Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman Notch Top-Fives at Pocono Raceway; Team Chevy Drivers Capture Five of Top-10 Finishing Positions
LONG POND, Penn (August 7, 2011) - In a hard-fought battle at Pocono Raceway, five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup (NSCS) champion Jimmie Johnson brought his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet home in fourth place in the Good Sam RV Insurance 500. Starting in 19th position, Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led team methodically worked their way through the field in the 200-lap race that was halted by a one-hour, 40-minute rain delay on the 125th lap.
With the strong performance, Johnson sits second in the standings moving to within nine points of the top spot with 21 races in the record books.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet, was fifth at the checkered flag after starting 12th in the 43-car field. Newman sits eighth in the standings with five races remaining until the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Four-time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon brought the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet to the sixth finishing position. It was a strong performance and finish for Gordon given he started deep in the field, in 31st position. Gordon remains seventh in points.
Starting 18th, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, battled through the field to finish in ninth place. Earnhardt, Jr. sits 10th in the point standings.
Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard, No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet, had another strong run, bringing home the 10th finishing position. He sits poised for a wild card berth in the Chase currently sitting 14th in the standings, the first driver out of the top-12 with a victory.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, battled a loose race care throughout the 500-mile race but was able to salvage a 14th place finish at sits fifth in the standings.
Tony Stewart, No 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, battled back from a flat tire that put him a lap down to the field to finish 11th in the final order. The two-time NSCS champion remains ninth in the standings.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, sits 12th in the standings after finishing 18th in the point standings.
The unlikely winner was Brad Keselowski (Dodge), Kyle Busch (Toyota) was second, and Kurt Busch (Dodge) finished third.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 4TH TELL US ABOUT THOSE CLOSING LAPS WITH KURT BUSCH. IT WAS QUITE A FIGHT. “It was a good battle; man, I worked hard to get by him. I got to the outside of him off of (Turn) 2 and I don’t know, he ran over the side of me off of (Turn) 2, which I didn’t really understand as I took a lot of patience and gave him a lot of courtesy throughout the course of the day running him down. I could have run into him. I could have moved him a lot of different ways to get that position, but I didn’t, you know? I went down there and passed him, and off of (Turn) 2; he ran me up into the wall, or tried to. And I held my ground so I wouldn’t get smashed in the fence.”
THOSE CLOSING LAPS GOT REALLY CRAZY. IT SEEMED LIKE YOU WERE RIGHT THERE FOR A MINUTE, AND THEN IT SEEMED LIKE THE NO. 2 AND THE NO. 18 GOT AWAY AND IT WAS YOU AND KURT BUSCH GOING AT IT HOT AND HEAVY “Well, track position is everything. I have no problem racing hard. And we raced really hard all day long. I just don’t understand why, when I finally get position on him, he’s got to run all over the side of me down the straightaway. It was a great race. The thing is here, track position is everything. And every driver is at 10/10ths, trying to get what they can, when they can, because you can’t pass. And it took me that entire fuel run to set-up that pass on him and I finally got it done and then that problem happens. So that’s where my frustration comes in.”
HOW ABOUT THE CONVERSATION THERE WITH KURT AND WHAT WAS THE MESSAGE YOU WERE TRYING TO DELIVER? "It was more like a lot of yelling. Man I worked him over for 10 or 15 laps and had the opportunity to screw him up and had the opportunity to run into him and never did it. Then off of (turn) two he claims I turned down on him off of (turn) two and I don't have clue. He ran over me on the corner exit and that's where it all started."
THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THE RACE AS YOU STALKED HIM DID YOU FEEL LIKE NOW IN HINDSIGHT MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE HANDLED IT DIFFERENTLY? "No, I'm not going to run people over to pass them. That's just not me. I worked on him for however many laps trying to get by him clean, fair and square and as I got next to him we had that issue off of (turn) two. I just keep filing things away. I'll remember this stuff. There's a couple of other guys out there that have been pushing their luck too."
TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET – RYAN NEWMAN FINISHED 5TH: TOP FIVE FINISH FOR YOUR TODAY; YOU WERE VERY STRONG EARLY AND THEN STRONG AGAIN AT THE END. TELL US ABOUT IT “Yeah, we kind of made a mistake there; at least I made a mistake. I stayed out there with the No. 20 and the No. 22 on two tires. Everybody else took four. It kind of put us in a bad situation there and those guys all took four behind us. I didn’t think they were all going to take four with 10 laps on their tires, but they did. It kind of ate us up there. We fell back to 12th or 13th. But everybody on the team kept digging all day long and we got back inside the top 10. And then that last stop right there, we took on rights and I think we came out 11th, I think it was, and then (Ryan) Newman just did his normal deal; man, he got after it and drove up through there to a top five finish. I’m proud of everybody on the Tornados Chevrolet and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing; and thanks to Hendrick for their great chassis and engines. Like I say, it wasn’t pretty but we’ll take it.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, FINISHED 6TH: ON HIS RACE: “I’m happy with our finish considering the way the day started and where we started, deep in the field. Once we got up there in the top six or seven, I really thought we would have a shot at getting further to the front. I don’t know, we were just missing a little bit of something. There at the end it came down a little bit to pit strategy so we fell back one position with the No. 39 (Ryan Newman) getting up there pretty quick with his two tires. Had a shot at getting back at him then Jimmie (Johnson) and the No. 22 (Kurt Busch) got together and we just ran out time.”
DID YOUR CAR CHANGE A LOT AFTER THE RAIN DELAY? “The car was tighter after the ran than I thought it would be. I thought the car would be loose if anything. We were a little bit tight before. So, yes, I think we guessed wrong a little bit on that and made some adjustments to make it better. I don’t know, we were missing just a little bit but still a good day for us.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, FINISHED 9th: ASSESS YOUR DAY OUT THERE: “We had a real good car and we had some real good speed in the car. We had some struggles on pit road, and I know the guys on the AMP Energy/National Guard team will get that sorted out and sometimes we just have mistakes. Sometimes the driver makes them, sometimes – there’s so many guys on the team it’s rare when everyone is kind of clicking. We’ll get it sorted out. We had good speed though, we had a good car all day long and real happy how that worked out.”
TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE IN THE POINTS RIGHT NOW, ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH WHERE YOU ARE? “I don’t know where we’re at (in points). I haven’t seen it. I’m comfortable though, trust me. (Laughs) I’d rather be second or first or third, whatever, but I’m good with how things are working out.”
DID THE CAR CHANGE MUCH BEFORE AND AFTER THE DELAY? “The car changed a lot, and we expected it to. Everybody’s in the same boat there. We tried to adjust on it there the few times we got the opportunity in the last 80 laps and we never really got it better, but the car was still pretty good. We had great speed on sticker tires, new tires. I was real happy with how the car ran. We were good Friday and I was hoping it would be good today and we had good speed.”
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR NEXT WEEK AT WATKINS GLEN? “Well, we’re just going to try and go up there and steal a good finish – like everyone else, you know. You’ve got to do different strategy at the road course races and pit once you get inside the window and it’s all kind of craziness. It’s not really much fun, but that’s the way it is”.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BRAD (KESELOWSKI) GETTING IN THE CAR AND WINNING THE RACE? “He apparently could mash the brakes pretty good today. He’s a good driver and a great guy and he’s not going to let his opportunities pass him by. He’s not going to give up the opportunity to anyone else. He wants to drive every lap he can drive. I bet it was tough for him to not run the Nationwide race, but probably what made the difference today for him.”
AFTER NEWMAN GOT BY YOU AND YOU LOST THE POSITION ON PIT ROAD HOW BADLY DID YOU WANT TO GET BY HIM ON THAT LAST RUN? “I don’t know, I really wasn’t even thinking about him much. I was trying to race as hard as I could and get what I could get. Everybody is scrambling on restarts and that’s when you really try to get everything you can get and you can’t be very friendly out there.”
IS IT NICE TO GET OFF THIS SLIDE A LITTLE BIT? “Yeah. Our car had speed, I was like, ‘Heck yeah man.’ I drove up to fifth there one time and was racing around the top four, that’s how we were running at the start of the year. I’m kind of happy about that. Hopefully we’ve got it figured out. I know the road course could be feast or famine for us. If we have a bad day there I really won’t be too concerned, but as far as oval racing – what I love – I think we’re getting better at it again.”
THE HENDRICK CARS ON A WHOLE LOOKED REALLY SOLID, BETTER AS A GROUP AS THEY HAD IN A LONG, LONG TIME. DID YOU FEEL THAT AS WELL? “I felt good about how we all ran, but I think we all feel like we ought to be a few steps ahead of where we are. Our qualifying is very poor, so we’ve got to work on that.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 CERTAINTEED/MENARDS CHEVROLET, FINISHED 10TH: 'It was a good follow up to last week’s win. We fought hard for this top-10 finish. The 27 pit crew gained us some spots on that stop coming off the red flag that really help out a bunch. The race for the final Chase spots is shaping up to be really competitive and we're fighting hard to put ourselves in position to take one of those spots.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, FINISHED 11th: THAT WAS A HARD-FOUGHT BATTLE FOR A GOOD FINISH NEAR THE TOP-10: “We didn’t quite get there, we missed it by one. Proud of our guys. We had the bad luck of the tire there and came from the back. All the spots we got, we earned them today. Proud of Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and all these guys. They never gave up today and we won’t give up until it’s over.”
WAS TRACK POSITION THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TODAY? “I think at the end it was kind of a toss-up. There were guys that didn’t take tires, fell back a little bit. Then guys that had four (tires) that were faster than guys on two. It was kind of a mix I think. It was all a matter of what your balance was. If you car was good, I think taking no tires and track position was the way to go but we weren’t quite there. We needed to take four every time. I didn’t know what to do. Darian said if everyone else stays out come in, if they come in. About half came in and half stayed out so I had to make a decision at the last second and I was wondering if I was going to be the cause of us having a bad day again, but I’m pretty happy about it.”
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER QUOTES DURING RAIN DELAY
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED IN 2ND PLACE:
“This is a tough race track and it is difficult to get all three corners to where they handle properly. Jimmie (Johnson) is compromising very very well and doing a great job. The guys are doing a great job on pit road. I couldn’t be prouder of the pit stops we’ve had today. It’s good stuff. It’s fun. Wish Mr. Hendrick was here with us. Unfortunately, he’s back in Charlotte (NC) with his Mom, she is not feeling very well right now. We want to give Miss Mary our best wishes. Hopefully they are watching and are proud of what we are doing”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVEROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED IN 2ND PLACE:
“It’s been good. We made some changes coming into today’s race. Just being patient, trying to take care of our stuff. It was time to go there at the end and we got by the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin). Very very proud of my guys, man. We’ve been working really hard. It feels good to be up there racing for the lead. Certainly hope we can go back racing and race for the win.”
HOW MUCH DID THE TRACK CHANGE AS THE RACE WENT ON? “I think the track has been in change the whole weekend since we’ve been here. Now here, from about the midway point of the race on, it’s been familiar to me and drives like how I would expect it to. I think we have been kind of chasing the track all weekend long and now it finally showed up. Unfortunately, the rain is now going to wash it off and we are going to have to start over. Either way we have good track position and a fast car.”
DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAD ANY MOMENT WHERE YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO PASS JOEY (LOGANO, RACE LEADER)? “The lap before the caution came out, I got pretty close to him through turn three and I wanted to set him up there again. As we came through the short shoot into three, there was a lot of water on the windshield and I kind of backed off and just took my time getting through. It didn’t make any sense to tear something up at that point. I feel like we have a good car. Catching someone here is one thing, passing them is a totally different deal. I hope we can get back to racing and go out there and race for this win. I just want to say a quick hello to my wife and my daughter, Channi and Genevieve at home. I guess we are past halfway so I’ll be able to see them tonight.”
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED 7TH:
“The car has been swinging. Too tight, too loose, even when we are a little loose. The struggling to get the front end to turn a little bit. It tough to figure it out. But, if we can get my front-end, pull the rear-end out by raising the track bar or pulling wedge out of it, I think we’re going to be all right. Trying to find that right recipe. That key ingredient right there to get our car closer to the front. But it’s been good so far.”
DO YOU WANT TO GO BACK OUT AND RACE? “We are seventh obviously that is a decent run. But the problem is that everybody I’m racing for the Chase is in front of me so I better get my butt back out there. We have to get the most we can out of every weekend. It was six including this race. Five races after this isn’t a whole lot of time especially when you are only running them down a few points at a time. We’ve got to be able to capitalize on somebody making a little bit of mistake, a little bit of a slip up like we did two weeks ago. If they we do, we have to be there for the taking like they were with us.”
HOW ARE YOU FEELING? “I was all amped up and excited when we got out and now it is starting to bog down again. Really I hope we get back going. I need to get back going. Everybody I am trying to beat out of this Chase deal is in front of me. So this is my only opportunity. We are in seventh place right now, but to be able to beat those guys, I need another shot at it. Only time will tell.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED 28TH:
“Not much better than we have been. We keep plugging away though. We’re back on the lead lap now so we’ll keep trying. We drug the splitter pretty hard there. I don’t think that it hurt anything but it didn’t help getting a flat tire and losing the track position and getting a lap down. We have the Lucky Dog now when we go back. The good thing is, I talked to Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and getting the Lucky Dog have the luxury of getting a longer pit stop and take some time. We are going to make a packer adjustment in the front and see if we can’t make this Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy a little bit better. Definitely not happy with 28th right now. Have had plenty of time to watch and see what this is doing to us in the points right now. I’m all about the sunshine right now.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED 12TH:
TALK ABOUT YOUR RACE CAR TODAY: “We’ve just been extremely loose since we started the race. Then traffic, the car won’t turn the front, but just snaps the back as it comes up off the corner. We’ve really struggled with getting it right. We’ve had a couple of pit stops where we lost some track position so we just have to figure out what we want to do to the car here to try to make it better to get it up off the corner and hopefully get that track position back that we lost. It is just one of those things. We don’t really know what we need to do, we think we know what we want to change, but we can’t change it right now so we just have to do the best that we can with our Budweiser Chevrolet hoping that we can put our self in the right position after its rained here. Hopefully the track changes in our direction.”
YOU GUYS ARE IN GREAT POSITION FOR THE CHASE, ARE YOU GAMBLING? “I think we have been gambling. We’ve been on that side of the fence for awhile now and just kind of tried to do some things that we probably shouldn’t have done and it worked out for us in Charlotte. We’ve had some things not go our way for a few weeks. Today we just haven’t run well and last week we didn’t run well. All-in-all, we’ve been working on some new stuff and hopefully we can get it on the race track the next few weeks.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE LIKE TO BE WHERE SOME OF THE GUYS ARE IN 11TH TO 20TH? “We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years to be on this side of the fence. We’ve been on that side of the fence fighting for our life in what would be 10th, 12th, 14th and just hoping you don’t make a mistake and miss it by a few points and make it by a few point. This time of year there is nothing worse than being that position and knowing that everything you do matters. Whether it’s a parts failure or a mistake or whatever the case may be, it all matters right now.”
IS THIS YEAR SOMEONE CAN KNOCK JIMMIE JOHNSON OFF? “I hope so. I hope it’s our Budweiser team. I think right now it seems like there are a lot of people winning races and seems like you have to race a little bit different than you have in the past. It is just a matter of putting 10 weeks together. I think we are definitely capable of putting those 10 weeks together and doing what we have to do to win. So we just have to see what happens and keep our heads down and try to get a little better.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 CERTAINTEED/MENARDS CHEVROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED 11TH:
HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT YOUR POSITION IN THE POINTS IF IT ENDS RIGHT NOW? “Slugger (Richard Labbe, crew chief) were up there crunching numbers. I think that moves us to the first wild card. If Joey (Logano) wins the race, he’s the second wild card. A lot can happen. If it goes back green, I think we can move back up there in the top-10. We are 11th right now. Who knows. The restarts here are crazy, especially with more rain coming, everybody is going to get pretty aggressive so we could get shuffled back as easily as we moved up so it is going to be wild. The car is good. It all depends on what lane you are in on the restart. You can gain five, you can lose five real easily. I’ve been better on the outside lane, if we go back, it will get all shuffled up with pit stops. I’ve been better on the outside, that way I can carry some momentum off turn one. Who knows.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED 6TH:
DID ALL THE HENDRICK CARS COME WITH THE SAME SETUPS? “I’m not really sure. I think they’re all fairly close. We were pretty good the last time we were here. I know that our setup is not that far off of where we were. Of course, it makes a big difference to start up front versus where we started today. When they dropped the green flag, we really struggled. So maybe some of it was the track conditions, they had just run that ARCA race and there was a little bit different rubber on it, but, just being back there in traffic with the Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, I really struggled. I went backwards instead of forwards which I really thought we would come forward. I knew we had a good car and knew we needed to make maybe a few adjustments, but most importantly, just get that track position. My team has been just awesome, not just today, but lately. From the pit stops to the good calls and adjustments that Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) is making got us in the position to work our way up through there. That last restart went really well for us. I kind of hope we go back racing because I think we can get our car good enough to win.”
YOU WON THIS RACE HERE IN JUNE AND WITH ALL YOUR WINS HERE, HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE AND PATIENCE DOES THAT GIVE YOU? “You really make that decision on the spot. I’ll be honest with you, coming into this race, even though we qualified bad. Or I should say I hit the wall and made us qualify bad, I felt confident that when they dropped the green, we were going to drive by some cars and that was not the case. You just never know. At that time, I really wanted to make those moves because I thought the rain was coming in a hurry and get up there as fast as we could, but we just we didn’t have the car. We just weren’t in position. I couldn’t be aggressive. But as the race went on and the rubber started laying down, I felt our car getting better and we started gaining speed and we started making our way through the traffic. That is when I knew just be patient and we’ve got a car. Alan was asking me what kind of adjustments do we need to make? It finally got to the point of you know, I don’t think we need to make any adjustments, we just need to get track position and then slowly but surely it started coming.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, CURRENTLY SCORED 5TH:
GOOD DAY SO FAR, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE A CAR THIS GOOD? “We’d like to be better. We’ve been working on it and kind of have been chasing the track. The track has changed a lot all day long and we’ve been just trying to work on figuring out and trying to make a real good guess on what which direction the track is going to keep going.”
DO YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO RACING? “It’s going to do what it’s going to do. We’ll head home if we have to head home. I think we have a pretty small window. There is a bigger cell than what just came through here about 40 miles out going about 30 miles an hour so it is going to be kind of tight.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SOMETHING FOR THE LEADERS? “We go down the straightaways really good. They get through the corners pretty good. I really haven’t had the opportunity to get up there and get a good look at them much. The Gibbs boys have always run pretty good here and looks like Denny (Hamlin) is starting to share a little bit of his magic with them other two. They are going to be tough.”
TALK ABOUT WORKING WITH STEVE LETARTE: “I get along great with him. I enjoy working with him. I enjoy him being my crew chief. We’ve got a great crew. We have a lot of great guys at the shop putting awesome race cars together. Everybody has a great attitude. It has been a real pleasure this year. We’ve got good engines. The race cars that they are sending down the road to these places are fun to practice and fun to work. Hopefully we can just get a little bit better. We’ve been improving all year long a little bit at a time. We had a little bit of a slump here. We need to put that behind us and hopefully can cap it off with a good finish today and look forward to the rest of the season.”