JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET (WINNER) ON THE RACE: "It was obviously a great day for us, a very fast race car and once again a loose race car. The old clichÃ© that loose is fast is pretty true. It was a handful to drive. The first...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET (WINNER)
ON THE RACE:
"It was obviously a great day for us, a very fast race car and once again a loose race car. The old cliché that loose is fast is pretty true. It was a handful to drive. The first 10 laps the car was a little too free for me to pull away from anybody. The runs at the end where the 19 was able to hang with me was a result of that. As the run went on, the car would tighten up a little bit and I could fly around here. I didn't think I could have that much fun in a race car. It was pretty amazing. The tunnel turn was like a rollercoaster ride every time through there. I had an absolute blast. The pit stops were fast. The race car was fast. The driver was fast. A great team effort today from the whole Lowe's racing team. With this race track there are so many elements to win on top of being lucky. There were some unlucky events that came around that almost bit us. You need to have a good handling race car, a lot of horsepower and something that is reliable. We had all of that today. Also great pit tops as well. I'm very happy to be here."
ON THE PIT STOP THAT HE DIDN'T MAKE WHILE IN THE LEAD:
"We really did the right thing and it worked against us. Fortunately the race played out and we were still able to win. We sat through a long description in the drivers meeting that says the first time the leader goes by pit road, pit road is closed. I'm trying to catch up with the pace car at a reasonable speed doing my job as the leader of the race. I don't even look over at the flag because it's my first time by. I look in mirror and there isn't a sole on the race track. Everybody's hit pit road. There was some discussion that our pit official, Chad was next to him, said 'don't pit.' We did the right thing. Fortunately we didn't lose a race over it. I was very upset at the time that things weren't corrected to give us the track position back or what we lost as a result of that. It just wasn't fair. Here we do what we're supposed to do. Because 40 cars do the wrong thing and I'm the minority now, it's like we'll solve it after the race. Once again I was very frustrated at the time. As the caution went on people had to pit. The next you know I'm sitting in fifth. I guess I wasn't as mad but I'm still mad. I was able to get through a few cars and win the race. You do the right thing, you do what you're told and end up getting burned for it."
WERE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT JEREMY MAYFIELD BEHIND YOU?
"He was very very strong on a short run. I could pull away from him off of one. Tunnel turn I could get a little off him, then three, and as I'd come off of one again he'd be right on my bumper. If the race would have continued, I had a problem of being loose at the start of the runs in one. As the race would wear on the car he would be awesome down there. The short runs worked against me. I was a little nervous and had to put up with a lot of pressure from Jeremy. I still think we had the car to win the race. Especially if had gone green at the end of the race, I think we would have been able to put up a nice comfortable lead on him and bring it home." AFTER THE PIT ROAD CONFUSION DID NASCAR SAY THEY MADE A MISTAKE? "I wasn't in the pit stall obviously so I'm not sure what took place. Judging by Chad's comments and then his reaction, I think we were under the impression that we did do the right thing. The decision's been made. We'll deal with it at the end of the race. That was the final thing that came to me. It was like look they know, they understand, we've been screwed on this deal and it will be solved at the end of the race."
WERE YOU WORRIED THIS WOULD COST YOU THE RACE?
"Without a doubt. I really felt this would be the thing that took the race from us."
"That caution lasted so long. There was confusion as to who was where and what was going on. At one point in time there were only four cars on the lead lap and then it changed. I didn't know what the heck was going on. As time worn on, people need to play their strategy out for fuel. A group of cars pitted. Then another group of cars pitted. When we went back to green we were in sixth position. Not that that rectified or fixed the problem of us doing the right thing and being penalized for it, but I wasn't as mad. Here I am with a shot at a top five finish, top ten or win the race if it worked out. Luckily we were able to work traffic. Another caution came out. I think three or four more needed to hit pit road. I lined up second behind the 19 and got a good move on him on the re-start, got by him and led from there. I really felt like one was almost taken from us until things started to unfold and people had to pit and we ended up sixth after that problem."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF FOR THE NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET
ON THE PIT STOP:
"First off NASCAR is doing the best they can. There's a lot of stuff going on. They're trying to get things figured out as much as we are. They make mistakes. They made a mistake. I don't know if they owned up to it or not. We were told not to pit as those guys were coming down pit road. They pitted and we didn't. We were in a pretty unfortunate situation for a couple of reasons. One we were about to run out of fuel. That was pretty scary. All those guys just topped off and were able to go the distance. We were sitting there with our hands empty. Like Jimmie said, when things like that happen strategy changes. We just do the best that we can with the hand that is dealt to us. We knew we had to conserve some fuel. We knew we had to stay out of trouble. We knew we had to get out front. We were able to do that. Jimmie drove a heck of a race. The guys did a great job in the pits. We didn't lose our heads. We didn't lose our cool. We were madder than hell but we dealt with it. That's why I feel like this team is so strong. We act like professionals. If we can't take care of something we just deal with it.."
DID NASCAR SPEAK WITH YOU SINCE THE RACE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED?
CHAD KNAUS - "No. It's kind of a moot point now. There's nothing to say. We were fortunate to win the race and that's fine.
DID THEY TELL YOU THEY MADE A MISTAKE?
CHAD KNAUS - "That's something you'll have to ask John Darby and Mike Helton."
WHAT DOES NASCAR NEED TO DO TO WIN BACK THE FANS?
CHAD KNAUS - "If you look at any competitive racing series, when people run side by side, lap after lap, and change positions, there's always a scoring problem. It's stuff they've got to work through and they will work through. To win back the fans, I think that is kind of ridiculous. The fans see one hell of a show every race track they go to. There's side by side racing, there's drama, there's pit strategy, there's bumping, there's banging. This is by far the best racing series on the planet. If you want to go to a series that is easy to score you can go to a road course where everyone runs single file and nothing really happens. If you want action and see tempers flare, they're going to come back and watch."
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "I definitely agree. I'm happy to see that when something does happen like at Dover you that you have the president of our sport stand up at the drivers meeting, apologize, take responsibility and mention the changes that they're going to put in place. When you are in a sport that involves judgment calls, you're going to have issues arise. I'm sure when there's a ball thrown and somebody thinks it's a strike and there's arguments and it goes on and on, it's what's we are faced with having judgment calls in our sports. I'd probably be singing a different tune if we lost the race over this whole thing today. I do know that they're working hard. I do believe in the leaders of our sport. They are making changes to make things better. I wish they could go back and rectify it. Past history doesn't show that when a mistake is made that they don't go and arrange scoring as needed to correct the problem. I knew we were up the creek without a paddle. The guys behind me don't have to catch up with the pace car. They're looking at pit road. They see a green flag. They hit pit road. They think it's open. I'm going off what I heard in the drivers meeting and it's second time by and I got to catch the pace car and get the short end of the stick on it."
IF YOU FINISHED 7th or 8th WOULD YOU BE THIS DIPOLOMATIC?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "No, I'd be furious, absolutely furious. Still there's anger inside from what takes place. I think it makes our race team look stronger. It makes our performance and win today look better because we were able to overcome something that was thrown at us. I think that's what our team is capable of doing every week. That's why I'm so proud to drive with these guys. I'd definitely be saying things I shouldn't say and be very upset if it didn't work out."
IF THE RACE FINISHED UNDER GREEN WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HOLD OFF JEREMEY MAYFIELD?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "I think so. Jeremy was real strong for three, four, five laps. Those cautions that kept coming up were playing into his hand and the performance of his car. It was giving him a great opportunity to get inside of me or next to me through one and two. I could hold my own through the tunnel and through three onto the front stretch. Every time through one he put a good charge on me. That's why I was real loose. The longer I ran the car would come to me. I needed long runs at the end. Jeremy needed the short runs. We had the short runs and were still able to win."
CHAD KNAUS - "I don't think it would have changed a whole lot. The Evernham team has been on a role. They've been running very competitive for the last six or seven months. I think with the clean air we had out front and the tires we had, if we could run four or five laps in a row, I think he would start to pull him a little bit."
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "The 19 would also have run out of fuel. Those guys were sweating it pretty heavily and those cautions were able to help them."
HOW MUCH WERE YOU SWEATING WITH THOSE CAUTIONS AT THE END?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "I was begging and pleading with him. We were in second and he said we needed to top off. I promised him that I was being good on the race track and saving him fuel under caution better than I've ever done before. I had to do some convincing to him. There's no way if we would have been in the pack it wouldn't have worked out as it did. Chad either believed me or wanted to gamble. The cautions came and played into our hand."
CHAD KNAUS - "When we had that caution fall, we were half a lap to the good at that point. I didn't tell him that. Every time the caution fell it gave us more of a cushion."
ON HIM AND JEFF GORDON HAVING POWERFUL CARS:
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "We have to add in the 25 to that. I have to give a lot of credit to the 25 team. They were able to come up and test and learn some new things and come up with some ideas for us to come back and apply. The 24 used it. We used that same theory. I think the Hendrick cars had a great showing today. Strong engines, great handling race cars and great performances from all the teams. The 24 was really strong. I thought we were strong as well and had something for them. It's just a great Hendrick day."
DID YOU HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SITUATION WITH THE NO. 17 AND NO. 29:
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "Not a clue. When we came through turn three with two to go and there was a lot of kitty litter down. I said there's no way it can go back to green until they blow this turn. Chad said don't worry about the kitty litter. There's dirt and debit all over the place from the 29. I didn't know why or what. When we were at Victory Lane I heard about the fiasco. I look forward to seeing it on television."
CHAD KNAUS - "I think it absolutely did (extend the caution). The 17 spun through the grass and did his doughnuts through the debris on the race track. Nothing against Matt, he was trying to get going and do what he had to. But that put more stuff on the race track that NASCAR would have to get cleaned up and there's no way to do it."
DOES THIS SEEM LIKE A POTENTIAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "I think so. The feelings I have are based off the old point system. It's hard to get too confident. As long as you're within the top ten or 400 points, it all starts over at race 27. I've then fall back to last season and the last 10 races and performed as a team and how we ran at Richmond. I feel that based on our races this year at those tracks and what we did last year, we should be one of the teams competing for the championship. It's something on the forefront of all our minds. We've had two great seasons and have been building for a championship year. Hopefully this will be the year for us."
HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THESE CONFUSING SITUATIONS?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "You have to put things behind you. The way I can make it make sense is if you have a brother or sister. They set you up and you get in trouble and your mom is yelling at you. You're like 'What are you going to do? Fight mom?' There's no way you're going to win that battle. At a certain point you just have to take it on the chin and get back to work. As soon as they say one to go you can't do anything about it. It's time to focus in the next run and get what you can."
HOW MUCH DOES THIS FEEL LIKE CHARLOTTE?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "It's a bad ass car. The longer the run we were able to click off some laps and stretch it out on the guys. The short runs we weren't as good. At Charlotte we had a car capable to pull a win in a short run and a long run. Here we were really a long run car. That's what you need at a Pocono. We did the right thing and still had enough in a short run to hold off Mayfield. I think at Charlotte from a driver's standpoint, I had a better sense of where people were on the track. This track is so spread out and there's so much going on. I didn't know what was going on. I was a little confused most of the day as to how good of a car we had and what was really going on."
CHAD KNAUS - "We had a good car obviously. We were not nearly as prepared at this track as we were at Lowe's Motor Speedway for the simple fact that we have not run as well here in the past to establish a game plan. Now that we've run competitive and up front for a whole event, we can start to establish that for the next time we come back."
HAVE THESE SITUATIONS MADE IT MORE CONFUSING FOR THE FANS?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "I think so. It makes it confusing for everyone. What drives the rule changes is the fact like guys like Chad Knaus are trying to beat the rules that are set in place. A bunch of different guys beat these rules. Next year you have 20 rules. Pretty soon when you watch the race you're going to need a rule book to be a good spectator. We're trying to find a competitive advantage for the team. When there's an unfair advantage found NASCAR has to do something by it."
CHAD KNAUS - "Rules make rules. As soon as a rule comes out, it's my job to go out there and not cheat but try to find a way to improve my car to overcome what we lost because of a rule. That breeds new rules. It's a never ending battle that will continue from now to eternity. The way to eliminate that is impossible. This is a money driven and performance driven sport."
ON SCORING SITUATIONS HAPPENING AT RACE 26:
CHAD KNAUS - "Yeah it's petrifying. You got to go out there and try to keep your nose clean and try to stay out of trouble as much as possible on the race car side. If you go out there and you're beating and banging and you're in the middle of controversy, it's going to be hard for them to score. It's scary but once again it's part of the system. The best thing we can do on our side is try to avoid being in that type of situation."
WHAT PART OF YOUR STREAK IS CHEMISTRY AND WHICH CONSISTENCY?
JIMMIE JOHNSON - "I think our chemistry as a team and organization breeds the consistency side. When I come in and explain what I'm feeling, he (Chad) comes in and works on it. I think our chemistry as a whole is the foundation in our teams' success."
CHAD KNAUS - "It's not what Jimmie and I do. It's what everybody at Hendrick Motorsports does. It's what everybody on the 24 and 48 team does. It's what Mr. Hendrick and Lowe's does for us. They allow us to go to them and say this is what we need. They give it all. That's something that a lot of teams don't get. If we don't put the pieces together it's our fault."