NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Topics: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
September 12, 2009
KERRY THARP: Jimmie Johnson has joined us on the podium, number 48 Lowe's Chevrolet and comes into the Chase seeded second with 5,030 points. He finished the first 26 in points before the seeds in third, but now he moves up to second and obviously, Jimmie, in the Chase every year, going for your fourth consecutive championship. Your thoughts?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Looking forward to it. The Chase with Matt not making it will be the only one in the Chase, that's a stat I'm proud of and the team is proud of. The last two races have not gone as we had hoped and we have some good tracks coming up for us. We'll have to see.
To start a Chase, this is probably one of most interesting starts we are going to have. I think it's anybody's championship right now. Guys that have been kind of locked in, including Stewart, myself, Jeff, we have been running decent, but maybe not scoring the most points and you look at the guys around the bubble Mark and they have probably been scoring the most points.
So I think it's really tough to really give this to anybody and really pick a favorite at this point. So we just need to buckle down put in ten good ones and work really hard.
KERRY THARP: Thank you. We are also joined by race winner Denny Hamlin who drives the number 11 FedEx Toyota, he comes into the Chase seeded fourth, your second win of the season and your first win at your home racetrack. Congratulations.
DENNY HAMLIN: It's a good run for our team. It's how we have run the last few times here and just haven't got the win. You know, today everything just came together. We had good pit stops and didn't make any mistakes, so we just kind of paced ourselves at the beginning. The 24 was really good there at the beginning and had some good racing with him. Just kind of sizing him up, seeing what he had in case I had to race him towards the end.
Q. Do you kind of feel like you are entering this Chase with still a big target on your back because you are the three-time defending champion?
DENNY HAMLIN: I can see the Target. (Laughter).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Maybe other people view it that way but I live by the thought that that's last year, and right now, Denny won the last race, and you go to Atlanta and it was Casey and we haven't won since Indy. Stats are great and all that stuff .
That was last year. If we take last year's set up to the tracks we'll run 15th. It's what's going on right now. And nobody has had a clear advantage. I'm optimistic and feel we have a very good chance. We led a bunch at Michigan and didn't get it done. Bristol we were fast and had troubles. Last week we started off good and felt like -- a couple nights early at Atlanta. Felt like Isadora (ph). We have the speed. I look at what's coming up tomorrow and what we have done in the past.
Q. When you are talking about the championship, the Chase being wide open, one of the people the most outspoken being the guy to watch is the guy on your right. Are you worried about Denny and what have you seen from him?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You could at least ask me this when he's not sitting next to me because now I have to say nice things. (Laughing).
I think the fact that he has made a lot of noise, shows what he's capable of and his team. They are a very good organization and Denny is one on track that has been able to balance aggression and patience at the same time. It's no surprise to me and I think that he's going to be very competitive in the Chase. It's going to be a big battle. I think you are going to have five or six cars that are really fighting for this thing.
Q. Talk about your restarts. They were so good last night and then really great again tonight, really allowed you to get ahead. Talk about how important those were for you?
DENNY HAMLIN: They are. Our car was really good. Seemed like the first two laps we could put a little bit of a gap on guys. Then we would kind of back off a little bit and save the rear tires for the end of a run.
Some of those guys were really putting pressure on us early and it was tough to get away, especially there at the end. The way I run this racetrack, I need -- I'm really easy on corner entry and on the restarts, if you've got a guy right behind you, you cannot arc your way out and you can't be easy entry because a guy will stick it in there. Kurt did a good job of actually slowing us up by being behind us. He did the right things there.
Q. Humility is nice, but I can't believe what my ears just heard. There's a quote from you that says, "I've never felt this good about starting the Chase in the past. Our cars are spot on. I'm the best I've ever been." And the other day you said it's about performance and you don't see yourself as the favorite. Are you just like, posturing? Which one of those is your view?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Came off a shitty race, basically. With all that in mind, I'm just not in a very good mood and just not happy how I ran tonight. I guess I made those comments Friday and was in a much better mood and tomorrow I'll be in a better mood. But right now I'm just not happy with how we ran tonight, and, you know, we'll go on and see what happens.
But again, it's going to be a tough Chase, and I guess that's it. Ran like shit.
Q. You have talked about the progression of trying to catch the Hendrick cars particularly this year; how do you feel about it at this point about what's gone into it and what do you feel like needs to be done?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I say we are not there, but I mean, we are consistent -- we are consistently in the Top-5. You know, nine times out of ten, we are surrounded by those guys, obviously, and you know, they have got their stuff figured out between, you know, Stewart and Hendrick cars.
It's just a challenge to keep up. I'll be honest with you. Our cars have really got to be on to challenge them for race wins. You know, we can run, we can Top-5 them to death and things like that, but it seems like here lately, our cars have been getting a little bit better. We are starting to bring better cars to the racetrack, and you know, like I said earlier in the year, we were five percent or ten percent off in just about every area. I think it's down to about three to five percent to be honest with you. I think we are making a little head way.
KERRY THARP: Thank you, Jimmie, and Denny. We appreciate it very much. Congratulations.
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