NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Sharp AQUOS 500
Topics: Sharp AQUOS 500
September 2, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by tonight's winner, driver of the number 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson. This is Jimmie's second victory here in California and his sixth Top-10 finish at California Speedway. Jimmie, tell us about your run tonight.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Really just a solid effort through the whole night. I think in the middle part of the race we were real quick on short run, probably one of the better bars but in the long run would burn the right rear tire on it. As the track changed, we made some small changes and we got that better and better.
I tried the topside, Kyle as having a lot of luck there and making up a lot of ground up there. I tried it and couldn't really make it work for long, and/or just get any speed out of the car doing it. So, went back to the bottom and focused on the bottom. We adjusted the car to run at the bottom and it paid off at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by team owner, Rick Hendrick. Rick, tell us about your view of the race tonight.
RICK HENDRICK: It was a good race, and, you know, all our cars ran good at times, and we were able to be there at the end. So it was a good race. The last 20 laps are probably the longest 20 I've ever seen, but it was a good race.
Q. At the end, for a while, it looked like Kyle was closing in, were you running as hard as you needed to, or did you fine a line that worked better?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: What I was doing is I forgot about the 99 back there be to honest with you. I thought the 5 was second place and I could see the 5 in the mirror running the top. And I thought I had that big margin running back to the 5 and just running the top I could kind of slow the bleeding down because he was coming.
Then I heard it was like six to go or five to go and the 99 is in second, and I looked in the mirror and I couldn't recognize the hood on the car. I thought, well, that must be the 99 and I went back down on the bottom where I had been best the whole time and started matching the times and actually got a couple tenths back on them there. I thought the 5 was in second and thought I was playing the right strategy running the top and being conservative, and I had a huge space for myself to the 5 and thought I was fine. Then I had to readjust about five to go.
Q. Unfortunately most media are going to a story on the low turnout this weekend. You're from the area. What is missing from the track side or NASCAR side to get this to be a packed event like it used to be?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think I have the answer. I know that there's a large fan base for motor sports in southern California. It seems whenever you go to two events at a track, both tracks have a hard time filling up both events, both dates. The weather you would think would discourage people. I know I wouldn't spend money to sit in traffic, sit in the stand for six, seven hours and leave and that could be hurting it, as well.
I do feel the track is getting racier as the track ages. Short tracks put on a little better show, more rough and tough and that might be an answer to look at some time down the road. I know there's a lot of speculation going on and I would love to see the stands full but I just don't know what that is
I think tonight we put on a great race from the competitor's standpoint and did everything we could tonight and a lot of great three- and four-wide racing and a lot of hard racing.
Q. Did the "Equal Rules" bumper sticker make it on to your car?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know what, I absolutely forgot about the bumper sticker with everything that was going on in the Busch practice and all of that. That was my fault. Somebody asked me about it before the race started and that's the first time it came to mind with all that's been going on this week, so it didn't make it on.
Q. This is your first win since May 6. Did you think you were not going to win again this year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, that's not the case. We've been close, we've been running good. I think of Dover, I think of somewhere else in there, Chicago where we were running really good and up front and had problems.
So we have been close. It's nice to get the job done and historically we get off to a great start, have a slow summer and finish up strong and it looks like for whatever reason, our cycle is coming back. It's just kind of what happens for us and I don't really know why but I'm glad we are back in victory lane. I didn't think we wouldn't get back in victory lane, but it is nice to get back.
Q. It looked like early in the race, for the first half of the race, everybody was battling for position, including the guys up front, the leader and everybody. Then it seemed like when you got the lead, things kind of spread out a little bit more and there was still racing for second and third but it wasn't as much for the guy up front. Was that just your car was a little better or were other guys having trouble getting a handle on it? Did you hear anything about what your teammates were going through?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't. I can say that our car was pretty good on the short run and then we got loose over through the long run. As the race wore on and as the track cooled down we made some adjustments, as well. But I think the track came to us many and maybe it just dialed some other guys out. But our car came on at the end of the race, by far the best we were all night long, all day long.
Q. Jeff Gordon just said very straight into the microphone that he feels like he's the man to beat in the championship and it's easier for him to step up once game is on in New Hampshire, but also said you are very strong. With the two of you battling together and the two of you stepping up at New Hampshire, how do you look at that
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think this is a great problem. Rick has three cars capable of winning the championship with Kyle, myself, and Jeff. We're all very strong mentally. We all want to win. We all want to race hard. We all want to be a champion for our own reasons: Kyle wants his first, Jeff wants his fifth. I want my second.
When I first think in my mind of who I'm going to have to fight for the championship, I think of my teammates and that's a huge credit to Rick Hendrick Motorsports. There are a lot of other cars out there and it's going to be a long ten races to say the least. But I think my teammates, one of the three of us should get it done
THE MODERATOR: Chad, tell it us about your view of the race tonight
CHAD KNAUS: Obviously it was a great race. It was a lot of fun to be able to go out there and have the Jimmie Johnson Foundation on the car and go out and pull it off. The car was very fast from Friday on and it was great. It was a lot of fun. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports really put a strong effort in this race car to get it to the racetrack. Just a handful of weeks ago, the car was just a pile of rubble from the Chicagoland wreck and brought this car back, basically resurrected it with a new front clip, new rear body, new rear clip and brought it back to the racetrack untested. For it to be this fast out of the box, I was real happy with it.
The guys did great job, great pit stops. This racetrack is really known for having a lot of engine failures and for us, I think not one of our Hendrick Motorsports engines not to have any type of failure is great; it's a statement.
THE MODERATOR: We'll resume back to questions
Q. Are you stopping up on Malox for the Chase because of all three cars? And for anybody, this pattern thing, Jimmie, that you mentioned, this fast start, slow summer, fast finish, we sometimes keep asking you guys, what are you going to do to change it; maybe it is you don't need to change it. It seems to be working pretty good.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, the Malox deal, I need it all the time. And tonight, I talked to Kyle and Jimmie up front because they were getting awful close and we wanted to finish the race. As it gets down to these short tracks, it's going to be tough. But I'm proud of the guys for kind of respecting that we need to finish and so forth.
So we're excited about that. We're glad that from my standpoint, we really needed this win because the 2 car and Tony and a lot of guys have just been coming on. And we had a big burst at the front and then we hit kind of some seconds and not so, races were not that good for us. It's probably going to be one of the toughest Chases that you've ever seen with a lot of good cars. So it's going to be a dogfight with all 12 of them.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know why the cycle goes like it does. I think of Stewart, and if you look at his statistics, gets off to a low start, comes on. We all look at it, doesn't matter if it's the 48 car, the 20 car, a Roush car, whatever it may be, we all look at our weak points and try to pick those up. We've tried to address the tracks in the summer and what to do in the summer. We just didn't get the results. I think we were stronger this summer than we've been the last few sums. Just didn't have the results.
Q. A little more on that cycle. A month and a half, two months ago, back in the Top-10 in points and maybe a little doubt about the Chase spot. Now you're looking at the top seed or at least a share of the top seed, was there ever any real worry a couple of months ago about, hey, we might not get in this and how relieved or excited are you about the position you're in now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I certainly was concerned. We had great race cars and had bad luck and lost a lot of round. And it's easy to have a bad race car and just not run well the following week. So if you get four or five bad races in a row, you can lose a lot of ground, and that's where I was nervous.
We really haven't had a bad car. I think Bristol was probably one of the tougher races we've had in a long time, maybe Sonoma and Bristol were really the two races this year where just we weren't there for whatever reason. And outside of that, we've been very, very competitive. So I was more nervous that we've been competitive and have had poor finishes, and it's easy to run into a slow spot in the season and not really run well. But we've got that all turned around now and looking good.
Q. How long has it seemed to you since that last victory this year at Pocono, and as good as you guys have been all year, does doubt creep into your mind when you are as good as you were at the beginning of the season and things level off?
RICK HENDRICK: Remember I told you guys when we were like 8 and 11 or whatever and I said, it won't be long before you ask me what's wrong, and I was waiting for that. (Laughter) We won some races we shouldn't have won, and then we lost some races we could have won.
The competition is just really, really tight out there, and you're right, I knew it was going to come. I was concerned that we had peaked too quick and that we would not be good in the Chase. But the guys are running well. But I knew you were going to ask me that question.
Q. I just wanted Chad to debrief the race and give your thoughts about the race and obviously congratulations on the win.
CHAD KNAUS: The race was great. The guys had phenomenal pit stops, did a very, very good job. I couldn't have been prouder of that. The car was good. We made adjustments. I think we stayed pretty much in tune with the track as it was changing throughout the day. It was a great race.
I wish I could say there was more to it. There really wasn't. We were able to run up front the majority of the day, we were in the Top-5 and when the opportunity was there, Jimmie went out and struck hard and strong and went out there and took the lead and it was nice. It worked out well.
We really wanted to come out here and win this race. Fontana as been a good racetrack for us. At Michigan both race this is year I felt like we had cars that were capable of winning both races and leading up to this race we felt very confident coming in. There were a lot of guys who were strong. The 2 car was very strong early on and the 5 was very, very strong and those guys are always a threat for the victory. You know, there at the end we were fortunate to have a great pit stop and come out with the victory.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen, congratulations.
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