NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Auto Club 400
Topics: Auto Club 400
March 27, 2011
THE MODERATOR: At this time we welcome into the media room Kyle Busch. Kyle, you finished third in today's race. You currently sit fourth in points, 11 points behind Carl Edwards. Take us through the last few laps.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, today was a really, really good race for us anyways. We had a really good racecar. Can't thank the guys enough, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, chassis shop, bodies, it was a whole effort this weekend, especially the team guys this weekend, being able to prepare the backup car and get it out on the racetrack in time to get some qualifying laps and in enough time to have a good racecar yesterday in practice and then again today.
Just real, real unfortunate and frustrating and disappointing all in one that we weren't able to seal the deal today. Just come down to the last few laps there with Jimmie first and then Kevin got into it, too, with us.
You ask a little bit more from your racecar at the last moments, it doesn't have anything left to give. You're essentially a sitting duck waiting for those guys to drive by you. Couldn't get any more out of the car. That was it. It would push, get loose, that was all we had.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we're joined by Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie finished second in today's race and currently sits fifth in points, 14 behind Carl Edwards.
Jimmie, talk us through the last few laps of today's race.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me, we worked hard all day long to get our car to handle well. We made some smart adjustments when we were deep in the pack. But getting track position really was everything. Once we had track position, got near the top five, the car didn't necessarily drive a ton better, but we had a lot more speed and had a shot to win.
Good day. Wish that we could have won the race. But I was really loose, as well, knew that the two tires were coming with the 29 car. Looking back, maybe if I could have got by Kyle a lap earlier, it would have made the difference. But he was rolling on the top really, really fast.
Hate that we finished second.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. Kyle, it was hard to tell on TV, did you actually get back up into the wall?
KYLE BUSCH: No, I never got in the wall till the last lap coming off of four. Figured I had nothing else better to do. Knocked the right side off the car. The guys had to fix it.
No, I knew I was too far behind. Shouldn't have been trying. But that's me. Never give up.
Q. Jimmie, on that last lap going into three, Harvick was right up on your bumper, gave you a push. How did that impact things?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Him being that close and kind of breaking the plane of our bumper, certainly affects how my car drove. When he to my bumper down the back, I felt like if he turned into the bottom and followed me, I was in trouble. I kind of wanted to run the bottom coming to the checkered flag. Felt like that was the place to be.
I decided to stay at the top. When I went off into three with the extra speed, had my car kind of sideways getting in there, I couldn't get a real good arc into the corner. I heard that he was looking outside near the middle of the corner. Once he got there and broke the plane of my bumper, spotter said, Outside, I was dead in the water.
Q. By getting on your back bumper, he dictated how you were going to go into that corner?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just because of the speed and the push that he gave me, where he gave me, I would have gone into the corner and missed the bottom, gone into there with too much speed. Him being close certainly affected my car. He did exactly what he needed to.
I was on the loose side. If I was in his shoes, I would have done the same thing. The closer you can get to the car in front of you when they're loose, the harder it is for that guy to use the power. You have a good shot to pass them.
Q. Kyle, how close did you feel you had this locked up?
KYLE BUSCH: It's never over till it's over. That's why it's called racing. That's why you have to wait till the checkered flag to see what happens. For all the fans that went home early when I was leading, with 20 to go, they missed a good finish, an exciting finish, with those two guys being able to battle it out on the last lap.
Yeah, it's disappointing, frustrating, kind of a letdown a little bit with the guys. They worked awfully hard today. We had such a great racecar. I thought we had a really good shot at it. If the race would have went green, we had a better long-run car than a short-run car, I felt like. Just wasn't meant to be.
Q. Do you feel like the last caution hurt you?
KYLE BUSCH: Certainly, certainly. Certainly the last two did, definitely. Just bunching the field back up, getting everybody closer to us. We got some adjustments on that one pit stop. Kind of helped our car. That last one really hurt, getting everybody back to us, especially those guys that pitted that got two tires and came through. I don't know if Harvick did or not. We're still debating on that.
You were kind of a sitting duck. It was just a matter of time before they got there. You were hoping you could hold them off at least eight laps, nine laps, however many we had left green.
Q. Jimmie, were you expecting that bump on your bumper at the end or did that take you by surprise?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. Coming off of two, I ran a lower line than he did. He was up around the top of the wall. I had assumed he would get to me down the back at some point. I could see he wasn't favoring towards the bottom. So I knew something was coming. I knew if I was in his shoes, I would be right on the guy's bumper getting in the turn. He gave me a little shove. It worked out well for him. Like I said earlier, it took away my option to use the bottom.
As close as he was, it just had me on the top of the track, to the center of the corner, and worked out for him.
Q. How much did yesterday's finish factor into everybody kind of staying out on that last caution?
KYLE BUSCH: I think today Tony earlier in the race actually dictated more than what yesterday had. Tony stayed out there. I think they made a mistake, had a miscue on the radio. He stayed out with eight laps on his tires earlier in the race. We all pitted. He hung right with me that run. That whole run he was on my rear bumper like six car lengths away. I think that dictated a lot of it. We only had nine laps to go. All you had to do was try to fight off the guys behind you for nine laps.
It seems that whenever we get in that position, it hurts us a little bit. We'd rather be the ones chasing rather than being the chasee.
Q. Jimmie, Earl was telling you when Harvick was on your bumper that he was on your bumper. When he was pounding you like that, how hard is too hard to pound somebody on a two-mile track? You expect that at Bristol. You said you would have done the same thing in his position. Was it all fair on the last lap?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, without a doubt. I don't think he got into me all that hard. I actually put my head back against the headrest and thought it was going to be a lot harder than what it was.
He did it well. He did his job. I didn't do my mine holding him off. That was racing. That's the cool thing about our cars, especially the way they're designed now. You can lean on each other at 190 and still make it back.
Q. Do you know what the mistake was that he made last year that you were able to hold him off?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Last year, he had the same line working really well. That last lane up by the fence, I just don't have it up there for whatever reason. He was catching me up there last year and got into the wall and slowed himself down, hurt his car and slowed himself down. This year he got it done.
I think he was smarter from it and kind of knew how to run that line better. I think he was up there most of the day as well. He had a good rhythm going for the top.
I just didn't have much luck up there. I was already a lane higher than I normally run coming into the checkered trying to protect the top some. I thought I closed off the outside, but he still found a way to get up a lane higher.
Q. Kyle, were you worried at all once you saw what happened with Denny? Can you talk about your thoughts about what's going on at Joe Gibbs.
KYLE BUSCH: When Denny had his problems, I wasn't sure what it was. I never really got a full communication of what happened. I wasn't too worried. If something happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. You kind of play it like that. Really that's all there is to it.
It's unfortunate obviously. It's a big blow I'm sure to the organization, what we're doing with the engine shop and everything. It's not that you'll find something and maybe get it fixed in a week. But we certainly wish we would have been able to get it done by now. I know Mark is doing the best he can. The Toyota guys at TDR trying to figure out what's going on. Mine made it fine today. Joey's made it fine I think today, as far as I know, right? They changed engine, but they made it all day today. You can start in the back and make your way through sometimes.
We'll work on it. That's all I can say. I really don't know what happened.
Q. Kyle, the engine situation. To be on the safe side, will your team also look now at your engine to make everything is fine for the next race?
KYLE BUSCH: Our engines always go back to the shop, get torn down and looked at. Mine will too. We'll see how mine looked after today's race. I never had any issues.
I imagine everything on mine will look okay. I never heard a pitch change or heard anything different than crisp all day. I don't imagine anything's wrong with mine.
Q. Did the shorter race make any difference with strategy?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It seemed like a 500-mile race to me today, I don't know about you (smiling). No.
KYLE BUSCH: I wish it was a 300-mile race, to be honest.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wish it was 399 (smiling).
KYLE BUSCH: I didn't notice any difference, to be honest with you. I felt like an extra 50 laps wouldn't have changed a whole lot. It would have definitely changed the pit strategy at the end. We would have came down and got tires instead of staying out because there were only a few laps to go. There would have been about 40 to go. We all would have been short on gas anyway. There would have been another pit stop after that pit stop.
I think the length was fine.
Q. Jimmie, any particular reason why you chose the lower line going into that final corner?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That was pretty high for me. The higher I went today, my car just got up out of the track and really wouldn't handle well. I needed to run a lower line, kind of let the lateral forces hold the car down, make the car turn.
The higher I went, kind of the g-forces come out of the car when you roll up out of the top. My car would never turn. Once it would finally start turning, it would snap loose. Just didn't work well.
Looking back, I mean, I wish I could have -- I should have maybe tried to stop my car getting into three and ran in the middle like I had been all day long. I tried to go up a lane higher than I was on the previous lap, tried to protect the top, but Kevin still found a way by.
Just didn't have enough to hold him off.
Q. Jimmie, a day like this where you're kind of scrambling around making adjustments, end up being second, is that the type of finish ends up winning championships?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: At the end of the year, it does definitely. Right now it's about wins. We all want wins. We want max points, also bonus points, things like that. Today was all about a win.
I mean, there is the flipside. When Kevin was alongside of me off of four, I could have maybe tried to squeeze the door, do something a little stupid there. I'm like, If I spin out here and finish 15th because I'm down on the grass, can't get the car fired up, it would just be stupid.
KYLE BUSCH: What the hell, damn it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's what happens at 35 and 10 years in the sport.
What did you do off the four?
KYLE BUSCH: I got in the wall. I told you I was bored (smiling).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You weigh those things out. Within reason today it was all about running the race, especially when we got to the front. We ran around in 10th to 15th for most of the day. Then got in the top five, stabilized, had a stop or two to make our car better. From there had a chance to race for the win.
All in all a good day. It's like kissing your sister, running second - and I don't have a sister (smiling).
Q. Jimmie, you were on a show called Breaking In on FOX this weekend. Explain what you would rather do in life, act or race cars?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I prefer my job. No offense.
Q. Do you think actors are pansies?
THE MODERATOR: Okay, next question.
Q. Jimmie, coming out of Bristol you had expressed concern for Hendrick Motorsports' two-mile program as a whole and said this race wouldn't be easy on the Hendrick organization as whole. How do you feel now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We're getting there. I mean, my teammates, I'm not sure where they finished. I ran with them most of the day in the teens. We still have work to do as a group.
At Vegas we started really bad and improved the car during the race. Today we started fair and made the car better. We're going the right way and we're finishing the weekends probably where we should start when we get here.
We're getting there. It's just going to take a little while to get that stuff sorted out. I'm excited about our short track stuff. Hopefully we'll get this big track stuff under control.
Q. What did you think about the crowd today?
KYLE BUSCH: Not bad. They took some banners away in turn one. They needed room for something.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Actually, I thought it looked okay. We always want a full grandstand. After a couple years, especially if we come back and the weather is like it's supposed to be, we'll probably have a better showing.
But I thought today was decent for sure.
KYLE BUSCH: If the race was Wednesday, it would be really good. Supposed to be 80. That probably scared off a few of them. Judging the crowd off of previous California events, I thought it was really good today.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys, very much. We'll see you next week in Martinsville.
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