Martinsville II: Winning team press conference, part 1

Tums QuikPak 500 Post-Race Transcript An Interview With: JIMMIE JOHNSON CHAD KNAUS KERRY THARP: We are pleased to be joined by the winner today's Tums QuikPak 500 winning for the, I believe, sixth time this year, and the fifth time here at...

Tums QuikPak 500 Post-Race Transcript

An Interview With:

KERRY THARP: We are pleased to be joined by the winner today's Tums QuikPak 500 winning for the, I believe, sixth time this year, and the fifth time here at Martinsville Speedway; that's Jimmie Johnson.

Jimmie, certainly you enjoy running here, you're successful here, and with four to go, you're looking really strong; your thoughts?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Very proud of the effort we put up today. We executed. We had a car that could lead a lot of laps, one of the probably top two or three cars all day long, and stops were on the money, car was great, and I did my part and Chad had a great strategy. So very proud of the execution today. That was really what we needed to do.

I'm ready to go to Atlanta. I wish we were dropping the green flag at Atlanta right now. These guys are just on it, great cars. I'm focused and want this so bad, and ready to get to it.

Q: Just to check, is it time to start asking you about Kato (ph) yet?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's getting closer. I'm going to have to answer those questions one of these days, aren't I?

Today was a big step in the right direction. Still, as long as I can stay scared and on my heels and worried about losing this thing, the better this team is going to be. If we start getting comfortable and complacent, we are going to stub our toes and make mistakes.

Yesterday in practice, I knew the 24 was the best car and I was kind of content being second fastest. Felt good about things. Was worried about the 99, 31, 16. Yeah, we were better than those guys and we are good, and Chad was cracking the whip on me and he was like: "Dude, it doesn't matter. Why are you worried about those guys? We need to go out and make sure we are the best car on track. Let's not change what we have done. Let's stay focused on being the best car."

I looked at him; "Thanks." If I worry about protecting something we are going to make mistakes, and he is, as well, and same with those pit stops. We are trying to keep our eye on the prize and go out and get points each week.

Q: What is it about Martinsville? You flat out dominate here. Jeff Gordon said in college he called you Mr. Martinsville.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I have no clue. It's amazing how I've gone from my first year running here and disliking the track and being totally lost on it to getting the rhythm of it and doing well here.

I typically do better at quirky tracks, tracks that need some type of technique. If it's a rough track and an abrasive track, odd shaped, whatever it may be, those tracks really fall into my style, and I think it's due to my off road racing background.

The tracks where there is a ton of grip and it easy to go fast, I don't seem to I'm just kind of average there. I guess it's probably easier for everyone, and everyone is brave and has confidence and is not scared of much, so they go fast.

But at tricky tracks like this, I do a much better job. I feel good at shorter tracks, and that's leaving Bristol off the schedule but other than that, I feel like I do a great job on short tracks.

KERRY THARP: Shifting gears here for a second, no pun intended, but we have Chad Knaus, crew chief in here, we'll take some questions for Chad and then let him get out to post race technical inspection.

First, Chad if you can just give some opening comments about performance out here, certainly the 48 team is very, very good right now.

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, first off, I just want to say thank you to everybody at Martinsville Speedway for the incredible job they did on pit road and the renovations they did here. The pit road here used to be very, very treacherous. The pit road needed some assistance and they did a good job with that. All of the competitors appreciate that are.

As far as the 48 team, the Lowe's Impala SS, it was good. We went through practice and we had some opportunities to try some different things and they didn't show a lot of fruit for us. So we kind of went back and worked with some of our old stuff, and kind of tuned up a little bit, and used what we used in spring as a baseline and made some adjustments.

And Jimmie did a fantastic job all day today. We were in a position a couple of times where he could have gotten frustrated and lost his cool, and same with the pit stop guys. We had one vacation where our jack band slipped in the brake dust from the right front wheel, and he was able to recover from that and came back in and not make any more mistakes. It was a total team effort and fortunately enough, we did not get into a position today which would be typical Martinsville to where you get your cautions every 40 laps. We had some long green flag runs that kept the pit cycles, everyone on the same pit cycle, and that definitely worked out for us.

Q: With the car dominating and leading and everything and you on the radio to Jimmie saying that you're making some changes that you're going to like, does that mean you guys are satisfied with just never being good

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He's never satisfied.

Q: as front runners now as compared to catch up guys compared to the last few years.

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I'm never satisfied. You know

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He'll lie to me on the pit box and say, "Oh, we're a tenth off" and we'll be a tenth ahead. Only way I find out is from my wife and Mr. Hendrick. Mr. Hendrick busts his butt all the time on that.

CHAD KNAUS: (Coughing) excuse me, I'm sorry got a frog in my throat.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Truth hurts, huh?

CHAD KNAUS: Stings a little, geez.

But no, we have to be that way. I think it's real easy in this industry to get complacent. People that stay in a job for a long period of time, you win races and get comfortable, and it's easy to get complacent. And the one thing we strive on at Hendrick Motorsports is to make sure that we staff up with personnel that are competitors. If you're a true competitor, you are never satisfied and you always want more. You can call it greed or whatever you want, but it's the competitive nature that we have at Hendrick Motorsports that makes us do what we do.

If we would have left the car alone, which it was good at that point and the 89 and 99 had made adjustments to their car and got better to their car; and if we lost because we didn't, it would be shame on us. And so we have to continually do that and if we don't, championships and race wins won't come.

As far as being front runner, we are happy to be the position we are in, but there's no room for complacency. We have to continue to push and go for more wins.

Q: You talked about making changes throughout the race. How much does a track change from the beginning of the race through when the shade starts coming over especially through turns one and two?

CHAD KNAUS: It changes an awful lot, and I think if you even watch the way the racetrack develops throughout a run, if you go about 60 laps on a green flag run you'll actually see the racetrack starts to lay down rubber and you'll see big chunks of rubber. And the handling characteristics of the car are going to be different than when you just come back to green flag racing, because when you run around the caution, it picks up all the rubber on the racetrack.

It changes a lot not only from mid day to evening, but even from 60 laps to 120 laps into a specific run.

Q: Jimmie told a story when we came in about you kind of gut checking him, reality check after practice, and maybe you could share that story from your side of it. He was talking about you kind of making him rethink things, and also, your crew and team are so used to being around together for so long, that's good; and also, when you talk about complacency, that can be more difficult to manage.

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, you know, again, it's the competitive nature that we've got. I think the deeper that fire burns inside of you, the more success you're apt to have.

Yesterday in practice, I felt like we were probably the second best car here compared to the 24. And it's real easy to look at the practice sheet, look at the lap times and the lap count and see where you fall and figure who it is you're racing and say, okay, we are good enough to beat them.

But what will happen is if you sit back and do that, you'll put yourself in a vulnerable situation, and you've got to continue to push. If you've got the fastest car, you've got a Top 5 car and those guys have problems, then you can kind of start to determine your own destiny.

If we would have been in a situation with the 88 pressuring us right there being ahead of those other guys, we could have backed off but if we were struggling to be in the in the top five, we would not have been able to that. We have to continually be able to push and hopefully that will push us on through.

Q: With 50 some laps left, there's a caution flag, and all season long, track position has been so important and you're in the situation that frequently becomes the no win situation and the leader comes in and nobody stays out and you came in and nobody came in with you. Talk about making that call. As a second guesser who gets paid to do that, I'm sitting here going: Well, there's no way I'm coming in here and next thing you know, you're all coming into pit road. That seems to have gone against the grain much the season and recent trends. Talk about that decision.

CHAD KNAUS: If you look at the pace of the race and how the speeds had declined and realizing that we pitted on lap 358, and so with 50 laps to go at that point, everybody had no, it wasn't 358; that's a lie. But we had about 50 laps and at that point, that's an awful lot. There were other six cars on the lead lap at that point, and if we pitted and all those guys stayed out an old tires, we stayed out on fresh tires, we would have beat these guys on however many laps are left.

I think the 17 stayed out and he was not able to hang on very well; I don't know where he ended up but he felt back pretty quickly. You know you just have to pay attention that. We lost a race here in 2003 in the fall, we were leading the race, and there was 45 laps to go, caution came out, and we stayed out and everybody else, the top 20 cars behind us came down pit road and I think we ended up third, so a little bit of a lesson learned there maybe.

Q: You talk of just continually pushing yourself and racing your competition. For someone like you who has been in the sport as long as you have, how much in a way, and maybe in an indirect way, are you chasing history?

CHAD KNAUS: Well, I don't know. I mean, we are chasing. We are running like hell. I don't know what we are chasing but we are chasing something.

You know, we have got a great opportunity to do a lot of things. I feel like that we and myself, probably primarily, gave away two championships and 2004 in 2005, and I feel like that we had a big learning curve at that point and I'd like to somehow get those championships back.

I feel like if we can go on to win a couple more championships and maybe be status quo and I can fall over and die, because that's probably what is going to happen when I finally quit.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He's also very hard on himself.

Q: Chad, do you ever have fun? You're so driven on this thing, do you sit back on Monday morning or something and actually just grin and realize you came out here and just whipped everybody's butt?

CHAD KNAUS: I love it.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: This is fun for him. Today what was.

CHAD KNAUS: This is fun.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He'll be miserable again tomorrow. This is happy. This is good. (Laughter).

CHAD KNAUS: You have to realize, I love racing. And it's like the old saying says, you know, find an occupation that you enjoy and you'll never work a day in your life.

Every day when I go into Hendrick Motorsports and look at the big beautiful buildings and realize the driver and teammates that we have got, it's awesome. And I want to prove it to everybody that we can do what needs to be done. And I owe it to Rick and I owe it to Jimmie and the rest of the team to give it everything I've got. Whether that means I'm grouchy from time to time or whatever, but that's just the way it is, man.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus
Teams Hendrick Motorsports