NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Irwin Tools Night Race
Topics: Irwin Tools Night Race
August 25, 2012
KERRY THARP: Jimmie Johnson has joined us, he's our five‑time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and he's also clinched a spot in the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. And Jimmie, soul lied run out there tonight, I believe you started 37th in the field. You certainly had to navigate your way up through there, led some laps, and battled for the win and you've clinched a spot in the Chase, so I guess my first question will be, talk about tonight's race on your behalf and also what it means to go ahead and clinch up a spot in the Chase with two to go.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Tonight was intense. To start that deep in the field when they drop the green, you're half a lap behind, if not more, the initial start. To get going was important for us, but then being back there, we had to get some track position somehow. So we pitted a few times and tried to get some fuel in the car and set up a strategy for us later in the race. That really ended up working out nice for us.
So credit to Chad and Greg for calling a great race strategy‑wise. We had a fast car, and it, at times, I think maybe a race‑winning car, but certainly a top‑three car all night long. It was just a matter of getting to the front and surviving, because we were all(inaudible).
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Too much about the seeding process, the championship seeded right at different places, but last year's Chase, really put an emphasis on every point. So I look back at Pocono and regret that we ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ and six more points than everybody. But now, I can't do anything about that I, guess. But we'll just have to see.
I know this year's Chase is going to be ultra‑competitive, and you know, it's shaping up certainly to be that way.
Q. Jeff noted the intensity tonight, did you notice that maybe some of the intensity that made this place such a tough ticket for fans was back a little bit tonight, as compared to recent years?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. I'm not sure what played into the fans and to the spectators watching, but inside the car, to complete a pass, you had to set someone off and make a bonzai pass to slide up in front of them. But when you are around the top, the pace was so high up there. It was intense for us inside the car, but I don't know if that crossed over for everyone else.
Q. (No microphone).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Very difficult to pass on ‑‑ inaudible ‑‑ over the years and we had a period of time where it was easy to run side‑by‑side and now a big effort to get it back to a single‑file lane again. So in some ways it's the same, we are just racing on different parts of the racetrack.
Q. Were you to save any ‑‑ on the racetrack?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was definitely saving under ‑‑ exhaustion laps, caution laps helped, and then the first two thirds of that event, the last run, I should say, I was saving fuel.
We were in position and pitted before that pit stop you were speaking of, we thought we could go the distance prior to that and came to pit road, and I went out and ran, I don't know, couldn't have been 15, 20, to save fuel. I think, don't make me fret about things now, and no, we didn't have any issues.
Q. How long did it take you guys to actually figure out what was going on on the racetrack? Took us a couple of hours to figure out what the rhythm might be with the strategies everything.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Strategy‑wise, it was tough to know what was going on. But Chad did a great job of putting us in position, so the strategy we had worked really well. Although I would say the eye‑opening experience for me was 50 laps in, Chad told me the 5 car got up on to the ground surface and was making up a ton of time there and I started playing with it and I could watch the progression on every spot of the track. And you could see every car flirting with it and off we went.
That was the big moment in the race. And then from there you just had to be very, very smart and strategic about when you tried to pass the car in front of you. If you had a good gap behind you, you had to work maybe on the bottom for a corner or two and have a hole to fall back into if it didn't work out. And if not, you just had to wait and sit and wait.
And it was tough to be patient. I watched a lot of guys jump out of line being impatient and we just feel that spot and move our car forward and work our way up.
Q. With your finish, with what you guys have done running‑wise here lately, what did you get accomplished here tonight that will help you for down the Chase, even though there is not another track like this in the schedule.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just get a confidence booster. It's been tough on the 48 team over the years, and yesterday, to not go well with the rain, the way we were spending our time and our tire allotment in practice, we got burned yesterday. So frustration was high.
But we rallied back and had a great race tonight. So yes, you're right, there is not another racetrack like this in the Chase, but momentum is key. Pit stops were strong tonight. It's all more reps and very helpful moving forward, and locking is awesome. Takes a huge weight off our shoulders.
Q. Did you see Stewart's toss?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I didn't. I saw him lingering, kind of waiting with his gear. I figured something was going to happen. I heard he had a good toss on it.
Q. It was full‑blown Strasberg.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I know he impressed our crew.
Q. What did they say?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: They said he had an arm on him; he hit a good throw and hit it dead center.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations on clinching the Chase and see you soon.
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