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NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: BUDWEISER DUEL #2


February 19, 2015


Jimmie Johnson

Chad Knaus


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

THE MODERATOR:  We've been joined by Chad Knaus.
Chad, another strong performance by the team tonight to earn the victory.  Strong night for Hendrick Motorsports.  I believe on Sunday they will wind up first, second and third.  Talk a little bit about the race tonight and really your outlook for Sunday.
CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah, we're really excited, obviously.  Great performance from Hendrick Motorsports ever since we unloaded down here in Daytona.
Obviously Jeff qualifying on the pole, that's just awesome for his last Daytona 500.  That's pretty cool from that standpoint.  Really proud of the guys in the 48, 88 shop to capture the victory in both 150s here tonight.  That means an awful lot.  We have a group of guys that focus primarily on our superspeedway stuff.  They really pay attention to the details, do a good job.  Definitely showed tonight.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll take questions for Chad.

Q.¬† You got 1‑2‑3 for Hendrick Motorsports.¬† How does that make you feel for the race?
CHAD KNAUS:  Clearly it gives us a lot of confidence.  I think all the Hendrick Motorsports cars are really strong.  I think we saw at different times tonight those Gibbs guys were strong as well.  The 20 was fast.  The 19 was super aggressive, trying to create a lot of different situations where he could capitalize on.
500 miles is completely different.  The thing that people don't understand, sitting in the stands, watching in here, what you had tonight is not what you're going to have on Sunday.  It's going to be middle 70s on Sunday, sunny, the grip is going to go away, the track is going to be really slick, handling will be more of a premium.
Obviously tonight guys took no tires, fuel only on the pit stops.  I think when you roll around to Sunday, that strategy is going to change a little bit.

Q.  Having won the race and having survived without getting your car torn up, does your strategy change at all for the next two days?  What is that strategy?
CHAD KNAUS:¬† It's been developing.¬† Obviously it was going to be dependent on what happened tonight.¬† We have a couple things we're considering trying in single‑car runs to see if we can extract a little bit more speed out of the car.
As a whole, I think we're pretty settled on what we're going to be racing for in the Daytona 500.
We'll start tonight changing the engine, getting it prepared for practice and ready for the 500.¬† We'll probably run one practice tomorrow, maybe just a quick shake‑down on Saturday and that will be about it.

Q.  There's an early practice on Saturday.  The temperatures may not warm up.  What do you do?
CHAD KNAUS:  You have to fall back on past experience and notes.  That's kind of what you do.
The thing about superspeedway racing is it's so dependent on where you are with other cars.  When you're out there in a small group, eight, ten cars, you never had the energy and the handling problems that you will in a group of 20 or 25.
To simulate that in practice is almost impossible anyhow.  We have to go off of past experience.
THE MODERATOR:  Chad, congratulations and thank you for your time tonight.
CHAD KNAUS:  Thank you.
THE MODERATOR:  We've now been joined by Jimmie Johnson.
Jimmie, a really strong performance tonight by Hendrick Motorsports with Dale taking home the first victory, you taking home the second victory.  Talk about the race tonight and your outlook on Sunday.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, just really proud of the effort that HMS has put into our speedway cars, says a lot about how prepared we were coming down here.  I think all four of us Hendrick drivers knew it was really in our hands.  The guys did their job at the shop and sent us down here with some really good hotrods.
It was up to me in the end.  There was the caution in the end.  Making sure I had a good restart, getting control of the layups was vital.  I feel like I got a lot of good experience tonight, understanding the draft, how to protect.  It's so difficult when you're leading trying to control those two lanes.
A lot of experience gained tonight.  Kind of dusted off my restrictor plate skills a little bit.  Nice to be the winner of the second Duel.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll take questions for Jimmie.

Q.  In years past it seemed like the leader of these races always gets freight trained at the end.  Tonight in both races it seemed like whoever was out front could move both back and forth across the lanes to block a little bit more and maintain the lead.  Is it different now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:¬† Yeah, I think what's different is the side draft is much more effective with this car.¬† When they're two‑by‑two behind you, their run just isn't very big.
In my race, especially, I was fortunate they were two‑by‑two behind me.¬† There never was a run strong enough to really worry about.
Prior to the caution coming out, the 18 and I kind of broke away.  I felt like it was a matter of time before he did what he needed to to get some energy and put a run on me.  I was trying to prepare for that and trying to control him and control the gap from my bumper to his bumper.
That never materialized.¬† But when the final restart happened, they were two‑by‑two, I felt pretty good about my situation just because the side draft is so effective right now.

Q.  Did you learn anything from watching the first Duel?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I mean, I thought I learned a little something on restart selection, then it didn't work for me on the first start.
I just saw the importance of controlling the lanes as the leader.  That kind of became apparent.  I thought Matt had the race well in control, then he got stuck in the middle and dropped.  It was kind of Junior's situation to control at that point.  That's what I took out of the first race that successfully worked in the second race.

Q.  As aggressively as you had to drive in the Chase race at Talladega last year, did that sort of help you tonight and influence anything that you did today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I definitely think I learned a lot in Talladega, so I applied that tonight.  It was a little different tonight because only half the field and half the good cars to really deal with.
The 500 I think will be much more difficult to control than what we saw in these two races.  When you have all the good cars there pushing and pulling, creating those runs, it will be a little more difficult.
But I did learn a lot in Talladega that I applied here.

Q.  You spent a lot of time over the years racing alongside Jeff Gordon in the 500.  Do you think this race is going to be substantively different when he's not there, not up at the front?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I think so.  I mean, when someone of his caliber isn't on the track, it definitely is going to have a big effect.  Not only in the 500 next year, but the entire season.  Our sport is going to be different without him there.
I feel very good about Chase Elliott going into the car.  We'll all have fun watching him grow and mature as a driver, see what he's capable of, kind of fill in that Jeff space that's there.
I wasn't around to watch the King step down and some of the other greats that have been in our sport, so I don't know exactly how it's going to go.  If Jeff Gordon isn't on the track, for 23 years he's been such a force on the track.  Our sport is not going to necessarily suffer from it, but it's just not the same.  It's Jeff Gordon.

Q.  You've joked about it a couple times, how cold it was.  Are these the most miserable conditions you've been in at a racetrack?  Does it really affect anything other than when you're cracking beers in Victory Lane?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  It was miserable outside the car.  Inside the car it was really nice.  Took about five minutes for my hands to warm up, but from then on it was nice and toasty.
These cold conditions will all lull us into thinking our cars are driving great.  As things heat up, we get to Sunday, it's mid 70s and sunny, you have to be on your game and make sure you're setting your car for prime conditions.  Tonight was prime conditions.  No slipping and sliding, cold track temps.  Tonight it was hard to get your car to handle poorly.
Flipside, if it's handling bad tonight, you got a ton of work to do for Sunday.  You can look at it one of two ways.

Q.  (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON:¬† Cold‑wise?¬† I remember at Bristol was snowing once.¬† Probably the top two or three as far as being cold.¬† But Bristol comes to mind because it was actually snowing.

Q.  What kind of threat are the Gibbs cars to your cars?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  They showed a ton of strength.  I think all of their cars are very strong.  The 11 came from the back and in no time at all was in the mirror.  18 had a penalty, rallied his way back.  I really didn't want him to have control of the race.  That was my goal, was to stay ahead of him, because I don't think I could have gotten by him.  The 20 looked so strong in the first race.
I think the Gibbs cars are right there with us.  Those guys know what they're doing.

Q.  It seems like the drafting, when you're the leader, it's harder to keep guys behind you, harder to anticipate moves.  The fact that the rules have stayed static, everybody is getting more comfortable with the cars in year three, has everybody figured out everybody else's game and tricks?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Leading's really tough to manage, there's no doubt about it.  That thought's crossed my mind a few times, all the tricks and little things that we work in the car, everybody in the field knows about now.
I think you're right.  Having this rules package stay the way it has, it doesn't matter who you race with, they know the sweet spots to pull someone back, set up a pass, make things happen.  Yeah, I would definitely agree with that.
But leading's probably the hardest thing to do.  At Junior pointed out, your spotter has to be on his game, letting you know where the energy is coming from, what lane is moving.  Then you have to block and defend.

Q.  I don't know how much T.J. is talking to Dale, but does Earl talk nearly as much?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:¬† I don't think Earl does.¬† I have him talking a lot.¬† But I had the opportunity when we used to do the tandem drafting to hear T.J. when I'd get hooked up with the 88 car.¬† Not in a bad way, but he doesn't shut up.¬† I mean, it's non‑stop.¬† That's what you need.
Junior and T.J. have found great rhythm with that.  T.J. gives a lot of great information.  I guess I don't want to hear as much.  What Earl and I have worked out is exactly what I need.
THE MODERATOR:  Congratulations, Jimmie.  We wish you the best of luck for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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