Jimmie Johnson Wins in Wild Finish at Talladega; Team Chevy Drivers Claim Top-Five Finishing Positions
Talladega, Ala (April 17, 2011) - Jimmie Johnson timed it perfectly coming through the tri-oval for the final time at Talladega Superspeedway to take the checkered flag in the Aaron's 499. It is the second victory for the five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion at the 2.66-mile track and the 54th victory of his career.
With eight races in the 2011 season record books, Johnson now sits second in the standings just five points out of the lead. He led four times during the day for a total of 14 laps after starting second.
Team Chevy drivers swept the top-five finishing positions in the second superspeedway race of the season.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet, who led a race high 15 times for 38 laps, finished second by a mere 0.0002 seconds. In a virtual drag race to the checkered flag, Bowyer claimed his second runner-up finish in his past three races with and scored the win here in October, 2010.
Bowyer jumped two positions in the top-12 standings to 10th place.
After claiming the top-four positions in qualifying Hendrick Motorsports claimed three of the top-five finishing positions and four of the top-10 at the end of the 188-lap/500-mile race.
Pole sitter Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, finished third and is 13th in the standings, just six points out of the top-12 Chase contenders. The four-time NSCS champion led three times for a total of nine laps.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet finished fourth and jumped three spots in the points to third place. To the thrill of the crowd, he led 11 laps during his four times at the point.
Richard Childress Racing’s strong showing continued with Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, who finished fifth. Harvick led five times for nine laps and now sits fifth in the standings.
Mark Martin, No. 5 CARQUEST/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, finished eighth to give Team Chevy six of the top-10 finishers. He led once for one lap and is 14th in points, just 19 points out of the Chase.
In total, Team Chevy drivers occupy eight of the top-12 Chase contention points positions.
After recovering from on-track contact and a spin. Ryan Newman, No. 39 Haas-Automation Chevrolet, the first of the Stewart-Haas Racing cars in the Chase standings, remains seventh in the standings with a 25th place finish.
Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet, was making a charge to the front when he received damage after an amazing save from incidental contact late in the race. He finished 30th and sits ninth in the standings to represent Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the battle for the Chase.
Paul Menard, No. Schrock/Menards Chevrolet, is the third RCR car in the Chase standings, sitting 11th after today's race. He led twice for four laps on the way to a 12th place finish.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, rounds out the top-12 in the standings and gives SHR both cars in Chase contention after a 17th place finish in today's race.
After a weekend off, the Series' resumes competition with short-track racing at Richmond International Speedway on April 30th.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET -- Race Winner
TELL US HOW YOU DROVE THE CAR TO WIN THE RACE.
"Man, I thought we were in trouble. Something happened with like two to go and we got disconnected. I had a really tough time hearing Junior on the radio so I didn't know what he was saying or needed but we were disconnected and I got us back together. I think he was overheating. We got hooked up and rolling and all of a sudden it was just two groups in front of us. A big run down the back, I saw the bottom and they protected it and I just rolled through (turns) three and four and I'm like we'll get another chance I hope. They were worried about each other in that second and third lane and lef that bottom open and we had some big momentum on our side and off we went. It's great how the plan worked out. We agreed to work together. Really we wanted to in Daytona and it just didn't work out but this No. 48 and No. 88 shop is awesome and I can't thank these guys enough. Can't thank Junior enough. He made the decision that my car was faster leading and the way these things have been finishing up that lead car is going to have the win so in some respects he was more worried about the team having a good performance than anything. They are responsible for this win today. Big thanks to Lowe's and the fans, my fans, all these fans out here watching this race. Looks like we're going to have a little fun tonight, these guys are getting rowdy."
LOOKS LIKE THE GUY WHO GETS THE CHECKERED FLAG DOESN'T GET TO KEEP IT, YOU GAVE IT AWAY.
"Well I got it and gave it to him. He goes I don't want it. I said well I've got to give you something, here. Thanks. He's got the checkered flag over there and can't wait to tilt a cold one back with him and thank him for a good job done today."
TAKE US THROUGH THE LAST LAP AND THE PASS FOR THE WIN:
"That was crazy. With maybe one and a half, two to go, I thought we were in trouble and it wasn't going work out. And then we got hooked back up; I think Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) was overheating and we got disconnected one time and those two lead groups siding side-drafting and slowed each other up. I had a good run into three but nowhere to go with it and then by the time we got back to the tri-oval, we had another big run going and those guys were worried about side-drafting each other towards the top of the track and left that bottom wide open for us and we rallied our way through there."
DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD IT AT THE CHECKERED FLAG? "I thought we still had one more lap to go so...I kinda knew...I don't know...I really didn't know what was going on and where it was at; it was just a lot going on and I wasn't sure if I won or if it was the white and I stayed in the gas until I got off of two. I was going to make sure I really did take the checkered flag."
YOUR LEFT SIDE TIRES GOT ON THE YELLOW LINE BUT YOU NEVER ADVANCED YOUR POSITION, WERE YOU CONSCIOUS OF THE YELLOW LINE OR AT THAT TIME IS IT JUST REACTION? "I couldn't tell you. I had no clue where I was or what was going on. I got in position...I don't know...I don't have a clue. I don't even know to say. I think we won this thing; I know we won this thing."
YOU DEFINITELY WON THE THING, NO QUESTION ABOUT THAT, EARLIER IN THE RACE; YOU GUYS WEREN'T JUST NOSE TO TAIL LIKE SOME OF THE OTHER GUYS, WHAT WAS GOING ON? "We felt like we were close to the front, we could go up there an leave and be in a safe position. If it was congested and we didn't have a chance to do it, we would preserve our bumpers; preserve our engines and the water temp and just kind of ride. We did a good job of riding and taking care of our stuff. Missed some wrecks and just did a good job of managing things all day. There was a lot of thought that went into today's race between Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and Stevie (Letarte, crew chief No. 88) and have to thank that No. 88 crew and all of Hendrick Motorsports for fast race cars to take top-four positions in qualifying and run like we did today. All of HMS did an amazing job and the teamwork we had amongst our shop. Worked out really really well."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 BB&T CHEVROLET -- Finished 2nd:
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENT? "We did everything we could do. The BB&T Chevrolet, she did everything she could do. Circumstances, man. I saw them coming in the mirror even through Kevin and I knew. I was like the No. 24 better block them guys, better block them guys and they were too worried about racing us as we were them. Just all hell broke loose is exactly what happened but that's what makes this place awesome. It is a good finish for us. Very frustrated that we didn't get the win. Man I tell you I hope the fans enjoyed that finish, that's what Talladega is all about and that's why these people come out by the hundred thousandths to this place. I just want to thank Cheerios, Hamburger Helper, American Ethanol didn't thank them last week. Everybody on board the No. 33 car we appreciate it."
Man I tell you I hope the fans enjoyed that finish, that's what Talladega is all about...
AT ONE POINT YOU AND HARVICK WERE TRYING TO WORK OUT A PLAN FOR THE RESTART, AND THEN YOU WORKED OUT A PLAN WITH BURTON BEHIND YOU, SOME CONFUSION. "Yeah, well I hated; you know Kevin wanted me to work with them and Billy did and I had worked with the No. 31 all day long with Jeff and I just didn't feel like it was right to leave him hanging right there. I did and the caution that didn't happen, Ryan Newman spun and didn't wreck and we stayed green and me and Burton got separated and thank God Kevin stayed in the gas and we got bunched back up. It was fun, just come up a little short."
YOU JUST MISSED THE WIN BY 'THAT MUCH'
"Man, it was close enough this time, I looked over and I didn't know. Sometimes you really can't tell, but I had no clue. I saw him coming even through the mirror through Harvick, I saw him coming. I was hoping the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) and the No. 5 (Mark Martin) was going to give him a block, but they were racing us, trying to drag off of us and we was trying to drag off of them. All hell breaks loose right there. That is what happens at Talladega. That is why these people come out. I hope they enjoyed it because it was pretty wild from the windshield."
HARVICK SAID FROM SECOND SPOT AS THE PUSHER, YOU DON'T SEE ANYTHING, WHEN YOU ARE LEADING AND YOU COME DOWN THREE-WIDE, IS IT HOLD YOUR LINE? WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN THE TRI-OVAL, JUST HOLDING YOUR LINE AND TRYING TO GET TO THE FINISH LINE FIRST?
"Yes, absolutely. Well, I was trying to drag them apart on the back straightaway and if I could have done that, I think we would have won the race and probably Kevin would have slingshot by me again like he a year ago. It was just wild. There are so many things that go through your mind. Everything you are trying to prevent from happening. We almost prevented it."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 34 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET -- Finished 3rd:
IS IT HARD TO DESCRIBE TO THE FANS WHAT THAT FINISH WAS LIKE?
"Yeah, you know, you can't always control what position you are in. I mean we took the lead coming to the white flag and it was just a little bit too early but we had the momentum and we got the pass done and we just had to ride it out from that point on. You know we blocked the bottom and the 29 and 33 got on the outside of us and we were maintaining a drag race there and that just opened up a slot there for the guys behind us to get momentum and to get to the inside of us. We maybe could have tried to block it but I am pretty happy with our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet and don't forget to text hunger to 50555.
Mark Martin was an awesome teammate today...
"Mark Martin was an awesome teammate today and I thought there a the end that the fans couldn't ask for a better show than that with 10-15 to go."
IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT, IS IT A FRUSTRATING WAY TO RACE? FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW, WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART OF IT?
"That's the thing. It's really about a 25 lap race so some guys just chose to get up there and mix it up more and we had a plan coming in that, that hasn't worked for us in the past and we just needed to stay out of trouble. And we almost got caught back there one time and I thought we were going to go a lap down because we got caught too far back and then the caution came out and we maintained about 5-6 seconds out from that time on and trust me that is not easy to do. It's harder than you think trying to maintain that gap but when it was time to go, we went and its part of this racing but it's part of what has happened to us. We have been a part of so many wrecks recently that we just wanted to keep our car going in one piece as far toward the end of the race as possible."
WILD RACING, DESCRIBE YOUR DAY TODAY: "I'll tell you what, with as crazy as it gets in these closing laps, sometimes a third is almost like a victory at these types of race tracks. You just try to survive and it is so hectic out there in those closing laps. I have got to thank Mark Martin, he and I just worked together so well today. We were patient. We led laps at the beginning of the race. We faded to the back and were patient. We drove right up through there. We had a shot to win it, that is all you can ask for. Really proud of this whole entire, not only Hendrick Motorsports for that one-two-three-four [qualifying result], but Jimmie (Johnson) was first, we were third. I know Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) was right in there in the top-five. So, got to thank this Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet and all the fans. I know that this type of racing there are certain moments where you might say 'Hey, wish it would be more exciting', but, it doesn't get any more exciting than those closing laps right there. Whether you are sitting in the stands or you are sitting inside the car."
HOW MUCH WERE YOU CHANGING CHANNELS AND TALKING TO OTHER DRIVERS? "We had a plan with Mark and it worked out all the way to the end so we only had to deal with one channel which was a great thing. It worked out really well for us."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET -- Finished 4th
THIS RACETRACK REQUIRES TEAMWORK MORE THAN ANY OTHER, TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID AT THE END?
"Well I was more comfortable pushing Jimmie and I think we were the more faster combination pushing that way. For some reason when I was leading I would drive off his nose and even running quarter throttle I would just get away from him and we couldn't stay together. So we just kind of hung in there and we got clear of the pack coming to the white and I told Jimmie just to not lift no matter what and he was telling me 'alright'. And it looked like we were going to the middle and then we went to the bottom and I just tried to stay in the back of him without wrecking him and we came through the tri-oval and I lost the nose and I got off of him and when we got inside of Mark (Martin) and behind the 48, I lost the nose and door banged Mark and almost wrecked myself but somehow or another I was able to give Jimmie enough of a shove to get through there.
"And if I couldn't win the race I wanted Jimmie to win the race because I had worked with him all day and he is my teammate and I am proud to be driving for Hendrick Motorsports and this was a great finish and a great weekend for us to be able to qualify like we did, race like we did and we have awesome engines and we build great cars and we all finished very well today and that is a tribute to the craftsmanship we have back in Charlotte. And I just want to thank my sponsors, National Guard and AMP Energy."
WALK US THROUGH THE FINISH OF THIS RACE TODAY:
"Me and Jimmie worked together all day long. I discovered, in my opinion, we were faster team if he was leading the two of us. Right at the end, I just said 'Don't lift, no matter what. No matter what happens don't lift'.
SO MANY DIFFERENT SCENARIOS INCLUDING PIT ROAD WAITING FOR ONE ANOTHER:
"We just wanted to stay close together. We had been working together all day long. We stayed committed. It was really a lot of circumstances there at the end. We were just the lucky guys at the end with the good run. I have to thank my sponsors National Guard, AMP Energy. I want to thank all the fans for coming appreciate you guys for showing up. Hopefully they enjoyed that race."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET -- Finished 5th:
ANYTHING YOU GUYS COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY TO PUT A RCR CAR IN VICTORY LANE AGAIN?
"At that point you just push as hard as you can. We tried to back up a little bit there on the No. 24 and No. 5 and never saw the No. 99 and No. 16 coming at the finish and I didn't know where the No. 48 and the other guy, I don't know who was pushing him, but I didn't know where they were going to go.
"You just push for all you're might there at the end. If the No. 48 would have just locked up behind us we would have been in the right line but he went to the bottom and had a lane down there and won the race. All you can ask for here is a chance and everybody on our Budweiser Chevy did a great job and when its rolling at that finish you usually have a good finish."
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAY HERE:
"It was a good day for our Budweiser Chevrolet. All's you can ask for at these type of places is a chance to win and today we thought we had the No. 33 (Clint Bowyer) pushed to a win when they all got three and four wide, you know, as the second car you have the wonderful job of pushing and that's all you can do because there is nowhere to go. So, just pushed him as hard as I could and we came up a little bit short."
WAS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED GOING INTO IT? "It was the end. It was pretty wild there at the end. It was just a lot of fun and I'm just glad we finished one of these speedway races. I was 0 for 2 and only run about 50 laps in the Nationwide race and the Daytona 500. Good top-five for us. Anytime you can roll out of Talladega with a finish, you did all right."
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET -- Finished 8th
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE RACING TODAY?
"Well, it was a little bit like Daytona. It is restrictor plate racing. That's what we got. I actually enjoyed it. He (Jeff Gordon) had a bad day; I had a pretty good day. I had a chance to win. Jeff and I were leading on the white flag lap and man, you couldn't ask any more than that. We had a crack at it and didn't manage to pull it off. But I had a good time today."
THIS WASN'T YOUR FAVORITE RACE TRACK, SO EXPLAIN HOW YOU HAD A GOOD TIME
'It's crazy man, and I was running there and I finally said, 'Who's leading?' because I thought Jeff might be. I couldn't see. The No. 99 (Carl Edwards) and somebody else were in front of him. I could never see him. I never saw him. So, I'm pushing Jeff and I'm thinking, 'Maybe we're leading'! That was with about five (laps) to go. So it was a great effort and I just really want to comment (crew chief) Lance McGrew and everyone on this CARQUEST Auto Parts/GoDaddy.com team."
We had a crack at it and didn't manage to pull it off.
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 SCHROCK/MENARDS CHEVROLET -- Finished 12th:
"The car was really fast today. It was almost too fast. We had a little trouble even keeping people on our back bumpers. This was a typical Talladega; a total crap shoot. At least we're loading up the car in one piece."
DAVE BLANEY, NO. 36 GOLDEN CORRAL CHEVROLET, FINISHED 27TH:
ON HIS RACE:
"It was a really good day. We worked the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) the whole first lap of the race and kinda stayed back a bit. He pushed most of the time; he wanted to push. We got close one time and we could go and lead and the No. 29 wanted to go with teammates there at the end. We got hooked up with a couple of other guys. Our car was just so fast being pushed. It was amazing. Just didn't get it in the right spot at the right time."
WE DID SEE THE NO. 22 (KURT BUSCH) HAVE SOME ENCOUNTERS WITH OTHER DRIVERS DURING THE RACE, CAN YOU TALK US THROUGH WHAT HAPPENED THERE (AT THE END WHEN HE SPUN)?
"Well, it is the normal thing. You have a big run and you are closing so fast. I kind of had a hole under the No. 5 (Mark Martin) and the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) there and I kind of showed it too soon and they blocked it and I just had to lift just a little bit. We just kind of...it was just the wrong spot and he just had me going and around we went. That is what is going to happen late in the race. I can't believe it didn't happen more. You just get such huge runs, it shoves you in there and if there is nowhere to go, you're in danger of getting turned around."
WHAT DOES IT DO FOR YOUR TEAM?
"I guess now it is just a morale booster. It could have been good, a really nice accomplishment for a little team. But, we'll take all the good we can out of it and go."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET -- Finished 30th
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE NO. 39 OF RYAN NEWMAN COMING DOWN ON YOU?
"Well, I don't think it was his fault you know. I was talking to the guys and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) is always impatient here and always causes a lot of wrecks and he just did it again. It sucks. This year he's been in a lot of wrecks. I don't know. I don't want to blame anybody. It's just restrictor plate racing. The caution never came out and that kind of sucked."
HOW WAS THE RACING TODAY COMPARED TO WHAT YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED HERE BEFORE?
"Oh, it's the same thing, you know. It's restrictor plate racing."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET -- Finished 25th:
"If there were a category for 'saves of the day', I think we'd be the only one that had two. But it's just disappointing obviously, because we had a good car. The No. 11 (Hamlin) and I were just biding our time and we decided to go and I got loose and it's just the way it works. I just got loose underneath the No. 33 (Clint Bowyer) and whoever hit me straightened me out. That helped. But it knocked the fender into the tire and that ended up shortening up our day. I'm proud of the guys to come back from the things we went through there but I wish we could have been better."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE RACING OUT THERE TODAY?
"I don't know how to describe that racing. It's different. That's probably the best word you can have because it's not like anything any of us have ever done before in our careers. It's a new style of racing for us."
WHAT IS THE VISIBILITY WHEN YOU ARE THE SECOND GUY PUSHING?
"Well, when you're the second guy, it's not easy to see. But if you're fortunate enough to have the other guy's radio frequency, you can do a lot of talking. And there are times when you just feel like you're driving blind."
"I got three Hail Mary's when that thing turned around on the backstretch before it got all the way backyards. I was just hoping it was going to stay on the ground. I remember being farther on the straightaway and it not staying on the ground. Hopefully with the combination of the restrictor plate and spoiler versus wing, we've done some good things with these race cars."
YOU MADE A LOT OF GREAT SAVES OUT THERE TODAY, TELL US ABOUT THEM
"The first was pretty big; the second one was really big. Just luck. You kind of need to know what to do, but a lot of it is just luck. If the wall on the backstretch was 6 feet closer than we would have hit it so a lot of it is just luck. I am proud of the guys because it wasn't the finish we wanted or deserved but we survived it and its better than we were last year so just happy with the speed of the car and the performance of the guys and everything else was just wrong place at the wrong time."
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET -- Finished 15th:
"We had a better car than a 15th-place finish. We were running up front for most of the race but got shuffled back near the end and couldn't find the same drafting success we had earlier. These cars are so sensitive -- they can draft well with one car but not with another. I don't know why. But I do know that it was sure disappointing not mixing it up at the end and contending for the victory. Our Furniture Row Chevrolet had the power to win this deal. I guess it was nice to finish a race with a decent finish, but as I said we were much better than what our final result
-source: team chevy