Talladega II: Points leader post race press conference

AMP Energy 500 Post-Race Transcript An interview with: JIMMIE JOHNSON THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our points leader, Jimmie Johnson. He drives the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. THE MODERATOR: Jimmie Johnson, still our points leader. Lot...

AMP Energy 500 Post-Race Transcript

An interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our points leader, Jimmie Johnson. He drives the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.

THE MODERATOR: Jimmie Johnson, still our points leader. Lot of people said coming out of Talladega if you were still the points leader watch out. Your thoughts about now heading to Texas?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel good about things. I know it says 8th up there on the board, but I believe we were 6th in the race today. So with that in mind I am very, very happy. I hate to see so many tore up cars and the big wreck that took place, but for us what really made the difference, obviously we were conservative all day long. But Chad's decision to take fuel -- there are just a few of us that took fuel, and we had the wreck and the red flag. At that point guys just started running out of fuel. The caution came back out and waved off the restart a few times. Then more guys ran out. And guys hit pit road. And we went from 25th up to, I think, 11th before we took the green. Had some good moves I made through that opening lap to get up to speed and all that kind of thing. Was far enough ahead to not be caught up in the wreck, because at least the car on the outside of me and right behind, me was cleaned out. And I think the guys right behind me were, too. So Chad's decision put us in position to stay out of the wreck and get a good Top 10 finish.

Q: Nowadays in football they have these rules that protect the quarterback and they call personal fouls. And sometimes people say the only way you could avoid it is if you can defy gravity, and they say it's making football players not allowed to play football. Do some of the conditions here make it where it's hard to ask racers not to race? Not to do whatever's at your disposal to go to the front?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean, we go through this every year. You guys try to find new ways to have us answer the same question about the restrictor plate racing. Yeah, we have the steering wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal and all that kind of thing. But until somebody really has a chance to sit in these cars and understand how tough it is, it's easier to say these things from the outside. Inside the car we're racing. We're doing our thing. We mind our manners during the race, single file, and everybody was probably disappointed in that. Then we get racing in the end, and you have the big wrecks. So I en don't think that it's worth finding there is not a new angle. The only way we avoid this, if anybody wants to avoid these big wrecks and this type of racing, is to eliminate the need for restrictor plates. That means get the tractors out and knock down the banking. We have to let off in order to avoid this. At the end of the day, the restrictor plate is still here because it's a good show for the fans. So at some point when the fans dislike it, I guess we'll make a change, and we won't have this stuff. But until then, we're a product of what the fans want to see.

Q: A quick two parts for you. Considering what you got out of this today, does this feel as satisfying and good? Or maybe even better than a race win itself? And also, just like you didn't want to lose points in a race like this, do you kind of feel bad that your teammates lost points to you under circumstances like this in this kind of situation?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yes, I do feel better with a race win than with today's finish. From where we were with the red flag to where we finished. I'm still in shock. I can't believe that it worked out. I can't believe that that many guys ran out of fuel and put themselves in that position. We almost stayed out. It was such a relief to finish and make up points. I'm trying to keep it back because I do feel bad that the guys crashed coming to the finish and we got wrecked cars. I was really concerned for mark, because when I looked in the mirror I saw the 5 roof number tumbling and flipping and then it hit the outside fence. I hate to see things take place that way. So the crash part, yeah. But making up points on them, that's what we're here to do. I wish it would have been under fuel circumstances not under a crash, for sure. But we'll take them.

Q: Even if they leave you eighth in the final run down, you'll still have a lead of 187 over Martin, and 205 over Gordon. There is virtually no way anybody beats you and makes up that kind of race. Are you relieved to not have a points race over the final three races of the season after having a couple of tense ones the last few years? Are you glad to be kind of done with all the hoopla or the pressure? Or would you rather have it go down to the wire?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not going to let up and lose focus to the job I need to do and allow the championship to be in the forefront of my mind until it's mathematically locked out. I can lose 165 points next week if I miss a shift and blow the engine at the start of the Texas race and mark has a perfect day.So with all that in mind, yes, I am feeling much better about things. I was so concerned about this race. I thought I was going to lose points with about three or four to go. So to have it turn around and lead with points over the guys, I didn't expect it. Very, very good situation we're in. But I just can't stop doing what I do. How the team does their thing, how we prepare, and let that in until there is no chance because racing doesn't have any feelings. Racing will reach up and bite you at any point and anything can happen. So we're in a better position, for sure. Our strategy might change some moving forward until we're we can get to Homestead. But we've just got to keep doing what we've been doing and try to close this thing out as soon as possible.

Q: How does it affect you as a competitor when you're told only an hour before you're going to go 200 miles an hour that you have to do it differently than you've done it before?*

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I have to agree. The rules change they made didn't make the racing anymore dangerous at the start of the race. There is nothing there from a fear factor or concern factor. They tried to take away an opportunity for us to wreck. But I think we all knew it was coming. On Friday they sent some feelers out. In the truck race there were some more opinions floating around of what could and could not take place. I think we all knew about it coming into the race. So we weren't blind sided, and it wasn't something that was going to put us in harm's way.

Q: The strategy played out good for you. But does the urge to want to move forward take over from wanting to ride for a period of time where you feel like I got to go?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: To be honest with you, the strategies completely backfired. The only thing that saved our butts was Chad's decision for fuel. We were in big trouble, 25th or something on that red flag. So all the credit goes to Chad and making us come down pit road and put some fuel in that thing. That was really the strategy that did it. So we could have been running up front, and he could have had that I don't think he would have because a lot of guys stayed out. But his whole decision to pit put us in a position to finish well.

Q: At what point with how many laps to go did you realize you know, being back here may not be the best way to be? When did you begin to feel a little bit anxious that you could maybe not get up to the front?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: There are different stages of it. I think last year with 14 to go the guys that were riding decided to run up through there and caused a wreck. So today I was waiting for that to take place and it didn't. With about 6 to go, that's the last time I remember Chad giving me a number of 6 to go. It dawned on me that we were in a bad position. There were three wide in front of me. Nowhere to go, and you're just stuck. You hope that your lane moves forward a little bit. If it does, you pass four cars, five cars, that's about it. Then the inside lane or middle lane comes surging forward. And I knew I was in big trouble then. You could see guys pushing and shoving, and wondering if the big wreck was going to take place, but then I'm like, I can't be conservative now and try to miss it because if this thing goes green like it looks, we're in even more trouble then. So I was asking where the 5 and the 24 were. And it had me really nervous in the closing laps where we were and what was going on and the way our strategy played out. The strategy backfired like I said earlier, it was all Chad's decision to pit.

Q: If you could clarify. When did you go in for gas for that final time? And everybody thought they were good on gas, everybody on the radio said we're good, we're good. Under a red flag, and this is a question of ignorance, I thought you turned your motors off? How do they run out of gas if they were good before the red flag?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: What was the caution before the red? No, we pitted during the red is what it was. When the caution first came out we came by and the pits were open. We came in and put fuel in the car. Us, the 1, there were a few others that came. So we left pit road, drove through 1 and 2, and they stopped us on the back right away. At that point when we took off and got going guys left their engines off during that caution and all. But the fact that it took a while, they must have been closer than they thought. When the 1 car ran out, I think he was stranded, and that brought the caution back out, and we had to go one to go. And we had two or three extra laps at least, and that cut into the amount of fuel these guys had had planned on having for the end.

-credit: nascar

*For Kahne and Logano quotes:
See also: Talladega II: 2nd, 3rd finishers press conference

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson