NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Bank of America 500
Topics: Bank of America 500
October 16, 2010
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: Thank you, we'll see you next week.
Our third place finisher, and continues to maintain his points lead in the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a 41-point lead right now over Denny Hamlin is Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie, talk about your run out there this evening, and how you thought things unfolded for the 48 team.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The finish was great. But man, the first half of the race was a disaster for us.
We felt like we were going to be loose, but we really thought we had the car close enough to maintain and kind of run it Top-10, Top 15, and we probably did that have. There was a stop early where everybody took two and we took four and went back out, late 20s or something. And at that point I was lined up behind Bobby Labonte, and his car was real slow and he was backing up, and probably five or six cars got by.
And as soon as I went on outside to get around, I went on the entry into turn one and as soon as I did that, the car started to step out and turned around on me off of turn two.
At that point I had been there before; I hit that inside wall in the spring. Tried a few things with the steering wheel and pushing the clutch in, and on and off the brake, and had the momentum change and swing back from the inside wall and didn't hit it, fortunately.
From there we got some tires on it of a couple stops and got rolling again. We made some adjustments there to tighten the car up, which let me kind of get comfortable again. And then right after that, luckily we had some long green flag runs where the condition we had with the loose car, over a 40-, 50-lap run, my car would come in and be really strong. Those long green flag runs in the middle helped us get a lot of track position back, a couple good stops.
Then I think the track cooled down enough and came to us probably the three-quarter mark, and at that point, it was on and we were just on and racing away.
Q. Given the issues you had early on, are you happy with the run or still more frustrated given the circumstances?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm so relieved. I'm glad to be sitting in here in third spot and leading the points. It's amazing what goes through your mind when you're sliding sideways on the back straightaway. I saw my hard work for the year and dreams of being a five-time champion go away, and fortunately I got the car turned away from the inside wall. At that point kind of scared me straight. Like, okay, just stay smooth, we can salvage a decent finish out of today. Maybe we don't win, maybe we don't be in the Top-5, but I know we can get a good finish out of this if we can keep our composure and we did.
Q. Kind of along those same lines, I imagine your competitors are sitting here going, what is it going to take? I mean, at what point you were 37th and you had two or three things happen tonight, do you look back at this and think, this is the magic, this is the intangible, what is it you are able to overcome all of these things?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Tonight is a night that reminds me of the last four years and what made this team champions. I hope that tonight's performance leads us to a championship.
There's obviously a lot of racing left. No telling what's going to happen. But when we looked back, I hope we are the champions and I hope we look back and say that Charlotte was the key point for us in the championship battle. We kept our composure.
I think in the summer months, the issue we had with the car at the start of the race and the spin, frustration would have gotten the best of us and we would have taken ourselves out of contention for a good run. Tonight the team stayed in it: I did, Chad did, Earl kept us calm, pit stops were there. Everything worked right and everybody stayed focused. I hope we look back on say it was a big night.
Q. This touches along the line of what Holly was saying, but it seems like you have experiences like this not just this season or not this Chase; but do you ever feel no matter what happens on the track, that something can't be done to fix it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: What's that now?
Q. Do you ever feel no matter what, something bad that happens on the track, that you guys can't find some way to fix it or at least make it better?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: In years past, there has been segments of a season where, yeah, I've had that confidence. Coming into the Chase, I didn't have that confidence. I didn't think we were in that position, and maybe that's what everyone was kind of noticing and thought we were vulnerable because of that.
I know we are capable of it, and I think tonight we proved to ourselves more than anything that we can come back and fight through issues and still get a good finish.
So I think tonight helps our team build confidence, and we'll hopefully have this fight in us through the rest of the season.
Q. 41 points back is Denny Hamlin, obviously last year a mistake and injured failures took him out of the Chase; what do you see different out of him a year later that may have to be a dogfight the next few weeks with him? What's different with him and how does that challenge you now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, I guess he had a good run at California, to look at really where we are so far.
Last year's Chase, he had a lot of great performances, and as you pointed out, a few issues that took him out of the running.
This year he is doing what he did last year and doing a great job. I was hopeful that he was going to get away and not see a black car with that colorful hood on it, and I kept looking in the mirror tonight and there he was, there he was. He did a great job tonight hanging on.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely.
Q. Given the fact that you and Denny have separated yourselves a little bit from the guys behind you, are you relishing the prospect of going to Martinsville, a place that you and he have dominated over the last four years and maybe going head-to-head with him there?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, Martinsville is such a fun racetrack. I really think, kind of the way it looks right now, he's good at Martinsville, we are, Talladega is a crapshoot. Texas, I think he finished first there and I was second in the spring. Go to Phoenix, it's a great track for both of us. Go to Homestead, I think he won there last year. We ran really strong all night long and then came home, Top-5 or something if I remember right.
So I think both teams are going to have speed and I think it's going to boil down to mistakes at this point. Those guys are doing a great job, solid on pit road, solid on equipment and so on. I think it's going to boil down to mistakes.
Q. This is kind of, you're going to tell me, how can I predict, but you and Denny have won last eight races at Martinsville. Is anyone going to be in contention next week besides the two of you? Is it going to be sort of the battle between the two championship contenders?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We ran tenth all day in the spring race. I can't even remember who was up there fighting for it. Burton? The RCR cars are usually pretty quick there, and Kevin has come along well at that track, and the Cup stuff has been hit and miss for him. I expect the RCR cars; and I remember Clint being real strong. But again, we ran so -- for our standards, we ran so bad there in the spring that I didn't got a good look up front. I know Mark ran really well. I know he's excited to go back.
We were trying some stuff the first time there, and we are not going back with the same style car. We went to Little Rock earlier this week and made some laps, and feel like we have got a good place to start, and go back with what we know and race from there. Really, that's what the 5 had when we were there in the spring, and they did a great job with it.
Q. Early in the Chase you've had a couple situations on pit line where your pit crews lost you a little bit, and tonight it seemed like they were really busting off good stops one after the other. Do you think that has really given them a boost going forward, and did you guys make any changes before you got into tonight?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, not running as good as we needed to during the summer months, I think that the pressure we feel on pit road, that's the part where I think we got hurt the most from having a slow summer is not having those guys against the fastest crew guys every stop. They did a great job through the summer months, but when you are running 15th or 20th or whatever we were doing, flopping around in the middle of the pack it's easy to look good on pit road at that point.
When you get up front and you're against these Gibbs guys, and even the 24 has got a really fast pit crew -- and our guys are really fast, but they just haven't been pushed. It's one thing to operate at 8/10ths and be nice and smooth. But when you're at 10/10ths at every stop, there's a certain rhythm to that. I felt bad that we were not better in the summer to put them in that pressure situation to come into the Chase ready.
Tonight we had a couple hiccups but they did a good job, and at the end of the race when it counted, they reeled off really good stops.
KERRY THARP: Jimmie, thank you and we'll see you at Martinsville.
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