FONTANA, CA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Impala SS, put on a dominant performance on the way to winning the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The two-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion led 228...
FONTANA, CA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Impala SS, put on a dominant performance on the way to winning the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The two-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion led 228 of 250 laps to score his third win of the 2008 season.
He became the first driver to win from the pole in 17 races at Auto Club Speedway.
In capturing his 36th career victory and third at the speedway closest to his home town of El Cajon, CA, Johnson secured a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship for the fifth consecutive season. He is third in the standings.
With tonight's victory, Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) has a total of seven (7) wins at ACS, more than any other team owner. It is the fourth victory for HMS this season.
Following tonight's race, Team Chevy has three drivers who have clinched spots in the Chase and three drivers poised to make the Chase next weekend in the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS, finished fourth in tonight's race. It is Harvick's sixth top-five finish of the season and moved him to seventh in the point standings. With a 42nd or better finish next weekend, he will make his way in to the Chase.
Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, finished 10th in the Pepsi 500 and remains 12th in the standings with one race remaining before the start of the Chase. Next weekend, Bowyer needs to finish in front of the drivers sitting in 13th and 14th position to make his second consecutive Chase.
With his 11th place finish, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Impala SS, clinched his spot in the Chase. He currently sits fourth in the standings behind Johnson and has one victory in '08 to start the Chase with 10 bonus points.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, finished 15th and sits 10th in the standings heading to Richmond for the final race prior to the start of the Chase. The four-time NSCS champion needs a 23rd place or better finish to run for his fifth title.
Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS, also secured a berth in the Chase with his 17th place run at ACS. Burton, who has one victory this year and 10 valuable bonus points heading in to the Chase, is currently fifth in points.
The next event and final race before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship is the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 Saturday night, September 6th at Richmond International Raceway.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS -- Finished 11th:
WHEN YOU GET BACK ON THE THROTTLE AND YOU KNOW YOU'RE FULL THROTTLE AND YOU HAVE MOMENTUM ON SOMEBODY, BUT SUDDENLY THE MOMENTUM GOES AWAY AND THEY START PULLING, TALK ABOUT THAT: "Yeah, we had a little bit of an issue in the fuel pump pressure that we had earlier in the season, and we're thinking that it's the pump itself or the gauge is reading the pressure wrong, that there really is no issue, but when you're a driver and you see that gauge flickering around and carrying on and getting low four or five pounds and you get past the corner, you go, 'Hey man, maybe we ought to take a little bigger look at this.' I know if there is a problem, they'll figure it out. I might just be a driver there, just saying, 'Hey man, I need more power,' because I see my gauge ain't working. But it's probably nothing.
"We ran good. We just didn't have track position at the end. We had it early in the race and we were running with those guys but we had a good car, we just weren't able to capitalize on it. We did have a good car. I was happy about that. Tony Jr. did a good job and Rick was doing a little work with us and cheerleading a little bit and that was helping us a lot."
ON THE CHANGES THEY MADE TO THE CAR "We didn't have forward bite off, and it was really bad and we couldn't make it worse. When we were freeing the car up it was rolling in the center better but not getting worse off the corners. So we were gaining a little time in the center of the corner, but we really needed to get the car up off the corner better. We were looking at Jimmie's set up and my set up and we see some of the areas where his stuff could help ours. At least that's what I think. So, congratulations to Jimmie and we're all in the Chase, so that's good. I got my Chase hat on and I'm ready to go."
NOW THAT YOU'RE LOCKED INTO THE CHASE, YOU CAN GO TO RICHMOND AND DRIVE A TRICYCLE AROUND THERE BECAUSE YOU RUN WELL THERE "Yeah, we're going to take back our normal set-up that we ran there last time and try to improve on it. I feel really good about Richmond. We've had some great runs there. And I'm glad we made the Chase this year. A lot of people would have expected us to make it, but we didn't know when the season started.
"I want to thank everybody at Hendrick and all the employees that worked really hard to help us have a good enough year to make the Chase and we'll try to improve a little bit and win some more races before it's over with and battle like hell for that championship."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS -- Finished 17th
ON CLINCHING A SPOT IN THE CHASE: "Yeah, obviously that's the first thing we wanted to get done and really needed to get done. We're disappointed in how we ran. I really thought we were going to run really well tonight. I was really looking forward to it and excited about it and I don't know, it just kind of got away from us and we got loose and never could get caught back up. But we sure did want to perform better than that, but again, we had a goal tonight and we got that accomplished."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS IMPALA SS -- Finished 10th
"We're getting better on these big tracks. We're just kind of inching forward on it. We've really been working hard and I'm proud of this entire team, but we've got to get better. We're still in it.
"This is definitely a step in the right direction for Gil (Martin, crew chief) and the guys on this Jack Daniel's Chevrolet. We're getting better at these big tracks just gotta keep moving forward. These guys have been working hard and I am really proud of this tenth-place finish but we've gotta get better. We are still in it. Its going to be a battle right down to the end and anything can happen at Richmond but none-the-less there is a little bit of confidence knowing that we have come off of a win there."
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FOR NEXT WEEK AT RICHMOND? "It's going to be a battle right down to the end. Anything can happen in Richmond. But nonetheless, there is a little bit of confidence knowing you're coming off a win there."
ON THE RACE "It was a good night for us. It's a step in the right direction. The Jack Daniels Chevrolet was better. That's as good as we've been on a big track in a long time. We're looking forward to Richmond."
ON THE POINTS "It's going to be a battle. I mean I knew it was. We're just going to have to have a good week next week."
YOU KEPT THE NO. 9 AND THE NO. 6 AT BAY TONIGHT. DID YOU KNOW WHERE THEY WERE DURING THE RACE? "Absolutely. You've got to be. You just have to race as hard as you can and that's all you can do. At the end of the day, you've just got to do the best you can and that's all you can ask for. But we had a good night. Everybody did their job and things went well."
WERE YOU NERVOUS THIS WEEK? "Of course, I am (laughter)."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS -- Finished 15th:
IS THE CHASE ON YOUR MIND RIGHT NOW, OR ARE YOU JUST RACING? "Both. We want to perform well. We want to win races. We want to be competitive. I've said before that it doesn't do any good to be in the Chase if you're not competitive enough to win races and battle for the championship. It's about not giving up, fighting, and going to the last lap of every race. Obviously we want to be in the Chase. That's important for our team and our sponsors."
ON GOING TO RICHMOND 'Well, it's not as comfortable as I'd like it to be. I was hoping to have a little bit better run tonight but we got everything out of it that we could and we were pretty much a 15th place car and that's where we ended up. I don't even know what the points are but I think we are going to be better at Richmond than we were here."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION -- Winner:
"It is amazing. To have the fan base that I do here and fans of this sport that we do here means the world to me. Being in my home state the (Jimmie Johnson) Foundation on the side of the car, this is an awesome race. To do it with style like that and have the dominant car all night long. The longest it took me to do anything tonight was to get out of the car and I apologize for that.
"This is a big credit to the hard work that has been going in to this race team trying to get our stuff where it needs to be. These guys have been working hard and it has been paying off and tonight was a showing of that. It was a good performance.
"We have been doing the right things and those guys have been getting the credit they (Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards) deserve. They have been on par and kicking butt and winning races. The only way we can be a part of that is go out and do that and we did that tonight. I am very happy.
There is still a little bit of a gap to those guys. The No. 99 and the No. 18 have been awesome all season. More than anything, I am just happy that we have got pace and then when we have the car right, we can run away with the race like the No. 18 and the No. 99 has.
"We are coming off a good day and we have had some bad days but we have still been competitive. I feel like we are very well rounded and I am excited for the Chase.
"The car was really good, especially the first 15 or 20 laps. One time we elected for four when some other guys went for two and one time we had a little trouble, but when you have a car like that, it is easy to make it back up on the track.
"I want to thank the fans for their support and being involved and watching NASCAR on a special weekend. I also want to say that our hearts and thoughts are with the Gfeller family with the tragedy that happened last week."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 29 LOWE'S IMPALA SS:
"A lot of work went in to this at Hendrick Motorsports in the engine department and the chassis department. We went and tested at Kentucky last week. This is the same car that we had at Indianapolis and it ran so well there. I can't say enough the team did a very good job and Jimmie is obviously very switched-on. Our friend Bob Gfeller from Lowe's and his family suffered the tragic loss of their son Matthew last week and we all hurt for that. This one is for the Gfellers. We want to thank them for their support."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS -- Finished 4th:
"I tell you, our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet was really good tonight at the beginning of the race and we were able to get through traffic when it seemed like a lot of guys were struggling tonight and the guys just did a great job tonight and the best the car was, was the last run tonight. That was quite an accomplishment because usually I either tune it out or we get caught doing something wrong but we have been on a roll and it seems like we are peaking at the right time.
"This is supposed to be our worst place here. To come away with a top-five speaks a lot for Todd Berrier and what they have done over the last couple of months to get our car to where they need to be. I am looking forward to getting going in the last 11 weeks.
"Usually here we finish about 25th so we are excited and looking forward to the next few weeks."
-credit: gm racing