Continued from part 1 Q: How many drivers can you race that hard with that much on the line in the big picture, and how much trust do you have to have in the guy that you're racing because as you just stated, you're completely sideways ...
Continued from part 1
Q: How many drivers can you race that hard with that much on the line in the big picture, and how much trust do you have to have in the guy that you're racing because as you just stated, you're completely sideways at 200-mile-an-hour.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There's only a handful. There's only a handful of guys that I would feel comfortable racing that hard with at the end being in the position that we're in.
So there's not many and Matt certainly is one and I've had a lot of great racing with Matt over the years and I think we both have respect for one another that we can get in there and do it all without running each other over.
Q: Chad, I want to ask you, he said it occurred to him to hit the button to tell Jimmie to slow down. It didn't cross your mind, did it?
CHAD KNAUS: I didn't say that
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You told me to pull out my cape and get to work.
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, 39 to go when we stopped to take those tires there, I said, "Man, ready to pull out your cape?"
He said, "Man, I've been waiting all night."
I wanted to get this win. I felt like it was good for us. I didn't want to put ourselves in a compromising position obviously before he got up to the 17th, passed us relatively easy. I was a little nervous aches little tentative, but Matt is a great driver as well.
Q: You know, you're sitting there and you've got -- you said you saw the video sideways. Does the kid in you take over there? Does the kid that's been racing since he was this high, and you just live for those moments? Is that what takes over and sort of Chases common sense and reason to the back, is that where the kid takes over?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There's something that takes over. I'm not -- I don't look forward to those pressure-packed situations. It's not like I sit up late at night and hope that that's a situation that develops but when I'm in them, I do a decent job in those moments and I think that's something that our team has done a really great job with, too and that's part of the makeup of this race team that when the pressure is on, for whatever reason we do a good job in those moments.
As a kid, I crashed a lot. So I hesitate to say the kid came out inside of me but I was having fun in dirt track and the car and racing, like a free spirit of sorts, just having a good time and racing hard and focused only on the win. I had a good time out there. It really was a fun experience
Q: Is there a situation where because you've raced him so many times, especially in the last lap wins or last few laps to victory that you have a comfort level that you know that this is going to be playing out the way you want, as opposed to another guy that may bang into you, that part? And the second part of the question is, Matt paid you one of highest compliments another driver can by saying the last three or four years you guys have been the best. He really appreciates that as a driver and as a competitor. Can you talk about those?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That is a huge compliment and I appreciate it. And I think the 48 team, we have looked at the 17 team as one of best, as well. So they keep us on throughout the year and collecting points and racing for a championship. I know this year it has not worked out for him but we have a lot of respect for him as well.
What was the other one?
Q: That you have a tendency, you know you can do what you want to do, as opposed to other guys who may do something you don't expect to do, like bang into you.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I knew Matt was going to race me clean and I was actually shocked he crowded me as much as he did, but it's for a win. He wants to win for his team as bad as I want to win for mine.
So I do have a level of confidence, if that was -- a lot of other drivers, there's only three or four that I would put myself next to with where we are right now in racing at the end of the race.
And also, in another way, if it was someone I didn't trust running side-by-side with, there are things that I can do to get them out of the way and I didn't have to run side-by-side with them but I didn't take that route with Matt, take back a bunch of air in the back and move him out of the race. If I do that to him, there's two more races where he can get back at me, and I don't want to do that or get into the next corner and he can do it, and we have such a great history together, we were just racing hard with each other.
Q: This is for Rick and for Jimmie. Big picture question. Fans are already IM'ing and saying Jeff is racing conservatively and Jimmie is racing aggressively and that's what he has to do to beat him. And Rick, if you could start, the weekend with Jeff struggling in practice and leading into this win, it would be maybe unfair to say that Jeff sent racing as aggressively as Jimmie and talk about the weekend and how the two matched up.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, Jeff was really fast unloading and in practice. He had a good draw and he was fast. But in talking to all of the guys on Saturday, his car just wasn't balanced. He couldn't get it like he wanted it. Jimmie was the guy that felt like his car was balanced. And so he had to chase him a little bit.
But Jeff, I've been around Jeff a lot of years and been on the radio with Jeff a lot of years; he was awful aggressive. He was in a position back there that he was having to thread the needle a couple of times and got out first. But he knows that he can't win this thing by being conservative; that's a dead issue now, especially after today.
Q: And Jimmie, were you able to help him at all over the weekend and did he come to ask you about it -- you said you might help him out and you would be more equal on the track.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think certainly on the practice that we had yesterday a lot of teams took things that we found to help our race car in practice.
And I look at Jeff's performance, there was a time where I know how hard it was to get through traffic, I think he was as aggressive as could he have been to stay up there and after the teams sharing stuff certainly took its place last night. I think the 5, even the 25 had a great day and Jeff ran strong, too.
So I think based often what we did yesterday, we helped out the whole organization.
Q: I know it's probably not as easy as it seems from your position but seems like you guys have this timing thing down where guys work on the car, work on the car and bring it to the front at just the right time. Can you just sort of talk about how you guys managed to do that on such a consistent basis?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Rather start up front and stay up front. But long races work well for us. I don't know why, I don't know what it is, but if we focus on the right things during the race and get the car to drive well for me, get to the end, if I can get in there and race for a win and be there at the right time -- we've won a lot of races in different situations.
This week I picked up four tires and had to race up there for the win and we've had extremes the last two weeks but I really don't no what that is.
CHAD KNAUS: A lot of it has to do with the configuration. He does a very good job of training on a weekly basis, he pays a lot of attention of what he's doing to get prepared for a long race. And honestly I thought a lot of guys, if they get towards the end of the race, they start to fall out of the seat a little. I think it has a lot to do with him for sure.
Q: Matt came on the radio right after the race and apologized to his guys and said, "Did everything I could, and when he passed me, I think he was playing with me a little." Would you say that's a fair sentence?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. My four tires were better than his, too, that's for sure. But I couldn't clear him and he did the right thing to slow me down and keep me from passing. I knew if I could clear him I could check out and get away from him, but I couldn't get the pass. I tried twice and the second time I got it.
Q: There was one point where Matt was very sideways. He said he thought he was sideways the whole time. Did you see it either at that time or maybe on the replay, and what was going through your mind when he got that sideways with about ten laps to go?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I saw it on the replay what I was just giving an interview in victory lane and he was really sideways and I had no clue and he still was able to side draft me and slow me down and get to my outside.
So it tells me when he was crossed up like that, he never checked up -- so he was doing everything he could to win it, too. I think he wins the award for being the most sideways if that's even a way to phrase something. I had some good, long slides but he had that thing crossed where you could see the number on the side of the door.
Q: What was the problem that you had with the glue on the visor and how did you get that taken care of during the race? And last week you won with a two-tire call and this week with a four-tire call. What were the factors that made you choose those different ways?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I couldn't really do much about it and we were afraid if I had a rag with something on it that would -- it would faze (ph) the shield itself and I just had to run with it. I think all of the years I've spent racing on the dirt and not really having best vision kind of helped and worked out for me. But the flat, vertical stripes across the visor when I pull off, first time I've had a problem. It usually comes off pretty easy and when I was pulling on it was real tough to get it off and I was concerned it was only two behind and sure enough it left a bunch of stripes right across. But I got used to it once I got in the car and got going, I kind of got ahead and it all worked out.
Q: Tire call?
CHAD KNAUS: Two completely different dynamics. Atlanta, it was going to be a very, very short run. So we felt confident that we were playing the card that with only four laps to go when we took the green flag that track position was going to pay off and fortunately it did
Here with 30 laps to go, four tires was going to be king and so we were, like I said before, we were fortunate enough to be the first one with four tires on the racetrack and it worked out
Q: Three straight wins, can you put into perspective momentum, what that means for a team, I'm guessing it doesn't give anybody a tenth of a second but can you explain what momentum can mean for a team especially now you've got two more races left?
CHAD KNAUS: It's a great thing. It's a very powerful tool obviously as long as you're able to keep it in check. Momentum can just as much be an enemy as it can be an asset because you'll see guys go out there and they will start to gain momentum, get a little cocky, a little lax and have a mistake.
I think our team does a good job of taking momentum and turning it into a good thing and using it to almost like an energizer. When you go to the racetrack feeling comfortable with the decisions that you make it, makes me feel more comfortable when I'm making the pit calls on the pit box that the guys actually have good pit stops; so it boosts everybody's energy level up a good bit and obviously with the way Jimmie has driven the last few weeks, it helps.
Q: Anybody who wants to take it, we have a lot of talk these days about points and points racing and points this and points that. You get this sort of buzz from the fans that the drivers don't necessarily race that hard for wins, and I know that drives drivers and crew chiefs nuts but no evidence of that tonight. To me this was a good race for this sport at this time of the year because it showed the points leader, basically giving, just putting it all up on the line to win this championship. Do you have any sort of extra sense of pride that not only you took the points lead the way you did, but just basically lay it all out there.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was really excited and the checkered flag fell, the win with everything on the line like it is right now, being pushed so hard by my teammate and me needing to perform -- again, I don't look forward to this but now that I'm in the situation, this is what -- this is what I want to be a part of. I want to win a championship by out racing the best in the business.
So I agree with you, I think it is good for the sport, and I think that these final two races are going to be the same way. Jeff is trying as hard as he can and I'm doing the same and hopefully we can do that all the way to Homestead.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, when you see guys like Martin Truex running hard all day, and Junior running hard -- inaudible -- had a problem on pit road and he was fast. He had to run hard all day and then he had to make the right cars and then the cycles that he got off, cycle a little bit and he had to pit a few laps early and then the caution came out what couple went down, so he had to run hard.
When I looked at the 11 car and Matt Kenseth, Matt drove him and ran him hard and Denny made a mistake, or they touched, I don't know whose fall it was but he broke loose and cost him -- and I had replays of that when I saw Jimmie up there with Matt. But again, like he said, if it had been the 12 or the 1 for a win -- they have to back off.
And I think coming into the Chase, I thought this we were going to have to race hard every week and run the Top-5 or Top-10 and the guy that ran in the Top-5 that one -- just don't have any bad luck. I think the fans got their money's worth because I know our cars, Kyle was running the wheels off of it. One are the scary moments was when he went around you on the outside, three-wide and one down there and took the lead and came in and took four tires and they came out a couple of spots behind Jimmie. This Chase deal, everybody is going to have to bring their A-Game.
Q: I think some people may not remember how taken aback a lot of people were when you decided to hire a guy that not a whole lot of people really knew how good he was, six or seven years ago. How much better is Jimmie as a driver at this point than maybe you thought at the time he would be when you made; when you and Jeff made that addition to put him in a start up team like that.
RICK HENDRICK: To be honest with you, I think he drove far ahead. In the Busch car, he was impressive. But I remember meeting with Lowe's and Lowe's chairman was sitting there saying, "Can you win?"
Jimmie said, "I can win." We went to Charlotte and saw some things right out of the gate that were phenomenal, car control and feedback, and Chad being, not having any idea how good Chad was going to be, so to sit here today and tell that you these two guys, Jimmie just gets better and better.
I think if you ask other drivers in our camp, they will tell you he's a student of the sport, and I love to listen to him break the corner down and he will break the corner down in five sections and talk about it when he's running 190 miles an hour about how the car lands. It's phenomenal, you have no idea. And we're very fortunate, give both of them a lot of credit. We had a rough start.
Q: Kind of a two-part for Chad and Jimmie. Can you talk about how opting out of the Atlanta test earlier this week affected this weekend performance and how you guys performed for the rest of the season?
CHAD KNAUS: I think that obviously, we've worked all season long to get to the point to battle for the championship and that that's where our focus needs to be right now. We're fortunate enough at Hendrick Motorsports to have teammates that our teammates in the 25 or 88, I don't remember the numbers how they had them jumbled up but basically Casey and Dale were testing and we can go back and poor over their data and see what they have and apply what they have learned at their Atlanta test to our Las Vegas test to prepare for next year.
So it's really helped me getting prepared for Texas and it's a short turnaround from Phoenix, as well. So we had to prep our Phoenix and Texas cars to come out west and needed to get that done.
Q: A lot of guys in the Cup series who use the Busch Series to get extra time on the track, but you and Jeff, don't really do a lot of the Busch races but leading the points and running away with it and making it a two-man race. What are your thoughts on that whole situation and would you like to be run are more Busch Series races or a nationwide next year? How does that play into how you guys are successful throughout the Cup series?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think that Busch racing -- as much horsepower they have and the shorter wheel, it just doesn't work and I would go out on a limb and say not really -- inaudible -- and just finally got two more recently. It's a great place to cut your teeth and great place to get recognized, but there's a big difference between the two cars, and I'm just much better with the higher-horsepower Cup car than the Busch car, and I think Jeff is in the same boat.
So I'll run a few during the year and have fun with. I'll go run the Busch race and run my guts out to run eighth or ninth or whatever it is and they be hop in the Cup car. I think you look over history and see guys that dominate Busch and get in the Cup car and doesn't necessarily work out and you have guys like Stewart and myself, that didn't have the best Busch career but have had a great Cup career.
KERRY THARP: Thanks a lot, congratulations, have a good week, we'll see you in Phoenix.
-credit: gm racing