THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by second in points, 15 points out of first place with one to go, Jimmie Johnson. Talk about today's run. JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we had a good day. Unfortunately, the 11 was having a great day. Those guys did a...
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by second in points, 15 points out of first place with one to go, Jimmie Johnson. Talk about today's run.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we had a good day. Unfortunately, the 11 was having a great day. Those guys did a great job.
But in the end I'm just so proud to have Chad Knaus in that pit box. I know he's going to leave no stone unturned. Today, once that last pit stop took place, we were kind of talking about what we needed to do. Did a good job of saving some fuel early, which was important to get to the end. Once we really went into fuel conservation mode, I was doing anything and everything I could to try to save fuel. It worked out.
The thing that gets me is I drove the car to pit lane and never saw the fuel pressure wiggle. I'm thinking I should have fought for the fourth and third spots harder with the 16 and the 20.
But it is what it is. We did a good job of closing the gap today and putting all that pressure right on the 11. That's the best we could have hoped for today, if not being ahead, that would have been a little bit better, but either way we got a lot of pressure on those guys.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q: I know you don't like to talk about yourself in these terms, do you think your greatness can be solidified with a come-from-behind championship?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, it would probably be received better than the ones in the past, with the runaway show we've had on a couple of them. I don't care how I win it. However we win it, that's cool (laughter). I would love to come back and win from behind and eliminate that stat because that seems to be the only thing that everyone talks about right now.
When I look at the way we started the Chase, I'm more frustrated at what we did then, in the fact we didn't capitalize at Loudon. Last week we missed a pit call late in the race. Everybody behind us had tires on. We ended up ninth. When you go back through the season, look at little things, we've left points on the table. That's unlike us from years past. That's the part we're fighting right now.
Q: I know just sitting in here and listening to the radio knowing basically your championship is on the line, I'm on the edge of my seat. From your perspective, what was it like knowing if you run out of gas your championship is over?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I had mixed feelings mid run because I knew it had that green-flag feel. If we ran out, yeah, we would have lost the chance to be the champions. But that kind of left my mind and I really started focusing on what I needed to do to save gas. Really tried to eliminate my thoughts, any negative thoughts in my mind, just save fuel, get caught up in those emotions, what I needed to do on the racetrack to save fuel.
Before I knew it, the laps went by pretty quick. Worked themselves down to the white flag. Once I came off of turn two and down the back, I felt pretty good I'd make it to the start/finish line ahead of the 11.
My emotions tried to get the best of me. I was on the edge of my seat, but I kept talking myself off the ledge. Just had to stay in check.
Q: A really blunt question. The last three or four weeks, the 11 has been faster than the 48. If you're going to win a championship in Homestead, you're going to have to pretty much reverse that or hope on strategy. What can you do to put yourselves in a position to win?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, we're very aware of that situation, as well. We're doing everything we can. We're trying as hard as we can. We're going to go home and we're going to make sure we have the best engines, go through our simulation stuff, make sure our car is as fast as it can be and then race.
I wish we had more speed. We were looking like we had in years past. Last couple weeks we've been good and they've been great. We need to get that turned around and be great.
If not, I know that with Chad on the box, we're going to work on a strategy and hopefully find an upper hand somewhere, somehow. He did that today.
First goal is to have enough speed to run away from them, not worry about it. If not, you have to back up and punt and figure out what to do from there.
Q: (Question regarding pit crew.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Those guys did an awesome job. They kept us with good track position all day long. I would lose some track position. Their stops would pick up a couple spots every time. They looked calm, relaxed. Our meeting before the race, they were pumped, relaxed. I went in the 24 truck to see my old boys. They couldn't be happier, wished me luck. Went out to driver intros, they were fired up again for me.
It wasn't an easy situation. But everybody's pulling in the right direction.
Q: Jimmie, can you talk us through with 14 laps to go when Denny comes in for fuel, was it your and Chad's impression that everyone would have to come in or you would have to come in? Once he came in, did you think you could get the distance?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, Chad had it all along on his mind, talked to me early about saving fuel. Did a decent job of that. Then we went into fuel conservation mode, did our best from there.
I didn't ask so I didn't know for sure if the 11 had come to pit road. I would imagine they did because we obviously would do the opposite of what they did trying to close up the points. When I saw the 16 coming, the 20, the 42 was up there ahead of me, I wasn't sure if the 11 was still out or not. I didn't want to let my emotions get the best of me and hope or think that we were going to get some points on those guys. Just did my best job to save fuel.
Q: When we got here you were sitting out on the roof, Denny was in here talking. Normally you guys are all in here at the same time. I'm wondering why didn't you come in. Did you not want to be around him?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: One of those things where I don't want to know what he has to say, read what he has to say, see it on TV. I won't turn on the television, watch any racing this week. Remove myself from it. I know what I need to do, what my team has to do. I don't want to hear what anybody else has to say.
Q: We've heard you say a few times during the post race you're glad you're able to put more pressure on the 11 team. Their crew chief didn't hesitate to call your team last week when they made mistakes. Denny said their pit strategy might have been off. Does that make you relish this more, the shoe seems to be on the other foot this week after the talk from last week?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. I mean, if we went up there and led all the laps, won the race, it would be easy to lob the ball back in their lap and come from an arrogant place. But when we run fourth all day, they lead all the laps, you got to be careful when you stick your neck out there and make some bold comments.
We were in a position today where we had to take a chance. I would think that if we were the points leader, had something to lose, we would have pitted as well. You have to protect when you're leading the points. When it's a small points margin, not only do you have to be fast on the track, but you have to do everything right, including strategy.
We were in a good situation and could take the risk, take the chance. It worked out for us.
I don't know if they necessarily made a bad call. If we ran out of fuel, it would have been a brilliant call. So it was just one of those risky things, you know, kind of wild things that takes place in racing.
Q: Carl Edwards talked about his being sick in his stomach because of the uncertainty, how awkward it is to win a race on fuel mileage. You were saying Chad kept you well-informed. I know that a guy that has won four straight championships has to be a control freak. Are you out on the track feeling like things are out of your control? Is it kind of disorienting to be in a fuel mileage race with so much on the line?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: With the position we were in, I was hopeful. Again, I didn't know what the 11 had done. I was hopeful we were taking this chance for a good reason and we were going to pick up points on these guys.
There was some optimism in my mindset. I found a good rhythm. I kind of go off of Chad's voice. There's some laps where I would run a little fast. I could hear in his voice he was concerned. I would find a different way to run a lap, save more fuel, run the right pace he was after. I could hear a more calm reaction from him. I just kind of was listening to his emotions and driving the car based on how excited he sounded or how calm he sounded.
It worked out.
But that was our chance today to make up points. So there was a lot of optimism, more so than Carl who had a fast car and had a lot to lose today if the call didn't work out. Kind of a different perspective from Carl's from mine.
Q: You didn't want to hear what Denny had to say, but I bet by taking a look at his face probably told you all you needed to know.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: He didn't go out of his way to say hi on the way out so I could imagine that he wasn't in a good mood.
Q: Could you tell that this is kind of getting to him?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't get a good look at him. But the nine years being in Cup, I've lived in championship pressure, especially the last four years. I know how bad he wants to win a championship. I remember my first.
So I don't disrespect his anger. I don't disrespect where he's coming from because I understand. He wants to win this championship bad. He's dedicated his life to it.
I also know that this week is going to be a tough week for him because I've been there. I hope he can't handle it as well as I did in '06. I want it to work out for me. Selfishly for me, I want him to not do the right things. We'll just see how the week works out.
They're good race teams. All the jabs we take at each other, that all goes away when we hit the track at Homestead and lay down some laps.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, thank you.