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May 31, 2020

Jimmie Johnson

Bristol, Tennessee

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by seven‑time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Jimmie, walk us through the wild and crazy race from your perspective.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, wild and crazy night for sure. Very strong performance for us. Really proud of the guys keeping our chins up through the last four weeks. We've had fast cars, really haven't had the results to show for it.
To put together a solid race, start to finish, great pit stops, fast car, be a threat. We need more long runs. There's only one long race in the whole race. We were battling for the lead with Kyle. I wish there were more long runs because our car didn't have the short run speed in it. But we still salvaged a great day out of it with the Ally Chevy.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. When you take stock of how you ran as a company today, do you feel decent about your short track package at this point in the season?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, we haven't had many short track races. Bristol is pretty unique. When I think of Phoenix, we didn't have a race‑winning car in Phoenix. That race is so important at the end of the year. I feel like we still have some work to do.
Great showing here. Then obviously our mile‑and‑a‑half stuff, the 550 package, in general we're much more competitive this year. A lot of optimism, but I think we need to refine our package a bit more through the bulk of the year and set up well for the Playoffs.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about why the Hendrick cars have been so fast this year, the Chevrolet cars as a whole. Denny Hamlin said he thought it was the redesigned Camaro. Is that the key to why Chevrolet has been so strong this year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, without a doubt. That new Camaro has been a huge help for us. I think through last year's events, and NASCAR taking the three makes, taking those cars after the race is over, blowing them in the wind tunnel, they saw the situation and they allowed Chevrolet to build a new Camaro and bring it out to get us up on par with the Toyotas and the Fords.
This year we feel like we are much more in the ballpark and much more on an equal with them with the 550 package.

Q. What kind of advantage does it give you with one year of this rules package, tweaking the car to fit the rules package?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean, with the low horsepower, it's really about efficiencies. It kind of tells a story that back when we didn't have these restricted engines, the Chevrolets were creating downforce kind of in an inefficient manner, but it didn't matter because we had the horsepower to pull us through it.
Last year it was pretty obvious when we raced the 550 package we had trouble. We couldn't trim the car out to the lengths of the other manufacturers. After NASCAR studied it hard, they realized they needed to do something. They let us have a new car this year.
Between that and I think a new engine block that they approved for the year, the engine block is a lot lighter and helps on days like today. It's their job to keep the quality and they allowed us to make those changes and bring us up to par with the other two makes.

Q. All things considered in the two weeks, how satisfied are you with the progress that you and Cliff have done, especially with the long layoff to now, a victory is all that's missing?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We're excited. I felt like when the lockdown and quarantine started, we had momentum on our side. I was really bummed that we couldn't see that through. Then to sit on ice for eight, nine weeks, whatever it ended up being, then come back and really actually be stronger than we were before the lockdown happened is really a testament to everybody at Hendrick, the leadership on Cliff's side, what he's doing with these crew guys.
I felt like we would be good, but we definitely stepped it up after the lockdown lifted, now that we're back racing.

Q. In Darlington you made a mistake in the first race. Kyle Busch made a mistake in the third race. Chase Elliott took the blame for the late wreck today. Is there more pressure on you guys? Is there a reason why we're seeing all the great drivers make a mistake or have an issue?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. I just think we do a nice job of making it look easy. When you cross the line, stuff goes wrong. We walk that tightrope day in and day out. 100% is really all the car can take. You step over it and create situations that take you out if you try too hard.
I think it's more impressive that we fooled you guys for so long making it look easy on track, and our true colors finally showed through (laughter).

Q. You have obviously shown speed this season. As a collective group you won 10 stages already, two more than all of last year. You also have two wins together. The absence of wins is more circumstances regarding the racing or do you think there's still some gains left to be made as an organization?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We always want to be stronger. There's no doubt. I feel like there's probably two races that I could have been in contention to win, three including tonight, today. I think Chase could be sitting here with five in a row if things go his way, four or five in a row.
I do think HMS is very strong. I do think we have left some wins on the table as a group, unfortunately.

Q. You've had a lot of success at Atlanta. You get a week off, almost like normal. You haven't had a lead lap finish since 2017. What are your expectations? What have you worked with as a team collectively trying to get HMS back to the front in Atlanta?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, you know, Atlanta last year was really an eye‑opening experience for HMS. When I look back at the year, that track is so hard on tires, really tells you what kind of aero balance you have, setup that you have to go with. We should have known then we needed to make some big changes.
When I look at this year and going to California Speedway, that surface is a lot like Atlanta. I feel like Darlington, Fontana, Atlanta, those tracks kind of all act the same. They're not identical, but pretty good comparison between them all.
I'm really excited to go back to Atlanta. It's one of my favorite racetracks to compete at. Been able to win there over the years. Of late it's been tough for us. I really expect us to have a strong performance there.

Q. The headlines the last few days have been dominated by protests, including in Charlotte, against police brutality and people demanding justice for George Floyd. What is your reaction to that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I've watched it all. The circumstances are just crazy and unacceptable. I am for protesting, peaceful protesting. I hope there's more of that tonight. I know there are concerns, especially in the Charlotte area, near my home, that they will be protesting tonight.
The message needs to be clear, but I think being peaceful is really the right way to send the message here. I hope everybody stays safe.

Q. Talking about crossing the line because of not having any practice and no qualifying, has that narrowed the line as far as crossing it? Has that made it more difficult as far as knowing where that line is?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think so. I mean, I think if it's an incident in the opening laps, you could chalk it up to not having practice or something there. But I honestly think it's a product of what NASCAR is today.
When you back up to stages, the way that we race for stages, we now have championship points awarded or points being paid out in the stages.
We know that cautions breed cautions. Track position is more important than it's ever been with this 550 downforce package and the big spoiler on the back of the car. You just keep stacking things up that make you drive as hard as you can every single lap. When you live that close to the edge, you're going to step over. Just that simple.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, thanks for taking the time. Enjoy a couple days off. We'll see you at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you. Take care everybody.

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