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June 4, 2017

Rick Hendrick

Jimmie Johnson

Chad Knaus

Dover, Delaware

THE MODERATOR: We'll continue on with today's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series post‑race media availability for the 48th annual AAA 400 Drive For Autism. We're now joined by the winning car owner, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mr.Rick Hendrick, who is the owner of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Rick, you can't be surprised about the success this team had today, but what is it about this combination with Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus that finds a way week in and week out to overcome adversity and find their way into Victory Lane?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, Jimmie, this is probably I would say his best track, and they have figured out a way to be competitive every week, and this was probably one of the most competitive races I've seen, and we've lost a lot of them on restarts and were able to pull one off today
Jimmie just is‑‑ I think because of the banking and the way the car lands and you have to run the car loose, and Chad, they've worked together here so many times, you know, you can just be in the top 5, didn't like to have to start in the rear, but he's got a pretty good record of coming from the back, so it was a great day.

Q. Rick, so many people have pointed to Jimmie's luck, but he's obviously very skilled. Where is that balance in your mind?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, if you look at his record of the championships and the wins and the different tracks and the competition that's out there today, I don't know how you can be lucky 83 times in seven championships. I think you have to have some racing luck every now and then. You get one that maybe someone else fumbled the ball or luck went your way, but if you look at his record and what he's done and the championships and the races he's won, you know, you'd have to say he's one of the greatest that's ever raced in the sport.

Q. I have two. The first is does Jimmie do anything that reminds you of Cale Yarborough?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I watched Cale‑‑ he was one of the toughest, hardest racers that I ever watched race, fearless, and drove the car over the edge, and Jimmie does the same thing, but Jimmie makes it look smooth.
I think they're‑‑ I guess I like Parcells' quote, "you are what your record says you are," and I think they're a little bit‑‑ the way I remember Cale, they're a little bit different in their approach, but their record is the same.

Q. And he had the Cale tribute helmet; was there any part of you that said don't break that out until you actually tie him?

Q. You weren't superstitious about him having that helmet before he tied Cale?
RICK HENDRICK: I was more concerned about whether I could get the helmet.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's winning crew chief, Chad Knaus, who had some adversity from the get‑go this morning starting from the rear with a gear change. Could you walk us through that process and what was your mindset as far as game planning them for the race?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, it's obviously unfortunate, and Mr.Hendrick and I were talking last night about why we had to change the gear and what happened, and quite honestly, over the course of my career, I think we've only had maybe four or five gear failures, and if you really start to look at that and the races that we've had at Hendrick Motorsports and what we've done, that's a pretty small emergency so we'll take that on the chin if we need to.
But to start last, it's kind of ironic, Jimmie and I and the engineers were talking about starting at the rear of the field and how stage racing has quite honestly helped the guys that have that, that deficit, and we play that. We felt like the strategy was going to work out for us, and fortunately enough we had a really fast Lowe's Chevrolet and were able to capitalize and get up into the top 20, we had a caution fairly early, we came in, were able to get some tires, were able to migrate up towards the front, and with the speed the car had in it ‑‑ obviously Jimmie is fantastic here at this track. We were able to run in the top 5, battling for the lead, first, second and third and stay in position.
So it's not exactly how we wanted the day to play out. We wanted to go up there and just take it and run away with it, but being in position and allowing Jimmie to have the opportunity to get after it on that last restart, you know, honestly that's what it's all about.

Q. Obviously you guys have enjoyed a lot of success all around the circuit, but none more so really than here. When you come here each year, each season, do you have more confidence? Is it more comfortable coming into this track knowing that you have had so much success?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I think you're always more comfortable going somewhere where you've been successful and you've got a good history. You know, there's venues that you go to, and if any of you guys have ever played sports or any type of competition, you know that there's a time when you walk in the door and you feel like you've got it or you've got an opportunity, and I can tell you when the 48 team and Jimmie Johnson, they roll into this racetrack, everybody is on their tippy toes and their chests are puffed up, and that comes from Jimmie's experience, Jimmie's ability to adapt. This racetrack changes an awful lot. I think if you guys pay attention you see that the track starts fairly white to a gray and then it end up black midway through a run and then as the caution comes out it turns white again, so the drivers really have to be willing and able to maneuver around the racetrack, find the best way to go.
Yeah, man, coming into Dover is someplace that we've always‑‑ put a little circle around it. We like it.

Q. Chad, there was one point where you ended up benefiting from a caution during a run and it timed well. When that kind of situation happens, are you staying out hoping that there could be a caution like that? Are you just trying to get into your fuel window? What's the thinking there?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, there is definitely some strategy. For sure.

Q. Chad, two questions for you: If I'm not mistaken, this is the third time counting Homestead that you guys have won from coming all the way from the back of the field at the start; is that correct?
CHAD KNAUS: Okay. You do the stats, man, I just crew chief. I don't know.

Q. Okay. Is there something special when you do that? Does it add to the victory at all?
CHAD KNAUS: No, it's not what you want to do by any stretch. We'd much rather start in the top 5 or on the pole and have the races go seamless, but is it fun to start last and win the race? Yeah, it is. It's pretty cool. But that's not the way that we want to have it happen by any stretch. You know, to have a parts failure that relegated us to the back, it happens, and it'll happen again, probably more than once, and it's a part of motorsports. It's a part of racing. It's a part of competition. But that's‑‑ the motivation for that is not‑‑ we don't say, hey, we started last, let's go try to win the race. Well, actually we do, but that's not‑‑ we don't intentionally start last and say, let's start last and try to go win the race.

Q. Does the stage system and the new points system give you guys more of an incentive to win during the regular season and less maybe to experiment?
CHAD KNAUS: We definitely‑‑ I understand the stages and I understand how it all works. We come to the racetrack to try to win everything that we possibly can. We want to win practice. We want to sit on the pole for qualifying. We want to win every stage, and we want to win the race. So if there is a checkered flag to be had, the 48 is going to the racetrack to try to capture it. So we're going to do that, and as far as experimenting throughout the normal season, before the playoffs, I think it's difficult for people to understand that we experiment every single time we go to the racetrack. We're always trying to evolve and get our cars better and faster so we can put our drivers in a position where they need to be, and I think at Hendrick Motorsports right now, honestly we're doing a pretty good job if you look at the way all the teams are running. It's pretty awesome.
THE MODERATOR: We are also now joined by today's winning driver, Jimmie Johnson of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Jimmie won his 83rd Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all time list. He also won his record 11th race here at Dover, becoming only the third driver to win a race‑‑ 11 or more races at a single track. Those other two drivers are none other than Richard Petty and Dale Waltrip. You've proven yourself to be a legend already in many respects, but how in the world did you get that Lowe's Chevrolet up front when it mattered most on that final restart?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we had a fast car, had to overcome quite a bit of adversity throughout the day, but we still had a great car, and honestly, it all came down to a restart. I was able to get the power to the ground. I knew it was going to be extremely tricky on those old, hot, worn‑out tires, and I just got a better restart is the way it turned out.

Q. Some of us were talking about if you won, we were going to come up with a challenge maybe 20 miles away on a bicycle, parachute in next year. Is there anything you can't overcome here?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: This is a good one for us and I've always been better at passing people. I think our stats from qualifying versus race wins really show that, and it's frustrating, we live in an environment where qualifying needs to be a priority and we better pit stall picks, but you put that rabbit out in front of me and I'll chase it down. It's just the way I've always been.

Q. Can you just speak to the contrast of last week running out of gas in the closing laps and the feeling of defeat there versus here having an opportunity to seize a win and being able to do so?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think at the root of our opportunities to win have been Chad's aggressive calls, and the fact that we've won a couple races gives him the freedom to really swing hard and take chances, and we stayed out on the track when others went to pit road later stages of the race, and that really turned out well for us. He made the audible at the 600 when everybody hit pit road, hey, let's try, and it's nice to be in this position to have a couple wins to know that we're in that top 16 and to take more chances to win because everything is about that trophy. To be in contention week in and week out like we have been makes me very proud, and then to see his aggressive calls makes it a lot of fun.

Q. Jimmie, can you just talk a little bit about your restarts? It seems like your last couple wins you've been better with them. Have you worked on anything in the past couple years to do that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Not really. I had one cost me a million bucks a couple Saturdays ago. You win some, you lose some, but it is so hard. And when you have that much horsepower under your right foot, it's so tough to give just the right amount of power. I knew today's conditions were going to be extra tricky on hot tires and we're picking up all the rubber that we were laying down on the track, and I got this one right, so you win some, you lose some.

Q. Can you talk about the meaning of tying Cale's win mark, and also were you being presumptuous at all with the helmet breaking it out before you had tied it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I really‑‑ it was time for a new helmet. We're trying to increase our inventory of our helmets, and we had one coming in this weekend, and my helmet painter and I discussed doing a tribute helmet. It just felt really good last year to honor Dale and Richard with the helmet that I wore at Homestead and was able to tie those guys with seven championships, and just kind of opened my mind to the opportunity I have to help some younger fans and to honor Cale Yarborough, to help younger fans know the name, know the face. So it's something that's been in the works. It's been under way for a few weeks being painted and it just arrived here this weekend. I really really anticipated wearing it more than one race. I'm not prepared for what my next plan is necessarily, so I might wear this helmet for a few more weeks, but it's just a great opportunity. A great opportunity for me to honor Cale and drivers have always used their helmets as their voice and a way to honor someone or send a message, their own personality. There's always been a lot of freedom with the driver's helmet, and I think it's just really been a neat opportunity for me to honor Dale and Richard and now Cale.
The meaning? To remember that old, dirty couch I was sitting on in El Cajon, California, with my parents, we didn't want to turn the A/C on because it cost too much, sweating out in 100 whatever degree eat out in El Cajon and sitting on the couch and pulling for that 28, to tie him is just mindblowing. I was very fortunate to have a similar experience when I tied him with the three consecutive championships, and he surprised me at the banquet, but to tie him at 83 wins, I swear to you, I only dreamed of winning a race, and to have 83 and to tie him is just absolutely mind blowing.

Q. The 42 team over the radio, speaking of restarts on that last one kind of protested that maybe you were laying back. Kyle Larson later said he spun the tires, but did you do anything different on that last restart?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I did everything I could to beat him, laid back, went forward. I laid back early, went forward late. He jumped‑‑ he's the leader, he's supposed to jump first. I just made sure I didn't jump before him. But when it mattered, I was actually ahead of him by a couple inches. They can protest all they want. I got the trophy. I did everything I could to beat him, and I did it.

Q. Is there any extra satisfaction in this one, winning that race at a place where you've had most of your allotted success and against a young guy who's supposed to win a bunch of races and a bunch of titles whenever you decide you're going to go off to the mountains and ski?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I haven't thought about that aspect. I mean, the takeaway I have from today is that these races are never over. When I was watching Kyle pull away from me with five to go, I'm going, all right, second is not bad, and then something in my mind said, this thing isn't over. They're not over until the checkered falls. About that time we go into Turn 1 and I see the 38 blow a right front and hammer the fence, and it's like, here we go, here's our chance. I guess that's my big take away, and yes, Kyle is going to win lots of races and be a household name and the face of our sport in the near future, if he's not on his way to doing that now. He's a tough competitor, and I was just able to inch out over him on that restart.

Q. What really was it about Cale that attracted him to you at such a young age?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's a great question. He reminded me of my grandfather a little bit in his personality, so that was a takeaway or a reason that I watched him and was into him. He won a lot when I was watching him race at that point in time, and then that 28 car just looked good. There was just something about it, the looks of the car, it looked mean. It was fast. He had that big crash I think at Talladega, almost went over the fence and the windshield blew out of it. For a young kid, there was just a lot about his personality, his driving style, his winning. I think my grandfather‑‑ there was something about his personality that carried over and between all those is why I was drawn to him.

Q. Were you confident you could hold off Larson if it went green the full two overtime laps?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Once I heard clear, I took a deep breath and I knew I was going to have my hands full. I hadn't been in clean air yet to know what my car would do, and I knew how hard it was to pass the 42 or the 78. So I was optimistic but knew I needed to be on my game for those final two laps. So there was some concern.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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