Phoenix: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Jimmie, are you surprised at how much ground Roush Fenway made up on you guys? Chad, do you want to speculate where they made up the ground on you in the off season? JIMMIE JOHNSON: I saw them coming, but I...

Continued from part 1

Q: Jimmie, are you surprised at how much ground Roush Fenway made up on you guys? Chad, do you want to speculate where they made up the ground on you in the off season?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I saw them coming, but I really saw the 17 coming at the end of last year. The 99's been strong and good. But Matt won at Homestead. Matt and I had some great races at the end. So I'm not surprised, but I just assumed the 17 would be rocking out of the gate.

They've had some bad races and some bad luck. But Carl does a great job. I think Bob is a very sharp guy. I think the relationship that those two have together is a very strong one. Those guys have got some experience under their belts and are doing a really, really good job.

I'm happy that we're closing that gap. Last week I chased them at the end of the race and he looked like he wasn't pushing as hard as I was to run, so I know we have a little bit more to make up. But we closed the gap on the mile and a half stuff quite a bit. Excited about the races to come here in the near future.

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, you know, based on what we've seen here in the course of the last few weeks, I think where we've made our ground up as a team, the 48 team, isn't necessarily on where to find the speed in the car, but more so what not to do to the racecar. It's a new book. It's a new thing that we're trying to learn.

You know, you have a playbook. Any time that you can take and cross off something that list that says, Okay, you know that's not going to work, well, that's an area that you don't go to. That saves you time in practice. That saves you from mistakes during a race. It saves you a lot of things. I think that's what we're learning at this point.

Q: During the race, could you talk a little bit about how you felt your car was. A lot of times when people see 'fuel mileage win,' they think somebody pulled one out of the hat. Aside from maybe the pit call, you seemed to have a car that was pretty strong and comparable to everybody else leading.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think there was one run where we were a little too loose. But outside of that, I want to say that it's probably us and the 99 that were probably the fastest cars, because Chad was reading me laps where everybody was. The 88 was real fast, especially two thirds of a run, then it seemed like his car would kind of fall off at the end.

We had a very, very competitive car. I think the story from us restarting in 14th with 80 to go and being in second or third I guess right there when those guys started pitting says a lot about the type of car we had.

I'm not sure if we led the most laps, but I know we led a ton at the beginning of the race. But we had a very, very competitive car.

THE MODERATOR: You led 120 laps.

CHAD KNAUS: We had a great car. I was real happy with the whole Lowe's team. Everybody really stepped up. You know, I think this race, if I hadn't botched it up, we'd have been up front all day. It was just that one pit call got us relegated to the back.

We didn't win it on fuel mileage. You know, like we could have pitted right there with everybody. Say if everybody came down pit road and took two tires, everybody came down pit road and took four tires, I think we would have been in position to race for the win.

So, you know, I think it was good, yeah. It was exciting for me. I don't know about everybody else. I don't know how it looked on TV, but it was fun from my pit box.

Q: Jimmie, was there a point on that last lap where you figured it could run out right now and I can coast to the win?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I was watching my fuel pressure gauge. Usually when it bobbles, you get a quarter of a lap or half of a lap where you can coast at a decent speed. With him telling me I had a 20 second lead, I figured if I ran out of gas coming off of four, I'd be okay. When I went into three, I still had great fuel pressure and came off of four and I was still looking at it, I'm like, Heck, yeah, it's a done deal.

Again, we've had fuel mileage bite us a couple times. It wasn't like we were trying to stretch it. Just something went on that run where we consumed more fuel. So for Chad to say, Let's give it a shot, I knew it was going to be right there.

Q: I don't know where you were when Earnhardt was battling Mark Martin and Martin Truex. But was there a period where you thought he could be the guy that could end up winning the race?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Mark? Earnhardt?

Q: Dale.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He led a bunch today. 87 laps. When we were back restarting 14th and I saw the 88 up front, I thought this could be the race for him. Those guys have been all around it, very fast, had a great car today. I know they had some issues yesterday that they were trying to work through. Earlier in the race today I saw them in the mirror coming. I knew it was going to be a factor.

Happy for their performance. I don't know where they ended up in the end.

THE MODERATOR: Seventh.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Seventh. He's going to be pulling into Victory Lane soon. Those guys have been doing a great job.

Q: Jimmie, in Victory Lane they mentioned you kicked off the weekend with your foundation, then ended up in Victory Lane. A little bit of karma there. With your foundation kicking off on Thursday night, what are your thoughts about that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it was cool. I wanted to do a burnout down there in the backstretch, try to get the smoke going for a cool photo of the car and stuff near my banners on the backstretch, but ran out of gas and couldn't do it (laughter).

Really I have to thank PIR for giving me the opportunity. Bryan Sperber and the whole staff came to us with that idea. It's just a great way to get exposure for the foundation. We brought in a bunch of kids and let them enjoy the races and their families.

So, you know, didn't raise a lot of money that we could distribute, but it brought great recognition to the foundation. We were able to have some local kids, actually more than local kids. We had local kids plus kids from Florida, a couple other areas, come in and enjoy the weekend.

Q: In two weeks you go to Talladega. Is it going to be strange to go there and not see it be a sea of red for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? Now it's going to be a sea of green or blue, whatever color that Amp car is.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can tell you, it's been an interesting year because at first the Earnhardt Nation didn't really make any noise at driver intros. Now I hear them kind of cheering for me. I see guys decked out in 88 wishing me luck, where before they were wishing other things and throwing beer cans at me and other stuff (laughter). There's still a few diehards that refuse to I think be a fan of Hendrick or myself or Jeff. But as a whole, you know, there's some respect there, which is good to see. If we have a clean racecar, it will save hopefully some beer can dents when the race is all over with.

Q: Chad, Dale Jr. thanked you and the 48 crew afterwards. They said they didn't practice well and got some setup information and help. Could you give us a sense of how that came down and was that stuff that he was able to use or you shared with before the final practice or was that today?

CHAD KNAUS: He must have stolen it from us. I don't know where the hell he got it (laughter).

No, we do a very, very good job at Hendrick Motorsports of exchanging information. We have a team debrief. We have a competition meeting every two weeks at Hendrick Motorsports with the crew chiefs, with the competition directors, with the department heads, the chassis and aero department, so on and so forth. We communicate there.

Once we get to the racetrack, our line of communication is extremely free. They're able to look at everything that we're doing, dig in as deep as what they want, use it, don't use it, whatever they want. Then after every Happy Hour practice session, all of the crew chiefs and all the drivers and the competition directors get together in a centralized location and we discuss what it was that we went through throughout both practice session, both race practice sessions.

The one thing that I have actually been very, very impressed with Tony Eury, Jr., is the fact that he is very, very receptive to information. He uses tools. He does not sit stagnant and wait for the information to come to him. He goes in, digs, tries to find it. I've been very impressed with that. It's refreshing to see. It's nice to see another crew chief come to Hendrick Motorsports with that kind of ambition and that kind of desire to run up front.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Enjoy the victory.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Martin Truex Jr. , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports