Loudon: Winning team press conference, part 1

New Hampshire Motor Speedway June 27, 2010 An Interview With: JIMMIE JOHNSON - Winner CHAD KNAUS - Crew chief THE MODERATOR: We are now joined until the media center by the winner of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, driver of the No. 48 ...

New Hampshire Motor Speedway June 27, 2010

An Interview With:
JIMMIE JOHNSON - Winner CHAD KNAUS - Crew chief

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined until the media center by the winner of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie tell us about your run.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, definitely a fast car, all day long. We lost a little track position I think on the second stop. We had something hanging up on the rear, I saw the tire changers back there -- looked like something in the lug itself was jammed inside the socket or something was going on there that he was fitting pretty hard to get it off.

We then got the tire back on the car, and off we went and lost some track position. Although we had a very fast race car, the cars were so equal, you could make up a tenth at best, and once you could catch the packing cars in front of you, you could only go as fast as that group was going.

It was just a long grind from that point on, and I kept my focus throughout the day. We had amazing strategy to pit a couple of laps early and an awesome stop that got us ahead of two or three guys and got us out of that pocket we were riding in.

Then at the end with the strategy to pit or not to pit, I know that Chad can explain further on it, but that's just a tough decision to make, and you're not sure -- there is no right or wrong at the time. It's after everybody decides to pit or not, you realize if you made the right decision, and with the whole field coming and 31 being the only one on old tires, it ended up being the wrong decision for those guys and worked out for us.

Just a solid day -- more than a solid day. Very, very proud of our race team and the performance and that we finally got to the front in time to race for the win.

THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by today's winning crew chief, Chad Knaus. Your thoughts on the race unfolded from on top of the box.

CHAD KNAUS: Honestly it was a lot of fun for us. Unfortunately we had an issue in the first third of the race in our second pit stop with a socket. The spring that's inside the socket that knocks the lug nut out during a pit stop had come out and the tire changer had to pull the string out of the socket and complete the pit stop after that. So good work on his part to get that done and out of the way without any huge error or loose wheel or something like that.

Obviously we lost six seconds to the leader or seven seconds to the leaders -- at that point, obviously we were the leader at that point. But to get back from that was going to be a challenge, and we knew that. Jimmie did a good job of especially keeping his head, and getting through traffic when he could.

I feel like the guys did a really good job of executing pit stops from that point forward and things worked out well. We are all pleased and happy to be up here in Loudon. It's an awesome, awesome racetrack and I really love racing up here and it's a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.

Q: We've known of the impending birth, but this was the first weekend, which the plan was put into effect; Eric was here, on the pit box and practiced the race car so it's business as usual. Could you reflect on what, if anything, it meant looming over the weekend and how you see it unfolding from here on forward?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, it was good to go through the motions this weekend, and make sure that the seat was right. I had to adjust a few things inside the seat to accommodate Eric if we do need to throw him in. We had to put him in for one of the practice sessions and take a little time away from what we were doing working on the car.

But in the end, you know, he is a great race car driver. He got in the car with all of the pressure that is looming and went out on track, put a ten-lap run in, was fast and great and gave us some feedback. And I climbed back in the car, Chad made some small adjustments and went back out and got to it.

I know it's kind of a weird situation. He's really hoping for the opportunity and I know he'll do an amazing job given the opportunity, and then I want to stay in my ride and try to win as many races as I can.

So just all depends on when the little baby decides to make her -- make her move and when she wants to come into the world, and if she's anything like her mother, she'll be late, so I should be fine (Laughter) which puts us into the off-weekend, nice and deep.

I might not have a place to sleep tonight just for the record. (Laughter).

CHAD KNAUS: Man, that was awesome. He's a comedian. It's neat, I'm excited about it, I really am, obviously really close with Jimmie and Channy. We are all excited about it and we are trying to be as prepared as we can and it's a new challenge for us. Obviously the 48 team, we like those challenges and make sure we are prepared for when those situations do arrive.

It was neat something somebody else in the 48 car. It was neat having Eric there on standby and putting him in the car. It was kind of funny. I was like man, talking with my engineer, I said, "What happens if we put him in the car and he says, 'this is terrible,' and we realize how good Jimmie is?"

And he said, "Well, what if he gets in there and realize how bad Jimmie is and how good our car is?" (Laughter).

So we are all okay and we are all status quo.

I'm enjoying it. It's fun. It's going to be a neat experience. It's cool. So it's just -- a good friend of mine told me once, life happens, and what you've got to do is be as prepared for everything as possibly you can when things come down the pike. You don't know when somebody is going to get hurt, you don't know when somebody is going to pregnant, you don't know when somebody's family member passes away; divorce. You just don't know so you have to be as prepared for it as you can.

Q: You and Kurt shock-tracking each other at the end, Kurt said it was a good show and he said when you caught him, he was never worried that you were going to drop-kick him. He said, I knew I was going to get bumped, and it's just racing and it's just the way it's supposed to be. You weren't real thrilled at the time but now that you've had a little bit of time to think about it, was it just good, hard, short track kind of racing?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, the end of the day, for sure, that's what the fans want to see. And if I was in the grandstands, I would love to see a little bit of bump-and-run and watch the guy run him back down and do the same to get by. I understand it from that standpoint.

I have to say I was a little shocked, and I haven't spoken to him or really seen any video to know, if he slipped and accidentally got into me or that was his intentions. If it was his intentions, that's the first time in nine years racing with him that I have experienced that and definitely changed the way that I race with him from that point moving on.

I hate that he felt that I wasn't going to wreck him because that was my goal was to wreck him. (Laughter) I have a tough time that when I wreck someone --

THE MODERATOR: Strike that from the comments. He didn't really mean that.

CHAD KNAUS: That's okay.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I usually get caught up in it, so I knew what my thought process was, "Wreck his ass." (Laughter).

And my end result was like: You can't do that, you'll wreck yourself, you'll look like a fool. You still have a chance to win the race, focus on your job and do your job. It made it easier for me to get off the brake a little earlier and nudge him.

But I don't want people to think, oh, I can knock the 48 out of the way because he's not going to wreck me. That's last thing I want people to think. He didn't wreck me and at the end of the day, I guess I didn't owe him a visit to the fence, so it worked itself out.

Q: How much different would this day have been without that 200-lap stretch of green? Would that have potentially set up any sort of domination or were you guys behind the 8-ball with the pit stop early in the race? Do you think there was any chance at a late race battle like you had with Kurt?

CHAD KNAUS: I think it would have made the race a lot easier for us to get back the track position that we lost for sure. Obviously when you get out there and you get -- see, what happens at a track like this is once you get ten, 15 laps into a run, the lap times kind of settle out and everybody runs about the same lap time.

So when you get seven, eight seconds behind somebody, it's very difficult to catch him, especially once you start getting in lap traffic. If it had been shorter runs we would have gotten up on the leaders sooner. Honestly I think you would have had the same type of shootout at the end that we had today. Seems like it's inevitable at this point, the 9 car was running around on seven cylinders and we knew at some point he was going to lose an engine so there wasn't any weird caution or anything like that. It was all legit. That stuff happens.

Q: Before Infineon, there seemed to be a growing consensus that you were in a terrible slump, you were missing, you had dropped off the face of the earth; are you back now? Can we say that now?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't think we really went anywhere. You know, there are certain tracks that we're looking for a little speed at and that's just the way it always goes. And I found that on those tracks, I was just driving over the limit of the vehicle and over my head thinking -- a little cocky, thinking I can slide this car around all day long and get away with it, and it bit me a couple times. So that led to the poor finishes.

The deal at Dover was just, eight hundredths or thousandths of a mile of an hour over and got nailed on it and speeding, so I guess it is a mistake. But damn, when you're at ten-tenths day-in and day-out, you're going to have those things happen.

I think it was an overreaction of things, and it was led -- it was easy to overreact because we had some poor finishes and that was due to over-aggression, and I told myself after Charlotte that you know, I can't drive at eleven- tenths, it's not possible. I need to drive the car to its ability; give Chad and the guys a chance to work on it, bring the car home in one piece, and then we can work on the car to make it better next time we go to the racetrack. Bringing it home on a hook with 30-something points isn't going to do anybody any good.

Had a solid day at Pocono and same at Michigan. When we go back to the larger tracks we still need to find a little bit of speed but the shorter tracks seem to be very good for us. I'm excited with the Glen when we go there for the road cars race, and right now we are rolling along.

Q: You mentioned after the race that you hoped your wife didn't give birth after watching those last few laps, but I know she's ready to have a baby, but were you ready to have a cow after getting knocked out of the way by Kurt? And how did you maintain your composure with laps running out, and Chad kind of commended you for that. Do you think you're growing; is it another evolution in terms of your career?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, inside the car, I was livid. I was so pissed off that he got into me, and I almost lost it at one point. Just kind of sliding and it took off and the tires started chattering and that's usually when you're turned around.

Once I got back going and I was still in second, I thought, man, I hope I catch you. I look forward to this if I catch you, and that was my incentive was not necessarily to pass him. All I had to do was get to his bumper and I was going to win the race, if he give me that option by moving me out of the way.

I just sat there as I put together a good lap or two, I saw that I caught him and this is going to work out just fine, I'll get there with about one or two to go and if I get to the bumper, I know I'm going to make the turn; I'm not sure he is going to. I just took that approach and got in there and of course I calmed down with us I got to him and just gave him a nudge and went on my way but the laps leading up to that, I had great visions of a huge, spectacular crash. (Laughter).

Q: You seemed to be sizing him up.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it's amazing what a couple of laps will do to your emotions, and Chad was -- Chad knew I was red-eye faced in the car and was trying to calm me down and plenty of time, you have five laps, you can get them, and that was helpful, as well.

Q: You heard radio silence then?

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I know when he's pissed. I knew he was upset. We all were upset. I don't know, I'm still having trouble thinking that he did it intentionally. I'm hoping that he drove it in there, bounded in there, was hoping he could get to the inside of us and the car turned.

Kurt has never raced us like that. So I'm hoping that he's not trying to act like he did something that he didn't intentionally mean to do. He's a good friend of ours and we don't like racing him like that and I hope that's not the case. Steve Addington, his crew chief, is a great friend of mine, so we don't need to start any shenanigans like that. We are big boys.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson