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November 8, 2009

Denny Hamlin

Jimmie Johnson

Matt Kenseth


KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post-race press conference here at Texas Motor Speedway. Our race runner-up today is Denny Hamlin. He drives the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Denny, certainly some twists and turns out there this afternoon and tonight. Your thoughts about how the race played out?
DENNY HAMLIN: Played out in our favor, for sure. Usually these fuel mileage races don't go our way. Obviously we gained some spots today on the fuel mileage thing. Felt like we had a really, really good car. But we just hurt ourselves real bad on pit road today. We lost a ton of spots. Track position meaning so much at this racetrack, it killed us.
I was frustrated and we were behind, so I tried to make something happen, got into the wall, hurt our car. As soon as that happened, we were just in fuel-save mode. Luckily it went green the rest of the way.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Denny Hamlin.

Q. Denny, when realizing that Jimmie had wrecked, would be out for a while, did that change your game plan at all?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not mine. I'm so far back, it really didn't matter. I got my three DNFs. It was kind of a moot point for myself. It just shows anything can happen. Just the beginning of the race, guys are antsy, anything can happen. You never know.

Q. Denny, talk about finishing the season every year at Homestead. Is that something you like or you don't care either way?
DENNY HAMLIN: I do. I like Homestead. Miami is a great place. It's a good atmosphere, even though it's also a unique racetrack. It's nothing like what we go to during the course of the year.
I think it's a good place for a season finale. Obviously the weather is great there, too. There might be a better racetrack somewhere up north, but we can't freeze, you know. I think NASCAR has done a good job with the schedule. It's pretty good right now.
KERRY THARP: Denny, congratulations for a good showing today. Good luck next week at Phoenix.
DENNY HAMLIN: Thanks, man.
KERRY THARP: Also joining us at the podium is our points leader, Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie, talk about how things unfolded. Certainly big challenge there at the beginning of the race, but you had to have been impressed with how the race team got the car back together, back out on the racetrack.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely. I just tried to play through my mind what could have done differently at the start of that race. I don't think I could have done anything different. 77 lost it. I wish could have waited a few more laps before he lost control of his car. Think he did the second time. Wish I wouldn't have been around the first time. Definitely it took us out. Not much we could do.
Luckily we have a big points lead. All along we've been trying to tell everybody this thing is far from over, what our mindset has been. Luckily we've raced for every point throughout this Chase. We still have a decent points lead right now. We need to dust ourselves off, head to Phoenix, get a good one in the bank there.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Jimmie.

Q. Jimmie, after this hour-long ordeal, what is your feeling? Is there still an ouch to it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There's still an ouch to it. Again, this could take place at the start of the race next weekend. You just never know. That's the stuff that worries me. It's a nice points lead. We just need to follow the 5 in a sense and everything would be fine.
As we saw today, anything can happen. It still is ouch. It's not as bad as it could have been. We could have been 43rd. At one point Chad told me to hop out of the car, it was done, we're going to have to put it on the truck. They were able to get it fixed. Mark didn't win. There were a couple small things that helped us in the end. It's still a big ouch.

Q. How early was it after you pulled in the garage that Chad told you that? Were you in the garage? Was it just a few minutes after?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, just after a couple minutes of him looking around up front. The sway bar had been slammed shut. The mounts and everything, the A frame is bolted to, everything was twisted up so bad, he wasn't sure we were going to be able to get it back straight, hang suspension on it.
At that point I just stayed in the car. I didn't want to hop out and let the crew guys think it was done. I was going to stay in it until he pushed it up on the ramp. I wanted them to keep working on it, find a way to get it on the track.

Q. Jimmie, I guess we could see the value of having a full race's worth of points lead on your nearest competitor because you were able to endure what happened today and not really go out of here in too bad of shape. Talk a little bit about how that's an unusual feeling for the points leader to have with this format, basically have a lap on the field in the Chase.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it was an unusual situation, one that I really liked. Hoped we could have left Phoenix in that situation, as well.
We're still in a great position. Like I said, we'll dust ourselves off. There's really not much we can do, reflect back on this, say it was a bad car, a bad pit stop or something I did wrong. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wrong place at the right time, depends where you want the points to go (laughter).
So it was just one of those things. We'll go to Phoenix.

Q. Jimmie, obviously you have had lows before in the sport. Is there a way to compare this to some other experience in the sport? What were you doing in the hour in the car? What does somebody think of? How did you calm your emotions at that point?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess at the end of Homestead I will be able to really understand how these emotions, what they mean. Right now I'm still optimistic. We still have a nice points margin. Hopefully we don't need the points we lost tonight to win the championship.
I don't think the sting from this race will really show up till the checkered falls in Homestead and we see where we're at, how the points shake out.
Just sat in the car, was thinking through what went on, how I could have done something different. On the outside lane, driving by a couple cars, and I didn't really even see the 77 get loose. I got clobbered from the side. Around I went. I thought about those things sitting in the pits. Watched the guys, hoped that they could get the car fixed and on track. I could see the televisions, was watching the race. Just kind of paid attention to where the 5 and 24 were on track.
I guess after enough time sitting there, I finally calmed down some and caught my breath and relaxed. But the first 20, 30 minutes of that were pretty painful.

Q. Jimmie, did you have the slightest inclination to say where you are right now, the famous words before this race, I told you so? Is this a good opportunity to maybe point out that we don't have the best perspective sometimes about things?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Are you calling yourself out right now (laughter)?

Q. I'm giving you a chance to do it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No (laughter).
It could have been considered lip service if everything went great this weekend. A lot of people predicted, like we had hoped. In the back of my mind, I couldn't shut down the possibility of something going wrong. This is racing. You got to drive the race. We've heard it from other sports: you have to play the game.
I guess there is some of that in there. It's really not for me to sit here and say that. I just think it's a good lesson for everybody. We'll learn a lot as a race team from this. I think the media side, as well, you have a much better understanding why Chad and I have been so nervous. Even after winning races, fielding questions, the possibility was out there. It's still out there. There's no telling what's gonna happen.

Q. You expressed a little frustration at how early the incident happened in the race. Given that it happened so early, it did give you an opportunity to fix the car and come back out. If it's going to happen, would you rather something like that happen earlier in the race?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess if we picked up three or four spots, it did help. I just wish the 77 could have ran the bottom and held onto his car. Seems to lose control of that thing a lot and hit a lot of things throughout the course of a race. My focus is more on that aspect of it. Realized it was just lap three or four, whatever it was, just drive his car.

Q. I think he got clobbered from behind.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I need to watch it. I don't know what happened. All I know is I got hit by the 77. I don't know what happened. So I guess I could be a big dick for saying that about him right now. Just frustrated. All I know is I got clobbered from the side from the 77.
KERRY THARP: Jimmie, thanks a lot. Good luck at Phoenix.
KERRY THARP: Matt Kenseth is today's third-place finisher. Matt drives the No. 17 DeWalt Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Matt, talk about, in your opinion, how things unfolded out there today.
MATT KENSETH: They were good for us. When we knew we were short on fuel, I thought when we came and got tires with 25 to go, fuel, we actually had a shot to win if some of those guys didn't make it. The 2 was fast all day. Pat Tryson is famous for calling fuel mileage races. I'm happy Kurt won. He was really fast all day. Wasn't like somebody running 20th won the race. It was cool that Kurt pulled that off. They were able to go a couple extra laps, and be fast, stay out there. We got tires, ran, raced as hard as we could all day. I thought we had a third- or fourth-place car on performance. Even the fuel mileage, we still finished third.
Overall it was a really great day for us. We started 30th. Really had to battle hard for it all day long.

Q. Turn two seemed to really be a problem for everybody the entire weekend. As the track changed, how much more difficult did that turn become?
MATT KENSETH: It's always been difficult. I mean, the cool thing about what we do is we go to different tracks every week that present different challenges. This track, the transition always has been flat going into the corner, coming out of the corner, which isn't a bad thing, it's just different. Every track has a unique personality. Turn one and two is a fast turn, probably faster than three and four. When you come off there, the banking goes away. There's some issues with the wind there this weekend, tailwind. Not so much tonight. Gets narrow off there. Easy to hit the wall off there. Hard to run side-by-side in dirty air. Just a challenging corner.
KERRY THARP: Matt, thank you very. Good luck at Phoenix.
MATT KENSETH: Thank you.

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