Texas II: Points leader Johnson press conference

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dickies 500 Post-Race Transcript An interview with: JIMMIE JOHNSON THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by today's 15th place finisher and current point leaders, Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie, talk about your night ...

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dickies 500 Post-Race Transcript

An interview with:
JIMMIE JOHNSON

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by today's 15th place finisher and current point leaders, Jimmie Johnson.

Jimmie, talk about your night tonight.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's like getting kicked in the balls over and over. That sucked. First three runs we were just terrible. After that we got the car better and I ran in the top four, top six throughout the rest of the race, but just never had a chance to get a lap back. We were close a couple times, maybe a car or two away. We just got off at the start of the race, with all the green flag running, we just couldn't get back on a lead lap. But we made the car better and ran well. Just don't have the finish to show for it.

!%Q: Jimmie, can you say what specifically was wrong with the car early in the race? Despite a pretty miserable day, you still finished 15th. That's kind of been your modus operandi, to stay ahead. No matter how bad the day is, you still finish in the top 20 and make it a decent day.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, this team is great at trying to come back. We never quit. I think that really pays off. At the end of races we make our car better. Today we had to do that again.

You know, the first three runs we started really loose and we made an adjustment. We were running in the top 10 I think, maybe top seven. The second time out after that, it was just a short five or six lap run, if I remember right. We were still pretty loose. We came in and made another big adjustment. At that point we got very tight with the car. Once that happened, you know, I was a sitting duck. Then we had at least one more green flag stop, one or two. So we just got way behind.

Chad had mentioned something to me on the radio where they figured out there was something they made a mistake with, tire pressures or something. From that point forward, the car was much more competitive. Then we made it faster throughout the day.

I ran a lot with the 07, the 16, the 18. I ran with the guys that ran in the top five basically all day; I just couldn't get any further and get to the 99 and try to get my lap back. Without any cautions throughout the day, just couldn't count on that Lucky Dog to come through.

We finished okay. Definitely not the performance we had hoped for. If we didn't get behind on that third run, I think we would have been fine and finished in the top 10, somewhere in the top five, top 10 today.

!%Q: Jimmie, did you realize how much of a heart attack Chad had when you almost had the collision on pit road? He mentioned an expletive. Did you almost have a heart attack yourself?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, I saw it coming. I think he was probably more excited about the whole thing than I was. I was leading my pit box. I could see the 28 pulling out in front of me, what was going on. Yeah, I did have to hit the brakes hard. But I had a front row seat for it all and really saw what was taking place.

!%Q: Jimmie, for a month now we've been asking other people about your team. Let me turn the tables and say, Carl goes 69 laps, wins the race gambling on fuel. That's a pretty big gamble in this circumstance. As the guy who has been in all these points championships, can you talk about the courage, whatever it takes to take that gamble?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't know all the details yet, but from where I'm sitting, they had a good chance to make up points on us. They didn't have to win the race. I feel that they knew they were going to make it. They started that last run. I really expected the 99 to fly through the pack and end up in the lead in a short period of time. It just took them a long time to get going. I thought, Well, maybe his car isn't working right. But I really think in the end they were saving fuel. They were playing that card. If it worked, great. If not, they still were going to get a bunch of points on us.

I don't think Bob or Carl, and I could be totally wrong, but I don't think those guys were swinging for the fences like that. I think they're a little more calculated with it than that, because they were going to make a bunch of points on us.

!%Q: Jimmie, as good as this Chase has been for you, to have a day like this, do you feel like now you have it out of your way and it wasn't as bad as it could have been, something you can take into Phoenix since you've won there?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: With the points lead that we had, you know, there's a level of comfort there that I don't have to outrun the 16 or the 99 or the 31 to be the champion. It was just about making sure we did our jobs to be competitive.

That is the pressure I've put on myself and this race team's put on itself. The first three runs of the race today, we weren't competitive, especially that third run. We messed up. We just didn't have it. That got us behind and we could never recover.

I'm more frustrated in the fact we didn't do the job we needed to today than the fact that I lost points. I mean, if I lose five or 10, 20 points at a time to those guys because they win and I finish fourth or fifth, you know, I can handle that. But to go out there and not perform, get caught a lap down, stuck a lap down all day, that's the part I'm frustrated with.

!%Q: Jimmie, certainly there's no panic on your team right now, but do you feel all of a sudden there's a race?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, there's been a race the whole time. You just never know what's going to happen. There's still 400 miles at Homestead and 300 at Phoenix. A lot can happen. Even at 183 points over Carl, I wasn't comfortable. I mean, I think it's 161 points you can get in a weekend. If I stuffed it in the fence the first run, I finish 43rd, they're right there. It's a race of 20 or 30 points at that point.

Now that comfort margin's even closed up more. So it's still a race. We got to go to Phoenix. My goal is to outrun those guys. My goal's to win the race, try to lead the most laps, gain points on those guys so that we go to Homestead with as many points as we can. That's truthfully the goal. I hope it works that way. No telling it will. But that's what we're working on.

!%Q: Did you expect to get that lap back and finish sixth when you got a lap down, your car had been bad enough where you didn't have that expectation? The way your team has been resilient, what happened last week, were you sort of waiting for things to work out your way?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: There are a couple times where I had some hope. I was running down the 11 and he was the first car one lap down. We didn't get a caution. We had green flag stops. Carl caught guys and put them a lap down. That opportunity went away.

There at the end I was kind of catching the 83 a little bit. We kind of stalled out, were running the same speed. There were a couple points I felt good about it. But at the same time there were so many green flag runs that I knew we were in trouble. I knew we could run in the top five. But I felt like I was going to have to go up there and take my lap back, and I knew we couldn't do that. I kind of had that feeling we were in trouble.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson