Indianapolis: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Jimmie and Chad, talking to Rick earlier, he was saying I guess you guys tested at Nashville, canceled your plans to do that. He canceled his plans to be there with you. What did that mean for the organization,...

Continued from part 1

Q: Jimmie and Chad, talking to Rick earlier, he was saying I guess you guys tested at Nashville, canceled your plans to do that. He canceled his plans to be there with you. What did that mean for the organization, not only to have you guys there, but the owner there behind you?

CHAD KNAUS: I actually thought it was pretty cool. We had a 48 car there. We had seat molds made for all of the drivers. All of the drivers drove the 48 car. They all drove the car within I think it was like a couple hundredths of a second of lap time. I got the data sheet that shows all their lap times with the 48 car. I got it framed. Kind of cool.

As far as showing the dedication of Hendrick Motorsports, we talk about it time and time again. The resources we've got there, although not unlimited, they will buckle down and do whatever they have to do to make things happen. That's something that Rick called, asked us to do something collectively to try to get our organization running better. Man, everybody dug in deep. We had the R&D people there, getting tires set up, people working day and night to try to assess everything we had for driving style, cars, setup style, shocks absorbers, everything.

I think it's definitely paid off. It's paid off for everybody. All those guys were able to get in each other's racecars, it kind of gave them a little bit of a security feeling saying, you know, I'm feeling the same thing he is, I've got the same complaints he does. He's adjusting this way. I can go and talk to Alan Gustafson, What's going on there, what are you doing to get it to work? Alan could tell us what they were doing.

It was great to be there. It was a good call by Mr. H to have us all there.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: That test session was great to see the company work together as a whole. I can also say individually the teams have been doing a lot of testing. I've tested more this year than any other year that I've been at the Cup level. It's just been a full assault from every angle at Hendrick Motorsports to get it right.

The tests we did have at Nashville, as Chad pointed out, to get in each other's cars. I can't fit Jeff's car or Casey's car. But I hopped in Junior's car and drove it. I understand his driving style a lot better and I think it's helped our relationship. The other three guys could get in our car.

It's just good stuff to have. You don't have that opportunity. After all the years of driving for Hendrick, I've never driven the 24 car, never felt the 24's setup. I don't think I will, because Rick is a small guy, I can't get in the seat. At least he can get in my car and we can try to bridge that gap.

RICK HENDRICK: I think, to give these guys credit, too, Jimmie and Chad had friends. They were going to Florida. He and Shanny decided they were going to test. The friends went on and Shanny went on. I happened to be down there. He tested every day. It rained here. They moved from Nashville to Kentucky. They did whatever they had to do. He flew in at night, got up early, took off in the morning.

Then this last break, Chad had lined up to go fishing with us.  He called me
up and said, I can't go.  I'm going to stay here and work.

I think we had Coach Jerry Moore from Appalachia come and talk to us last weekend. It's about desire and dedication, who wants it the most. I called Chad out in front of Coach Moore. I said, Chad, you gonna win this championship for us like Appalachia? He said, I'm going to do my best. Coach Moore said, That might not be good enough. Then Chad said, You better be glad I'm not coaching football in this league (laughter).

Q: Chad, at the beginning of the year, the crew chiefs were asked to vote on where they would run the open test. You were one crew chief with one vote. Could you give us some insight as to how that voting went among the crew chiefs, why they didn't come here?

CHAD KNAUS: Quite frankly, even though this is a big event, a lot of prestige, a lot of history, everything about it, it's a very individual type racetrack. So to come here and to test, use one of tests NASCAR is going to allows us to have, really doesn't allow us any other fruit but for this facility. From a crew chief standpoint, not real smart to come here and test. You want to go to a place where you get to actually take some of the information you're getting from the tests you're doing and apply it somewhere else. For instance, if you want to go to Richmond, you can use it at Phoenix, Phoenix you can use at Loudon, Lowe's Motor Speedway, go to Texas and Las Vegas. Those are the types of things you want to do.

We went to Pocono, because nobody tested at Pocono for quite some time. A lot of what we learn at Pocono does apply here at Indianapolis. I think that's why the garage decided to do what it did, because we had come to Indianapolis for so many years in a row. Quite frankly, when you come here and test, you have the same problem every year. About five laps, run the tires, you're done. If you came here and you had ten sets of tires, you can only get five laps at a time, it would be a waste of a lot of time and a lot of money for the same result.

Q: (No microphone.)

CHAD KNAUS: It would have to be more than a handful of cars. But the thing is, you don't know what the tire's going to do till you get here because circumstances and conditions change.

Q: Do any of you know anything different that NASCAR could have done sitting back on the couch and looking at it?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: From my perspective, I don't think so. We didn't realize until the end of practice yesterday or the end of the first practice yesterday that the track really wasn't taking any rubber. Look back through your notes in past conversations, this track, there isn't any sports series racing. The track does not take rubber all that fast. This tire and this car, for whatever reason, just didn't work like it did last year. I don't think we realized and knew we had a problem till we were way, way too late.

Q: Jimmie, Mike Helton always says you're the best drivers in the world. Talk about how close you were able to tell how your tire was doing. A lot of people thought the tires would start blowing seven laps in. Is there any time you were worried, that you got on edge?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Every lap. Every lap I was concerned about it. Every corner, for that matter. You could almost feel the tire life being taken out of it if you leaned too hard. The start of the race we were running 54 second laps. Everybody was taking care of their stuff. At the end we were running like 51s. As a group, we all knew, hey, we can't push the envelope. As the runs went on, I could hear on the radio our lap times kept coming down. The last three or four runs, we were running as hard as we could. Just after the 10 laps, I would have my right rear gone. I knew at least at the end of a seven lap shootout, I could blast it off in there and be okay.

Q: You've won two championships, the 500, now two of these. I don't imagine that gets old. Talk about the emotion after you've been there and done that.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think having a chance to win the second one, now it's just an hour old... I can speak on the second championship. The first one, everything goes by so fast. You don't have a chance to really sit back and enjoy it, savor the moments. I would assume as the next couple days go by, we finish up here, it will really sink in and I'll be able to savor and enjoy this second win.

As we all know, the year has been a little slow for us at times.  We've been
working a lot of hours.  So this win is extremely rewarding in a lot of
ways.  We're very proud of what we've done, to say the least.

Q: Once you guys realized what teams like the 11 were doing with the two tire stops to gain track position, how much of a concern was that for you to continue to come in and take four until the end?

CHAD KNAUS: We knew that was going to happen. Jimmie and I actually spoke about it last night. We felt the Lowe's Chevrolet was going to be good enough today that I could reference back to a race we had in Michigan to where a lot of guys were taking two tires there. We would leave, come in, take four tires, go out fifth, be able to pass those guys back in the first six or seven laps, caution came out, we would do the same thing again.

Like I told Jimmie last night, I thought that's the way the day was going to play out. What we wanted to do was just kind of see. What happens is as your left side tires get hot, as they start to build up, they lose grip. What ultimately that does is when you come in and take right side tires, you leave your hot left side tires on there, that takes total grip away from the car, wears out your right side tires faster.

We wanted to be very conservative, make sure we were here for the end of the race. We opted to do the four tires every time except once just to see what it would do midway until the end, save it for the end of the race.

Q: A lot of us in here have really been impressed with what Kyle Busch has done this year. We've given him a lot of credit for that. Some of us maybe think he's running away with the season. You guys are coming on. Carl Edwards is impressive. How wide open is in championship Chase right now?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Wide open. A hundred percent. It's wide open. You look at Jeff's start last year. I think we were second. He was a couple hundred points, somewhere around there, up on us leaving Richmond. We had more wins, ended up seeded higher than he was.

This thing is wide open. I think you have to look at momentum of teams. The 8 team has been awesome. The 99 has maintained and been awesome all year long. We're gaining a lot of momentum. Two or three weeks of racing up front for the wins I think we'll be right where we want to be when the Chase starts.

The 24 has made a lot of progress.  Started good, had some slow times,
they've been really strong.  There's a lot of racing left.  We've turned
things around in maybe a 10  or 12 race stretch.  We can lose it in a 10  to
12 race stretch.  Technology changes so fast in this sport, then you couple
the Chase into that.  It's a 10 race shootout at the end.
It's not just like the sport used to be.  If it was the old points system,
it would tough to catch the 18 right now.  We'd all have to start wrecking
him before the race started to catch him.  Some guys might want to do that
now because he's so fast.  The Chase is a totally different world.

Q: Chad, did you give your crew any kind of encouragement talk heading into the last pit stop? Jimmie, what are your thoughts during that six second period getting the tires on?

CHAD KNAUS: I didn't really have to give them any big pep talk just prior to the pit stop. We had a pretty good meeting before the race. We do a lot of things together. We work together. We learn together. We grow together. My pit crew has really had to develop. They started off the season very well. We had two new tire changes, a couple of other people kind of moved around. We got about four races into it and, man, the wheels just fell off.

These guys have dug in so deep, practiced so hard, hit the gym, done pit stops, everything you possibly could, to try to get better. They have really been switched on the last couple weeks. I just called it out for the guys in the last pit stop. I said, Guys, we need a five and a half second right side tire stop here. Man, they did it, nailed it.

I could not have been prouder. On call, they did what they needed to do all day long. They were very precise, very consistent action no mistakes, did a phenomenal job.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was just sitting there looking in the mirror. I left the pit box, I didn't see anybody real close to us. As they're doing a right side stop, I'm just waiting for the jack to drop to put it in gear, staring in the mirror, waiting and hoping that we're beating those guys out.

Q: Jimmie, could you talk about trying to break the draft on Carl there toward the end. Because this is a flat track, does draft play more of a factor here than generally recognized? Also, where a lot of guys used to at Daytona really zip back down, you were cutting in, but didn't cut out, would was that to make sure Carl couldn't get under you going into the corners?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The draft is more effective on a straightaway here because the length of the straightaway. These cars, if you get within a car length of the guy in front of you, the lead car punches such a large hole, you suck up really fast. I was just trying I was hopeful I could get like a two or three car gap on Carl and I knew I would be okay. In the turns, the draft is the worst thing for that guy.

So as long as I could let him get close enough for me to adjust the air over my wing, make the car loose, I knew I was going to be all right. Let me make a couple moves. I zigzagged around a little bit. But then I'm like, you know, I'm probably wearing my tires out more and scrubbing speed if I keep snaking around on the straightaway. I would try to pull it off the wall really fast. Just kind of rode down the inside. I don't know why, that's just what I did.

Q: (No microphone.)

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, mainly because I think I would have looked like a fool just driving back and forth. I made a move. He followed me. First few times, he didn't follow me. The first two or three laps he didn't follow me when I moved down. I'm like, All right, this works. Then he started following me. I'm like, All right, I'll just make a move and be done with it.

Q: Rick, I know they put a stop to it, but early on you had Dale Jr. come in before the mandatory caution flag, then everybody else came in. Was that a strategy you were maybe to use throughout the day, having one or two of your cars pit off sequence from everyone else?

RICK HENDRICK: He came in because he had a flat tire I think. Then he stayed out 'cause he just that wasn't planned. We was going to come in with everybody else. But he had a tire going down so he had to pit.

Q: Jimmie, Formula One race here a couple years ago is remembered for the tires. When do you think it comes to the point where people remember today at Jimmie Johnson's second Brickyard victory in three years rather than that race that got all screwed up because of tires?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess I'll have to see what the fans' reaction is. We had short runs without a doubt, but I felt like there was a lot of good racing today. I'm not sure what's overall impression is from the fan base.

But I don't know who won that race with six cars, but the trophy is sitting at his house and he's a happy man. This is going to be sitting at my house and I'm a happy man. Both made a million bucks, too (laughter).

HERB BRANHAM: Guys, congratulations. Great day for us. Thank you.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Mike Helton , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports