Continued from part 1 Q: Just comment on starting the Race for the Chase with this kind of statement victory, please. JIMMIE JOHNSON: Running good at this track and Dover earlier in the year, it's really important to us, and we all focus...
Continued from part 1
Q: Just comment on starting the Race for the Chase with this kind of statement victory, please.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Running good at this track and Dover earlier in the year, it's really important to us, and we all focus on those tracks that will come back again in the Chase.
To win here is big for us. We have been a Top-10 car for the last couple of years and a Top-5 car and now back to victory lane. We have always enjoyed racing here and we loved coming up here to run on this track, and very thankful to have our stuff together and it's not too far away before we come back for the start of the Chase.
We had a great starting point and I know I learned a lot today and I'm sure Chad did as well, and our organization; Jeff ran well. I know we'll go home and debrief and be a lot smarter, even when we come back.
Q: Chad, can you kind of comment on what's going on, I know you know not intimately what's going on with the Roush Fenway cars, but you were ready to put Edwards down, and not a single Roush Fenway car on the lead lap at the end of the race. Are you surprised they have fallen so far, so fast when it was Carl and Jimmie just a couple of years ago battling for the championship?
CHAD KNAUS: Man, it's tough. This is a very, very difficult sport. It's very easy -- you know, honestly, I'm not surprised. They have taken on quite a feat with the RPM cars, Gillette cars, or I don't know what those cars are, the 9 and 19 and the 43; to do all of that stuff, along with the four cars that they have got in-house, maintaining those cars, along the with Nationwide cars, there's a lot going on.
And as you begin to tear up race cars and just like what Jimmie was speaking about before, when we had a couple of weeks or a three-week stretch there where we were wrecking race cars, we got behind, and obviously we operate on a much smaller level than what the Roush camp does. So when those guys go through and tear up the race cars and have bad finishes and things go on, it's easy to lose track of what's going on and lose sight of the goal.
I think that that's probably what's going on with him Sometimes you . just get too big and you can't make it happen .
Q: Talked about this last week, two weeks ago you were 20 points behind Hamlin, looking for bonus points, we have nine more races in the Race to the Chase. Wins become so much more important to you now; can you comment a little about that for these next nine races?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, they do. The ten points are really important. It's nice to be even with Denny, and to have a gap on some of the other guys right now. As excited as I get for having this bonus, you know, I guess we have 30 over the 18, if it was now, or whoever it is? It's not a lot.
I mean, it's worth having; I would rather have the 30 points than not, but if you look at Texas last year, we lost a hundred points. This year we have had a couple 30th place finishes, you quickly lose a hundred points. It's nice. We'll take them. It gives the team a lot of confidence. It puts us in a prime position going into the Chase.
But you still have to go perform in those final ten races and not have DNFs and really, finish better than 15th. I know everybody is focused on winning, but I think Top 15s with how competitive things are, maybe even Top 10's, are a must to win the championship.
Q: The whole talk for the last couple of days has been about last week, the rough driving and what we might be expecting in these next few races, and then we have a race like today where we have four caution flags and only two in the first 280-some laps. Are you a little surprised at how clean today's race was?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: To be honest, I'm confused. For a while there, our sport was boring. (Laughter) Then we wrecked the crap out of them last week and now all of a sudden we have a problem because everybody is wrecking and now this week it wasn't as exciting.
I don't know how to really respond any more to questions to be honest with you.
I think at the end of the day, the cars are so equal that it is very frustrating inside the car, and I saw things today out of guys that I've raced with for years that I did not expect to see.
So the frustration is there; when you have a chance to sends someone, you're going to take it. It's just that energy exists right now in the garage area, and maybe -- maybe guys didn't have their opportunities today, but it's a long season and you get the right opportunity; I still think you will see it.
I just don't know how to really think, like I was saying in the big picture, I think we are doing really exciting things on the racetrack and I would assume a lot of people, that's what they have been hoping for and wanting for a long time. I guess you've got to be careful what you wish for I guess.
Q: Can you explain for define how you go from aggression to analysis, essentially those last few laps, being able to drive with that sense of aggression but keeping it in control, or am I giving you too much credit and you're just a madman behind the wheel in essence, and if you learned this, how did you go through this process and is there a time when that aggression hurts you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, experience helps you maintain and do the right things in those moments. The first lap that he got by me, I changed my reference points on the track. I drove a different line. The car didn't act how I needed it to, and I lost full ground to him on that first lap. I was out of my rhythm, out of sync, furious and that helped me really focus.
I'm like, you know what, if I don't block it out and focus on what I did all day long, the line I drove to set my race car up, I won't even have a chance to get to him.
So I went back to my rhythm and doing my thing, and when I got two or three corners behind me, a lot of that frustration went by, left, and my goal was, just get close enough to him, because I won this race. I was going to pay him back.
The opportunity came and I had plenty of time left, and I knew that I was better than he was, and in three or four short laps, my blood pressure returned to a normal state and I handled it in the correct manner.
I don't know what really does it. I have to put a lot of weight into the fact that I knew that if I didn't drive my rhythm and how the car needed to be driven, I wouldn't even have a chance to win the race. And I think that rhythm kind of brought me back around and got me thinking clearly again.
Q: Is there a time in the past when getting out of rhythm cost you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't have anything off the top of my head, any particular instances, but you make mistakes through the race when something goes on and you just constantly grow in that department.
Q: For as long as you've been working with Jimmie, when this incident first took place, what were your first thoughts? Were you thinking Jimmie is going to be pissed and go out there and try to wreck him? In this instance laps were winding down quite quickly and you still had an opportunity to win.
CHAD KNAUS: You know, I don't know what went through my head. I knew the thing that I had to try to do was try to get into Jimmie's head and get him calmed down as best I could. Try to explain to him that there were laps to go; that he had plenty of time and the cars with a faster than his and what Kurt's was.
And I felt like if he went at least a couple of laps, if we could at least maintain that distance with Kurt, he would be okay, because like he said, Jimmie calms down quickly once he gets into a race car and into a rhythm. Once we got into it, just say, okay, everybody we're doing a good job, still got four to go or whatever the situation was.
Obviously it's a soothing feeling when you see the car you're trying to catch in front of you and you're closing on him rather quickly. Other than that, it wasn't that big of a deal. I hated it. I didn't want it to go down like that, I would have rather he checked out obviously, but definitely made it pretty damned exciting.
Q: Obviously we talked a lot about Jimmie's composure and championship mettle, but did this team arrive here not just for the start of the Chase but in full Chase mode now; and you guys are driving -- you're beginning your drive right now instead of waiting until nine races from now?
CHAD KNAUS: We are still trying to find our foothold on where we want the race cars and what we are looking for. I think with what we saw today, there are ways we can make our race car considerably better for when we come back.
So I'm excited about that. We had a good race car but I think we can be much, much better when we come. We are not focussed on the Chase right now. Obviously we are taking good notes. Here, we ran well. Dover, we ran very well. Those are two very important races that are in the Chase. So we have got those in our pocket and we have got the set ups that we ran here in our pocket.
But we are worried about making the case and that's what we have got to do. We are focused on that. If you lose sight of that goal, something can jump up and bite you and you won't even make it, so that's what we are worried about right now.
Q: I know when the new spoiler came out, you guys, maybe Gibbs came out firing but now seems like you have your first win on an oval with the new spoiler and the organization as a whole ran well; is it safe to say you have gotten over the hump there with those challenges that you found?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I don't think it was really a big spoiler thing. Denny won in Texas, but we -- if we had went another corner, we'd have passed Denny and we'd have won that race. We had the fastest car at that track. Some of the other races, Dover, I feel like that we had the best race car there, especially for the long run. Kyle had the best car for the short at the end of the race.
I think that it's easy to get misconstrued and once again see that we don't have what we need. Are we as fast as we want to be? Absolutely not. We are always looking for ways to get faster.
And when you guys say, are you experimenting, do you have the same setup, we have never run the same setup twice anywhere at any racetrack. We don't have a pocket setup and say, hey, we are going to take this and put this in. We are always experimenting and trying to improve. Have we caught the Gibbs cars? I don't know that we have ever lost touch with them. Are we trying to improve our product? Absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations and thank you for your time.