Jimmie Johnson Wins Seventh Race of the Season at Phoenix; Needs 25th-Place or Better Finish at Homestead to Win Fourth Consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Seven Team Chevy Drivers Score Top-10 Finishes in Checker O'Reilly...
Jimmie Johnson Wins Seventh Race of the Season at Phoenix; Needs 25th-Place or Better Finish at Homestead to Win Fourth Consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship
Seven Team Chevy Drivers Score Top-10 Finishes in Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
Avondale, AZ - Jimmie Johnson took his No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS to victory lane in the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) to score his seventh win of the 2009 season. The victory inched Johnson ever-closer to his unprecedented fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) championship with one race remaining in the season. He holds a 108-point lead after 35 races.
A 25th-place or better finish next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway will notch a spot in NASCAR history for Johnson as the first driver to win four consecutive NSCS championships.
The win is the 47th of his NSCS career and fourth at PIR.
Jeff Burton brought the No. 31 CAT Financial Impala SS to the checkered flag in the second finishing position.
Mark Martin, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Impala SS and pole sitter Martin Truex, Jr., No. 1 Rain-X Impala SS finished fourth and fifth respectively to give Team Chevy four of the top-five finishers in today's 312-lap/312-mile/500-mile race.
Giving Team Chevy seven of the top-10 finishers were Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Impala SS in seventh position, Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Impala SS, in eighth place at the finish line and Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS in the ninth finishing spot.
Other Team Chevy drivers in the Chase finished as follows: Ryan Newman, No. 39 US Army Impala SS - 20th; Tony Stewart, No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Impala SS - 25th.
Denny Hamlin (Toyota) completed the top-five finishers.
The final race of the 2009 season will be Sunday, November 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, RACE WINNER:
TALK US THROUGH THE RACE AND JUST HOW STRONG YOUR CAR WAS: "First of all I have to thank this race team for having the strength and mental attitude and everything that they do to bounce back last week, to show up and put a butt-kickin' on everybody today (LAUGHS) Very proud of Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and the guys. Great stops, great car. At the start of the race we were a little loose but still running second and third.
"When we put new tires on, the car came to life and then we had a couple of small adjustments that really really helped it. I could get out to a nice comfortable lead and ride and protect what I had and work my way through traffic. Not with ease, but better than the other guys. Had a great finish."
THERE WAS THE ONE TIME DENNY HAMLIN REELED YOU IN A BIT AND THEN HERE COMES JEFF BURTON, WERE YOU CONCERNED? "I was trying to be smart through traffic and the No. 20 car, I am not sure if he was just trying hard to stay just two laps down and didn't want to go a third lap down or if he was really trying to help his teammate out, but either way, the No. 11 car caught me. Once I cleared him, I got back going and everything was fine but the No. 20 car wasn't being all that friendly."
LOOKING AHEAD, 108 POINT LEAD, JUST HAVE TO FINISH 25TH OR BETTER, THAT IS EASY FOR US TO SAY THAT, HOW DO YOU APPROACH NEXT WEEKEND? "I think last weekend (Texas Motor Speedway) qualifying 12th even though that is a good qualifying spot, put us in harm's way. I was maybe a little cautious in qualifying on Friday. So we need to show up down there (Homestead-Miami Speedway) and treat it like any other race. The further forward we start, the better we are going to be track position wise. Better pit stall selection we are going to have so until we get in the race and see what we really have, we're going to treat it like any other race and just go as fast as we can."
WOW THREE IN A ROW HERE IN THE FALL WHEN IT COUNTS THE MOST JIMMIE. "Thankfully, yeah. What a great car. What a great race team. We could have easily been beat down and certainly there were some dark moments over the last week worrying about the points lead and what we lost. These guys can bounce back. We've always been good at it. To come, bounce back and qualify strong, run well in practice, great stops all day long, dominate this race so I'm very proud of these guys. Obviously one more race to go. We saw in Texas anything can happen so we don't need to get too excited about things. One-o-something is better than 73. I'm very excited about it and I hope all the employee owners at Lowe's are excited. I hope all the No. 48 fans and everyone at store 2852, that's good stuff."
WHAT WAS THE FEELING TODAY AFTER THE FIRST PIT STOP? "I was good. In that first run the car was real loose and then after that the car was pretty dang good. The No. 2 was really strong which I expected to see, the No. 11. Although I was falling off and they were going to come get me at some point but their cars fell off more and off we went. This was just an awesome performance. I want to thank everyone at Hendrick Motorsports engine shop, chassis, bodies, this entire No. 48 race team and everybody at Lowe's."
WERE YOU THINKING WHAT WE WERE THINKING, IF HE CAN DO THIS ITS GOING TO LOOK AWFULLY GOOD IN HOMESTEAD? "I knew Mark (Martin) was having a good day. I could see him coming up through the back at the start and I just really tried to ignore what he was doing because he's Mark Martin and I know he and that time were going to finish well. I just had to get all I could and lead as many laps as possible and try to win the race and just do everything I could on my end and I did."
IF MARK DOES EVERYTHING HE CAN NEXT WEEK YOU STILL ONLY NEED TO FINISH 25TH OR BETTER, HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL? "That's a great position to be in. We finished 38th last week so I can't put my guard down. Anything and everything that could go wrong last week did. Going into this next week we just need to show up and race smart and do our thing."
CAN YOU PLAY IT SAFE AT ALL OR GO FOR IT ALL THE WAY AND DO WHAT YOU DID HERE? "Truthfully I feel that my 12th-place qualifying effort in Texas put me in harm's way and I was just trying to drive a smart lap in qualifying and not do anything stupid and that put me in harm's way. So going into the race next weekend, I need to show up Friday ready to sit on the pole and then go from there and run up front. The safest place is up front in the top-two or three and if we can stay there we'll be in good shape."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CAT FINANCIAL IMPALA SS, FINISHED 2ND:
TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY: "Yes, that is better. Real proud of everybody on the CAT Financial team. Everybody has been working really hard. Todd Berrier has come in and done a great job. Lot of good people on this team. Scott Miller has done a great job helping get our company where we need to be. We are working hard. We're getting there. We're not a 100% there, but we're gaining and real proud of everybody's effort. I lost this race for us on Friday, which is really disgusting to me. But, we had a good car and we'll do better."
HOW MUCH SLIPPING AND SLIDING WAS GOING ON OUT THERE? "It was pretty slick. I just made better time. I just mashed the throttle and got the back end around on it. I was afraid of killing the tires but it never did hurt it so I just kept doing it. That was the way we were the fastest so I kept doing it."
DESCRIBE THE DAY AND HOW THIS ORGANIZATION CAME TOGETHER. "Well you know these races are won in the shop. We've been working real hard trying to improve our equipment. Todd Berrier has come in and done a great job. The team has done a great job. We had one hiccup on pit road early but the rest of them we picked up spots every time. That's what it takes. It takes a team effort and I'm really proud of everybody. I lost this race for us on Friday to be quite honest. We've got to qualify better than 36th with a car like that. I told Todd Berrier yesterday it's a shame to qualify that bad in a car that fast and that's on my shoulders. You know I'm 42 and still learning and I'll get better."
HOW PHYSICAL IS THIS TRACK? "Turn four is harder than I remember it being. It's hard to get the car to turn in the middle of the corner. It's hard to make enough rear grip on the exit of the corner. I just could make more time if I was buzzing the right rear tire. I just seem like I could point the car better if I had the car loose. I didn't really want to be doing that but that' show we were the fastest. I was afraid it would burn the right rear tire off but it never did. So that just made us better. I don't want to have to do that but we do what we have to do."
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, FINISHED 4TH:
TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY AND THE POINTS: "We had a great run. The guys did a fabulous job and we had a really good race car. The car was awesome on the long runs. I really thought with that last long green flag that we were going to get up there and make it a four-car race but our car got tight and kind of fizzled out."
DID YOU MAKE ANY ADJUSTMENTS TO YOUR CAR? "We didn't do anything. Really, what we did do, we took back out and kind of left the car. It was a top-five car the whole race. It was really good on the long runs. We fought from behind it seemed like a little bit today. It was a good effort by this whole team."
IT SEEMED LIKE YOU HAD A GOOD RACE CAR ALL DAY LONG, WAS IT AS GOOD AS IT SEEMED? "It was a good car and a great effort by this race team and we gave it everything we had today. The car was a little vulnerable on the restarts and we lost some spots and had to battle back from that. Our car was very, very good on the long run. In fact I really thought we could get to Jimmie with 35 to go as good as our car was going and then it just got tight. I got up to Denny (Hamlin) and I got tight and kind of fizzled out. It was a strong car and a great effort by this team and I'm really proud."
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN DIG OUT OF WHAT YOU GUYS HAVE DONE THIS SEASON? "I'm pretty proud of what we've done this season. That's really all I've got to say about it. I'm proud of what we've accomplished."
MARTIN TRUEX, JR., NO. 1 RAIN-X IMPALA SS, FINISHED 5TH:
TALK ABOUT YOUR WEEKEND: "It was a great day for us. I just have to thank all these guys here. This Rain-X Chevrolet. They worked very, very hard today. This is one of my favorite race tracks here at Phoenix and I really expected to have a good day. The car was great all day. They made it better on the pit stops. That was really important for us. We struggled a little in the beginning and the guys made it better all day long and I was real proud of them for their efforts. It has been a tough year but they just keep fighting and they did a great job today."
DESCRIBE THE LONG GREEN FLAG RUNS TODAY: "It was fun to get strung out like that. You could really race the race track and not have to worry about racing other guys and holding yourself up. The track got really, really slick today. A lot of guys were fighting grip, I don't think any of us up front felt our cars were that good. Just got real slick and that is why it strung out like it did. I was happy with my car. They guys made it better on every pit stop and that was key for us today."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER IMPALA SS, FINISHED 7TH:
"It was a good run for our Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet. We are still a little bit off here, but it is a huge step in the right direction. We just have to keep plugging away. We are getting there; we're running out of time though. There is only one race left. All in all it was a good day for us."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET IMPALA SS, FINISHED 8TH:
"We just couldn't get the handling where it needed be to make a charge to the front. I was fighting a tight car in the center all day long. Still to walk away with a top-10 doesn't make for a terrible day."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS -- Finished 9th
ABOUT THE DAY "It wasn't a great day. I thought we were going to be a lot better than that. We started off the day great, and I don't know, we just faded. We just didn't have it. We fought hard for ninth and got that."
IS IT JUST A MATTER OF NOT BEING ABLE TO CHANGE AS YOU GO ALONG? "We started off so good. It just seems every weekend we start off great and I don't know what it is. If we knew what it was, we'd do it (laughs). But you know we lost track position. That didn't help and we weren't good on the restarts and that didn't help. We tried to make adjustments and we tried everything and none of them seemed to help. I don't know. The track changed it and it affected us more than it did some others."
YOU SOUNDED VERY FRUSTRATED ON THE RADIO THROUGHOUT THE RACE JUST NOT BEING ABLE TO GET THE RIGHT SET-UP. IS THAT HOW YOU WOULD SUM-UP THE DAY? "Well I was really excited in the beginning. I thought we were great. I thought we were really going to get up there for the win or at least a top three or four. But man, it just went away in a blink of an eye. On the restart they took me three wide. We just couldn't get up and get going. I was on the inside lane and from that point on, it was just a struggle."
ON THE LONG GREEN-FLAG RUNS "At the beginning of the race I wanted to go long green flag runs the whole time. I really think the yellows are what cost us. The yellows are what really hurt us. We weren't bad actually on those green flag stops. We were pretty good. But the restarts just ate us up. We just could not get up and go on the restarts."
ON RICK HENDRICK AND HIS ORGANIZATION "Those guys are amazing. Rick Hendrick and his organization is the best out there. They have been proving it year in and year out. It's very gratifying to know that it's coming to Hendrick Motorsports and also the Manufacturers' Championship this year and we're excited and at the same time we're just like everybody else out there. We want to beat the No. 48 team.
"So, it inspires us over the off-season to try to get better and we'll look at doing that. And right now we've got one race to go and we'll certainly look forward to giving those guys all the props and respect that they certainly deserve because they've earned it."
YOU MIGHT BE DISAPPOINTED IN FINISHING 9TH, BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT'S NOT LIKE YOU GUYS ARE GOING OUT THERE TO RIDE AROUND. ALL THREE OF YOU TOP THREE DRIVERS IN POINTS WERE RIGHT THERE MOST OF THE DAY "Yeah, there are a lot of different reasons why we need to run good out there. It's not just because we're trying to win the championship, we're also trying to stay within the battle that we have for second. We lost points to the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) and we lost points to the No. 5 (Mark Martin) and that's what makes it a little bit more frustrating."
WOULD IT BE ANY MORE FRUSTRATING IF JIMMIE JOHNSON MAYBE WAS 9TH OR 10TH AND YOU FINISHED WHERE YOU MIGHT HAVE GAINED POINTS ON HIM TODAY "You know, it really just matters to me how we run. That's how we operate. Last week we didn't run good and we didn't capitalize on their misfortunate. If they finished 9th and we didn't capitalize on that, I'd be upset too. But it was more because we just didn't run better."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE DAY? "I was really excited when we started the race. Man we drove right to the front. Me and Mark (Martin). I know how good Mark is here so I thought we were going to be great. I don't know. It just got away from us. We weren't very good on the restarts and it was just a ninth-place day for us. A little disappointing because I thought we were going to be better than that. Even if we had been a third or fourth-place car the No. 48 did what they needed to do which is no surprise. We've seen them do it many times. That's why they are three-time champions, soon to be four."
IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP SOMETHING YOU THINK IS STILL WITHIN YOUR GRASP? "Not if we run like this. We've got to run better than this. I sure would like to take a couple of tracks and exchange them in the Chase because I think we're just so much stronger at a lot of different tracks, two of the 10 that are in this Chase. That's the way it is and we've got to get better at them and I feel like that was our efforts this year and we made them better but not good enough. We'll come back next year and hopefully be stronger. We're still looking forward to Homestead. I think we have a great car for that race and we'll see what happens."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS, FINISHED 24TH:
"We were off in the beginning of the race then got it adjusted to where our Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet was pretty good in the middle part. Trouble was, we went down a lap early and those green-flag runs didn't give us the chance to get back on the lead lap."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY/HAAS AUTOMATION IMPALA SS, Finished 20th
"Before I get into our race, I want to congratulate my teammate Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army NHRA Top Fuel team for capturing the season championship today in (Pomona) California. A big hooah to Tony and his team for a truly Army Strong effort.
HOW TOUGH WERE THE CONDITIONS OUT THERE TODAY? "Conditions were fine. I mean the track was slick but we really struggled in the pits with the U.S. ARMY Chevrolet. Had a bad pit stop, got in the back, Junior lost control of his car and got sideways and then I got hit and drove into him and it kind of ruined our day from that point on. We went a lap down because of the damage we had. It's just an unfortunate situation. Had a bad points day, had a bad day and a terrible pit road day. The focus next week is to try to have a good run but we've got to do something on pit road. We come in we're guaranteed to lose three spots and these cars are so similar that driver, the crew chief and everything else that you have really can't make up for that in my opinion."
MARTIN TRUEX JR. NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS IMPALA SS
WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE THIS WEEKEND FOR YOU GUYS? "We just did all the little things right. We didn't have any problems in the pits. Nothing fell off the car. The tires held air. You know all that good stuff. We just had a good race. Nothing bad happened and we didn't have any bad luck and we had a good car. I just want to thank Bono (Kevin Manion, crew chief) and all the guys. They made the car better each stop. During the last two runs of the race I really felt like we were one of the best cars. At least that's what they were telling me by the times. Just fought track position a little all day. We lost a few spots on all our stops then we lost a few seconds on those last two green-flag stops. It was a great run. I've got to thank all the guys. Thank the fans for coming out. Thank you to Rain-X for sponsoring us for a few races this year. We've enjoyed that. We've had a rough season so it feels good. We want to end the year with a couple of good runs for Bono and all the guys on the team. I just want to thank them for not giving up and giving 100 percent today. Hopefully we can go do this again at Homestead next week."
HOMESTEAD WILL BE YOUR LAST RACE WITH THIS TEAM BEFORE YOU MOVE OVER TO MICHAEL WALTRIP NEXT SEASON, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU THAT YOU HAD THIS KIND OF FINISH HERE TODAY AND YOU RUN STRONG NEXT WEEK AT HOMESTEAD? "It's huge to me because those guys are just like brothers to me. We're just like a family. I wanted it so bad all year. I've been trying all year. I think sometimes we try to hard and that's what gets us in trouble and causes problems. It feels great and I'm really proud of their efforts. To keep digging all year after the year we've had and not give up and come out here and get a top-five, I'm just real proud of their efforts. Just hope we can get a little closer next week."
-credit: gm racing