MARTINSVILLE, VA -- Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, extended his lead in the Chase to the NASCAR Sprint Cup (NSCS) to 149 points over second place with his sixth (6th) victory of the season today at Martinsville Speedway in the Tums...
MARTINSVILLE, VA -- Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, extended his lead in the Chase to the NASCAR Sprint Cup (NSCS) to 149 points over second place with his sixth (6th) victory of the season today at Martinsville Speedway in the Tums QuikPak 500.
Johnson's win was the 10th victory for Team Chevy this season in NSCS competition and put Chevrolet just one point out of the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Manufacturers' Cup standings.
Johnson, who started on the pole, led seven times for a total of 339 laps in the scheduled 500-lap race. For the eighth time this season, the race went to a green-white-checkered finish when the 12th caution flag of the day flew on lap 499. The race went in to overtime and concluded after 504 laps of competition.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Impala SS, finished second behind his Hendrick Motorsports (HMS teammate. Earnhardt, Jr. now sits ninth (9th) in the standings with four races remaining in the season.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, came to the checkered flag in fourth place after leading three times on the day for a total of 57 laps. The four-time NSCS champion and Hendrick Motorsports driver moved up to seventh (7th) in the Chase points order.
Casey Mears, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Impala SS, brought the fourth HMS Chevrolet home in sixth position.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Impala SS, was the first of the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) drivers across the finish line in seventh (7th) place. Harvick is sixth in the Chase standings.
Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Impala SS, finished ninth in his RCR fielded Chevrolet to remain fifth in the points.
Martin Truex, Jr. brought his Dale Earnhardt, Inc. No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Impala SS to the finish in 10th place.
Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Impala SS, who came in to today's race second in the standings, finished 17th after suffering a NASCAR penalty on pit road for pitting outside the box. The RCR driver now sits third in the standings, just three (3) points out of second and 152 points down to Johnson.
Carl Edwards finished third and Denny Hamlin was fifth to complete the top-five finishers. Greg Biffle is second in the standings, 149 points behind Johnson.
The seventh race in the Chase will be October 26 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS, FINISHED 17TH:
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE PIT STOP WHERE YOU GOT THE PENALTY? "It was just bad timing really. Just one of those things that happens on pit road. Especially a small pit road. We were coming on (pit road) and he (Jeff Gordon) was leaving. He didn't do anything wrong, I didn't do anything wrong. I was just trying to stop when he was coming out and when I did I was so far down pit road, it was hard to get position back in the box. We pitted and we were over the line, but the official didn't call it immediately, so our guys started changing the tires and when we got a tire off, then he called it. We were over the line, no doubt. He needed to call it right then and there so we could have reacted. We didn't know we were over the line until we already had the tires off. Bad break. The official didn't do anything wrong. It is hard to make everything happen that quickly. We needed to run a little bit better than we did today, but we had a bad break there and we will move on.
"We just didn't run good enough today. There was a time there when I just didn't push it as hard as I wanted to because I saw some right fronts going down and I thought that could be brake heat. We just needed to run better.
"We just fought rear grip which really surprised me. I thought that would really be our strength today. I thought rear grip would be really good for us. I missed something in practice. I missed something I was feeling and I didn't give them the right information because we fought rear grip all day and I was really surprised by that."
DO YOU THINK JOHNSON PUT IN THE NAIL TODAY? "No, I don't think this is the nail at all. I fully expected to come here and the No. 48 to run well. If it surprises anybody that the No. 48 ran well at Martinsville, they are crazy. It doesn't surprise me one bit. This I think is their strongest race track of every place we run. They run better here than anyone and they run well at a lot of places. I don't view this as being over."
DO YOU THINK NEAR THE END IF YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE PENALTY THAT YOU WOULD HAVE TRIED SOME DIFFERENT PIT STRATEGY? "Probably not. The tires were so old; it would have been hard to make anything work out of that. We were pretty much destined to do what we had to do there. It was a shame because the car was really good there at the end. We came out and passed a lot of cars. It was fun; unfortunately we were a lap down."
YOU FINISHED 17TH, I KNOW YOU GUYS WERE HOPING FOR A LOT MORE WITH A CAR THAT RAN AS HIGH AS SECOND. "Yeah, we were definitely hoping for more than that. We didn't run as well as we needed to for sure. We fought rear grip which really surprised me. I thought that was our strength in practice with rear grip. I missed something in the feel I was looking for in practice to be able to give them the information. But we were battling and we had a shot at a top -10 and came on pit road and Jeff (Gordon) was leaving and I was coming in. I mean he didn't do anything wrong, I didn't do anything wrong just bad timing. To keep from hitting him I got too far down pit road and then I couldn't get in my pit box.
"Then we started changing the tires and they told us we were out of the box and then it just went downhill from there. I don't know what we needed to do different, obviously I wish I could have done something different and I'll go back and watch the tape and try to learn from it but when you come down pit road and somebody is leaving it just puts you in a really bad spot. Bad day but could have been worse, could have been a whole lot better."
I ASSUME TYPICAL MARTINSVILLE IN YOUR MIND, THAT STUFF HAPPENS A LOT HERE. "It does but it's just a timing deal. If you're coming in and got to go around him and he's pulling out and you're on that timing deal then it can just bite you and that's what got us today. Again I'll go back and watch the video and see what I can learn from it."
YOU'RE THE MOST RECENT WINNER ON A 1.5-MILE TRACK, WE'RE HEADING IN THAT DIRECTION NEXT WEEK ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THAT? "I am excited. I don't think this thing is over. I know we didn't have a great day and we lost some points but you know what, if we didn't have a great day that means other people didn't have great days. We're just going to go out and race hard. Like I said last week we're here to have fun and go like hell to see what we can make happen."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIEL'S IMPALA SS, FINISHED 9TH:
"The Jack Daniel's Chevrolet was decent but we fought tight all day. No matter what Gil (crew chief Gil Martin) and the guys did on pit road, we just couldn't get the car to turn getting off the corner. I've said all along that Martinsville is a track where I need to get better as a driver, so it was frustrating from that standpoint, but it was still a pretty good day. Gil made a good call at the end to get four tires and that helped us get a couple more spots. We'll take ninth at Martinsville and go on to Atlanta."
HOW WAS YOUR DAY? "It was a rough. Gil and all the guys did a good job trying to fix the car. We were just way too tight; center off all day long. I was a little down on horsepower myself so probably didn't give them 100 percent today, but a top 10 finish is good for us and I'm real proud of the guys."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SITTING FIFTH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW WITH FOUR RACES TO GO? "We're doing what we need to do. We need to be running better. But like you say, we've got to keep these top 10's coming and if we do that, I think we can top five this too."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS, FINISHED 7TH:
"The Shell-Pennzoil Chevy was just a little loose all day. We were never really able to get track position to compete with the leaders. Todd (Berrier, crew chiefs) made some really good adjustments on the last pit stop and we were able to grab a few spots in the final 50 laps to finish seventh. To get out of Martinsville with a top-10 is a good day for our team."
CASEY MEARS, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, FINISHED 6TH:
"We were racing hard there at the end. Our car got better and better as the race went on. I we were running Jeff (Gordon) down there and I was thinking about what I was going to have to do to get by him. Obviously we wanted to do it as clean as possible. Fortunately, everybody ran well today and Jimmie (Johnson) did what he needed to do today."
DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE FACT YOU HAD THREE OF YOUR CURRENT TEAMMATES IN FRONT OF YOU AND TWO OF YOUR NEXT YEAR'S TEAMMATES BEHIND YOU? "It crosses your mind. I mean it does. For a split second under caution when you have a second to think about it, ok, I have next year's team behind me and this year's team in front of me, how do you play this out and still go racing but not mess anybody up. At the end of the day, the only answer is to go racing. You can't really think about it, you just have to do the best job you can and try not to put them in a scenario that would jeopardize where they are."
CAN YOU WIN ONE OF THESE LAST FOUR RACES? "I think so. I think we have really come on. We have finally learned what we need on the bigger tracks. I am really looking forward to Atlanta. The pit crew has really stepped it up too. We had some trouble earlier this year and they have stepped it up. I think everybody is in a position right now to pull off a win before the year it out."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- WINNER
WOW, NINE WINS IN THE LAST 12 RACES FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, YOU'VE WON FOUR OF THE LAST START. WAS THIS EVER IN DOUBT FOR YOU? "We were one of probably two or three cars that were really strong. And we had a great pit stall and great pit stops. We kept track position on our side and I was really able to race for the lead and with the leaders and work on that situation there. There were times when I overworked the brakes and overworked the tires and we weren't as strong as we wanted to be on the long haul, but the car was really good on the short haul and thankfully it ended up that way at the end and I could get away from those guys."
ON POINTS RACING "We were going for maximum points and thankfully we did that today. The biggest mistake we could make would be to try and protect something. We need to stay in the groove and the rhythm that we've always been in and that's to go out and win races.
"Thankfully, throughout my career, I've had a good balance of taking risks at the right time and not making a lot of mistakes, so hopefully I can keep that up for four more races. I'm just very proud of this race team and the composure we've shown over the year and the works that's gone on to get this Lowe's Impala back in victory lane."
WITH FOUR RACES TO GO, YOU HAVE A 149 LEAD OVER BIFFLE. DOES THAT AFFECT HOW YOU APPROACH THESE NEXT FEW RACES? "No, I think we really need to go out and do the same stuff. We still can lose this points lead and we have to think that way and we have to keep our eye on the ball and make sure we're swinging hard at it each time. That's what this race team is good at and that's what I'm very proud of. I'm just looking forward to it and I want to thank the fans and everybody up there for rooting for the No. 48 car, thank you! It's been a great run and I'm looking forward to some more victories."
OF THE LAST FOUR RACES, ARE THERE ANY TRACKS THAT YOU'RE CONCERNED ABOUT? "Atlanta was tough on us at the start of the year, but we still got a top 10 finish. But when I say that, that was so long ago and we've learned so much since then, that I truthfully feel confident about all the tracks left on the schedule."
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO DOMINATE AT THIS SPEEDWAY THE WAY YOU HAVE? "It's been good to me. At first I wished there was a missle we could redirect here and blow this place up when I first came here (laughs). What a car. A great race team. Patience through the years and they've just taken the time to learn this place and its paid off. What a better way to points race than go out and lead the most laps, win the race and do that kind of stuff. I'm very proud of this race teamb and the effort they put in today in this Lowe's Impala. The fans have been great. I can't thank them enough for all of their support and watching. Thank everybody."
AS DOMINANT AS YOU WERE YOU STILL HOW TO GO THROUGH A GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED SITUATION HOLDING OFF YOUR TEAMMATE DALE EARNHARDT JR., WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS JUST BEFORE THE GREEN FLAG CAME OUT FOR THAT GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED? "I hope I don't mess this up. Those restarts are tough and I've been vulnerable here in the past on the restarts. We've worked hard in practice to make sure we were good on the short runs. Probably a little off for the long haul. The No. 88 was catching us the run before that last caution came out and we just had to really focus on the short run, thankfully it played out that way. I also cannot leave here without bringing attention to Rick (Hendrick, team owner) and what took place here a few years ago with that plane going down and everybody we miss and wish they were here."
LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE, FOUR RACES TO GO AND YOU'VE GOT A VERY SIZABLE LEAD, HAVE YOU BEGUN THINKING ABOUT POTENTIALLY CLAIMING THAT THIRD TITLE YET? "It's getting closer. It's still not time. As long as I can hold off and just worry about winning races the better and hopefully I can do that the next two or three races and then cruise on from there."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS - Winner
"I don't even know what to day. That was amazing. People talk about points racing and that's just going in and getting them all. It was a good job by everybody on this team. We had great pit stops all day long. Jimmie did an incredible job on the race track. It was just fantastic."
BEFORE THE RACE WE HEARD YOU AND JIMMIE JOHNSON TALK ABOUT RECLAMING THAT MAGIC IN THE RACE CAR, SEEMED LIKE YOU FOUND THAT MAGIC. "Yeah, I don't know where the button was but Jimmie searched around and found it. It must have been in the glove box. It was just a great day. The Lowe's Impala SS, I mean it was great. The pit crew did a great job. We had one slip-up on pit road. The jackman fell and he recovered great. Did a good job without making the situation worse than what it potentially could have been. It's awesome to be able to come here to Martinsville and be able to run the way we did today and beat the caliber of teams we had to beat.
"Some heavy hearts here with Steve Lawson passing away. A NASCAR official he was a great guy and good friend to all of us. I hate it we had to do that today. With the Hendrick Motorsports team we've lost a lot of good people here at this fall Martinsville race. It was only about four short years ago that we lost a lot of our friends and family. Every time we come here we have a little bit extra incentive. To be able to do this it was very special."
YOU MENTIONED YOUR JACK MAN FALLING DOWN ON PIT ROAD, WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS AT THAT POINT KNOWING THAT STOP WAS SO CRITICAL WITH THE NO. 99 (CARL EDWARDS) RIGHT BEHIND YOU? "We always try to do our best to make sure that when we have something go wrong that we don't worsen the situation. We practice that whether that be on the race track or in the pits or through practice or whatever it is. If something happens this team does a really good job recovering. Gathering its wits and completing the task at hand. Our jack man did a great job today doing that. Could have very easily slipped up and could have just blown the whole race for us and dropped the jack on the left side and knocked the side off the car or something like that and he did a good job. Our whole pit crew there, our coaching staff this year has really done a good job so we're pretty happy."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY / NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS -- Finished 2nd:
TALK ABOUT THOSE FINAL LAPS "I didn't have a good enough drive up off the corner to catch Jimmie (Johnson). They had such an excellent race car. We were good on a real, real long run, like 80 to 100 laps and it's rare that you get one of those. I was just a little bit too loose early on, spinning the tires, so I was just having to do the best I could to protect my position."
HOW STRONG WAS THIS RUN FOR THIS TEAM TODAY? "Well we have tore up a lot of race cars in the last few weeks. Had a lot of bad luck and we needed a good finish. I love short-track racing and this is a good track for me. I didn't have anything for Jimmie (Johnson), that car was so awesome. It was cutting in the center and they had good power down and up off the corner. I was spinning the tires in the gas trying to get up off the corner, doing the best I could to protect my spot. With Carl (Edwards) there he run me real clean and we run him pretty clean early in the race. That's pretty fun racing him, being in the mix. We just have had so much bad luck this was real good for us. I want to thank AMP and National Guard. My team did an awesome job building a heck of a race car. We had some great pit stops. We just had a real good solid day and we took care of it. I don't got any marks down the right side. Had a lot of guys run into the left side of it all day long but we took good care of our car all day."
YOUR CAR LOOKED REALLY STRONG ON THE LONG RUNS, HOW MUCH DID THOSE CAUTIONS AT THE END OF THE RACE HURT YOU GUYS? "Well I wanted to go green the rest of the way after we got tires with 112 (laps) to go but you're not going to have that here. Even if you did, NASCAR is going try to get some cautions near the end of the race to pack them back up and make it pretty exciting. We just weren't good on the short runs. We were too tight for 10 laps and then the car would spin the tires up off the corner and chatter the right rear end then that would go away and I could really get to going about lap 60 but we just weren't lucky enough to have the race play out like that for us."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS -- Finished 4th:
THE CAR WAS STRONG EARLY ON AND THEN IT APPEARED IT STARTED TO GO AWAY TOWARD THE LATE END "Well, we had that long run. That's was our biggest fear. We went a little risky on our set-up here on the DuPont Chevrolet. We really wanted to get the most out of this Martinsville day and we had a great car and a great run, but we were really good on the short runs. I've got to thank this team though. What an awesome job in the pits. That certainly didn't do us any favors with it raining on Friday. But my hat's off to all of Hendrick Motorsports.
"What a great effort to have all four of our cars up there in the top six, along with Jimmie winning, so it was a fantastic day. It was a great job for our team. I hate that we came up a little short there. It was actually a great call by Steve Letarte to take two tires there; that got us up to fourth. We were just good on the short runs but we've got a little work to do on the long runs with this set-up."
YOUR EIGHTH CONSECUTIVE TOP-FIVE FINISH HERE AT MARTINSVILLE, HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE DAY? "I didn't know that, thank you. I love top-fives but we were still looking for that win and I knew Jimmie (Johnson) was going to be so tough especially in that No. 1 pit stall. I thought we had something for them. Just kind of trying to keep ourself in position. That one long run just really hurt us because we got so loose off. Made a great call by Steve Letarte (crew chief) there at the end, to take two tires and end up fourth. What an amazing day for Hendrick Motorsports. First, second, fourth and I think sixth with Casey (Mears) so a great day. Jimmie, Chad and those guys are tough to beat especially with that No. 1 pit stall. You don't want to give anything like that to them and make it any easier. They're unbelievable here."
WE'RE ALL VERY AMAZED WITH WHAT HE WAS ABLE TO DO TODAY, LED OVER 300 LAPS, BUT YOU RACES SIDE-BY-SIDE WITH HIM AT TIMES. GIVE US A SENSE OF HOW STRONG THAT CAR WAS. "He was really strong. I had to take my first shot at him and get him on the restart. I just wanted to lead some laps and see what we had for him. We got into traffic and he just kind of would not try to push it too hard. I'd get inside of him. We both struggled a little on the long runs but we were so good on the short runs and he was just able to get out there and maintain and for some reason we just weren't and fell back. He's so smooth here, he doesn't make mistakes. I think when you've got a driver like that and a crew chief like Chad Knaus, an organization like Hendrick (Motorsports) that's a combination tough to beat. Not many people have over the last few years."
MARTIN TRUEX, JR., NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS IMPALA SS, FINISHED 10TH:
"It was a top-10 finish for us at Martinsville, so we will take it. We've always struggled here in the past so it was good to finally get the monkey off our back. This was the best car I have had here, so I have to thank Bono (Kevin Manion) and all the guys. We had great pit stops all day too, so everything was just kind of clicking for us."
TAKE US THROUGH YOUR DAY "Yes, it's been our worst track. Today was a good day. Our car was decent all day long. We were pretty good on the short runs. We lost too much forward bite on the long runs to be really good, but I'm proud of the guys and I've got to thank everybody for sticking with us. We've had a few tough weeks here, but we've had some great race cars and I've got to thank the guys back at the shop for that. Everybody at ECR engines is doing a good job. I had fun today. This is the most fun I've ever had at Martinsville. Hopefully we learned some things for next year and we can step it up and get a top five and have a shot at a win."
YOUR R&D WORK SEEMS TO BE PAYING OFF. WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU FEEL ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE? "This is a new generation chassis for us. This is the car we ran at New Hampshire and it holds a little more weight and that certainly helps. It's just a little bit different. So we're working through some things. This car feels really good. We raced sixth with it at Loudon and pretty good here, so it's something to work with. It's something we're working on. But really, our cars have been pretty good all year long. We've been fast, we just haven't been able to put it all together and finish the races. So if we can put it all together from here on out, we'll be good going through the winter and really looking forward to next year."
RICK HENDRICK, TEAM OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
YOUR FIRST WIN CAME HERE IN 1984, HOW HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN ABLE TO DOMINATE THIS TRACK THE WAY YOU HAVE? "I wish I knew. If I knew the answer to that we'd probably try it somewhere else. You know I think that most all the guys that have raced here, (Geoff) Bodine, you know all of our drivers, Darrell Waltrip, I think over the years we've learned some things. I know Jeff (Gordon) has spent a lot of time here and he's taught a lot of our guys how to get around this place. The whole organization, crew chiefs, drivers, everybody works hard here and this is kind of the home track, we're only about 50 miles from here anyway. I wish I knew but we just seem to always come to the front here and hope it continues. I hope we continue to race at Martinsville."
IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS GOING TO COME DOWN TO TWO OF YOUR DRIVERS, WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU WATCHING DALE (EARNHARDT) JR. AND JIMMIE JOHNSON THERE ON THAT GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER? "I always tell them before this race to keep the big picture in mind and think, think, think because I saw Kenny Schrader and Ricky Rudd running one-two, wreck both of them off of (turn) two here and was one of the worst days of my racing career. You know it can happen here and happen in a hurry. These guys are really good. They use their heads. You just kind of stand back and hope the best guys wins."
-credit: gm racing