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October 5, 2008

Jimmie Johnson

David Ragan


THE MODERATOR: Question for Jimmie Johnson.
What is your understanding of the yellow line on the last lap and how that thing went, how it's supposed to go?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Before this morning or yesterday's truck race, I didn't know or think you could go below the yellow line at any point in time. Then today, the rumor was circulating you can before the start/finish line if you can see the flag. I didn't know what to really think about it or understood it or had seen it. It's ironic how it played out today.
For whatever reason it started circulating this morning after the drivers meeting, everybody was talking about it, it sure enough played out today in the race.

Q. There was some discussion on the two way after the last caution about when so many of the Chasers got taken out, whether you were going to play conservative or try to go for the win. Did you actually play conservative or could you not just keep up because of the engine problem?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: On that last restart, I knew I was in trouble with the 31 and the 7 behind me, that they were going to hook up and bump-draft and go by. So I felt my best bet would be to get a really good start and stay with that lead pack in front of me; when those guys got to me, maybe some options would open up.
But unfortunately when they dropped the flag, I stood on the gas, the group in front of me pulled away, the 31 and the 7 really lagged off me to get a run on me, afterward I was stuck in no man's land with no help. 31 and 7 went by. All the cars that were in that lead pack went by. I was the last car at the end of the lead pack, I could barely hang on. I almost fell off of the back and slipped away.
Fortunately got a couple guys in the end, some guys got shuffled out. I was just able to squeak by them as well. We just didn't have any speed in the car for whatever reason.

Q. Jimmie, how bad was the bumping out there today? I looked on the television. You could see a lot of front bumpers were battered in and dirty.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean, every lap, every car, someone is doing it. I have to admit I'm impressed with how well everyone used the bumpers today. I guess we did have a lot of big wrecks, but there were so many more opportunities. For a while there I thought that one didn't work out for me because I didn't have the speed to hang on to me into the draft. I needed somebody behind me to push me. After that first problem we had, I got in the middle of things and just raced the best that I could, tried to keep cars behind me to keep me in the draft. When I was in that position, I saw a lot of stuff going on, a lot of bump-drafting, a lot of crazy moves.
It's just the way these cars are designed. As drivers, we're going to find whatever it takes to pass the next guy. That is our only option. As you can see, once you get stalled out, the lines are set, no one can go anywhere. If somebody can get hooked up bumper-to-bumper, you kind of slip into a little pocket where the air misses the back part of the spoiler. If you can get in that, slide into that pocket, you can check out and make stuff happen. That's the only offensive move we have right now in plate racing. That's why everybody is using it so much.

Q. Jimmie, last week at Kansas you were joking about hoping that people would stop asking you about the third championship and the points lead. On a day like today, when all this misfortune hits your rivals, you emerge as the leader, is it hard to not start thinking things are going to start happening your way?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't say stop asking about it. The one thing I was trying to say is there's a lot of racing between then and Homestead, and there still is a lot between now and Homestead. This track was the track I feared the most. To come out of here with a top 10, with guys that were real close to me having some problems, today was a good day, a really, really good day in the big picture.
I still don't have a big enough margin to lighten up between now and Homestead. We just need to go out and race smart and still outperform these guys. They're in striking distance. If they outperform me over the last six races, they all can win championships. I'm just trying to keep my focus on the right things and keep it simple. Right now I'm not as stressed out as some of the other guys, but I still can't lighten up. I still have to keep focused.

Q. Jimmie, it sounds like, as confusing as it was, the fact you heard in the Truck Series you could go in the last lap, anything goes, you said that if you could see the flag stand, did this not come up in the drivers meeting? How can you go into the last lap of a race and not know what the rules are?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Here's what happened. Yesterday it was brought up in the Truck Series race. Everybody was watching it. Everybody said, Oh, all right. Everybody went off and asked their questions where they needed to and kept that advice and that knowledge in their back pocket just in case they were in position to win the race.
Evidently Regan Smith knew what the deal was and went for it. He saw the truck race, did some research today and made a move he felt was going to win the race. Where the argument comes in, what I was told is from where you can see the flag. That is a question of where this all falls in place. It's when you could see the flagman, anything goes. That all started this morning. Like wildfire it went through the garage area. Everybody was kind of worrying about it, keeping it in their back pocket.
That's why the question wasn't brought up in the drivers meeting. I promise you the next drivers meeting we have for restrictor plate racing, it will be.

Q. Jimmie, were you at all concerned early in the race when you were laying back that that might not be the right strategy? And because you're pleased with the top 10, what's the momentum carryover into Charlotte, where you do well?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yes, when they dropped the green flag, I was trying to stay bunched up. The only time you can really hang in the back and make things work is if you have them two- and three-wide in front of you. I knew at the start of the race everybody was going to stay pretty smart and not race too hard.
I just could not hang on. I had to go to the back because of a slip in the engine. When they dropped the rack, they just drove off from me. Wasn't anything I could do to hang on.
Momentum, yeah, this is a good thing. We came in here well. We'll take the momentum. We'll move forward. I think the guys are disappointed. They worked and put so many hours into this car, to have it not qualify and then have the speed not come race time like we wanted it to, it's tough on them.
But, you know, I think tonight after they get home and pop open a cold beer and think about it, they're all going to be real happy with where we finished up today and get focused up on our performance at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Q. Jimmie, after you got through the wreck on 174, we heard you have a conversation about taking it as it comes after that. How did it play out for you in those final few laps?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Coming down the backstretch, the 99 and 16, I thought, if I follow these guys, been riding in the back, sitting tight, 20 to go, if we wreck, at least we all wreck together. At one point I thought, This is pretty stupid because I might help these guys win, but if I'm third, it's okay.
They go forward, hooked up bumper-to-bumper on the outside, three-wide, we're just passing people, I'll stick with it. As we went off into three, whatever happened took place, I was very lucky to not have anyone following me too close into three, because when I jammed on the brakes, no one hit me from behind. If somebody hit me from behind, I would have been collected in it, it would have been over.
No one hit me. I saw stuff. There was a lot of smoke and dirt flying through the air. I saw through the smoke kind of some dark shadows moving around. I tried to dodge the shadows. Came out on the apron. When I was on the apron, decided it was over, here comes somebody through the grass and ran into the guy in front of me. Just never stopped. So I'm down-shifting, trying to accelerate, weave through cars and try to get out of there.
Somehow we made it. I really don't know how we made it through that one, but we'll take it. At the end of the day, we'll take it.

Q. Jimmie, the first half of the race had a lot of tire problems, three big explosions. Was there any point where you were concerned about that or did you think that was an issue just with how certain teams were setting up their cars? What did you feel after you saw some tire problems early in the race?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was worried all the way back on Friday I guess when the 88 blew a tire. From my point of view, you run something over, you cut a tire, you shred it, it falls down. When they explode like, that in my opinion, something went wrong with the tire that caused it to explode. I know everybody felt comfortable that the 88 ran over something on Friday, but I just didn't think so.
I've watched the ARCA race. Those guys couldn't go -- granted, it's on a different tire, but they had problems. Man, there's really something going on here. It was in the back of my mind all day long. Fortunately we never had an issue. But, you know, it certainly did pop up today. When those things went, they exploded.

Q. Would you have made the move that Regan made if you were in that position going for the win?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Without a doubt, especially with the rumors floating around this morning before the race. And as late as he made the move, it appeared to me that he did what he was supposed to. I'm curious where they placed him. They put him back in second?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Shoot, that moves me up to 9th. I'm going to shut up (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We're going to release Jimmie Johnson.
THE MODERATOR: We have our third-place finisher after review upstairs, David Ragan. David, your thoughts about today's race.
DAVID RAGAN: Well, it was a long day, of course, after starting in the back, coming to the front a couple of times. Basically there at the end, we didn't have any Fords on the racetrack, I didn't think. I was kind of at my own mercy.
Again, we had a car that could have won today with the right circumstances and the right people behind us. Nevertheless, solid day for us. We always seem to be pretty fast here on the superspeedway track, so that just goes to show you how much effort our Roush Fenway team is putting into this program.
It was a nice day, but I wish I had a little bit more to show for it there at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for David Ragan.

Q. David, there were a couple of instances on the track where you had some contact, one with Juan, then Kevin. Explain both of those. And with restrictor plate racing, do drivers go back and apologize?
DAVID RAGAN: I think with Montoya, he just had a good run. You know, it's a deal where you're looking at that yellow line. Certainly he doesn't want to cross it. And I've got just enough distance between my car and the yellow line where he can't fit in between it, but it looks like he can. Basically he just had a good run. He didn't take us out, we didn't take him out.
Then with Harvick, we worked very well all day together. You're on the bottom. For some reason when you're on that bottom line, it seems to be worse on the bottom than it is on the middle or the top. Whoever was behind me was pushing me extremely hard. I was right on the 29's back bumper. I just got a shot getting into turn three and relayed the shot to Kevin.
Again, glad that he didn't get totaled out in that wreck. He came back, and I guess he got back in the wreck in turns three and four.
Just, you know, tough racing. Certainly when you can see the checkered flag, when you're in the last 15 to 20 laps, everybody starts racing a little bit harder, not cutting much slack. Just fortunate that we were just, you know, able to dodge both of those. It could have been big.

Q. The two-time defending champion of this series, he thought that Regan Smith made the right move and he himself would have made the same move. He said there was a lot of talk this morning that you can pass when you can see the flag coming out of the last lap.
DAVID RAGAN: I didn't hear that. I don't know. I mean, if it's anything goes, when you can see the flag coming to the checkered, maybe that's just one of those little rules that they don't say you can do but you can. I don't know. If I would have known that, I might have would have run down pit road and seen if I could have beat him that way. I don't know.
But, you know, when you see the checkered flag, you're trying to do all you can, and certainly he's doing all he can. I probably would have done the same thing. You never know. Maybe they could have seen it where the 20 blocked him down there and he could have won the race and everything would have been great. Yet it's a shame to have a good run and put you back in the back like that.
I guess I need to do a little bit more research. If that's the case, I'm going to drive down pit road next time.

Q. David, you've run from my count maybe eight or nine of these restrictor plate races. How much of the day do you spend learning from the other guys that you're around? At one point you were sandwiched between Harvick and Stewart. Those guys are two of the best. How much of the day do you spend learning?
DAVID RAGAN: All day. You learn who's good behind you. At times I could notice when a car behind me couldn't push me very well, and then some cars could. The 28, Travis Kvapil, was a great pusher when he was behind me. It seemed like we really worked well together. You're kind of mentally logging notes in all day long. Sometimes I'll mention some things over the radio and hope that my crew chief or spotter can remind me later on, some cars I was really good behind.
So, yeah, constantly throughout the day you're judging your racecar versus some of the other guys, and you're playing circumstances through your mind. When I'm sitting in my Ford, on the red flag, you're thinking about what you would do in certain instances. You can just about predict what's going to happen at certain times, but you never know what's going to come out on the other end.
So, yeah, you learn a lot. 500 miles is a long race. You just try to soak it all in.
THE MODERATOR: We'll release David Ragan. Congratulations.

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