Daytona Duel: Race 1: Winning team press conference

Gatorade Duels at Daytona Post-Race News Conference February 11, 2010 An interview with JIMMIE JOHNSON CHAD KNAUS KERRY THARP: We'll continue our post race press conference here. The crew chief of today's winner is Chad Knaus, the No. 48...

Gatorade Duels at Daytona Post-Race News Conference
February 11, 2010

An interview with
JIMMIE JOHNSON
CHAD KNAUS

KERRY THARP: We'll continue our post race press conference here. The crew chief of today's winner is Chad Knaus, the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. The margin of victory today, .005 seconds, the second closest margin of victory at a Gatorade Duel since electronic scoring was implemented, the closest was point .004 in Duel No. 2 in 2001.

Chad, talk about those last couple laps there with the 48 car. ertainly Cstrong performance there towards the end.

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, you know, obviously we had a very eventful weekend to date with crashing our 500 primary car and needing to bring our Bud Shootout car as the car to take its place.

We started in the back, worked our way through the field quickly. Got up to 10th or 12th. What happens is you kind of get stalled out. The top three guys can kind of shuffle around a little bit. But the three or four rows behind that, right now with the short runs, they just kind of get stagnant, not a whole lot happens.

When that caution came out, we decided to stay out and see what would happen. It was a go-for-broke move. We never won a 150. We wanted to try to make that happen, so we went for it.

I thought a couple other people would stay out. I was a little nervous, I'm not going to lie. But it worked out pretty well.

KERRY THARP: Questions for Chad.

Q: Looks like the 24 car might be going to a backup as well. Can you talk about if they'll be sending the car back to Charlotte and if you have your 48 back in Daytona yet.

CHAD KNAUS: We've made some trips back and forth to Charlotte, haven't we? Between the 5 car wrecking a couple times, us and the 24...

I haven't had an opportunity to talk to Steve or see what the 24 car looks like. He has a car here. Whether or not it's the car he wants to race, I don't know. I know there's another car in the transporter that we took back to Charlotte that will be coming back this evening, another 24 car. I think it will be up to him to determine what car he wants or if he wants to fix the one they've got.

I honestly don't know how bad their car is. You guys would probably know better than I.

Q: Jimmie was in here yesterday and he was asked about momentum carrying over, whether other teams can be intimidated. He said the only way we can intimidate people is win and keep winning. After a sketchy, you know, sort of start with the shootout, how much does coming out with a backup car and winning today help you going forward?

CHAD KNAUS: I think it's huge. Obviously the shootout, although we all want to win that race, that was one of those races that it was going to be, Look, we're either going to win it or we're going to keep this racecar. We knew it was a good car we had in the shootout. With as much track time as you have here, you better have some bullets left in your gun as you're rolling through the week.

When we fell back, we went conservative, let's make sure we finish this thing.

I think going out there and winning races and rebounding from things that happen is the strength of this team. I think it speaks volumes about what we can do.

Jimmie gets an awful lot of credit for what went on out there today. He drove masterfully. He was at a complete disadvantage to those guys and he out drove them. I think that is another thing that bodes well for him and the team.

Q: Now that you can pick your pit stall, can you start from the back?

CHAD KNAUS: Could I or would I?

Q: Either one.

CHAD KNAUS: I couldn't, no. Well, yeah, we'd have to crash, then we could. That's why that car went back to Charlotte to get fixed, in case that happens. This car is a very good racecar. I think we proved that right there.

So, no, we have every intention of running this car in the 500. We finished second in this car in July to Tony and ran in the top five all race long. I think this car is more than capable of winning this race. We're going to put every effort forward to make this happen.

Q: Chad, how hard is it to clone a car, to get it to be almost like the car that you originally had here?

CHAD KNAUS: It's tough. But we do a really good job of documenting what the differences are in the racecars so we know how to adjust them. We made some significant changes to our cars from the shootout to the point we raced today. We were able to take exactly what we had in the car yesterday before we crashed and convert that over through some relatively simple math and put it in this racecar.

As long as you have good documentation, know you have a good car, you can make it happen.

KERRY THARP: We'll take a couple more for Chad, then hear from Jimmie.

Q: Chad, you were talking about Jimmie deserves an awful lot of credit for today. Can you talk about that door-to-door last hundred yards with Kevin, the job Jimmie had to do to win that. What happened to you at the driver meeting today? Not like your OCD personality not to show up.

CHAD KNAUS: Actually, I can't wait to see the photos. Anybody seen the car coming across? Was it sideways? I think it was awesome. Jimmie did a fantastic job. Like I said, we put him out there at a disadvantage to try to win the race because it was really a situation where we didn't have a whole lot to lose. If we were going to sit around and run 15th or 12th, start 24th in the 500, hell, that's not any fun. We need to go for the win.

That was our mindset going into it. We were going to go for it win. Whether that was him putting himself in a position to go for it or something we had to do to make it happen. I think he did a fantastic job of blocking those guys. He had two teammates behind him and a very aggressive Kyle Busch behind him, and he was able to hold them off. I think that speaks volumes about how good the car is and what a good restrictor plate racer Jimmie is, and what a good spotter we have, for that matter.

As far as me being late to the drivers' meeting, the original schedule said 11:40 for the driver crew chief meeting, so I was not informed there was a change in time. That was why I was a little late. Thank you for pointing it out to everybody. Appreciate it (smiling).

KERRY THARP: Chad, we'll let you go.

Our winner of our first Gatorade Duel today, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Gave us an exciting finish down there at the end. Talk about those last couple laps.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Really didn't know how many laps we had left. I was hopeful it was going to be done soon. My spotter wasn't really sure. As I went by the start/finish line sideways, I looked up and hoped that it was the checkered because I felt like I was going to spin out. I stayed on the gas, saved it. Everybody else let off around me, I knew the race was over.

My spotter and I both, he was spotting for me, I was still on the gas. Certainly an exciting final few laps. With the car on older tires, the push I was getting from the RCR cars and from the 18, when they get close to the rear bumper of my car, literally would start turning the wheel to the right to save it. It stuck. Didn't turn around on me.

Thankful I made it back. I think we put on one heck of a race.

KERRY THARP: Questions now for Jimmie.

Q: When you got here last week, you told us you often have a fear during the off-season, you forget how to drive. After today, is that the affirmation you need you didn't forget anything during the off-season?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It helps. After the shootout, I ran well at the start, then we started fading. Inside the car, I was just wondering if I lost my touch with restrictor plate racing or what the deal was. The thought still went through my mind.

When the car was back in the pits, I looked at the right rear tire, it was down to the fabric. I knew it was more than something I was doing. We had way too loose of a racecar.

But to answer your question, stuff goes on in my head. Even though we won today, and I've won two plate races, I don't win a lot on plate tracks, so I still feel like I'm learning. I learned a lot on the other car. And just before it went away, had confidence in myself and my abilities on plate tracks. I'm searching for those still right now. Today is a big step in that direction. I have to figure out how to restrictor plate race better with the COT. That's one of my goals.

Q: Chad talked about the steps he went through to get the settings on the car. What do you go through from one car to another in such a short period of time?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: For us, we were lucky to end the shootout with this car, no damage to it. The things I was concerned about, the tire rubs, the cockpit comfort things, we'd been through that. Mirrors were set. Everything from my standpoint was fine.

I was a little disappointed, going off of Chad's emotion, the other car is better and you want your best bullet for the Daytona 500. Our plan today was to go out and race as hard as we could, take chances, see if we could win. If we could win with this car, we would sleep well the nights leading up to the 500. Clearly we're going to be snoozing well.

Q: Has Snoop Dog called you yet?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I haven't heard from him. I did a lame impression of him. Might be calling me to tell me to step it up (laughter). The part I left out, he asked me what was cracking. I forgot to mention that on HBO. Doug Duchardt sent me the urban dictionary to help me understand what 'cracking' meant. There's quite a few definitions for it.

Q: You know what's popping then?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I have to look that one up, too (laughter).

Q: Are these wins important for you? They don't count for points or anything. Is a win a win in NASCAR?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Without a doubt. Again, for myself, I've not won a plate race with the COT. This helps me a lot with my confidence. New guys on pit road, new guys on the team. What we've gone through going to a backup car. Even if you look at the company, Mark has been through two cars, we've been through a car, Jeff has been through a car. I mean, to win the pole, take the front row, I guess, for HMS cars, to win this one so far, it helps back at the shop, morale, all those types of things.

It does a lot for the company, for sure.

Q: The situation you were placed in there at the end of the race, as Chad said, he put you at a disadvantage. What kind of message did you send to everyone today by being at that disadvantage at the end?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I hope it says that we can win the Daytona 500, and to take us seriously. I don't think I've been proving myself in that regard on track since the COT has been around. We ran well in the July race here last year. But outside of that, we've been looking for a variance in setup, I've been trying to understand the draft better. I think things are coming together.

I hope they're concerned about us for the 500. I don't think today's racing and even Sunday's racing does much to influence the season and what's to come. But, you know, for this weekend, everybody wants this big prize, everybody wants to win the Daytona 500. I think we sent a message today.

Q: You said yesterday the only way you can have any intimidation is by winning races. How much does this do in that regard?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It helps. It really does. I think it does help.

If I was the other guys, I would look at it and say, It was a 150, not everybody was in the race, it wasn't a downforce track, doesn't speak to the championship, what the bulk of the season is about. I guess I would find a way to not let it affect me. We keep doing these things, after a while they stack up. When they stack up, I look forward to that. Hopefully we can do it.

Q: Danica has been getting a lot of exposure this week. Do any of the big-name drivers, like yourself, are you offended at all she gets all this attention? NASCAR made a lot of changes to make the races more exciting. How important is it for the 500 this week to put on a good show?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I think it's really important to put on a good show. And I think Danica being here, being a part of it, adds to the buzz, adds to the hits that our sport is getting, the viewership. It's all kind of together for me.

The way I look at it, we need every racer, regardless of gender or sex, in NASCAR competing. I think the best drivers in the world are here, and I invite any and all of them to race with us. If we continue to do that, we continue to separate ourselves from other forms of motorsports.

In North America we're clearly the largest. Juan's involvement, you look when Dario was here, Jacques coming in, there's been a variety of open-wheel people coming in to try it.

I'm glad she's here and the fans she's bringing in. The thing that is going to be tough for her, she doesn't even get out of the car to get a bottle of Gatorade without a camera on her. So at some point, that stuff is going to be aggravating. As long as she's used to it and ready for it, she's going to do a good job with it. There's going to be bumps in the road for us her. It's all gone well for her so far, but if it's not this weekend, it's going to be California, and it's just because rookies make mistakes. It doesn't matter how much experience you have.

I think I went through 15 cars in my rookie Cup season. I had two years of ASA, two years of Nationwide, and then to Cup. So it's going to happen. I'm excited people are tuning in. We need our sport to be on TV and in the public's eye more than anything else.

Q: You've run enough now to have a pretty good idea of what to expect Sunday with the bigger plates and track conditions. Who do you think you have to beat?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's hard to say. Gibbs cars look good. I think our stuff is going well, the Hendrick cars. Stewart. McMurray is really, really good at plate driving. I think he's going to be a factor. I think the 9 will be a factor.

But in the end, what I've seen so far from practice to the shootout, then this last race, the big plate allows the car to stay in a tighter pack in some respects. That's good for exciting racing. But the cars are so blunt and punch such a big hole in the air, you can't complete a pass up front. So you get two-by-two, you get stuck there. You see the line. The outside will just almost clear, then doesn't. The inside almost clears and doesn't. I think that's because the front of the car is so big, you get a push, it dies out before it has a chance to clear that other vehicle.

So when that goes on, you just sit there two-by-two and there's not much movement in the pack. You see movement in the middle of the pack where guys have to let off because of turbulent air, and there's a gap, and somebody chances lanes side-to-side, but there's not a lot of changing up front.

I think track position is going to be very, very important. I think we'll see a lot of two-wide racing, but not as much passing for the lead as we want. I don't know how we fix that. I think this was a good effort. Maybe it will turn out to be so in the race. It just seems right now we sit side-by-side.

Q: Based off what you're saying, how do you have to change as a driver, how are things changing? A lot of guys are saying being out on the track seems like it's the July race, slipping and sliding around so much. How do you have to change your strategies or what do you have to think more of in the car considering this? Different beast than what it has been in the past.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I saw some familiar things in our first run, in the 150. I think we went 26 or 27 laps without a caution. We were single file. It was familiar to what we see down here. Then we got bunched up after that and we really stayed side-by-side. I guess the cautions came and helped us there.

I'm still learning. To be honest, I don't have a clear-cut vision yet of where I need to be, what position I need to put the team in. I think being at the head of a line is really the key thing. If I was to pick one, the outside or the inside, energy is created, depends on who is pushing, how cars are handling, what's going to happen. If you can somehow position yourself up front. I think it showed today in duels. I was up front at the head of the line and I could maintain.

Q: You were talking about Danica being in a fishbowl. What has it been like doing this HBO special? They've been pretty intrusive, it seems.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Not in a negative way. They've been there capturing everything they can. The way this whole thing came about, I was such a fan of the 24/7 shows, from my side I said to CAA, the agency that helps us with some things, If you can, I want to do this show. So it came from me and went in. So I'm onboard. I didn't have to be sold to be a part of the 24/7 shows.

I've really been excited about it. And the crew, they've worked with so many professional athletes in tense situations, they can sense when it's time to leave me alone, Chad alone, the team dynamics. It's been different for sure, but it hasn't been a bad experience at all. I hope it's reached a whole new group of fans out there tuning in.

KERRY THARP: Jimmie, congratulations. We certainly look forward to you racing on Sunday. Thank you.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus , Kyle Busch