
To be honest with you guys, I haven't run close enough to the front to notice if there's any parity or not. Seems kind of unfair from where I'm sitting. We've had good cars all year. We just have been missing a little bit.
In the end, it was good to be able to race, as far as parity goes, it seems like that's what we had this weekend.
Q. Denny Hamlin mentioned on Twitter hours before the race he had trouble getting to the track with some of the traffic issues going on. Did you have any issues getting here?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I went home to Charlotte. It was my daughter's birthday yesterday. I went home. I was going to drive in. I had heard there were some issues with the Nationwide race. So I made different arrangements and helicoptered in. I fortunately didn't have any issues.
The stories I heard sounds like there's some upset fans, people that were turned away and weren't able to get into the event today.
It's disappointing. I mean, the SMI group knows racetracks and does a very good job at all the racetracks they own. It's unfortunate we were unable to look ahead and see where these potential problems were.
This is such a great market, so many fans are enthused to come and want to be here. To not get them all in the door is kind of a bummer. Knowing Bruton, he'll get it fixed for next year and unfortunately it happened this year.
DAVID REUTIMANN: I slept here. So I walked out my motor coach. It looked good from where I was. I was good.
Q. There were times when the cars were running three- and four-wide through the turns. How many lines did you find and which ones worked for you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'd say in one and two, there was really one preferred line. Two would work. But it seemed like there were three lines in, three and four to mess with, kind of a lower, middle, and outside lane.
But as fast as we're going, those lanes get smaller and smaller. You can catch someone, but we needed a little bit more room to actually run as fast as the guy in front of you and have another lane around him.
It's unfortunate we can't push that groove up further. We all tried to get it up there higher. But we could only get to the middle of the track and can't get any higher for some reason.
Q. David, you had a very difficult season. You had a pretty good season last year. Finishing second, what does that mean to you?
DAVID REUTIMANN: It's been an awful season for us. At the end of last year it felt like we were making some gains. This year we haven't had the results we've been looking for.
With that being said, it's easy to get upset and down when things aren't running well. The guys are trying to figure out why we're not running well, and hence we have a better car this weekend.
I'm not saying that's the answer, the magic bullet, but it's a step in the right direction.
It feels great, it feels good. Second is still second, but it's certainly a lot closer than we have been in the last month or so, so it felt really good.
Q. David, was it the technology, or did you hit a better setup tonight on this track?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Setup-wise we're not all that different than we've been on the mile-and-a-half's in the past. Coming up with things aero-wise. It's a total package to what you do to the car. Anymore there's such small gains on the cars, you can't gain one big thing. You try to do things that eventually help the car. That's what we've done. It's certainly not a different breed of a car than what we've had. It's a lot of subtle stuff that seemed to make a difference. Better numbers in the wind tunnels.
They say you have common templates, everybody's car is the same. Well, they are not. You have to work harder to get gains and that's what our guys have been doing.
KERRY THARP: Good show here tonight. Thank you.