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March 11, 2012
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post race here today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Our race runner‑up is Jimmie Johnson.
Jimmie, outstanding performance put on by the 48 team. Your thoughts about the last few restarts and the last few laps there coming down the stretch.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, definitely a lot to be proud of today. Look at our pit stops on pit road, the consistent speed we had there. The consistent fast racecar that we had all day long.
We did have one set of tires maybe two stops from the end, we lost a bunch of spots. Something was off with them. Outside of that, I mean, the car was pretty close to the fastest car all day long. Traded back and forth with Tony. Can't take anything away from them. They were awfully strong, the fastest car all day long. Traded back and forth with Tony. Can't take anything away from them. They were awfully strong. The last two restarts, second to the last started, I just blew it. He got away from me. The next to the last start, I felt like I got a good one. He still cruised away.
My only chance was to be at his outside through one and two. Didn't have that opportunity. He had the lane at that point. Drove my guts out, but just didn't get it done.
KERRY THARP: We'll take some questions now.
Q. It looked like nobody could pass the leader. Was it all clean air?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know what the average speed was, but we're flying around here. The faster you go, the more that clean air becomes a priority. Passing for the lead was tough. I worked my way all the way through the field. Took me forever to get by the 17 on one of those runs for the lead itself.
I definitely agree with that. Luckily we're on a track with multiple grooves and we can move around. The first car definitely has an advantage.
On the short run, there was enough parity to get something done. That's why I'm frustrated with my restarts. If I could have got to his outside on the restart, I think I had a chance.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the restarts. Tony Stewart accused you of laying back.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know about laying back. It's his prerogative to go as fast as he wants to go. He's the leader setting the pace.
Normally you got to keep speed with the pace car itself. The pace car is pulling away from us, so I'm just going as fast as he is right alongside of him.
It would be foolish of me to be tire to tire with him, then he could really take advantage of me because my line of sight, I'm not able to see his racecar. It's pretty much standard deal to sit back on the door number so you have a line of sight on the car that's the leader so that you can time it with them.
Nothing out of the ordinary there.
Q. You said you'd look at things for the future. What do you do when you're not racing to learn how to do restarts or to get better reports?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, we have a new element this year. I've usually been real good at that stuff. But the fuel injection is different, and the mapping that we develop for that is quite a bit different than years past.
The first one I know that I just jumped on the gas too hard and spun 'em. That was my fault. The second restart, I didn't spin 'em. I felt really good. He was still running away from me.
So we can go in and look at the data, not much data, but the little bit we have, hopefully we can find a direction to help the car accelerate a little bit better up through second gear.
Q. You get to look at his mapping to see what he was doing on those restarts?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yup (laughter). I've already asked for it, too. Got to be a two‑way street. They've been looking at our stuff for a lot of years.
Q. Fourth and second since the penalty came down. Do you feel like you're back open track in some ways going into Tuesday?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, we've worked so hard over the off‑season to put speed in our cars, make them comfortable and consistent so I can get in there and not be on edge while driving it.
We've achieved that goal. We did some early testing in Nashville, and somewhere else, too. Disneyworld. Early testing this year, we saw that we had a better product. That's had me very excited.
Daytona we didn't finish very well. Not much we can do about that. I've been proud of our short track program, now our mile‑and‑a‑half stuff, now we're going to Bristol. We've been really good there lately so it shouldn't change.
KERRY THARP: Jimmie, thanks a lot. See you at Bristol.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you.
KERRY THARP: We'll continue now with our post race here. Our third‑place finisher and our points leader after the first three events of the 2012 season is Greg Biffle.
Greg, we were talking on Friday in here just about a very good start for your race team. You're the points leader going to Bristol. That's pretty good.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it certainly started off to be a good season for us so far. Just plain and simply, Matt Puccia is the reason why we're running and competing and finishing where we are. This team needed leadership. He was willing to step up and take the task on. Done a fantastic job so far.
You know, we were a little disappointed. Certainly we ran third, we qualified ninth. But good weekend so far.
We were a little faster last year here. We're kind of scratching our heads a little bit. We knew it was going to be a tough battle today. We knew some cars had better speed than us, if we just hung tough, kept our track position, worked on it, we might be there at the end. That's certainly what happened today.
But it was clear that the 14 and 48 were just a little bit better than we were. 17 car looked like he was a little bit better than we were. So, you know, like we thought it would come out, we had about a top‑five car and finished third, so we're super excited about it.
There again, we want to win like the 14 car did today. So we're going to keep our heads down and keep working hard.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Greg.
Q. Greg, in the media tour pre‑season you talked a lot about all the different changes that you had made at the team. How much of all that in the first three weeks can you tell has made a difference in where you are right now?
GREG BIFFLE: It has all to do, a hundred percent, with where we're at right now. That's why we changed and put the crew chief in charge last year. Then we kept handcuffs on him, wouldn't let him change any people or change out guys as he went two, three, four, five, six weeks into his job. So we waited till the off‑season.
I say 'we,' Robby and all the guys waited till the off‑season to make the changes. We were waiting to figure out what we were going to do with the 6 car.
We were waiting to see what was going to happen because it would determine whether we got a sponsor for the 6 or not. We were going to have a bunch of people that we could move internally around the company if we downsized.
So Matt, with free rein, got to pick the guys he wanted on the 16. It's all been Matt. Matt has done all this himself with some guidance from the company.
Q. Do you get to look at the mapping? Obviously restarts look like they're going to be important this year, especially with this fuel injection stuff. Do you get to see Tony's stuff?
GREG BIFFLE: You know, I don't think NASCAR has decided whether they're going to release the map yet on the top‑five cars or winning cars or whatever. We would certainly look at it. Any data available, you're going to look at, whether it helps you or not.
It was clear that the 14 car had more power than we did. It appeared to me like he had more power than the 48. He could kind of drive away from him. That car was very, very fast. Long time since I've seen a car that fast.
You know, I might go back on my words a little bit because we were really tight in the center of the corner. I couldn't use the throttle the way I needed to. I was off the gas way longer in the corner than probably he was in the 48. Obviously that's why they were faster. Still on the restarts, man, you know, I just never seen a car drive off like that. They got something going on with their cars that has carried over from last year clearly.
Q. Greg, when you were behind Tony on the restart with 30 to go, what were your thoughts when he went three‑wide?
GREG BIFFLE: I'm going with him. Thank you for making the hole for me (laughter).
You know, that was the difference between my car and his car. I was able to pull up on his bumper going down in the corner. But my car started sliding the nose on the bottom. I was sliding up. I had to come out of the gas or I was going to get into the 2 car until I got it to turn a little bit, so now I'm side‑by‑side with the 2.
My car just didn't turn good enough today. That's what I lacked. We fought loose, loose, loose in practice, kept working on it, working on it. Finally at the end of the day, we got it to where it was pretty good.
Today I was just too tight. Right from the green, I was too tight. We just kind of pecked at it we should have taken two, three pounds of wedge out. We took one out. I just was not aggressive enough. I should have taken two, three rounds out of it or raised the track bar a half inch, maybe pulled rubber out of the left rear, I might have been up their tail pipe at the end.
We had a good run. Even then I don't know if we had a car that was fast enough.
Q. Is clean air so important that if you're not up there, you aren't going to pass anybody?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah. It's just so important. You know, not quite so much here. I mean, it's very important. But here you can move around a little bit. You can run the bottom in one and two, run the top. You can kind of do the same down here in three and four.
But there were several times I would get within‑‑ it seems like it's further distance behind them. I'd get within 15 car lengths of the 48 car and my car would just stop. I couldn't get any closer.
I'd start crisscrossing around, running the bottom. I would suck way up on him. Now I'm within eight car lengths of him. I go down to three and four, try to run above him, start sliding the nose because of the dirty air, we come off the corner, I'm back to 15 car lengths.
You kind of move around the racetrack cat and mouse. But definitely the guy out front has got it made. It makes a big difference about everywhere we go.
Q. On the final restart when the three Roush cars went three‑wide, did you have an idea what was going on between the 99 and the 17? On Tuesday, how uncomfortable do you think it's going to be in the team meeting?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I mean, you got to get what you can get. We saw the 14 go three‑wide on the 2 car. Unfortunately these days you got to race each car like you have to pass for position. Now, you're probably not going to put the guy out in the weeds, jeopardize him wrecking. But you got to do what you got to do, I guess.
I didn't know we were three‑wide. My spotter told me Carl was on the apron, below the 17, and I found that to be a surprise. So I moved up the racetrack and gave about as much room as I thought I needed, or could, and just held my line through the corner.
When I looked out the side mirror the 99 car was coming up the track, was going to hit me. I started moving up a little bit to try to give him a little bit of room on the bottom. My spotter told me the 17 is looking at the top. I'm like, What else can happen in one corner?
There wasn't room for the 17 above me. I don't know if he saw that exactly. It may look like he was because the replay showed the 17 was behind the 99. The 99 kind of got stalled out on my inside. The 99 finally had to lift or he was probably going to be in my side.
Yeah, so as long as we're not beating and shoving on each other, I suppose anything goes.
Q. Greg, the way this race was flowing back and forth, you're trying to find ideal lines, blocking, chaos, mass hysteria, what does that do to your thought process as you're behind the wheel?
GREG BIFFLE: I'm trying to figure out to get a clean lane. Just try and get my car to go where I can. Then I was just hoping those two guys up there would kind of get a little bumping and shoving, slow up a little bit so I could get a chance to get on 'em.
It is hard to pass. I thought maybe if I got out in front of them...
There again, my car, when I was out front, or when I would get in a corner really fast, I think it was hitting the splitter a little bit, so that was hurting me.
You're just looking for where the car can get the most grip is all you're trying to do.
KERRY THARP: Greg, congratulations on a good run today and on a good start to the season.
GREG BIFFLE: Okay.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports