Jimmie Johnson Pulls off Incredible Comeback to Finish Second at Atlanta and Extend Lead In Championship Chase; Chevrolet Takes Lead In Manufacturers' Cup Standings with Three Races Remaining in the Season Hampton, GA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 ...
Jimmie Johnson Pulls off Incredible Comeback to Finish Second at Atlanta and Extend Lead In Championship Chase; Chevrolet Takes Lead In Manufacturers' Cup Standings with Three Races Remaining in the Season
Hampton, GA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Impala SS, pulled off an incredible comeback at Atlanta Motor Speedway to finish second and extend his lead in the Championship Chase to 183 points.
The finish moved Chevrolet to the lead in the Manufacturers' Cup standings with three races remaining in the season.
Johnson started on the pole when qualifying was canceled due to rain and took the lead at the start of the race. He held the point for the first 20 laps of the 325-lap race and would lead again for eight additional laps from laps 38 to 45.
But, disaster struck on lap 89 when the defending, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was penalized for speeding on pit road. After serving a pass-through penalty under green flag conditions, Johnson resumed competition in 30th place, one lap down.
When the caution flag flew on lap 132, Johnson was able to get the "Lucky Dog" pass for being the first car one-lap down and rejoin the lead-lap competitors.
The Chad Knaus-led team kept working on the handling of Johnson's Impala SS and he worked his way back up through the field.
Johnson was fifth (5th) in the order when the last restart came on lap 318 and flew past the competition to finish second, his 14th top-five finish of the season.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette White Ice Mint Impala SS, finished 10th in the Pep Boys Auto 500. The four-time NSCS champion now sits sixth in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Impala SS, was 11th at the checkered flag. Earnhardt, Jr. is now 10th in the points.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS, finished 13th in round seven of the Chase after recovering from a late race pit road speeding penalty. Harvick now sits fifth in the standings.
Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS, battled handling problems and recovered from going a lap down only to be involved in multi-car incident on the 304th lap. Burton's Scott Miller-led crew was able to make enough repairs to his Chevy to keep him on the lead lap in the 18th finishing position. Burton dropped to fourth in the standings, 218 points down to Johnson.
Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, finished 20th in the final order and sits seventh in the standings.
Round eight of the Chase to the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be November 2 at Texas Motor Speedway.
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS -- Finished 18th
"Well, we just didn't run very good. And we got ourselves in position to get a Lucky Dog and we got that. And then as soon as we got the Lucky Dog, we got in a wreck. The wreck, they got three-wide in front of me going into the corner and I wanted to go to the bottom, thinking that was the safest place to go. And I was under the NO. 22 (Dave Blaney) and he was just in a bad spot and he looked like he got really loose and started down and we got together. I don't know. I guess I should have just stayed on the outside. But I thought the inside was safer for everybody. Anyway, we got together and I don't know, it was probably as much my fault as it was his. But we didn't run very good, that's for sure. I'm really disappointed in how we ran. We were nervous coming in about how we were going to run. The first run of the race, we were good. But then from then on we were pretty much in trouble. The AT&T team did a great job keeping me on the lead lap. It's a tough day for us in the points but we'll go to Texas and try to rebound."
WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON GOING A LAP DOWN EARLY IN THE RACE, IT SEEMED LIKE YOU WOULD HAVE A CHANCE TO PICK UP SOME GROUND. "Well, the way we ran today we weren't on that thing about picking ground up, we were thinking about just getting competitive."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS:
WHAT WAS YOUR HOPE? WHERE DID YOU HOPE TO FINISH AFTER GIVING UP THAT TRACK POSITION? "I wanted to get in the top five. I felt like we could do a top five pretty easily at that point. I felt like if we just stayed where we were at in seventh, I don't know if we would have finished in the top 10."
ON HOW HE KEEPS CALM AND ENCOURAGES JIMMIE ON THE RADIO "That's what it is. When situations arise you've got to have a team that's capable of pulling it back out. The driver and everybody's got to contribute, from the spotter to everywhere. But it doesn't seem like any of these championships or any of these races come easy anymore, so to get that setback early in the race was kind of nice to get it (then) and get it out of the way."
WERE YOU COUNTING POINTS? "Hey, we're going out to win, man. Wins and top fives; that's what we get paid to do. If we do all that, the championships will come."
IS EVERYBODY RACING FOR SECOND NOW? "I don't know. You guys make that story."
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, FINISHED 11TH: "We were real tight on new tires for five or 10 laps, then we made too many adjustments tightening the car up. We got banged around on pit road, man.
"The No. 2 had somebody on the outside of him and the No. 99 was coming out of his stall, I think that hurt probably the worst and knocked the toe around. The fenders is all tore up on it.
"I am just frustrated. We should have run sixth or seventh there. We work too hard to run like that, but I don't know what we could have done differently. I couldn't anticipate what was going to happen on pit road or do anything different. Just adjusting on the car.
"When the sun come down on us in turn one and you can't see and everybody, well I couldn't see any of my marks to get down in the corner. I didn't know where I was going when I got off in there. I didn't know where I was going to end up. The last 50 laps wasn't no fun.
"I was running on the bottom and once the sun is in your eyes you can't see the corner, so you can't aim to where you want to go and hit your marks. It is stupid, we should start the race earlier, but the networks want it later for attendance and this and that and the other but it makes the end of the race terrible.
"I was real loose. We tried to work on that and we got too tight at the end. A couple of guys got the tires there at the end and beat us.
"We just start the race too late, you can't see going in to one and how can you race around a corner when you can't see going in to it. How are we supposed to hit our marks at 180 mile an hour when you can't see the rest of the corner? We need to start the race at 12:00 o'clock like we are supposed to, quit this 2:00 o'clock mess and finish these races where you can see going off in to the corner. I was getting around the bottom pretty good and once the sun got in my eyes, I couldn't hit my marks because I couldn't see them anymore.
"It was tough at there at the end. We were going all right until about 30 to go, then we had a little of a tough day. But, three to go, we will see.
"We knew when the windshield tear-off got stuck the wind was going to take it off.
"Jimmie and the No. 48, they are a good team man, they are going to win the championship. They are the best team in this sport. They have been the best team for three years.
TOUGH DAY FOR YOU. "Yeah, I'd seen guys today have tougher afternoon but we were sitting there like we was going to run fifth with 50 laps to go. We crashed on pit road with a bunch of guys. Then we might have adjusted on our car too much, made it too tight. The sun was coming down and blocking everybody's vision getting into (turn) one so I lost all my marks getting down into the bottom of the corner. We just couldn't get around the race track after that."
TOOK A HIT ON THE POINTS I GUESS A LITTLE BIT TODAY, WHAT'S YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES? "Same as it was when I came to Atlanta. Do the best you can. I don't know what my outlook is supposed to be. I just go out and do my job."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIEL'S IMPALA SS, FINISHED 20TH:
"We just couldn't get the Jack Daniel's Chevrolet to where I could race with the guys who we running up front. The car was so loose that I couldn't drive early on and then when we finally got it tightened up, it would swing back to loose on a dime. That's what we fought all day. Gil (crew chief Gil Martin) and the guys threw everything at it but the kitchen sink but we couldn't gain much ground no matter what we did."
MARTIN TRUEX, JR., NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS IMPALA SS, FINISHED 15TH:
"It was a good run for us, although we would've liked for it to be better. A top 10 would've been nice. Looking back we probably should've pitted and got tires on that last caution, but chose to say out. We've had some bad luck here, so well take it and get ready for Texas."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS, FINISHED 13TH:
"It was a tough day for our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet. The guys worked hard on pit road to try and make the car better and at times, we really did make some gains. But we started out tight and then it would go loose, then we would adjust again and it would go back tight. It was just a frustrating race but Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and the guys never gave up, they kept working on it. We got the pit road penalty late in the race there but we were able to drive back up through and get a decent finish. Just go on to Texas."
STEVE LETARTE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DUPONT / NICORETTE WHITE ICE MINT IMPALA SS -- Finished 9th:
TALK ABOUT THE WAY THE NO. 48 TEAM JUST SEEMS TO HANDLE ANYTHING THAT IS THROWN AT THEM "Well, I think we're good as a company like that. It's no different than us at Charlotte when we went a lap down and we came back from it. There's no doubt they are a veteran team. They've won back-to-back championships. Anybody who thought they were down and out with the Lucky Dog only being a lap down, they were going to be pretty foolish. But they had a decent car and Jimmie just put a show on there at the end. It was pretty impressive."
IS EVERYBODY RUNNING FOR SECOND NOW? "I don't even know what the points are but no, not until they give him the trophy. Until It's mathematically over, it's never over. I've learned that in this sport."
EVERYBODY IS ON DIFFERENT ROUTINES OR CYCLES AND YOU WERE ABOUT WHERE JOHNSON WAS RIGHT BEFORE THAT LAST RESTART. WHAT LED TO YOUR DECISION TO DO WHAT YOU DID AT THE END? "We were a cycle ahead of them. We came the time before. So we had four laps on our tires; he had nine. I think it worked out okay. I knew we were better than the four or five in front of us. So we beat three in the end and I think the No. 6 and the No. 48 got us on new tires. So we gained one spot. I'd have to see. When all of them wrecked, I wasn't really in the mood to go all the way to the back. Plus, like I said, we were a little fresher. We were like the best spot on the middle set of tires there. The guys in front of us were older and the guys behind us were the same as us and then Jimmie was a few back. It didn't work out."
WOULD YOU HAVE TAKEN THAT CHANCE IF YOU WERE CHAD KNAUS? "Yeah, if you think you have a car that can go up through there, yeah. I mean Monday morning, I'm wishing I would have taken it. But yeah, why not? He knew what we had. Like I said, he was older than us on tires, so I didn't hear the radio conversation. I must have assumed that they didn't think they could beat the guys coming from behind, and that's what you saw. We ran the No. 2 down and the No. 88 down. All them guys who were on old tires were going to be in big trouble."
EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT HOW TOUGH IT IS TO PASS ONCE YOU GET BACK IN TRAFFIC, OR IS THAT NOT AS IMPRESSIVE BECAUSE TIRES MEAN THAT MUCH? "It's the one track, mismatched tires, clean air. A single-file restart makes a huge difference. He knows what he's doing. He's a smart driver. He's very good. He was working the middle down there in (turns) 3 and 4. So I mean, they took advantage of it. Man, that's what you need to do. That's how you win championships."
DOES THAT TEAM EVER HAVE A BAD RACE? "Oh, yes. I've been around them. Everybody has a bad race. They've had some this year I know they haven't been very proud of. We're just trying to build on it. We had a good car, a decent run. We had one run that wasn't very good and we just kind of ended up average."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- Finished 2nd
IN THE END WAS THAT THE BEST YOUR CAR HAD BEEN THIS ENTIRE RACE? "We had segments where it was better but having new tires verses those other guys. That was just a great call. I mean a risky call but it just shows that Chad's (Knaus, crew chief) out there racing he's not trying to ride around and just get points. He's out there trying to earn them. He called me in for tires and told me to put my cape on and off we went. I'm very happy that we got second place today.
"This Kobalt Tools Chevrolet was good. I guess I made a mistake getting onto pit road and got nailed for a speeding violation and then we just fought and fought and fought to get back. I'm leaving here very happy. That's almost like a win today."
PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SAY YOU GUYS JUST HAVE THIS MAGIC ABOUT YOU, YOU SAID IT WASN'T NECESSARILY THE BEST THE CAR HAD BEEN BUT ON THE RESTART WITH EIGHT TO GO YOU GUYS WERE 11TH AND THEN YOU WENT ALL THE WAY TO SECOND, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? "It was fun. It was great passing all those guys. I had to go down and thank Denny (Hamlin) for not getting into me. I got to his outside going into (turn) three and I think it affected his car a little bit and got him loose. Fortunately he didn't get me so I had to thank him for that. This track has turned into like an oversized Darlington. It's just a tough, tough place to get hold of. They (Goodyear) came in with a new tire and the tire didn't give us much help or relief especially if we were sideways, everybody was all day long. It was a tough day."
HOW DID YOU COME BACK FROM WHERE YOU WERE? "I guess I got in trouble for speeding on pit road and we just tried to recover from that all day long. We had a good car and we could get up through traffic. We had great stops that helped me out. Then we just kept getting there one at a time and I kind of stalled out in seventh and those guys all had fresh tires behind us so I felt like we were a sitting duck. With it being a single-file restart there are the end with lead-lap cars only, Chad's like man let's come in and give it a shot and it worked out well. Certainly an aggressive play on Chad's behalf but that's what's got us into this position."
TALK ABOUT RUNNING DENNY (HAMLIN) DOWN THERE IN THE FINAL LAPS. "Yeah, just got a great run on him to the outside and I had to go down and thank him for not getting into me. I guess when I got to his outside it affected the air around his car and I saw him sideways. Thankfully he kept it off of us so I had to go thank him for that. Just good tough racing."
RICK HENDRICK, OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
ON CHAD'S DECISION TO PIT: "He has one of best feels for how a race will go and what he needs to do. He never flinches. I would never be able to make that call - never."
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON: Jimmie is just phenomenal. That combination is unbelievable but Jimmie Johnson has so much talent and so much confidence. He knows exactly what that car is capable of doing and he'll put it in places where you'd think, 'No way.' I think it was his off-record experience but, man, he can drive a car out of control and be under control. He knows he has a feel for what the car can do. I'm just glad I don't have to race against him.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT / NICORETTE WHITE ICE MINT IMPALA SS -- FINISHED 9TH:
NOT THE BEST DAY FOR YOU "Yeah, we were good at times and we just kept trying to make it better. Man, we made some adjustments trying to get the grip back in it. The track really changed on us and so we struggled there at the end and we were fortunate we got the caution to get the four tires and then that next caution ended up costing us. So we'll take it. A top 10 was a good points day."
ON THE NO. 48 HAVING A ROLLER COASTER DAY. "I don't think we were really realistically looking at the top spot. We were just looking at what is realistic for us (like) a maybe a third, fourth, or something like that. We definitely closed the gap there. So as long as the No. 48 keeps doing what they're doing. They showed today they are a great race team and they had a great call there at the end by Chad Knaus to come in when they did. The caution came out at the right time and boom, those guys take not a great day and turn it into something really good."
IS EVERYBODY REALLY PLAYING FOR SECOND PLACE NOW? "I think so. Anything can happen still at any time. And with our points system, all it takes is one devastating day to close it right up. And Carl (Edwards) is doing his job. I mean, he really is. I feel like he's been the guy I've had my eye on to be the biggest threat. And you look at how good he ran at Martinsville last week, which isn't one of his best tracks, and then you look at the run today, he's doing what he needs to do. But that No. 48, they're just tough."
THE FACT THAT THEY WENT IN FOR FOUR TIRES THERE AT THE END AND LOSE SOME TRACK POSITION AND THEN JUST BLOW BY EVERYBODY, IS THAT A GAMBLE AT THAT POINT OR WOULD A LOT OF TEAMS HAVE DONE THAT? "It was a gamble. The reason it didn't work as well for us is because we weren't single file. We were double file. I was sitting there and had the car to go, but I couldn't go anywhere. I was blocked. So when it's single file like that, the caution fell at just the perfect time for those guys to come in and make that call and I kind of hate it we didn't come in with them. I think we would have been a lot better than where we were. But we only had like three laps on the tires, so we knew we couldn't. And when it was single file like that, there is just no stopping a guy on new tires."
CAN YOU GET EXCITED ABOUT TRYING TO CATCH UP AND RUN IN SECOND PLACE? "Well I'm excited about where we are up against fifth and fourth and maybe third. I don't know if we can get to second, but I think realistically we're trying to get in the top five."
-credit: gm racing