NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Air Guard 400
Topics: Air Guard 400
September 11, 2010
KERRY THARP: Joining us is our No. 2 seed in the Chase, Jimmie Johnson, our four-time defending champion, finished third race. Jimmie, talk about how you raced tonight and your outlook for the Chase as it starts next week at New Hampshire.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We had a solid race, ran in a safe spot behind the track behind the lead battle. Just a solid night. On pit road, on the track, through practice, qualifying, I mean, everything throughout the weekend was nice for us. Could have used a little bit more speed at the end, but if we are running in the Top 3, week-in and week-out, opportunities will come.
That was really the first goal we had for the 48 team after some of the tough luck and poor races that we had through the summer months was first of all, start finishing in the Top-5 and when you finish in the Top-5, opportunities will come to win.
We are doing the right thing.
Q. Winning the championships the last four years, you've been really good on all those tracks, is what you've seen out of Denny the past year show that he's more balanced and can win on those tracks and there's a reason people were picking him to be a favorite?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I look more to how he ran in the Chase last year. He was very, very strong through all of those races and had a problem at California that kind of took him out. The guy that's been the top of mind this year is the 29, doesn't matter the track, they have been quick.
I didn't see where he finished, could have had a good night, I just didn't see where he finished today.
Harvick has been the surprise this year and maybe I took for granted with how well Denny ran last year is that he would just be there. That's been the reality to me, that he's going to be one of the guys to race for it.
Q. Along the same lines, if you have to pick a couple of guys, are those the ones you're going to worry about or are you really open to it could be anyone or do you think Denny and Harvick are the guys?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Looking at the last month, the 99, the 18, the 11, hopefully us, 29; I think you've got five or six cars that can really race for the championship. And then when you get outside of that, I think there are some guys that are finding speed. We saw the 16 at Pocono; I think Clint and his team, they seem to be collecting a lot of points and running well. I know the 2 has it in him. He's got some good tracks coming up.
I think this year, it's really tough, because you have some streaky guys and the 29 that's been pretty consistent and the 24 that's been really consistent. I don't know how to handicap it or who to fear the most because everyone has it in them.
Q. I don't know if you caught what Clint was asked, he said something to the effect of you're still Superman but your cape is shorter than last year. Do you sense that other guys think you're more vulnerable than in the past or do you like that other guys are thinking that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't -- it's weird, man. People can draw conclusions however they want, and I've never been one to play into any of that stuff. I guess I tried one time with Stewart in 2005 and it backfired on me. So since then, I've just decided to left things take care of itself on the track.
If guys think we are vulnerable, it's my job to show up at Loudon, qualify in the pole and win the race. That's what we need to do regardless. I'm not concerned about what people think of my race team and where I'm at and what kind of threat we are for the championship. I'm just more concerned about going out and getting the damn job done. That's what I need to focus on. I think with two good runs going into the Chase, my guys are ready, I'm ready, we have got our mojo back and we are looking forward to it.
Q. When people say you look vulnerable, the facts don't back it up. Your last finish in the last ten races is better this year than last year. Does it feel any different?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, it doesn't. I know that last year we entered the Chase without the momentum that I wanted and I remember being a part of the celebration here and taking photos for the Chase and I was in a terrible mood. We ran so bad. I thought that we had been close, I guess, with our average finish leading into the Chase, and I just know from experience, the Chase is it's own environment. When we wake up Monday morning and whenever drivers and teams start thinking about the Chase, probably Monday morning, most guys will kickback tomorrow and relax. There's just a pit that develops in your stomach and doesn't go away. It's the championship pit and it's there.
We are all going to wake up with it and deal with it and some guys handle it better than others. I think our team the last four years has been really comfortable with that pit in their stomach and dealt with it well. I hope we can do it again. There's no telling. It's been awfully tough to win four in a row, but we'll show up and give 100% and at the end of the ten races, if we give 100% and get beat, then we'll go home and be proud of what we did. But if we squandered it away and do something stupid and say, we just didn't give it our all, we'll be disappointed. We just want to do our best.
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