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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Lenox Industrial Tools 301

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Jimmie Johnson
Chad Knaus
June 27, 2010


THE MODERATOR: We are now joined until the media center by the winner of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie tell us about your run.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, definitely a fast car, all day long. We lost a little track position I think on the second stop. We had something hanging up on the rear, I saw the tire changers back there -- looked like something in the lug itself was jammed inside the socket or something was going on there that he was fitting pretty hard to get it off.
We then got the tire back on the car, and off we went and lost some track position. Although we had a very fast race car, the cars were so equal, you could make up a tenth at best, and once you could catch the packing cars in front of you, you could only go as fast as that group was going.
It was just a long grind from that point on, and I kept my focus throughout the day. We had amazing strategy to pit a couple of laps early and an awesome stop that got us ahead of two or three guys and got us out of that pocket we were riding in.
Then at the end with the strategy to pit or not to pit, I know that Chad can explain further on it, but that's just a tough decision to make, and you're not sure -- there is no right or wrong at the time. It's after everybody decides to pit or not, you realize if you made the right decision, and with the whole field coming and 31 being the only one on old tires, it ended up being the wrong decision for those guys and worked out for us.
Just a solid day -- more than a solid day. Very, very proud of our race team and the performance and that we finally got to the front in time to race for the win.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by today's winning crew chief, Chad Knaus. Your thoughts on the race unfolded from on top of the box.
CHAD KNAUS: Honestly it was a lot of fun for us. Unfortunately we had an issue in the first third of the race in our second pit stop with a socket. The spring that's inside the socket that knocks the lug nut out during a pit stop had come out and the tire changer had to pull the string out of the socket and complete the pit stop after that. So good work on his part to get that done and out of the way without any huge error or loose wheel or something like that.
Obviously we lost six seconds to the leader or seven seconds to the leaders -- at that point, obviously we were the leader at that point. But to get back from that was going to be a challenge, and we knew that. Jimmie did a good job of especially keeping his head, and getting through traffic when he could.
I feel like the guys did a really good job of executing pit stops from that point forward and things worked out well. We are all pleased and happy to be up here in Loudon. It's an awesome, awesome racetrack and I really love racing up here and it's a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.

Q. We've known of the impending birth, but this was the first weekend, which the plan was put into effect; Eric was here, on the pit box and practiced the race car so it's business as usual. Could you reflect on what, if anything, it meant looming over the weekend and how you see it unfolding from here on forward?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, it was good to go through the motions this weekend, and make sure that the seat was right. I had to adjust a few things inside the seat to accommodate Eric if we do need to throw him in. We had to put him in for one of the practice sessions and take a little time away from what we were doing working on the car.
But in the end, you know, he is a great race car driver. He got in the car with all of the pressure that is looming and went out on track, put a ten-lap run in, was fast and great and gave us some feedback. And I climbed back in the car, Chad made some small adjustments and went back out and got to it.
I know it's kind of a weird situation. He's really hoping for the opportunity and I know he'll do an amazing job given the opportunity, and then I want to stay in my ride and try to win as many races as I can.
So just all depends on when the little baby decides to make her -- make her move and when she wants to come into the world, and if she's anything like her mother, she'll be late, so I should be fine (Laughter) which puts us into the off-weekend, nice and deep.
I might not have a place to sleep tonight just for the record. (Laughter).
CHAD KNAUS: Man, that was awesome. He's a comedian. It's neat, I'm excited about it, I really am, obviously really close with Jimmie and Channy. We are all excited about it and we are trying to be as prepared as we can and it's a new challenge for us. Obviously the 48 team, we like those challenges and make sure we are prepared for when those situations do arrive.
It was neat something somebody else in the 48 car. It was neat having Eric there on standby and putting him in the car. It was kind of funny. I was like man, talking with my engineer, I said, "What happens if we put him in the car and he says, 'this is terrible,' and we realize how good Jimmie is?"
And he said, "Well, what if he gets in there and realize how bad Jimmie is and how good our car is?" (Laughter).
So we are all okay and we are all status quo.
I'm enjoying it. It's fun. It's going to be a neat experience. It's cool. So it's just -- a good friend of mine told me once, life happens, and what you've got to do is be as prepared for everything as possibly you can when things come down the pike. You don't know when somebody is going to get hurt, you don't know when somebody is going to pregnant, you don't know when somebody's family member passes away; divorce. You just don't know so you have to be as prepared for it as you can.

Q. You and Kurt shock-tracking each other at the end, Kurt said it was a good show and he said when you caught him, he was never worried that you were going to drop-kick him. He said, I knew I was going to get bumped, and it's just racing and it's just the way it's supposed to be. You weren't real thrilled at the time but now that you've had a little bit of time to think about it, was it just good, hard, short track kind of racing?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, the end of the day, for sure, that's what the fans want to see. And if I was in the grandstands, I would love to see a little bit of bump-and-run and watch the guy run him back down and do the same to get by. I understand it from that standpoint.
I have to say I was a little shocked, and I haven't spoken to him or really seen any video to know, if he slipped and accidentally got into me or that was his intentions. If it was his intentions, that's the first time in nine years racing with him that I have experienced that and definitely changed the way that I race with him from that point moving on.
I hate that he felt that I wasn't going to wreck him because that was my goal was to wreck him. (Laughter) I have a tough time that when I wreck someone --
THE MODERATOR: Strike that from the comments. He didn't really mean that.
CHAD KNAUS: That's okay.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I usually get caught up in it, so I knew what my thought process was, "Wreck his ass." (Laughter).
And my end result was like: You can't do that, you'll wreck yourself, you'll look like a fool. You still have a chance to win the race, focus on your job and do your job. It made it easier for me to get off the brake a little earlier and nudge him.
But I don't want people to think, oh, I can knock the 48 out of the way because he's not going to wreck me. That's last thing I want people to think. He didn't wreck me and at the end of the day, I guess I didn't owe him a visit to the fence, so it worked itself out.

Q. How much different would this day have been without that 200-lap stretch of green? Would that have potentially set up any sort of domination or were you guys behind the 8-ball with the pit stop early in the race? Do you think there was any chance at a late race battle like you had with Kurt?
CHAD KNAUS: I think it would have made the race a lot easier for us to get back the track position that we lost for sure. Obviously when you get out there and you get -- see, what happens at a track like this is once you get ten, 15 laps into a run, the lap times kind of settle out and everybody runs about the same lap time.
So when you get seven, eight seconds behind somebody, it's very difficult to catch him, especially once you start getting in lap traffic. If it had been shorter runs we would have gotten up on the leaders sooner. Honestly I think you would have had the same type of shootout at the end that we had today. Seems like it's inevitable at this point, the 9 car was running around on seven cylinders and we knew at some point he was going to lose an engine so there wasn't any weird caution or anything like that. It was all legit. That stuff happens.

Q. Before Infineon, there seemed to be a growing consensus that you were in a terrible slump, you were missing, you had dropped off the face of the earth; are you back now? Can we say that now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't think we really went anywhere. You know, there are certain tracks that we're looking for a little speed at and that's just the way it always goes. And I found that on those tracks, I was just driving over the limit of the vehicle and over my head thinking -- a little cocky, thinking I can slide this car around all day long and get away with it, and it bit me a couple times. So that led to the poor finishes.
The deal at Dover was just, eight hundredths or thousandths of a mile of an hour over and got nailed on it and speeding, so I guess it is a mistake. But damn, when you're at ten-tenths day-in and day-out, you're going to have those things happen.
I think it was an overreaction of things, and it was led -- it was easy to overreact because we had some poor finishes and that was due to over-aggression, and I told myself after Charlotte that you know, I can't drive at eleven- tenths, it's not possible. I need to drive the car to its ability; give Chad and the guys a chance to work on it, bring the car home in one piece, and then we can work on the car to make it better next time we go to the racetrack. Bringing it home on a hook with 30-something points isn't going to do anybody any good.
Had a solid day at Pocono and same at Michigan. When we go back to the larger tracks we still need to find a little bit of speed but the shorter tracks seem to be very good for us. I'm excited with the Glen when we go there for the road cars race, and right now we are rolling along.

Q. You mentioned after the race that you hoped your wife didn't give birth after watching those last few laps, but I know she's ready to have a baby, but were you ready to have a cow after getting knocked out of the way by Kurt? And how did you maintain your composure with laps running out, and Chad kind of commended you for that. Do you think you're growing; is it another evolution in terms of your career?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, inside the car, I was livid. I was so pissed off that he got into me, and I almost lost it at one point. Just kind of sliding and it took off and the tires started chattering and that's usually when you're turned around.
Once I got back going and I was still in second, I thought, man, I hope I catch you. I look forward to this if I catch you, and that was my incentive was not necessarily to pass him. All I had to do was get to his bumper and I was going to win the race, if he give me that option by moving me out of the way.
I just sat there as I put together a good lap or two, I saw that I caught him and this is going to work out just fine, I'll get there with about one or two to go and if I get to the bumper, I know I'm going to make the turn; I'm not sure he is going to. I just took that approach and got in there and of course I calmed down with us I got to him and just gave him a nudge and went on my way but the laps leading up to that, I had great visions of a huge, spectacular crash. (Laughter).

Q. You seemed to be sizing him up.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it's amazing what a couple of laps will do to your emotions, and Chad was -- Chad knew I was red-eye faced in the car and was trying to calm me down and plenty of time, you have five laps, you can get them, and that was helpful, as well.

Q. You heard radio silence then?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I know when he's pissed. I knew he was upset. We all were upset. I don't know, I'm still having trouble thinking that he did it intentionally. I'm hoping that he drove it in there, bounded in there, was hoping he could get to the inside of us and the car turned.
Kurt has never raced us like that. So I'm hoping that he's not trying to act like he did something that he didn't intentionally mean to do. He's a good friend of ours and we don't like racing him like that and I hope that's not the case. Steve Addington, his crew chief, is a great friend of mine, so we don't need to start any shenanigans like that. We are big boys.

Q. Just comment on starting the Race for the Chase with this kind of statement victory, please.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Running good at this track and Dover earlier in the year, it's really important to us, and we all focus on those tracks that will come back again in the Chase.
To win here is big for us. We have been a Top-10 car for the last couple of years and a Top-5 car and now back to victory lane. We have always enjoyed racing here and we loved coming up here to run on this track, and very thankful to have our stuff together and it's not too far away before we come back for the start of the Chase.
We had a great starting point and I know I learned a lot today and I'm sure Chad did as well, and our organization; Jeff ran well. I know we'll go home and debrief and be a lot smarter, even when we come back.

Q. Chad, can you kind of comment on what's going on, I know you know not intimately what's going on with the Roush Fenway cars, but you were ready to put Edwards down, and not a single Roush Fenway car on the lead lap at the end of the race. Are you surprised they have fallen so far, so fast when it was Carl and Jimmie just a couple of years ago battling for the championship?
CHAD KNAUS: Man, it's tough. This is a very, very difficult sport. It's very easy -- you know, honestly, I'm not surprised. They have taken on quite a feat with the RPM cars, Gillette cars, or I don't know what those cars are, the 9 and 19 and the 43; to do all of that stuff, along with the four cars that they have got in-house, maintaining those cars, along the with Nationwide cars, there's a lot going on.
And as you begin to tear up race cars and just like what Jimmie was speaking about before, when we had a couple of weeks or a three-week stretch there where we were wrecking race cars, we got behind, and obviously we operate on a much smaller level than what the Roush camp does. So when those guys go through and tear up the race cars and have bad finishes and things go on, it's easy to lose track of what's going on and lose sight of the goal.
I think that that's probably what's going on with him. Sometimes you just get too big and you can't make it happen.

Q. Talked about this last week, two weeks ago you were 20 points behind Hamlin, looking for bonus points, we have nine more races in the Race to the Chase. Wins become so much more important to you now; can you comment a little about that for these next nine races?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, they do. The ten points are really important. It's nice to be even with Denny, and to have a gap on some of the other guys right now. As excited as I get for having this bonus, you know, I guess we have 30 over the 18, if it was now, or whoever it is? It's not a lot.
I mean, it's worth having; I would rather have the 30 points than not, but if you look at Texas last year, we lost a hundred points. This year we have had a couple 30th place finishes, you quickly lose a hundred points. It's nice. We'll take them. It gives the team a lot of confidence. It puts us in a prime position going into the Chase.
But you still have to go perform in those final ten races and not have DNFs and really, finish better than 15th. I know everybody is focused on winning, but I think Top 15s with how competitive things are, maybe even Top 10's, are a must to win the championship.

Q. The whole talk for the last couple of days has been about last week, the rough driving and what we might be expecting in these next few races, and then we have a race like today where we have four caution flags and only two in the first 280-some laps. Are you a little surprised at how clean today's race was?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: To be honest, I'm confused. For a while there, our sport was boring. (Laughter) Then we wrecked the crap out of them last week and now all of a sudden we have a problem because everybody is wrecking and now this week it wasn't as exciting.
I don't know how to really respond any more to questions to be honest with you.
I think at the end of the day, the cars are so equal that it is very frustrating inside the car, and I saw things today out of guys that I've raced with for years that I did not expect to see.
So the frustration is there; when you have a chance to sends someone, you're going to take it. It's just that energy exists right now in the garage area, and maybe -- maybe guys didn't have their opportunities today, but it's a long season and you get the right opportunity; I still think you will see it.
I just don't know how to really think, like I was saying in the big picture, I think we are doing really exciting things on the racetrack and I would assume a lot of people, that's what they have been hoping for and wanting for a long time. I guess you've got to be careful what you wish for I guess.

Q. Can you explain for define how you go from aggression to analysis, essentially those last few laps, being able to drive with that sense of aggression but keeping it in control, or am I giving you too much credit and you're just a madman behind the wheel in essence, and if you learned this, how did you go through this process and is there a time when that aggression hurts you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, experience helps you maintain and do the right things in those moments. The first lap that he got by me, I changed my reference points on the track. I drove a different line. The car didn't act how I needed it to, and I lost full ground to him on that first lap. I was out of my rhythm, out of sync, furious and that helped me really focus.
I'm like, you know what, if I don't block it out and focus on what I did all day long, the line I drove to set my race car up, I won't even have a chance to get to him.
So I went back to my rhythm and doing my thing, and when I got two or three corners behind me, a lot of that frustration went by, left, and my goal was, just get close enough to him, because I won this race. I was going to pay him back.
The opportunity came and I had plenty of time left, and I knew that I was better than he was, and in three or four short laps, my blood pressure returned to a normal state and I handled it in the correct manner.
I don't know what really does it. I have to put a lot of weight into the fact that I knew that if I didn't drive my rhythm and how the car needed to be driven, I wouldn't even have a chance to win the race. And I think that rhythm kind of brought me back around and got me thinking clearly again.

Q. Is there a time in the past when getting out of rhythm cost you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't have anything off the top of my head, any particular instances, but you make mistakes through the race when something goes on and you just constantly grow in that department.

Q. For as long as you've been working with Jimmie, when this incident first took place, what were your first thoughts? Were you thinking Jimmie is going to be pissed and go out there and try to wreck him? In this instance laps were winding down quite quickly and you still had an opportunity to win.
CHAD KNAUS: You know, I don't know what went through my head. I knew the thing that I had to try to do was try to get into Jimmie's head and get him calmed down as best I could. Try to explain to him that there were laps to go; that he had plenty of time and the cars with a faster than his and what Kurt's was.
And I felt like if he went at least a couple of laps, if we could at least maintain that distance with Kurt, he would be okay, because like he said, Jimmie calms down quickly once he gets into a race car and into a rhythm. Once we got into it, just say, okay, everybody we're doing a good job, still got four to go or whatever the situation was.
Obviously it's a soothing feeling when you see the car you're trying to catch in front of you and you're closing on him rather quickly. Other than that, it wasn't that big of a deal. I hated it. I didn't want it to go down like that, I would have rather he checked out obviously, but definitely made it pretty damned exciting.

Q. Obviously we talked a lot about Jimmie's composure and championship mettle, but did this team arrive here not just for the start of the Chase but in full Chase mode now; and you guys are driving -- you're beginning your drive right now instead of waiting until nine races from now?
CHAD KNAUS: We are still trying to find our foothold on where we want the race cars and what we are looking for. I think with what we saw today, there are ways we can make our race car considerably better for when we come back.
So I'm excited about that. We had a good race car but I think we can be much, much better when we come. We are not focussed on the Chase right now. Obviously we are taking good notes. Here, we ran well. Dover, we ran very well. Those are two very important races that are in the Chase. So we have got those in our pocket and we have got the set ups that we ran here in our pocket.
But we are worried about making the case and that's what we have got to do. We are focused on that. If you lose sight of that goal, something can jump up and bite you and you won't even make it, so that's what we are worried about right now.

Q. I know when the new spoiler came out, you guys, maybe Gibbs came out firing but now seems like you have your first win on an oval with the new spoiler and the organization as a whole ran well; is it safe to say you have gotten over the hump there with those challenges that you found?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I don't think it was really a big spoiler thing. Denny won in Texas, but we -- if we had went another corner, we'd have passed Denny and we'd have won that race. We had the fastest car at that track. Some of the other races, Dover, I feel like that we had the best race car there, especially for the long run. Kyle had the best car for the short at the end of the race.
I think that it's easy to get misconstrued and once again see that we don't have what we need. Are we as fast as we want to be? Absolutely not. We are always looking for ways to get faster.
And when you guys say, are you experimenting, do you have the same setup, we have never run the same setup twice anywhere at any racetrack. We don't have a pocket setup and say, hey, we are going to take this and put this in. We are always experimenting and trying to improve. Have we caught the Gibbs cars? I don't know that we have ever lost touch with them. Are we trying to improve our product? Absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations and thank you for your time.

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