A red flag restart with five laps to go shuffled the finishing order for Chevy drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Michigan International Speedway. The Hendrick Motorspsorts teammates finished 5th & 14th (respectively) and are now tied for...
A red flag restart with five laps to go shuffled the finishing order for Chevy drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Michigan International Speedway. The Hendrick Motorspsorts teammates finished 5th & 14th (respectively) and are now tied for second place in the Winston Cup point standings. Michael Waltrip's fourth place finish was his third top-five of the season. Post-race comments follow:
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo (finished 14th - remains in 2nd place in the point standings):
On the incident with Ryan Newman
"He's aggressive, but he didn't wreck me. He just broke our momentum and it was over from there. So I can't be upset with it. He raced me hard. That's how it is. I've just got to be smarter next time and remember who I'm racing, that's all.
"He (Newman) didn't do anything. He was in the right. He got a great finish out of it. I'm disappointed that we didn't come home with a better finish, but that's how it is. He drove it (his car) off into the bottom below me. It loosened him up. Once I heard he was in there, I just should have given him the room and just stayed in the second groove."
On the restart, do you think you had a good chance of finishing second or even winning?
"Yeah, when we got restarted, I figured we could hold our own. I've got to remember who I'm racing and pay attention to that stuff next time so I don't fall victim to it. I was just disappointed to see the caution come out as late as it did. You work so hard all day long on strategy and all the stuff that happens and then a late race caution jumbles it up. But it was a great race for the fans. I'm sure everyone in the stands enjoyed it."
Did you have enough to get around Kenseth?
"Nope. Once our momentum got broken, we got really tight. I was just hoping we'd get strung out and I could hold my own at that point, but it didn't end up working out."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo (finished 5th and moved into a 2nd place tie with Jimmie Johnson in the point standings):
"I'm shaking my head, I can't believe it. We were going along and things weren't going our way and then all of a sudden something happens like that and we finish fifth. We were a fifth place car, I felt like - maybe even better if cautions hadn't fallen the way they did. We got stuck a lap down and had to fight our way back and these guys did an excellent job just keeping me pumped up and keeping us in this thing. We got back on the lead lap. We were basically going to sit back there and finish 14th. The car just wouldn't go forward.
"And then that red flag came out and we went in there (pitted) and got four (tires). We had no other choice. We were the last car on the lead lap. We came in and got four tires and that Chevy just took off. I went to the high side and went through the middle and we were four wide and it was pretty hairy. But it all worked out. Both me and Jarrett - it looked like it worked out real well for him. I don't know if he got four (tires), but to be able to get up there and get a top five (finish), that's awesome."
When you go a lap down that early in the race, how hard is it to be patient and try to get it back and have a chance to get up front for the win?
"The patience part is that you have to wait for the right opportunity and the right moment. But then the aggressiveness comes because you can't just ride around there. You've got to ride really, really hard to get your lap back. These guys are fighting to keep a guy like me down. Nobody wanted me to get my lap back - probably because we finished fifth tells you why. But they were working us over pretty hard to keep us from getting that lap back. We were just thankful to get it."
On his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, finishing 14th
"They had an unfortunate deal there where the red flag didn't pay off for them but it paid off big for me. You never know how they're going to fall. It just went in our direction today.
Did you see the move the No. 12 (Ryan Newman) made on the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) with a couple of laps to go?
"No, but nothing would surprise me."
Do you have to play the defense with aggressive drivers?
"Sometimes you've just got to stay clear of them and sometimes you have to give them back their own medicine. It's unfortunate because sometimes guys forget how fast we're going out there and you don't need to be doing stuff like that out there.
"You know, it's just one of those deals. I don't know what the situation was but I've dealt with young, aggressive guys before and sometimes when it's early in the race, you've got to let them go. But when it's late in the race, you've got to race everybody hard. They're racing you extremely hard and you've just got to take it on the chin sometimes, and then wait for your opportunity to -- not necessarily put it back to them - but make the same type of move and make it stick for you."
On coming back from a lap down?
"I'm real happy. I felt like we had a fifth or sixth place car and for us to lose a lap was pretty disappointing. We just needed to keep freeing the car up. The caution fell and got us a lap down. But then we got up there in the clean air, and man I'll tell you that thing was flying. Then we got our lap back and went to the back of the pack and then I was just junk. And again, that dirty air back there - the cars just do not drive the same when you get behind a bunch of cars.
"Luckily, we were able to get four tires there at the end or we would have never finished where we did."
On Dale Jarrett not giving him his lap back when the caution came out
"I agree with what he was doing, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be happy with it. I'd probably do the same thing to him. He heard that the caution might be coming out and he made a pretty strong move to pass me because he knew he didn't want me to be on the lead lap. And (later) we got our lap back and finished fifth. And that's why not many guys would give me my lap back. That's why I don't give many guys their lap back either."
Did you give him a tap for it?
"Oh, I don't know. I just said, 'Hello'."