Jimmie Johnson - ...
- #48 Lowe's Chevrolet - Winner
Post-Race Press Conference
It was just a real solid day for the Lowe's team today. We started the race off great and led some laps. The middle part of the race, it seemed like the Roush cars all showed up at the same time. Four of them to deal with. And then as the race went on, I noticed that the #17 had some trouble. I saw the #16 and I was coming to lap him and I didn't really know what happened there. #97 got caught in the pits, I believe. So, there's a few different things going on. At the end, there was the #6 of those lead Roush cars that were there to deal with. I got by him and inched out a nice lead. The cautions started to come at that point, and just took a risk on some strategy. We played it safe before and we were second-guessing ourselves a little bit, but four tires was definitely the way to go. I got the lead within a couple of laps. At the end I had my teammate. I got away from him on the second to last restart. On the second restart with the green-white-checkered, he was all over me and ran me real hard, which he's supposed to do. And it was a great race. I'm just thankful to bring the Lowe's Monte Carlo in victory lane. And I need to thank the #5 team. Those guys have been great team players and worked really well with us along with all of our other teammates, but the #5 were up here two weeks ago in testing and carried it over and put it into the #48 car and took advantage of it. It was a good day for the whole Hendrick organization.
RE: #5 CAR IN YOUR MIRROR AT THE END
Well, that's all you can ask for-just enough room to race. You know, everybody gets aggressive at times. I felt comfortable leading the race, knowing my teammate was back there. If it was somebody else I don't think I would have had the same comfort. So, from my perspective I knew I had to stay up front and do my job. I didn't have any concerns over any aggressive driving.
WHEN WAS THE TEST SESSION THAT THE #5 TEAM DID AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THAT?
They came up a couple of weeks ago-I think two or three weeks ago. So much changes throughout the course of the season that they were able to come up and prove out some setup ideas that we've had. And to be honest with you, it's so tought to test here that we haven't been up to test in a couple of years, so I don't think Hendrick Motorsports have any up-to-date data. So, they were able to come up and test and helped the entire organization by collecting some data testing for us up here. And we were able to come back here and made it work. So, just kind of the whole package, really. They were able to work through some things. We were able to look at the data and make some good guesses and some good decisions and come back with the right stuff.
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO TEST HERE?
With the concrete, it's dusty, it seems, for half the day. And then, as you get into the second day you finally start putting rubber down and this track changes as the rubber goes down. So, unless you have 10-15 cars here, it's really tough to have conditions that you'll see in a race. It's bitten us before. We like to come here because it helps the driver out but the conditions on the track don't crossover.
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE TIGHTNESS OF THE CHASE RIGHT NOW?
It's going to be like that in a 10-race battle. You've got to believe that anybody is a threat. We've had some guys have some bad luck and slip back some. If anybody can make it clean, I don't know who it will be. I hope it's us. If anybody can make it clean and have a clean race car and not have a D.N.F. and not finishing in 30th, they'll probably be the champion. It's been our goal. We lost one last year by eight points and we had some troubles at the start of the Chase. And this year, hopefully we'll make the right decisions and not have any weird things happen to us and I won't make any mistakes on the track and stay clean throughout.
DID YOU GIVE THE #5 CAR SOME IDEAS TO TAKE TO THE TEST WITH? IF BOTH CARS HAD THE SAME SETUP AND THEY WERE EQUAL, WHY WERE YOU BETTER AT THE END WHEN IT COUNTED?
There wasn't much separating us. I'm not sure. There's so much that goes on during a race. Driving styles and adjustments and what the tires do and buildups and stuff that happens during the race. It's hard to keep cars identical throughout it. We started pretty close and that's what we've always tried to do at Hendrick Motorsports-use all the resources we have to us, use all our teammates. And I think you all know well how things started off for us and the #24 team. Times change and we're all trying to look around to make sure that we use all the resources and just get everything right. It's such a tough sport. And I just have to thank Chad for digging in and looking and doing everything he does to get all the options out there because it worked well for today.
DID YOU SEND SPECIFIC IDEAS TO THE #5 TEAM FOR THEIR TEST?
(ANSWER BY CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF)
No, that was 100% their test. They came up here and they took some stuff that they had learned in the past and some stuff that we worked with in the past and both of us actually ran here in the spring. They modified it a little bit and made it a lot better. And what they were able to do was go to Lowe's Motor Speedway with the same setup because the setups are very comparable between Dover and Lowe's. They refined it some more and when we came up here we felt we had a pretty good package.
I think one big factor involved is testing. And when a team chooses to test. We've been saving our test sessions. Been saving a lot for the final ten. We've tested, what? Three times in the last month. We've got three test sessions ahead of us. So, we fortunately got off to a good start and we didn't need to use up our test sessions. On top of that, our sport is so tough and times are always changing. And new stuff is coming along. Other teams are working hard. It's really hard to know why you go from dominating to running 10th. Before you know it, it can happen. We've seen it happen this year with a number of teams and drivers, where they hit a hot streak, they're on in for a little bit, then everybody catches up and passes them up. And then they're slow for a little bit. It's just one of the cycles. If we could time it right every year and peak right at the end of the year, we'd be the champion for the next ten years. There's no way you can plan it out and expect it to run that way every year. You have to show up everyday and give 100% and see what happens.
CONSIDERING ROUSH AND TONY STEWART AND HOW THEY'VE BEEN LATELY, ARE YOU CONSIDERED ALMOST AN AFTERTHOUGHT GOING INTO THIS CHASE?
I'm not really sure what the perception is outside of the team, but I know the perception inside of the team and that's that we are a championship team and we've been waiting for the final ten to get here. We've just got to do our job. That's all there is to it. We can't focus on what other teams are doing, who is doing good, who isn't. We have all the tools at Hendrick Motorsports and resources. It's up to us to do our job. If we give 100% at the end of the year, we may be the champion, we may not, but at least we know we gave 100%. That's all we've done every year and that's all we'll continue to do.
No, I don't think any of the competitors.maybe some of the outside perception from media and in the press might say we're an afterthought just because we haven't run up to the #48 car standard as of late, but I think the competition out there knows we're a force to be reckoned with week in and week out at the race track. The guys at the #24 and #48 shop build a great product and we come to the track with great engines and we've got some great, reliable teammates that we bounce ideas off of. I don't think, as you say, we're an afterthought. I don't know what the perception will be after today, obviously, but I think we stuck to our gameplan even when it was painful at times. We were out there running 10th, 11th spot when we wanted to go test, we just knew it wasn't the time to start that just yet. So, we stuck to our game plan and we started testing like Jimmie said and tested three times in the last month. It's helped our communication level, it's helped our race team. We've had a bunch of brand new race cars on the race track, so it's full steam ahead.
IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT AFTER THREE OR FOUR YEARS IN THE SERIES, DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS START TO LEARN HOW TO WIN LONGER RACES. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?
Yeah, I think that experience in our sport really, really goes a long way. And if you watched Mark Martin today, I had my eye on him all day long considering how strong his car was in practice. And he's been there, done that. There's no need to get too aggressive and tear stuff up. At the end, once we had the long runs.and in fact Chad came to me before the race and said, look, there's going to be some long runs at the end of this deal, so stay safe until then. Then at the end we can make up time and we can be aggressive and we can race hard. It played off like that. That's exactly what Mark's strategy was and due to experience and being through some mistakes, being too aggressive at times.
Yeah, I agree 100%. We've been in situations, I think, if you look in our rookie year and in our sophomore year where we went out and were a little bit too aggressive and gave away some races that we shouldn't have. But we have been very, very strong in the long races. The 600 mile race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, we do very well there obviously. The 500 mile race at a lot of other race tracks we do well. So we've worked on our communication level over the years and it's definitely peaking right now. It's at an all-time high.
THE RACE WAS RELATIVELY INCIDENT FREE. HOW MUCH OF WHAT MIKE HELTON SAID HAVE AN EFFECT WITH THAT?
I don't think it had to do with the first blow, but if somebody was crashed I think that the second part of it, or the retaliation, wouldn't have been there. You know, everybody is out there racing hard. I didn't see a big difference in how everybody was racing out there, to be honest with you. Once we put our helmets on, it's all about racing at that point.
RE: RUSTY AND MARK MARTIN AND WHERE THEY ARE IN THE POINTS RIGHT NOW
I wouldn't say least likely. I think Mark Martin last year showed that it doesn't matter what your age is that you can still be competitive. And I respect both of them so much. I noticed all day long. The #6, I chased him for quite a bit and then under cautions and when we got strung out I'd see the blue hood coming up behind me and see Rusty back there. Those guys-they are great race car drivers. It doesn't matter their age. They know what they are doing. They have experience and I think they are a serious threat for the championship.
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT ROUSH IS STRUGGLING THE CHASE?
It's tough to have five cars run well all the time. If you look at their performance and speed today, I chased four of them for a long time and I thought they were up to speed and doing a great job. I'm not sure what led to each problem for those guys at the end. So, I can't really comment on it too much. But they seemed plenty fast to me.
RE: NEMECHEK HOLDING YOU UP AT THE END OF THE RACE WHEN HE WAS GOING TO GET A LAP DOWN
Yeah, I wasn't real happy on the radio at that point. I understand he's racing to stay on the lead lap and hoping for the caution to come out. But, being inside of somebody is pretty difficult here and especially coming off the turn. There were a couple of close calls where I almost spun off inside of him and got a little upset. But fortunately it didn't have an effect on the outcome of the race.
RE: TALLADEGA COMING UP
I'm excited to go. I think when you're the points leader you want the season to be over right then and there. It doesn't matter how many races in the Chase you are, so from here on out as the points leader, there is some pressure being on you in that position. But, I don't think we're going to think about it too much. It doesn't do us any good with a track like Talladega where there is so much on the line. We have Martinsville coming up. The truth is you can't control what's going on around you. So, we'll go to Talladega. I know we'll have a great race car. I know my teammates are going to be strong. And I know I'll have some good help out there from my teammates and we'll be in good shape.
RE: COIN FROM THE MILITARY THAT WAS GIVEN TO YOU, CHAD KNAUS, BEFORE THE RACE?
Yeah, he came up to me. He was a crew chief for at the air mobility command division. He gave it to me and it's very neat. I'm friends with some of the guys that are crew chiefs with the Thunderbirds and some of the guys from some of the other divisions and it was kind of neat to get this. I enjoy getting them. I've got about 20 of them in a little tray on my office and I tinker with them all of the time. It's pretty cool.
I guarantee it's going to be in my pocket the rest of the year!
HOW MUCH DID ROBBIE LOOMIS WORK WITH YOU THIS WEEK AND DID THAT HELP YOU OUT AT ALL?
Robbie has been a huge asset to myself more so than anything else with the race car, I would say, from a mental standpoint. He's a good shoulder for me to lean on and talk to and bounce things off of. For those of you that know Robbie, he's a very calming individual and he has a good sense about him and he has been through a championship chase and he has good eyes. He can see what some of the other guys are doing, watch their lap times and he gives me that information when we're practicing. And then when I was trying to figure out our race setup, I shot him a call and said, what do you think about this, what do you think about that, and he can give me a different angle then maybe some of the other crew chiefs wouldn't. One, we're racing against them, obviously, so they don't want to be too totally honest. But two, their minds are filled with what they are doing with their race car. He is being unbiased. He can give me an honest, truthful answer so he's a definite asset.