Loudon II: Chase leaders post race interview, part 1

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, Leader in the Chase Standings Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, Finished Second Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Impala SS, Finished Third ON TODAY'S RACE: JIMMIE JOHNSON: "Really today was a race...

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, Leader in the Chase Standings
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, Finished Second
Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Impala SS, Finished Third


JIMMIE JOHNSON: "Really today was a race for second spot. The No. 07 was so much better than everybody else. Obviously big congratulations to Clint (Bowyer) for winning his first one. There were times when I felt like we could run second and beat the No. 24 and the No. 20. Then other times like at the end, we just lost a little bit trying to adjust on the car. I just didn't have the speed that we needed. But still to leave here with a sixth place finish we are real happy about that. Last year we left here 39th or something like that, so we are off to a much better start than the last time."


JIMMIE JOHNSON: "I think watching him in the Busch Series and now in the Cup Series, he has been aggressive when he needs to be, and smart and points races other times when he needs to. I remember watching him win at Phoenix earlier this year in a Busch car in a real strong fight I think with Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. At that point I recognized that Clint really picked up what he needed to and had the confidence he needed to get in to the Chase and that would be someone we would be fighting with. Today it all came together for him and I made a trip to victory lane to congratulate him because I just know how sweet that first victory is and he is a great guy, we have similar backgrounds and is a lot of fun to be around so I am very happy for him."


JIMMIE JOHNSON: "We have been in that situation before. When you get everything right, especially on a long haul like that, you have to look at how long that last run was. If you have a tenth of a second on the field after 50 or 60 laps, you are going to have a six second lead. It happens. We have had good cars like that before. We have run away. I think of Richmond when we won last week, we had a huge lead at the end. When things are right and you hit it right, you can make the other guys look pretty far off."


JEFF GORDON: "I look at the entire race and for us starting 18th got us a little bit behind. I was a little disappointed in how we qualified, but the effort put out today was fantastic. I couldn't have been more happy to be able to drive up through there, had great pit stops, I thought Steve (Letarte, crew chief) called a great race and the car was really good. It wasn't quite good enough for Bowyer, but congratulations to him. He did a great job. Would have liked to have been a little big closer to him, we made a few adjustments there at the end. I just wasn't very good on short runs, we made some adjustments to get better on the short runs which worked out but then over the long run, we gave up a little bit there. I had a real tough time with lapped traffic, a lot of guys were battling for position so it is kind of understandable, but made it really tough for some of the leaders to get through there and come home second. How do you complain about that? This is a great way to get the Chase started for us."


JEFF GORDON: "I was actually happy to not see practice. To me it is better for us, when we have less practice. There were a couple of things I felt like we needed to work on to make ourselves better, but overall I was pretty happy with the car today and we were able to base off of our setup the last time we were here and the little bit of race practice we did on Friday. Obviously, we weren't the best car today, but to be second best, I am pretty happy about that. I don't know if that is a leveler or not. To me practice the more time you have on the track, sometimes, the more spread things out and guys get a chance to really find something great and sometimes, it just gets everybody closer together. I don't know how you can really weigh that out."


JEFF GORDON: "No, I just think we have a good team, good communication and to me, I think the less practice that we have, the better off we are. I just think that is the way our team works and maybe it just fits our driving, it just seems to be the case where ever we go."


JEFF GORDON: "I am real happy for him, I think everybody is happy for Clint. To see a guy, especially when you are up in New York and nobody gave Clint Bowyer a shot at the championship. I think today was a real statement for him. I am sure he has a little grin going as well. I think it just proves that anybody in the top-12 can win this championship. If you are going to win your first one, man, this is the way and time to do it. That was pretty cool. He was dominant; he was so stong today. That one time when Tony and I both took two, he came out there and I was impressed that Tony was able to stay in front of him as long as he did. But, man, once he got that lead, man, Wow, it was incredible."


TONY STEWART: "The No. 07 was the class of the field for sure today. It is pretty neat for him to win. It is fun to have watched guys in the last nine years get their first wins; it is normally a real dominant performance. That is what really makes these first wins special. You look at somebody like Clint who has had good cars and really has made a big step from last year, his rookie year, he has been in a couple positions to actually get a win this year, or at least a to9p-five and a shot at winning, then something has always happened. But a day like today, there was nothing going to happen to him. He was just rock-solid and strong all day. It is fun when you have got a car that drives like that, it makes that first win very memorable."


JEFF GORDON: "I am just happy with the day that we had. I don't care who we would have finished second to, I would have been pretty happy to come home second today. To me, you have to capitalize on the tracks you run good at. This is a good track for us and I was just glad to do that and stay out of trouble. Wherever the points fall right now, it is what you do over 10 races, not what you do in one race. We did what we needed to do today; hopefully we can carry that next week to Dover and try to pull off another top-five. You guys can make up all the stories and create whatever you want out of that whole losing the points lead thing. I am pretty sure that is what it said in the rule book when we started the season, that that was what was going to happen to the points situation. I won't be surprised if they change it next year though. They always seem to tweak it a little bit; it will be funny if they do that. You know what, I am just ha ppy to be where we are at. "

ON HOW MUCH BETTER A CAR LIKE BOWYER HAD TODAY THAN THE GUYS HE BEAT: (Gordon to Stewart - "You are the educator, I couldn't keep up with the math, so I don't know how I am going to educate anybody here'' LAUGHS)

TONY STEWART: "You are right, I think it shows how competitive the series is now. It doesn't take much for somebody to really stand out if they have hit on something. Jeff, myself, Kyle (Busch), we all weren't that far off, we were just enough off every lap, like Jimmie said, five seconds, it doesn't take long in 50 laps to get a five second lead. To think about 43 cars out there and having the top-five guys that close to each other, it is pretty impressive to see. There was good racing out there on the track today (laughs) for the exception of Clint - everybody else all had good races. Jeff and I had good races. Kyle and I did. Kurt Busch and I did, everybody did. There was a lot of action going on out there today. When you got in lapped traffic those guys were busy with their own races.

JEFF GORDON: INTERJECTS: "I swear those lapped cars must have come out of the pits right behind Bowyer because they were all racing for position so hard between him and us."

TONY STEWART: "You never caught them single, you caught them in groups three-wide. But that just showed there was good racing all over the race track today and it was just spread out between the field. I mean, it wasn't just two or three guys that had good battles all day. There were good battles all the way through the lineup."

ON CATCHING BOWYER, HOW IMPRESSIVE HIS ABILITY WAS TO JUST PULL AWAY: Gordon interjects to Stewart: "Did you catch him? Who caught him? (Laughs) I never even saw him."

TONY STEWART: "That was the only thing we caught was lapped traffic all day. "


TONY STEWART: "That he can win a race at the right time. I don't think he was trying to make a statement, I think he was trying to do what we try to do every week, and he tried to win a race. It is you guy's job to figure out what the statement he just made. Or wait until he comes in the media center, he can tell you what statement he is making."


JEFF GORDON: "Yes definitely. You have to look at who you are racing, not for just race wins, but for the championship. I think Tony will second this. I think the brakes, tires, engine; everything is about gone on those cars, even though it was a short race. I were driving really, really hard today it just seemed like every single lap, we were driving as hard as we could. I think it just shows everybody is stepping up because you know now that the real race is on and you have to get everything you can out of the car every single lap. You have to keep the guys in your sites if you are, who you are racing. Hopefully, you can put them in your mirror. When it is a day like today and there are so many of the Chase guys up front, then you have to race with them and be there and do it week in and week out. It just seems to me that the hardest thing about consistency over 10 races is when you get to a Talladega, or you get somew here and one little thing happens, you find yourself 25th or 40th or something like that. That it where you realize just how hard it is to be consistent over 10 races."

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Clint Bowyer