NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: AMP Energy 500
Topics: AMP Energy 500
November 1, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with Kasey Kahne, today's race runner up in the AMP Energy 500 here at Talladega Super Speedway. Kasey, your thoughts on how the race unfolded?
KASEY KAHNE: It unfolded good for us. At the end if we got back in the pack, we'd lose the draft. So to have cars around us -- we tried to keep cars around, behind me mainly. If we were able to do that, we could race pretty decent.
The car handled good, which I think everybody's cars handle good here, and we just kind of shot up through there and had great track position on that restart and ran second. So it was good for our Budweiser team.
Q. It was a real strange race. The first two hours you guys were single file trying to figure out what the new rules were, I guess. Then it got sort of crazy. Then at the last ten it got really crazy.
KASEY KAHNE: I think when all these cars are bunched up and things, it's just one little move by one car, and the other guy moves the other way to block or just to go in another gap and that closes, then you have those wrecks. That's just this type of racing. And I think everybody understands that.
It's happened at Daytona plenty of times. It's happened here where you just get up on the wall and kind of go until ten cars decide that's enough of that. We want to build up a line and a lane and come back.
But you just kind of sit out there. I wait for somebody to do it, because I'm not going to be the guy that's going to jump out, because I'll be the guy running 43rd right after that.
Q. How did you feel today at the drivers' meeting when NASCAR talked about leaving sunshine between the cars? Did that play out the way you thought?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I felt fine with it, really. I have, I think down the straightaway you could still get up behind a car and push really hard and build that speed up, that mile per hour and then get off in the corners. I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing in the corners, but I think they went there because the speeds went up so much.
Myself and Hamlin hooked up on Friday, and we went about .6 faster than the people drafting, or .5 at the time of the main drafting group or even more than that point. So they just didn't want to see that. But you could still do it on the straightaways, which was fine, I think.
Q. How did it come to be, do you think, that it was single file for so long? Do you think the drivers all just sensed let's do that? And is that as boring as it looks to us?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think it happens because you get four on the inside and six in the middle, and then the lane just got built up to the outside so they gained all that speed. The air, whatever happens there. Then that lane got quicker.
The reason it stays there is because nobody really wants to pull out. Because if you pull out, you're going to go to the back unless you get three, four, five guys together that want to push and try to come back up on the inside.
So it makes it kind of difficult for the guy that decides I want to do it, because if nobody goes with you, then you go to the back.
It's happened at Daytona. It's happened here before.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I also think people know they shouldn't race yet, there's no need to. They might as well ride and log some miles. I know it's boring for everybody else, but we breath better when it's single file at the top. So we know at the end we'll bunch up and race.
Q. Was it boring for you guys?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me it may have been more relieving than others because you can finally just ride and log some miles. We can run 497 miles around here, and it doesn't matter, it's just that last lap.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by our points leader, Jimmie Johnson. He drives the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. And today with the third place finisher, the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota is Joey Logano. Congratulations to both of you all. Joey, I'll ask you, what were your thoughts out there and how things unfolded for the No. 20 team today?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, crazy like everybody else says, I guess. We had a decent car, I felt like. You know, everyone just felt the same out there. And throughout the whole race I was just putting my car in different positions.
Trying to learn as much as I can about being around other cars and what helps and what doesn't. I try to make as many friends out there as I can for the end of the race and be positioned there at the end.
So a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time, and missing the wrecks and being ahead of it all. So overall it's good.
As soon as I got the last restart behind Kasey, and I was shoving him, and he was just pushing the 26 ahead, and got our whole lane going, so it was a good run for us today.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie Johnson, still our points leader. Lot of people said coming out of Talladega if you were still the points leader watch out. Your thoughts about now heading to Texas?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel good about things. I know it says 8th up there on the board, but I believe we were 6th in the race today. So with that in mind I am very, very happy.
I hate to see so many tore up cars and the big wreck that took place, but for us what really made the difference, obviously we were conservative all day long. But Chad's decision to take fuel -- there are just a few of us that took fuel, and we had the wreck and the red flag. At that point guys just started running out of fuel.
The caution came back out and waved off the restart a few times. Then more guys ran out. And guys hit pit road. And we went from 25th up to, I think, 11th before we took the green.
Had some good moves I made through that opening lap to get up to speed and all that kind of thing. Was far enough ahead to not be caught up in the wreck, because at least the car on the outside of me and right behind, me was cleaned out. And I think the guys right behind me were, too.
So Chad's decision put us in position to stay out of the wreck and get a good Top 10 finish.
Q. Nowadays in football they have these rules that protect the quarterback and they call personal fouls. And sometimes people say the only way you could avoid it is if you can defy gravity, and they say it's making football players not allowed to play football. Do some of the conditions here make it where it's hard to ask racers not to race? Not to do whatever's at your disposal to go to the front?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean, we go through this every year. You guys try to find new ways to have us answer the same question about the restrictor plate racing.
Yeah, we have the steering wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal and all that kind of thing. But until somebody really has a chance to sit in these cars and understand how tough it is, it's easier to say these things from the outside. Inside the car we're racing. We're doing our thing. We mind our manners during the race, single file, and everybody was probably disappointed in that.
Then we get racing in the end, and you have the big wrecks. So I en don't think that it's worth finding -- there is not a new angle. The only way we avoid this, if anybody wants to avoid these big wrecks and this type of racing, is to eliminate the need for restrictor plates. That means get the tractors out and knock down the banking. We have to let off in order to avoid this.
At the end of the day, the restrictor plate is still here because it's a good show for the fans. So at some point when the fans dislike it, I guess we'll make a change, and we won't have this stuff. But until then, we're a product of what the fans want to see.
Q. A quick two parts for you. Considering what you got out of this today, does this feel as satisfying and good? Or maybe even better than a race win itself? And also, just like you didn't want to lose points in a race like this, do you kind of feel bad that your teammates lost points to you under circumstances like this in this kind of situation?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yes, I do feel better with a race win than with today's finish. From where we were with the red flag to where we finished. I'm still in shock. I can't believe that it worked out. I can't believe that that many guys ran out of fuel and put themselves in that position. We almost stayed out.
It was such a relief to finish and make up points. I'm trying to keep it back because I do feel bad that the guys crashed coming to the finish and we got wrecked cars. I was really concerned for mark, because when I looked in the mirror I saw the 5 roof number tumbling and flipping and then it hit the outside fence. I hate to see things take place that way.
So the crash part, yeah. But making up points on them, that's what we're here to do. I wish it would have been under fuel circumstances not under a crash, for sure. But we'll take them.
Q. Even if they leave you eighth in the final run down, you'll still have a lead of 187 over Martin, and 205 over Gordon. There is virtually no way anybody beats you and makes up that kind of race. Are you relieved to not have a points race over the final three races of the season after having a couple of tense ones the last few years? Are you glad to be kind of done with all the hoopla or the pressure? Or would you rather have it go down to the wire?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not going to let up and lose focus to the job I need to do and allow the championship to be in the forefront of my mind until it's mathematically locked out. I can lose 165 points next week if I miss a shift and blow the engine at the start of the Texas race and mark has a perfect day.
So with all that in mind, yes, I am feeling much better about things. I was so concerned about this race. I thought I was going to lose points with about three or four to go. So to have it turn around and lead with points over the guys, I didn't expect it. Very, very good situation we're in.
But I just can't stop doing what I do. How the team does their thing, how we prepare, and let that in until there is no chance because racing doesn't have any feelings. Racing will reach up and bite you at any point and anything can happen.
So we're in a better position, for sure. Our strategy might change some moving forward until we're -- we can get to Homestead. But we've just got to keep doing what we've been doing and try to close this thing out as soon as possible.
Q. How does it affect you as a competitor when you're told only an hour before you're going to go 200 miles an hour that you have to do it differently than you've done it before?
KASEY KAHNE: It didn't affect my race at all, because I can't push that hard anyways. I can't keep up with how they're cruising. I need to get in the middle of the pack and hope to get pushed by somebody like that. But it doesn't effect what I was doing at all.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I have to agree. The rules change they made didn't make the racing anymore dangerous at the start of the race. There is nothing there from a fear factor or concern factor.
They tried to take away an opportunity for us to wreck. But I think we all knew it was coming. On Friday they sent some feelers out. In the truck race there were some more opinions floating around of what could and could not take place. I think we all knew about it coming into the race. So we weren't blind-sided, and it wasn't something that was going to put us in harm's way.
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I agree. It wasn't going to change much of what I was going to do. I'm not the biggest pusher out there either. And you know, you see people, we're doing it down the straightaway still, and you still saw the same benefit down the straightaway and they were letting up through the corners. So there was less wrecks today as far as during the race. Not the end, but overall I guess it was good.
Q. The strategy played out good for you. But does the urge to want to move forward take over from wanting to ride for a period of time where you feel like I got to go?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: To be honest with you, the strategies completely backfired. The only thing that saved our butts was Chad's decision for fuel. We were in big trouble, 25th or something on that red flag. So all the credit goes to Chad and making us come down pit road and put some fuel in that thing. That was really the strategy that did it.
So we could have been running up front, and he could have had that -- I don't think he would have because a lot of guys stayed out. But his whole decision to pit put us in a position to finish well.
Q. At what point with how many laps to go did you realize you know, being back here may not be the best way to be? When did you begin to feel a little bit anxious that you could maybe not get up to the front?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There are different stages of it. I think last year with 14 to go the guys that were riding decided to run up through there and caused a wreck.
So today I was waiting for that to take place and it didn't. With about 6 to go, that's the last time I remember Chad giving me a number of 6 to go. It dawned on me that we were in a bad position. There were three-wide in front of me. Nowhere to go, and you're just stuck. You hope that your lane moves forward a little bit. If it does, you pass four cars, five cars, that's about it.
Then the inside lane or middle lane comes surging forward. And I knew I was in big trouble then. You could see guys pushing and shoving, and wondering if the big wreck was going to take place, but then I'm like, I can't be conservative now and try to miss it because if this thing goes green like it looks, we're in even more trouble then.
So I was asking where the 5 and the 24 were. And it had me really nervous in the closing laps where we were and what was going on and the way our strategy played out.
The strategy backfired like I said earlier, it was all Chad's decision to pit.
Q. If you could clarify. When did you go in for gas for that final time? And everybody thought they were good on gas, everybody on the radio said we're good, we're good. Under a red flag, and this is a question of ignorance, I thought you turned your motors off? How do they run out of gas if they were good before the red flag?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: What was the caution before the red? No, we pitted during the red is what it was. When the caution first came out we came by and the pits were open. We came in and put fuel in the car. Us, the 1, there were a few others that came. So we left pit road, drove through 1 and 2, and they stopped us on the back right away.
At that point when we took off and got going guys left their engines off during that caution and all. But the fact that it took a while, they must have been closer than they thought.
When the 1 car ran out, I think he was stranded, and that brought the caution back out, and we had to go one to go. And we had two or three extra laps at least, and that cut into the amount of fuel these guys had had planned on having for the end.
Q. Joey, this is your second time in the Sprint Cup here in Talladega. I was just wondering about your thoughts about today's race with all the Newman in the air, and the big one at the end?
JOEY LOGANO: I didn't see any of them. So I had my big one at Dover, so I know you can survive them and be okay. So I wasn't really worried about it.
Like I said earlier, the race seemed to be pretty calm until the end. As far as having a strategy at the end of the race or anything, I was just whoever was in front of me I was going to push like heck and hope for the best.
You almost can't even have a plan. You know, sitting there on the red flag you're thinking what can I do to get myself the best finish I can? And you sit there and think. The only thing you can do is have a good restart, and it all kind of depends on what the guy's doing in front of you. I was able to get the good restart and the caution came out anyway, so...
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