RACE WINNER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
The race winner, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS, and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, discuss their win today. Johnson has moved up four spots to third in the points. He earned his 23rd career victory, his fifth win of the season and his second win at Martinsville Speedway.
ON THE RACE:
Johnson - "It was a great day. We had a great race car. At the beginning of the race I took my time. Once the long run came in I was able to work my way through to traffic, get up to the lead and really race with the 8 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), the 24 (Jeff Gordon), the 11 (Denny Hamlin) there at the end, the 43 (Bobby Labonte) a little bit and just kind of stay out of harms way up there. It was nice to have such a great car, great pit stops and we kept good track position all day long and was able to win the race. I'm very, very proud of the race team. It came at a good time. I'm happy the last two weeks we've been able to finish where we should have, towards the front. It's hard to not look back and think of Talladega and Kansas where we could really be in the points if we could have got through those. I know every team has one or two of those they wish they could have back. I'm just very proud of the race team. I'm proud of winning here in the fall race. It means a lot to the organization with the tragedy we had two years ago. We weren't able to celebrate then and it's a bittersweet celebration now but we're definitely excited to be here."
ON THE PIT STRATEGY USED AND TODAY'S VICTORY:
Knaus - "It was a great day obviously. The whole team did an incredible job. We really banked on, with our pit strategy, what had happened in the past. We went through and we looked at the data and saw when we thought the cautions were going to fall and we tried to stay ahead of a lot of that. If you'd have watched we actually pitted what seemed to be out of sequence with guys at one point in time during the race so we would be where we wanted to be when the next round of cautions fell and it all worked out perfectly. It was almost too perfect. I don't know how it all happened, maybe we had some help from above. It was a great race. The guys did an incredible job in the pits and the car was just flawless. Our team really buckled down for this race and put a lot of emphasis on this. We brought this car home from Loudon basically in a basket all torn up and crashed. The guys cut the whole body off the car, really put the car on a heavy diet and we brought it back here. It took a lot more ballast than what it had in the past. It had a brand new body on it. We did it for one race. When we get this car home we've got to take it apart, cut the whole body off of it and get it prepared for Loudon so a lot of effort came into this, from the shop for this event and I'm glad we were able to pull it off."
ON THE BATTLE WITH DENNY HAMLIN AND HOW HE WAS ABLE TO KEEP THE CAR GOING AND HOLD THE LEAD:
Johnson - "We went into (turn) one and I knew from being here in the past and short track racing in general, that I was going to get the bumper at some point. It's the way that it is. He got to me. He got on me. I was trying to be smooth with the throttle and not spin myself out because he was up under me pretty good. Once he got inside of me I expressed my displeasure and pinched him down on the inside wall. We came through and it cycled out and after that once I got position back he didn't take any more shots at me. Looking back on that, if I was in that position I would have done the same thing, take one shot, try to loosen the guy up and get by him. If I couldn't get the job done then just try to pass him clean and not sit there and wear his rear bumper out. That's where I say that he went right to the line and didn't cross it. He did a great job today. It's hard to imagine he's just a rookie with all the great finishes and wins and the way that he drives a race car on the track. He's a very smart driver, a young guy, and I think he went right to the line and didn't cross it so it was all good."
EARLIER IN THE RACE DENNY RACED YOU FOR A COUPLE OF LAPS AND WAS ABLE TO GET BY YOU. WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THAT FIRST TIME AND THE LAST TIME WHEN HE COULDN'T GET BY YOU?
Johnson - "I don't remember the earlier one to be honest with you. I knew that he was back there, knew that he was strong. I saw that he was leading at one point in time. We came to pit road and I think he got by the 24 and was in the lead so I knew either the 11 or the 24 were going to be the guys at the end of the race to race with. We had a much better car on the long run. I think a little bit better car on the short run and just enough to hang on for those restarts at the end. If it would have been a 20, 30 lap run without any cautions at the end, we would have just checked out. The car was awesome on a long run."
ON HIM TALKING LAST SATURDAY NIGHT THAT JEFF BURTON HAD THE POSSIBILITY TO STILL HAVE BAD LUCK AND THIS BEING THE DAY:
Johnson - "First I have to say, all 10 teams in the Chase and all 10 drivers and organizations are all championship caliber teams. When you put 10 teams in this position with 10 races to go it's anybody's championship. Everybody has the ability to do it. If you even look back into the top 15, you can argue Tony Stewart is out of the Chase, there's other top guys that are out of the Chase. They are all championship caliber teams. With that in mind going into the Chase, I don't see Burton as a surprise being where he was. He's had decent races, not a lot of bad luck. Today was a lot of bad luck for him but up until this point he's been pretty clean and the rest of the teams have had bad luck including us. I look forward from here and think a lot can happen. Any team is still capable of winning the championship, the points are reallly close right now. So there can be a lot of moving and shaking and I don't think anybody is going to sleep well these next four races. It is going to be tough and a lot can happen. We saw that today, we saw it at Talladega. On the outside, it looks like it is easy to maintain points, on the inside you know as a competitor how vulnerable it is being in that car and how many times you have near-misses. Those near-misses are now catching people up. "
ON KENSETH'S COMMENT THAT THIS CHASE HAS BEEN SLOPPY BY EVERY TEAM:
Johnson - "Looking back, there has been more off-the-wall things going on in this Chase than the last two I have been a part of. I can also say, I am not sure I would use the word sloppy, but I think there have been a couple teams that have shown a lot of speed but have had bad luck. I think we are one of them. If we look back at Kansas, Talladega, Charlotte and here, we had a chance to win all four of those races. Going back to Dover, we didn't have the best finish. Before that, we had Loudon where we crashed out, we didn't crash out, we got taken out but we finished 39th or something. We have had the speed, the No. 31 has had the speed, but the luck hasn't been with it. I can say for the No. 48 team, this is the most competitive we have been in a Chase, but the worst luck we have had in the Chase. I wish I could help people predict what the future holds, but I don't think anybody knows. I don't think we are going to know until the
ON THIS FEELING LIKE THE KIND OF RUN THAT WILL DIG YOU OUT OF THE HOLE YOU WERE IN THUS FAR IN THE CHASE:
Johnson - "We are just showing up and racing at this point. We saying that is probably not going to work in the press room, you guys can imagine how we get excited and maybe say something that we shouldn't. A lot of stuff happens in racing and we are showing up giving 100%. Where it finishes up, it finishes it up. We have been in the hunt for championships every year since this team has been around. Sooner or later we are going to get one. We just aren't going to put to much pressure on ourselves this year, it is just another year. We got off to a slow start, we are coming back, we hate that it starts off slow and we come back, but we are just out there going and we will see where it finishes out."
ON WHAT HE DID TO MOVE FROM 10TH WITH 100 LAPS TO GO TO FRONT:
Johnson - "I was driving the car really really hard to get up there. At the end of the race I expected a lot of cautions and luckily we had a lot of green flag runs so I could get up to the leader, catch him and pass him and then I think the caution came out right after that. If we had a bunch of restarts, maybe it would have been different. With lapped cars lying up inside of you I don't know if I'd been able to get back to the front like that. I was panicking. I was driving really hard and luckily got up in front of the 43 before all the cautions started coming out."
AT THE ANYTIME WHEN DENNY HAMLIN WAS GIVING YOU ALL YOU COULD HANDLE WHERE YOU THINKING AT ALL THAT HE COULD TAKE YOU OUT?
Johnson - "No, the only I thought about being crashed was when the angle Denny had was through the grass entering turn three once I crowded him down there. For a split I thought this feels really good to run him down here right now but if he goes through the grass he's taking me out in the process so I moved up and gave him the room to get in the turn. That's about the only time where the whole situation came into mind about maybe not finishing the race or something crazy happening. Then I was able to rally back on the outside and get by him and drive away luckily."
HOW MUCH HAVE DO YOU HAVE TO PUT INTO CONVINCING THE TEAM THAT IS JUST WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE FIVE RACES OF RELATIVELY POOR LUCK?
Knaus - "It's really not that difficult with the group of guys we got. We've had issues, and yeah that takes some wind out of your sails for sure, but the thing is I've got a group of racers on my team. When you're a racer, yes you want to win the race but the thing you want most is to go out the race track and run competitive and run for the win. That's what we've been doing. Every race track that we've unloaded at this year in the final 10 races, we've had a top five car if not a car capable of winning the event. That's what these guys are looking for week in and week out. Yeah, it gets frustrating if you don't finish where you are running but the thing is these guys get a charge off of that. Our team is very good when the chips are down. They get fired up. They get riled up and they want to get out there and fight and beat them even worse. That's why we were able to go and be able to do what we did with this car and then turn it around and turn it into the car that it was to come back here and race one time because they were fired up and wanted to prove to everybody they were the best team out there."
Johnson - "Just to expand on that a minute, I think it comes from a lot different people as well. I think Rick Hendrick does a great job of giving us all the confidence and all the tools that we need to do our job. Lowe's and their support that they show us. We mention them a lot and mention them as part of the family but Robert Niblock and the people at Lowe's really do treat our race team different and really get involved and show their support. Of course they are there when we succeed but they are also there when we have a tough time to try to raise the spirits. Chad is a great leader. I think I've learned more as being a leader. I think all the peers too help those guys know that yeah we sucked last weekend or we crashed and had bad luck or whatever it may be but we'll make it better. We have the tools here and the people here to make it better. Don't give up, keep fighting."
IS MARTINSVILLE ONE OF THE ONLY TRACKS IN THE CHASE WHERE A LOT OF THE LOAD FALLS ON THE DRIVER? WHAT'S IT LIKE TO HAVE SOMEONE LIKE JIMMIE IN YOUR CORNER?
Knaus - "No, I don't there is any more driver here at Martinsville than there is anywhere else. The driver is the key. He is the quarterback. He is what the race team revolves around. You have to have a solid driver on your race team otherwise you're just not going to make it happen. It's just not going to get done. We're fortunate that we've got Jimmie because honestly he's the best driver out there in our minds. He can go to about any race track that we need to go to and run in the top five with a car that is capable of running the top five. If we have a car that is running in the top 10, he can turn it into a top five car. If we have a car that's only running fifth, he can maybe run it into a second place car. He's got that talent, that skill level built into him and he's probably one of the only drivers out there that can really focus on some of his shortcomings and make them better. Martinsville was one of our shortcomings and he's focused on it tremendously and he's gotten better at it. Road course racing was one of our short comings. We're getting better at that. Drafting was one of our shortcomings. We won two speedway races this year so he has gotten better just because of his determination and drive to do this."
ON PLOTTING THE RACE OUT. HOW OFTEN DOES IT GO AS COURSE? WAS THIS A RARITY TODAY?
Knaus - "No, not really. It really fell right into what we were thinking. Statistically looking back on it the leaders last pit stop over the course of the last 10 years or so has been on lap 423, I think it was. So that means it's sometimes a little bit before obviously and sometimes a little bit after that. Our last pit stop was on lap 403 when that caution fell so it was just short of that so we were kind of aiming towards that goal of making our final pit stop at that point in time. At a lot of race tracks it doesn't correlate because the fields can get spread out, you don't know what's going to happen. When you get to a race track like Martinsville or Bristol it happens an awful lot and I think it's got a lot to do with the (fact that) the drivers get out there and get a bit fatigued, they get a little tired. The tires start to give up at a certain rate. There's a lot of things that lend to that and it does show up often so we always pay attention to it."
ON NEVER SAY NEVER:
Johnson - "I believe that in so many ways. There is just so much that can happen. Even with the one hundred and forty something we were down coming in to this race, that isn't a lot, it really isn't. Over a 26 race period, the points get spread out and it is tough to move up positions on the points sheet itself. But there is a lot of action moving around and it is easy to pick up 100 points here and there. I guess experience, knowing that, I really haven't lost much sleep over it. We are having the most fun we have ever had in the Chase, this team is strong as it has ever been. We are doing all that we can."
ON BATTLE BETWEEN JIMMIE AND DENNY HAMLIN FROM CREW CHIEF PERSPECTIVE:
Knaus - "Obviously you get concerned about what is going on. Our spotter came on the radio and said "Inside" and that is the last thing you want to hear on a short run like that. It was a good battle. When Jimmie was running out there on the high side and held him off it was pretty cool. That showed a lot of determination on his part and how good of a race car we had. Those guys (No. 11 team) are awesome. Mike Ford is a great crew chief, I have a lot of respect for him. I have known him for a long time, since he was crew chief for Bill Elliott and Denny has done a good job also. I knew if there was someone we were going to race for the win, I would like for it to be them because they are racers. They aren't kamakazi pilots, they do a good job."
ON TROUBLE HAD BY ALL CHASE CONTENDERS MAKE THIS A WHOLE NEW DEAL FOR EVERYBODY:
Johnson - "Absolutely and I don't think the trouble is done. Everybody is still going to have trouble from here on out. It is going to be the headlines every Monday morning. It has been a crazy year and everybody is pushing as hard as they can. I don't see anybody in the Chase points racing and I don't think anybody has from the start of this. Maybe that is why it has been as unpredictable as it has been. It is still isn't anyone's yet, it is going to go all the way down to Homestead."
ON FOCUS - ON GETTING AWAY FROM IT AND CLEAR MINDS:
Johnson - "For myself personally, I think I have learned over the years when I need to be at the shop and how to get away and take some time if I need it. Since the Chase has started, it has been really relaxed. I mean we have been fast, we know we have good stuff, we haven't been beating ourselves down. We haven't been able to test with the new test procedure that is in place so it has been business as usual. Taking time when I need it, having some fun at times. We tested at Miami and I am working on a deal for the 24 Hours at Daytona so I spent some time driving one of those cars which was fun. Just kinda hanging out and having a good time."
Knaus - "It is just like Jimmie said, it is business as usual. We have come in to this thing in the past thinking we just had to push, push, push and make everything happen at all cost and it hasn't been successful for us. Myself, Jimmie and the whole time have entered the Chase with a lot more casual mindset. Don't take that lightly by any stretch of the imagination. We are working very very hard. We have a lot of things we are doing in the wind tunnel, seven-post scheduling, things like that, we are trying to get better. But, it is not live or die at this points, because if we do that, we aren't as good as we can be when we get in that type of mindset. So were are taking it casual, one step at a time and just roll with it. Everything we did leading up to the Chase was to build up for the Chase. We built our cars, had the inventory built up, bullets ready to go in the gun and the have been sitting there locked and loaded and ready to roll. Fortunately enough as we have been rolling them out, they have been fast. That is all you can do. You can't do anymore than that."
Johnson - "I think we have been more relaxed. Calm, confident. I think from the five years of doing this and being in the Chase or a championship battle in all five seasons so far, there is a lot of confidence we can fall back on. Our team has been a lot more mature, stable this year in the Chase than any other year.
ON CHALLENGE GOING TO ATLANTA AND FOCUS ON RACING WITH SO MUCH SWIRLING ABOUT CHASE:
Johnson - "That is the challenge. Where we have been, that has been nice. There hasn't been a lot of questions and attention pushing us about the Chase. We have been just doing our thing and going racing. And if we have anything to do with it, we are going to try and keep that up even with the newfound excitement and questioning that is probably going to take place. We just need to go out and race. I have looked at Jeff Burton's attitude and the way that team has raced and the way he has driven the car, he has done that. I have a lot of respect for him and his team, to go out and race and do what they know how to do. They had some back luck, but they have done a good job and set a very good example of how you should compete for a championship."
-credit: gm racing