An interview with: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon And Carl Edwards
KERRY THARP: Let's go post race. Joining us now in the media center is Carl Edwards. Carl finished ninth in today's race but is still our points leader coming out of today.
Talk about the ability to get through this race and still be a points leader.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's just a gift to finish ninth and to have the day we had. Did Tony have to come in and pit? On the replay, he cut a tire, had to pit, came back through the field. All right, he took two the next time.
That was our strategy, we did the same thing we did last week, cruise around the back, wait for everything to work out.
JEFF GORDON: That strategy worked out okay for you.
CARL EDWARDS: We did not deserve to finish ninth. Proud of my guys for sticking with it. Bob did a good job of keeping me calm. Now we go to Texas. I'm excited about Texas.
KERRY THARP: Our third-place finisher in today's race is Jeff Gordon. Jeff, you got caught up in something early on, then your car as the race went on, you led laps, persevered throughout the afternoon. Talk about that.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you know, got caught up in that incident early on there. Junior hit the curb and spun. I chose to get out of the way of the guys behind me, so they didn't get into me. Unfortunately I got into Junior.
I wasn't too worried about the damage to the car speed-wise, it was just the right front brake duct was tore up pretty good. Obviously cooling the brakes is pretty important here. We went to the back. We didn't necessarily drive up to the front. We just got out of sync with guys and then we found ourselves going from 40th up to 20th, then we drove up there.
We had a really strong racecar. Denny I thought was a little bit better than us on the long runs. Then those last couple runs, I don't know, we made some adjustments and it just didn't work out for us. We got real lose off so we didn't have much for him at the end. So third is not bad.
KERRY THARP: Also joining us our race runner-up, Jimmie Johnson. You shaved some points off that deficit coming out of this race here today with certainly a second-place finish. Talk about your run out there this afternoon.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, great performance for the racecar all day long. We tried to take care of our tires, our brakes, and just be smart. It seemed like there were really four cars that had the pace throughout the whole race. Between the 24, the 11, the 18 and us, we kind of rotated around positions.
Then Chad, to make fun of my cheerleading comment before, Chad made a call that was going to give us the win for the race. He second guessed himself. I'm sure a lot of you heard him cussing himself on the radio. But it ended up being a good thing. Three or four laps later he stopped cussing himself and said we had a chance to win this thing, and we did.
At the end, all the cautions were not what we needed. Saw Tony in Victory Lane. He said he found something on the outside lane. Drooling at the opportunity to start out there and certainly made it work.
At the end it was frustrating to see the same few cars over and over with the caution. That was something we certainly didn't want to see.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Jimmie, Carl or Jeff.
Q. Carl, is this a bigger miracle than Kansas City?
CARL EDWARDS: It's unreal. We were so bad probably 200 laps to go, I was thinking, Okay, the Cardinals didn't give up the other night. That's a little motivation. Missouri Tigers didn't give up the other night. That's motivation. I became all right with the fact we were going to finish 20th or 25th. I was already thinking about Texas, everything we were going to do.
My guys stuck with it and we got very, very fortunate. Just glad we could move on.
Q. Jimmie, it seems like the 83 was involved in half the cautions out there. I know you were a little disappointed the way that happened at the end. How do you feel when a guy who is not in the Chase is playing such a key role in the way things shook down today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I mean, I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen.
After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on. You're having a bad day. You need to stop crashing for whatever reason.
When you're on the racetrack and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that. Each man's decision how they want to handle it.
I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end. Tony Stewart is sitting in Victory Lane smiling and he's real happy it turned out that way.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie, in regards to Tony having to hold off Denny Hamlin while you were bunched up, looking back at it, how key is that for him to run that hard at that juncture of the race to stay on the lead lap and be able to have the benefit of working his way back to the front and winning it?
JEFF GORDON: It was pretty early, wasn't it? It wasn't right there at the end. So, I mean, you saw how many guys got their lap back today. I don't think that was that big of a deal. I thought a guy in that position up in the points, he's going to have to fight really hard to stay on the lead lap.
No offense, but as bad as his stuff was today, he still fought pretty hard to stay up. I think that's what Tony did. He did what he had to do. But, I mean, if he had gone down a lap, he would have gotten it back pretty easily.
It was more impressive to me about what the 14 did, when they had the problem with the 29, I'm still trying to figure out where he came from. I was up there battling with Jimmie. We came in, didn't have a great pit stop, and he came out in front of us. They say he took four tires. I'm questioning whether they took four. Maybe took two.
But he was fast. Doesn't matter. He was ahead of us and he was fast. Especially on the outside, I mean, Jimmie unfortunately got to see it, but I saw it earlier, too, when he drove by the 29 on the outside with two tires. So he definitely had a good car that could really rotate the middle even on the outside.
CARL EDWARDS: I think credit needs to be given to his crew chief. I raced around Tony for the first 100, 150 laps. I thought his car was as slow as mine was. They did a good job of turning the balance of that car around overall. It looked like he was struggling a lot.
Q. Carl, can you explain in essence what went wrong and what went right for you today. Also, in Victory Lane after the race, Tony said about you, being close to the points, He better be worried, that's all I've got to say, he's not going to have an easy three weeks.
CARL EDWARDS: He's wound up. He won the race. We'll see what happens at Texas. I mean, I feel like we're going to go there and we're going to have as good a shot to win as anyone.
This track has been really, really tough for me. I think this is one of those days where everything went wrong and everything went right as well. Unfortunately the timing of those things worked out so we finished ninth.
I think Tony and those guys, they've won three Chase races. When I sat in here on Friday, I told you guys I thought he was one of the guys that could win this race and be a guy that you'd have to beat for the championship. I think he's proven that. He's proving it right now.
But, yeah, we'll have fun. We'll go race hard. They're going to have to race us, too. I'm excited about the next three races.
Q. Carl, what was going through your mind when the black flag came out, then it was rescinded?
CARL EDWARDS: I'd forgotten about that. My spotter Jason, NASCAR was telling him for me to pass the 31. Jason was yelling at me, We've got to pass the 31. I drove around the outside of Burton right as the green was coming out. I have to give credit to Burton. He probably had no clue what was going on. He thought about turning me around in turn one. I'm grateful he didn't do that.
Whether or not there was a communication error, what was going on, I appreciate NASCAR looking at it and realizing they told me to do what they were black flagging me for. Not very often they rescind the black flag like that.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie, at the end of the race with two laps to go, there's a restart, what are you thinking being on the same team, points race? Are you both gunning for the win or trying not to ruin the other one's chances, but you're still going to try for the win? Are you communicating?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think at the end of these races, you're not going to blatantly drive over the top of a teammate, but you're going to go race and race as you always do.
When I saw the 24 lined up behind me, I knew he had taken tires earlier. Knew how fast his car was in the short run. When I restarted, I was actually a little more concerned with the 24 than I was the 14. I was hopeful to clear the 14 off of two, Jeff and Tony would be racing side-by-side, I could get distance on those two.
Certainly didn't work out that way.
When I was inside of Tony, I went down in the corner and thought that eight tires would be a lot better than four. I changed my mind. With where he is in the points, what's going on, the fact we raced throughout the day today, he never touched me, I had a hard time doing that.
JEFF GORDON: I think it would have been great (laughter).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Jeff probably would have won the race if I would have done it.
I couldn't bring myself to that. He got by. I tried to be smart. That's typically how I race guys. I don't run over people to get positions.
Q. Jimmie, you've had these championship runs before and had things happen like with Carl today. Do you feel like what happened today may be something that will contend for a championship now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, at the start of the year I said I thought the 99 would be the guy to focus on. I think there's a lot of things through the history of Bob and Carl together that show their strength. They were separated at one point and came back. We didn't hear things about these two trying to kill each other in the process, even though the toughest time, when they were trying to turn Roush around a couple years back.
I definitely know what he's capable of, feel that he's a threat.
Tony is going to be tough from here on out. Highly motivated. Going to be on some good tracks, he's been fast on those mile-and-a-half's. I think it's going to be a great run all the way to the end.
Q. It seemed like all year long we've heard guys talk about people with lack of respect amongst the drivers. Seemed like today you heard that a lot from a lot of drivers. Why do you think that is? Just the end of the year, short-track racing?
JEFF GORDON: It's just Martinsville, isn't it? I think it's a combination of late in the year and Martinsville, and sometimes just the way the race goes. If you get early cautions here at Martinsville, that usually contributes itself to more cautions. Those are more guys, somebody's upset, tempers are flaring, incidents happen. It escalates from there.
Seems to me that's what happened. We couldn't get into a rhythm with the race, couldn't get it going. Seemed like guys were ticked off at one another, driving over their heads, whatever it may be. We saw that for a big majority of the race.
Obviously the 83 had that throughout the whole race. But I think it was just one of those crazy days. I don't know. You can't always explain it. Usually Martinsville does contribute towards that.
Q. Carl, lug nut issue on a pit stop. Get the lucky dog at least twice, maybe more. You're sitting here with a ninth-place finish at what's probably the toughest track for you in this quest. Is this basically like victory?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, it is. If we could come just out of here in the top 10, that's like a win. Very happy with the result. Not happy with the performance. We struggled. We struggled in a bunch of different ways today. We've got to work on this. We've got to figure out exactly what causes us to struggle here. Looks like a couple of our teammates figured it out. We have some homework to do before we come back next time.
Q. Jeff just made the comment, This is Martinsville. We only have three tracks on the schedule that are less than a mile in length. Would you like to go to more short tracks or is a day like today enough to make you think we have enough of them on the schedule?
JEFF GORDON: Who would like to answer that?
I mean, I'll admit that when we went through this big building process of all these mile-and-a-half's, nobody considered building something more like a Bristol or a Richmond or something like that. I think that we need one or two more tracks like that on the circuit.
So, yeah, Martinsville is a little extreme. This place is tough on brakes, tempers flare. It's a narrow place to race on. It can be tough. But it's very entertaining. So you got to like that.
I mean, if I had my choice, we have two races here. It would be nice to have something a little unique and different but still in that short-track fashion.
KERRY THARP: Guys, thanks for putting on a great show today. Good luck at Texas.