Martinsville, VA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, scored his seventh victory of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) season in the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Today's win at the famed Virginia short track was the defending...
Martinsville, VA - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, scored his seventh victory of the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) season in the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Today's win at the famed Virginia short track was the defending NNCS champion's third consecutive win and fourth overall in 12 starts at Martinsville.
In claiming his 30th career victory, Johnson scored the 23rd win of 2007 for Team Chevy, tying the 2006 scorecard, and the 12th victory for both the Impala SS and the Chevy R07 engine.
Johnson led four times during the afternoon for a total of 147 laps in the caution-mired race. The 21 yellow flags for a total of 127 laps were records for a Martinsville NNCS race.
Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) teammate, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, continue a fierce battle for the championship. Gordon's lead is now 53 points over Johnson after his third place run at Martinsville.
Gordon led two times during the 506-lap race that finished under caution for a total of 168 laps.
The third Team Chevy driver in the top-five finishers of the Subway 500 was HMS driver Kyle Busch, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Impala SS who came home in fourth. Busch remains sixth in the standings, 290 points down to the leader.
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Freight Impala SS, finished sixth at Martinsville. Hamlin moved up one spot to eighth in the standings, 374 points out of the lead with four races remaining in the season.
Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, remains third in the standings after rallying from 21st starting position and a day that kept him mired deep in the running order to finish ninth. The Richard Childress Racing (RCR) driver is 115 points behind the leader.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS, finished 10th at Martinsville and moved up one position in the standings to seventh, 369 points down to Gordon. Harvick and his RCR team also fought track position throughout the day and rallied back to a top-10.
Virginia native, Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS and the third RCR driver in the Chase, finished12th in today's race. The solid finish moved him up one spot in the Chase order to ninth, 406 out of the lead.
Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Impala SS and Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, finished 13th in the Subway 500 to remain fourth in the Chase, 249 points behind Gordon.
The NNCS moves to Atlanta Motor Speedway on October 28 for the 33rd race of the season and round seven of the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
STEVE LETARTE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS
YOU HAD A PROBLEM WITH YOUR LEFT REAR AND A FEW STOP, BUT STILL PULLED OFF A DECENT FINISH: "Yeah, that's how this team has done it all year long. Even when we make mistakes we fight through them and we came back with a top five. It was a great day nonetheless. It was a great car. Jimmie (Johnson) had a little bit better car on the short runs. We had a little better car on the long runs. The race just didn't fall our way."
HOW PLEASED ARE YOU WITH YOUR PIT CREW TO DEAL WITH ADVERSITY? "Well there is no doubt. They are definitely an experienced team. They make great pit stops all year long. They got us out there in the lead on the last pit stop. We can't keep getting lucky and come from behind. We've got to work on mistakes. But you know, I'm proud of the car and proud of the effort and think we have a 50-some-odd point lead and I'm excited for the last four races."
KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S / CARQUEST IMPALA SS
ON THE RACE: "It was a good day for the Kellogg's Chevrolet. It was a lot of fun out there. We led some laps and got up front there for a while. We had a good car. We just got off track position a little bit there on pit stop sequence and we were able to get back up through there passing some guys and whatnot. So it was a good, solid day for us; and a good solid day in the points. If we didn't have two wrecks I think we'd be right there challenging for this thing. But we're not making much up to the guys in front of us, but that's all right. We'll get what we can and finish out the year strong."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS
ON BEATING AND BANGING WITH RYAN NEWMAN AT THE END: "I wasn't very good on short runs there and I just couldn't get down into the corners; and Ryan (Newman) looked like he was pretty good there on the shorter runs. I kind of held him up. He got me up the race track and then I gave him room and we slammed pretty good there. I wasn't real happy about it. But it's no big deal. He didn't mean to do that and he understands why we were upset and that's all good. It was a great race for us. We had some trouble on pit road and to be able to rebound from that and come back and get a top five finish, we've got to be real happy about that. I think Jimmie (Johnson) had the car to beat really for most of the day if not all the day. And he certainly had it there at the end on those short runs and we just didn't need those short runs. We needed longer runs. I felt with about 100 (laps) to go we were going to see green all the way. But that wasn't the case."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER IMPALA SS
"We had a real fast car and ran in the top-five all day long. We broke a valve spring somewhere in the first 50 laps and were running on seven cylinders all day. We were just so good anyhow, that we were still better than most of the field with seven cylinders. It finally broke there right at the end. Too many cautions and restarts in the last 50 laps and the valve springs kept breaking and broke the motor even worse and finally blew up.
"When you break an inner valve it comes and goes. It will run halfway decent sometimes, then it will run real bad sometimes.
"It was very rough out there today. You had to dish it back out, though. I mean every time I got ran in to, I ran right back in to them or they are just going to keep doing it to you. I ain't going to get pushed around out there. You get angry but you get back to racing and get back to what your job is. A bunch of them drove it to my door and I would put it back in them in the next corner, we drove right back in to them. It was pretty fun.
"I am not upset at all. We had a great day. I had a lot of fun. We ran really good, even on seven cylinders we had a popping and spitting motor down the straight away. I put those tail pipes in those other boys ears so they could hear we were on seven cylinders and still driving by them. It was pretty fun. I am proud of my team, the car they built and gave me to race. It was really good, it drove great and we were competitive so I am not sad. I am sad for Tony Gibson and the whole team because they deserve better finishes than this. But I can deal with it."
ON IF THIS WAS ONE OF THE ROUGHEST MARTINSVILLE RACES ON THE TRACK? "It was very rough for me. I saw a lot of roughness, I was part of a lot of roughness, I was a cause of some of it. But my crew chief said I wasn't sticking out like a sore thumb, that I was not different than anyone else when it came to being rough. These new cars are pretty tough and they can handle.
"You can drive right in there with these Impala SS cars, you don't even worry about it. You just drive right in the side of them if they make you made. This thing won't knock the tow out of or anything, I beat mine off the wall, off other cars and it still drove great."
DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX IMPALA SS:
"It was definitely a fight for us. We struggled getting track position. Every time we would come in the pits, we would lose 10 or 15 spots, a lot of those because of the body damage we had. It was a struggle to get track position. I feel like we passed more cars than anyone out there, it was a real fight to get to sixth.
"We had some body damage from contact with someone out there and it prevented us from getting our left front on during pit stops. Every time we came in, I had to turn the wheel one way. It just made out pit stops, I don't think we had anything less than about a 20 second stop all day. But when you have body damage out on the track, that is what happens. We just kept doing things to get track position, taking less tires than the guys in front of us, so we could never really size up the guys in front of us, the No. 24 and No. 48.
"I feel good about our finish today. We definitely have to take steps in this whole Chase deal and top-10 is a good step for us to try to get back to the top-five in points. That is the real feasible goal we have right now."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- Winner:
TALK ABOUT RESTARTS AND CAUTION FLAGS: "Yeah, those last restarts were tough on me. I'm not the best for cutting a fast lap here, I'm better on long runs. And I think our cars were set-up that way too. It's just our style here. So I was nervous with the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) behind us and I was able to hold him off; and then the No. 12 (Ryan Newman) got in there and I knew he was going to be real tough on a short run too. But things worked out for us. I just can't thank these guys for working as hard as they do to put us in position to wins race and fight for a championship."
HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU ABOUT RYAN NEWMAN WHEN HE GOT AROUND JEFF GORDON? "I know he's hungry. He's been working real hard to get back to victory lane. So I knew he wasn't going to cut me any slack. He was just doing his job. So it was good, clean, hard racing."
IT TOOK YOU A LONG TIME TO TAKE THE LEAD. HOW WAS THE HANDLING EARLY ON AND WHAT CHANGES DID YOU AND CHAD KNAUS MAKE? "I really think the car was right on the short runs. But there is something about my technique and the way I drive this track that the longer the run, the slicker the track gets, the better I am. And at the start, some guys were running really fast and I just couldn't go that fast yet -- not until the track got really slick and you had to get creative with lines. That's also what kind of hurt me at the end in the shootout is that the No. 12 and No. 24 and even the No. 20 (Tony Stewart) in the past are really good on the short runs and the green-white-checkered finish."
WAS THERE ANY DISCUSSION FROM MR. HENDRICK WITH YOU AND JEFF GORDON AND HOW YOU WERE GOING TO RACE EACH OTHER TOWARD THE END? "No, not at all. I know that Jeff is going to do everything that he can to win and I'm going to do the same. We have a great deal of respect for one another and we're just not going to wreck each other. It was just good hard racing. I had to give him a shot in the bumper to get by and he was putting some pressure back on me at the end but then the No.12 got him."
RICK HENDRICK, OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
"This race has a lot of emotion for me. It is hard to come up here, but it is better to be here than to be at home. This race is the first Cup race my Dad every brought me too. I got Richard Petty's autograph in turn four I believe it was on the grass.
"I am real proud of our organization, this has been a good track for us. We have four more to go and hopefully don't have any bad races. I told everybody this morning, there are just as many races left, as we have run so we could be just like some of the other guys if luck isn't on our side. We don't need any good luck right now, we just don't need any bad luck."
ON KEEPING TEAM UNITY AND MORALE ON NO. 24/48 TEAM: "About 60% of the guys in the No. 24/48 shop work on the cars together, the road crew is the only difference. They are in there together all the time. They are proud, sure everybody wants to beat the other guy; they see us all getting better and better and better. I have told them this year, last year, year before that, you won't get beat from the outside in this business once you get the momentum, it is going to happen from the inside, so big challenge here the next four races, hopefully it is down to the two of us, I hope it is. But whether it is one of our cars or two of them, we just have to stay focused and do what we do every week and not panic, not change any thing. Just like our motor guys before Talladega, they worked the weekend before Talladega, they tore down every engine we had because we found one oil ring that didn't look right, so we went back to something that we knew was safe. We gave up six horsepower, nobody complained, everything made it.
"The whole group is focused on finishing the races, trying to be there at the end. I have been here before when Jeff and Terry (Labonte) went down to the last race. I got the guys all together the week before and told the guys, I tell you what I am going to do first, I am to the loser first then after that I am going to go to the winner. Know it before you see it, and don't think I am playing favorites going to the guy that didn't win, I just want you to know what I am going to do.
"I think it helps the guys to know I feel I am real proud of them because the No. 24 guys came over and congratulated me after today's race. Casey (Mears) came to victory lane, Kyle (Busch) came to victory lane in Charlotte, they see what is special about our crowd so I hope we can keep it."
ON HIS FEELINGS WHEN THE 24 AND 48 WERE RUNNING HARD TOGETHER: "You don't want to see them wreck each other. We want to see them race clean. I think you saw that, Jeff didn't try to hold Jimmie up, when Jimmie got there and he was quicker and got to the inside, Jeff didn't try to muscle him or anything like that. They are racing for a championship and they have to narrow it down to just one or two more cars, then that is to Jeff's advantage. People are going to remember who won the '07 championship, they might not remember who won the race or who finished third here when we are in New York. You want to win, that is why we are here, but you have to think big picture all the time. It is gut-wrenching deal. I would rather be here than out of it and just trying to get to the end."
ON SUCCESS HERE MAKING IT EASIER TO COME HERE: "I stayed home I think it was last year, I came back the first year. Actually, sitting at home is tougher than being here with the guys because that is what Ricky (Hendrick), John (Hendrick), Randy (Dorton) and all of them would want me to do. It is hard to do, but as soon as I walk in here and get with the guys, they are my family too, all the fans, the media-I am with people who care about us. We can't undo what was done. This week we dedicated a children's hospital in Ricky's name, did that Thursday night and cut the ribbon on Saturday morning. It has been a hard week, but every week is a hard week. We miss all those folks. Just being with these guys and supporting them is real important to me. I want to be here. This track has been unbelievable. Geoff Bodine won our first race here our first year. We have won a ton of races here, I don't know how many but it has been a bunch. I grew up 60-miles from here and watched the modified run here with Ray Hendrick. My Dad had cars here, pulled for Rex White in a convertible. That is really telling you how old I am now."
-credit: gm racing