Phoenix II: GM teams race quotes, notes

Phoenix (November 11, 2007) - Jimmie Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS team continue their march toward defending their NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) championship with their fourth consecutive trip to victory lane in the ...

Phoenix (November 11, 2007) - Jimmie Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS team continue their march toward defending their NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) championship with their fourth consecutive trip to victory lane in the Checker Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil.

Today's victory at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) was Johnson's first at the track and his 10th of the 2007 NNCS season. Johnson led twice during the 312-lap/312-mile/500K race for a total of 55 laps.

Johnson's win was a historic one for Chevrolet in NNCS competition, marking the 26th trip to victory lane for a Bowtie driver this season. Team Chevy's previous mark was 25 race-wins in the 1958 season. In addition, the win was the 13th victory in 16 appearances for the Impala SS race car.

"This has been an historical season for Chevrolet," said Pat Suhy, GM Racing NASCAR Group Manager. To score 26 victories in one season is truly a standout performance. We've exceeded our goals. Such record-breaking numbers, for both the Monte Carlo SS and the new generation Impala SS race cars, are a direct result of the solid commitment and many hours of hard work by each and every one of our Chevy race teams and the hard working men and women at GM Racing. On behalf of GM and Chevrolet, congratulations to Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson on winning the Checker Auto Parts 500."

Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Impala SS, finished fourth at PIR and remains fifth in the standings with one race remaining in the season and the Chase for the NNCS championship.

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS, finished sixth to move back to seventh in the standings heading in to Homestead.

Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Impala SS, led three times for 72 laps and finished seventh. He moved to 11th in the Chase standings.

Kyle Busch, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Impala SS, remains fourth in the standings after finishing eighth in today's race./

Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS, finished ninth to continue his seesaw battle with Richard Childress Racing teammate Harvick, now sitting eighth with one race remainig.

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, finished 10th in today's PIR event to remain second in the standings, 86 points down to Johnson.

Third-place Chaser Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, finished 11th at PIR and is now 241 points behind the leader but has a 146 point cushion over fourth place.

Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Ground Impala SS, finished 16th in the race to drop to 12th in the standings.

***

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, Started 6th, Winner:

"I am shaking my head too, with (crew chief) Chad (Knaus). I don't know what to think about the success we have had this year. I just feel, and I know Chad feels this way, I am just happy to be at Hendrick Motorsports and have these tools to work with and go out and race, doing something we enjoy. Great race. Great pit work. I cannot believe 10 wins in one year. It is unbelievable. It is just a lot of great support from everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. I don't want to go without thanking them as well as all the employee/owners at Lowe's.

ON HOW HARD HE WAS RACING: "I am terrible at playing defense. I just have to go out and do my thing. When I am racing with guys like Martin (Truex, Jr.) and Matt (Kenseth), we showed them last week, we can race side-by-side and run 100% without crashing each other. Just put a lot of faith in them racing them."

ON JUST WORKING WAY FORWARD UNTIL IT WAS REALLY TIME TO GO: "We have just developed this habit, I am not sure where it has come from, we wanted to be up front leading laps and doing all that we could to control the race, we just didn't have everything right until the end. The two-tire stop at the end of the race, our car was really good on two tires. The No. 17 and No. 20 had gotten two tires two stops in a row, so it was the right call. The No. 1 was out there on old tires, so the perfect scenario came together for us to take advantage of."

ON GOING TO HOMESTEAD: "We will fall back on last year's experience and try and go down there and repeat and do it again. If we just race the No. 24 we will be in good shape, but that isn't our MO. We want to be racing up front trying to stay in the top-three, top-five and hopefully goes as planned. But Jeff is a true champion, a great friend and teammate and it has been a heck of a battle and I know it isn't over yet. He will go to Homestead and give me all he has got."

***

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Impala SS - Finished 10th 10TH

PLACE TODAY WAS NOT WHAT YOU WERE LOOKING FOR AT THE START. TELL US ABOUT YOUR RACE: "Unless you lead every lap and beat Jimmie Johnson and win the race, you don't have a shot at it. Man, I'll tell you those guys are on an unbelievable roll. Whatever they've got we're missing; we know everything they've got, but man we're just not hitting on it. And it's unfortunate. I thought this was our year to get another one (championship) but we're just coming up short here at the crucial time. Those guys have just knocked it out of the ballpark. It's going to be tough to beat that if we were hitting on all eight cylinders. Another top 10, but still just not a good enough day to get it done."

YOU HAD SOME CONTACT WITH KEVIN HARVICK LATE IN THE RACE BEFORE THE FINAL PIT STOP. HOW MUCH DID THAT AFFECT YOUR CAR? "It didn't affect it. It's no big deal, Kevin and I. You can't touch Kevin Harvick because if you touch him he's got a short fuse. He gets pretty upset. He rubbed on me because I was racing him too hard, I guess. I didn't like it either. So I rubbed back on him and I thought we were going to all wreck. So it is what it is. That didn't affect us in any way about where we finished today. We were going backyards at that time anyway and just weren't getting a handle on it. We took four tires hoping that would pay off for us, but traffic was just so horrendous and track position and all that, we just couldn't get up there."

IT LOOKS LIKE IT IS 86 POINTS GOING DOWN TO SOUTH FLORIDA: "It's over. Even if we win it, it's because they had problems. And while we'll accept it (laughs), we don't want to do it that way. And those guys have flat-out killed everybody. You've got to give credit where credit's due. Those guys deserve a lot of credit. We didn't step up and win the races when we needed to. We gave them a run for a while and now we've got to figure out how to get the best finish we can at Homestead and end this season off on a positive note going into the off-season.

IT SEEMED LIKE YOUR CAR WAS OBVIOUSLY NOT AS GOOD AS YOUR CAR AND YET YOU SHARE ALL THIS INFORMATION BUT YOU DRIVE DIFFERENTLY. WERE YOU ABLE TO CAPITALIZE ON ANYTHING JOHNSON HAD THIS WEEKEND? "That's obvious that we didn't (laughs). We share information every weekend and one of us is going to win and one of us isn't. Sometimes it works together. Just because we're sharing information doesn't mean that we're going to run exactly the same. We do drive different enough and I know what's under their car and I always shake my head. I don't see how they make that work. But Jimmie's driving style is just different enough that it does and they are just flat-out stomping not just us, but everybody right now. I'm just bummed out that we're not getting it done the way I know I'm capable of."

BESIDES HARVICK, DID YOU FEEL LIKE THERE WAS A LACK OF RESPECT BY SOME OF THE GUYS OUT THERE TODAY? "No, the whole deal is this. Lapped traffic is so tough here. With this car, you saw me, I had four tires and I couldn't pass guys. It's just a product of this track, this car, and in lapped traffic. And so you get frustrated because you know your car is better that where you're at and you're trying to pick a lane. When me and Montoya got together it was because I chose the inside lane and they all stopped in front of me and he went to the outside and I tried to get there before he got there and I got into him. And with Harvick, I just got held up in some lapped traffic allowed him to get up on me and when he got up on me he got me real loose. I raced him hard. He got frustrated and moved up into me on the front straightaway and I repaid the favor and he got all ticked off about it."

YOU LOST A LOT OF GROUND ON YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP TODAY. YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RUN: Well, heck, unless you're going to lead the most laps and win the race, you're not going to make up any ground on those guys (laughs). I mean they're doing an awesome job and we just haven't been able to get the job done the way we need to. Heck, right now, even if we finish second we're not good enough. I'm more disappointed that we just missed the handling again. We were so strong here the last time I really thought we were going to be good like that again. We just weren't. All day we struggled with it. And then to see your teammate go out there and stomp them like that, it makes it even that much more frustrating from a speed standpoint. But they're doing the job to win the championship and we haven't. So, I thought it was our year, I really did. But the way things have been going here lately I just don't think it is."

TALK ABOUT THE AGGRESSIVENESS OF THE NO. 48 "You know what? When you're car is working right you can do a lot of amazing things. His car looked like it was working pretty good for whatever reason ours wasn't. I was terrible in lapped traffic. That's probably why he was going three-wide. Lapped traffic was very difficult to deal with. And sometimes you have to take some big risks and I played it a little bit too conservative at times and then once the newness of the tires went away, I just couldn't pass anybody. We were probably about a sixth or seventh place car all day and we took four tires thinking that would pay off and we got so far back in traffic it just didn't."

IS JIMMIE ALMOST LIKE TOM BRADY? HE HAS JUST WRACKED UP INCREDIBLE NUMBERS IN THE CHASE FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS" "He's wracked up incredible numbers since he's been in the series. To me, it's always a combination of a great driver and a great team. When you get those two ingredients, and sometimes it seems like it's easy to find, but trust me, it's not. When you find that, man, I tell you what, you just think that this stuff is easy. And they're making it look real easy. It's so difficult to find that combination. But they do have it and that's why they are winning four and five races in a row."

WAS YOUR CAR JUST STILL TOO LOOSE NO MATTER WHAT CHANGES YOU MADE? "Yeah, you know what? This car is impossible to adjust once you get it off. There is no adjustment in it. And so we're pretty limited on what we could do. It seemed like everything we did to it just made it worse."

ON BEING 86 POINTS BACK? "It's over. I think it's over. Even if they have trouble and we still win it and we accept the check and the trophy, it's not the way you want to win a championship. We've gotten beat. Bottom line. They've done the job to deserve to be champions and we haven't. It's unfortunate and right now I'm just more frustrated with the way we've been running when we've run so well all year long and we got ourselves in a great position and it just hasn't worked out for us. You go into it trying to figure out if it's your year and if you've got what it takes and I really thought we did. It's just not meant to be for us this year."

IT WOULD BE EASY TO LOSE PATIENCE AND OVERDRIVE THE CAR: "You can't do that. What's that going to do? That's just going to lose you more points and more positions. The harder you drive this car, the slower you go. So, I tried everything (laughs) but it didn't work."

WHEN THAT CAUTION CAME OUT, WERE YOU CLOSE TO HAVING TO PIT? "No. It was a tire rub that lasted a short period of time. Once we ran a few laps it just knocked the fender back down and it was fine."

WHAT DO YOU TELL THE TEAM WHEN YOU SAY IT'S OVER? "Well, we've got to go to Homestead and try to end this season with our heads held up high and do something to take us into the off-season. We've gotten beat, bottom line. And so obviously we've got to find a way to get the performance up if we're going to compete with these guys in the future. I really thought the average finish that we had would do it and it hasn't because they've just been that spectacular. So, to me, right now it's not about the championship. It's about the off-season and next year and getting ourselves where we need to be."

DO YOU HAVE TO CHANGE? "I guess I've got to change. I don't know. We'll figure it out. We've got to figure out how to go faster, I know that, because what I'm doing now ain't getting it done."

WHAT IS SO DIFFERENT ABOUT THE WAY JIMMIE DRIVES AND THE WAY YOU DRIVE "He just uses the brakes a lot different getting into the corner, and when and how he gets on the throttle. They set the car up much different. Every time he's blistering fast, and I just say, 'Put that set-up in', we're absolutely terrible. So, we have to find those ingredients that work for me and hey, maybe this is as good as it gets for us. It's hard to say."

***

Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Ground Impala SS, Started 15th, Finished 16th:

ON TODAY'S RACE: "Just a mediocre day. When we unloaded here we had a 16th place car, went to qualify and had a 15th place car. When we finished, we had a 16th place car. Same deal as Loudon, seems like when we come back to these race tracks the second time, we are slower than what we were the first time and the conditions are better. It is tough to say what we need to gain on, but right now we are scratching our heads. It is real frustrating, it would be more frustrating if we were in a championship battle, but we are in a situation right now where we can just kind of throw things at it and see what happens. We are going to go to Homestead and see if we can make up some ground there."

ON CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE HEADING TO HOMESTEAD: "It has been good for the No. 48. You can't touch those guys right now. They run as hard as they want to, it is going to be tough on anybody to catch the guys that can run 75% - 85% during the race and then when they need to, turn it up. Their cars are that good."

***

Kevin "Bono" Manion, crew chief, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Impala SS, Started 2nd, Finished 7th:

ON DISAPPOINTMENT AND FRUSTRATION OF THE DAY AND ON IF HE AND MARTIN TRUEX, JR., DISCUSSED WHETHER THEY WOULD STAY OUT OR PIT WHEN FINAL CAUTION FLEW: "It is my decision. I wanted to stay out. I thought out of 24 cars (on the lead lap) and the car was at the best and only had 26 green flag laps on it, I thought that was our best chance. Didn't pan out. I absolutely thought more guys would stay out. It is Phoenix. It is a short track, less than a 100-laps to go you stay out. We had only just run a short little run, but it proved to be wrong. We just have to get our communication down to understand that we make calls on the pitbox to win races; we don't make calls to run seventh. We don't make pit decisions to run us out of gas.

"No matter what pit sequence we decide on the pitbox, we get ridiculed and criticized by the driver on the race track. It is tough to swallow. It was the same sequence the No. 48 had. We had a good enough car to win today, we just didn't win because of the last pit decision, but leading up to that...we don't ever seem to make the right call for the driver.

"The No. 48 is the No. 48. They are a good well-seasoned team with good chemistry. We have good chemistry, we just can't get good finishes, that is all."

***

Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS, Started 12th, Finished 9th:

ON TODAY'S RACE: "We kind of struggled from the start and never got quite how we needed to be. We just have to keep working. We have high expectations for Homestead. We just have to find a way to run better. We are working hard, we just not quite getting it done."

***

Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, Started 20th, Finished 11th:

ON TODAY'S RACE: "Just frustrating, we fought brake problems all day and just weren't really a factor. Our goal for Homestead is to finish (LAUGHS). It would be good to get another win, but we just have to finish the year strong and not give up anything from behind and we will be fine."

***

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS, Started 34th, Finished 6th:

ON CONTACT WITH JEFF GORDON: "He swerved left."

ON IF HE RACES TITLE CONTENDERS DIFFERENTLY: "I don't care what he does. We have our teammate in the hunt. He ran in to the side of us on the straightaway, he is going to get what he has got coming back and I gave it back to him so I guess we are even."

***

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER IMPALA SS:

ON WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE: "I just lost it off (turn) two. We were gaining on our car a little bit; it was getting a little bit better. I got up there a little high and it just come around. I tried to save it the best I could, but I couldn't."

***

Aric Almirola, No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Impala -- Finished 26th -- Had alternator issues midway through the race

Ryan Pemberton: "Aric had his hands full, but did an outstanding job under adverse conditions," said crew chief Ryan Pemberton. "The alternator quit midway through the race and we had to cut back power inside the car to finish the race. What really hurt was not being able to use the brake blowers like we needed to. The brakes were getting too hot and Aric was not able to get into the corners with full power. That was costly to say the least."

Aric Almirola: "It was a challenge getting the Army Chevy through the corners," said Almirola. "Because we didn't have full braking function, I couldn't get after it as hard as I needed to. We were on a good run until the alternator quit. Though it was disappointing about what happened, it did feel good to be competitive and finish a race. However, it would have been nice to bring home a better result for the Army, especially on Veterans Day."

"This has been a great opportunity to co-drive the Army Chevy with Mark and be part of Dale Earnhardt Inc.," added Almirola, whose 26th-place result was the best of his six career Cup starts. "This was a positive performance today, which makes me even more excited about next year."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr. , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Chad Knaus , Aric Almirola , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports