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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Dickies 500

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Stock Car Racing Topics:  Dickies 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Dickies 500

Jeff Gordon
Jimmie Johnson
Jamie McMurray
November 2, 2008


FORT WORTH, TEXAS

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by third-place finisher in today's race, Jamie McMurray. His third-place finish marks the third top-five finish at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jamie, talk about your night tonight.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, at the beginning of the race, you're kind of just logging laps. But our car -- I was a little bit worried in Happy Hour because the car didn't drive very good. Seemed to have good speed, but it didn't drive as good as it did at Charlotte and Atlanta. We ran really well at those tracks. When the race started, it just seemed to have a lot of grip. I searched around a little bit, found a groove that worked for me, just kind of rode it out.
I think we had probably the second best car at the beginning. Carl was really fast at the start of the race. He was able to get through lap traffic a little bit better also.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Jamie.

Q. That last pit stop, took two tires, got out front. In a situation like that where you have your teammate leading the race, he's battling in the Chase, does it ever cross your mind looking out for them, doing something that would help you to your detriment?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think if you're racing for 10th, it's different. When you're racing for a win, it's hard to win at this level. You certainly wouldn't do anything to hurt those guys. But nobody, nobody in this sport's going to give up a win to help somebody gain three or five points, whatever it would be. So, no.

Q. What did you think of your crew chief's decision to have you pit there at the end?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I mean, I don't figure fuel mileage. I think he just did a wonderful job tonight with calling for the two tires with 70 laps to go, however many there were. Then I asked him what lap we were going to pit with, and he said with 12 to go. In my head I thought 12 laps to go, it's hard to save 12 laps of fuel. Guys just don't do that. So I didn't really think that anyone was going to be able to make it. Then for your teammate to make it and you not...
I talked to the engineer right after the race. He said, It wasn't even close for us. Told me the mileage they would have to get, the mileage we were getting. He's like, We just really didn't have that choice.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by second-place finisher in today's race, Jeff Gordon. Jeff tied his career-best finish at Texas Motor Speedway and now has six top-five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jeff, you started on the pole. Up-and-down day for you. Talk about your run.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I was pretty optimistic when the green flag dropped. Took off there, the car felt great. We started. Car started going away a little bit. But we maintained top five. Every time, typical Texas, we just started losing the handle on it as the sun went down. Lost that track position on one run where we got real loose.
Man, what a struggle it was when that happened. Just holding on tight. We lost a lap. But the cautions fell our way. The team never gave up. Real proud of them. Then Steve Letarte made a great call there. It kind of fell our way. But he still thought about if it went all the way on fuel, and that's what it takes to come home second on a day like today. We were a lap short.
But, you know, we came in, fueled up, made some adjustments. Car was really pretty good on that last run. He said, Hey, you know, I think we're going to be a lap short. I know I conserved a little bit. I thought, you know, we could make it, and we did.
He was apologizing to me because he thought he was going to get us a win. I said, Man, you can't apologize about finishing second on a day like today. That was like a win.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.

Q. Jamie, that's three top 10s in about four races. Is there a sense this team is starting to come together?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Really since Dover, we led at the beginning of the race, got involved in a wreck. Our cars have been top-10 cars about every race. We've run in the top five like two of the last three. Really not doing anything different. It just seems like we're able to make better adjustments to the cars.
Really when we unloaded here, we were horrible. They came in and sat in the car for about 10 minutes, they made a couple of adjustments. I pulled back out, it's like it drives great. You just don't get to have that very often. If you don't unload well, it's hard to get your car right.
Our sim program that we have at Roush Fenway, it's incredible how they can make our cars drive as well as they can, giving us like a starting setup.
I don't know. I mean, it certainly is nice to be able to run this way at the end of the year because I feel like the guys that run well towards the end of the season are able to start next year running that same way. Hopefully we can get through Phoenix and Homestead. Those are two tracks I really enjoy.

Q. Usually in a fuel mileage race, the winning car is a top-10 car that just kind of gambles. It's not usually the car that leads the most laps. Talk about the oddity of having a dominant car win a fuel mileage race.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, that's usually the downside of having a great car. If you have a big enough lead, you can maybe conserve. I mean, Roush has always been known for good fuel mileage. I tell you what, that car was really, really strong today. I know my crew chief was really hoping he was going to run out of gas.
You know, got to give him credit, take your hat off to him for having be able to have that good of a racecar and getting good fuel mileage to take it to the end, and taking a gamble. They're kind of in that position where they have nothing to lose really. Jimmie had a big lead coming in. And those guys, I think they knew if they took a gamble and it paid off, that that would pay off big in the points. Unfortunately for Jimmie, it did.
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.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.

Q. Jeff, when you have this kind of finish, even though you are still winless here, what does it tell you about where this team is going in terms of trying to get that win?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, we're not going to give up, that's for sure. I know it's late in the season, we haven't won yet, but that doesn't mean we're laying down. We're certainly not going to do that. Just like going for the pole on Friday, I mean, we're doing everything we possibly can.
You know, I'd be a little bit more excited about our chances if we had run up front and ran in that second position all night or all day. I mean, the thing is, we're gonna look at any possible way to win races. We're going to try to make the car go as fast as we can. When we have that opportunity to make it on fuel, you know, we're going to take the opportunity. That's what we did tonight.
But I'm still disappointed that, you know, we struggled with the handling. You know, I had my hands full. Some of it's me; some of it's the team and the setup. That's something we've got to work on coming back to Texas.
But, you know, I look forward to the next two opportunities to try to win. Tonight's an obvious sign of we can still win. No matter how the car's running, we can still win. We'll go to the next two and do everything we can to try to win.

Q. Comparing last April here to this race tonight, can that be looked at as a microcosm of the improvement your team has had over the season? Is it any indication of where you guys can improve to for next year?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, yeah, I think so. I mean, it's definitely a sign. We've improved, there's no doubt about it. One of the reasons why we haven't had a win to this point in the season's because we really were off track at the beginning of the season. Unlike Jimmie and their team, it's taken us a little longer to get it turned around.
But we have definitely turned things around. We've been way more competitive, especially on the mile-and-a-half's. Tonight was a perfect example. Not only qualifying, but even though we weren't very good, we were still way better than we were here in April. Of course, it was hard to be worse.
But, you know, I think not only tonight but the last several races have shown the improvements that we've made with the cars.

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.



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