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May 9, 2015

Jimmie Johnson

Chad Knaus


KERRY THARP:  Winning crew chief Chad Knaus has joined us.  Congratulations on this win tonight here at Kansas Speedway.  Your 73rd victory with Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  I believe it's your 200th top 5 and your 300th top 10.  Outstanding job here at Kansas.  You pulled that one out there at the end.  Just talk about how things unfolded and went out there here this evening for you.
CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah, goodness, it was very unexpected to be here right now, obviously I think we had a little bit of good fortune on our side for sure.  The weekend wasn't turning out or developing the way that we would have liked it to for sure, but the good thing about this team is it always strives to do better, and we worked really hard on the race car after qualifying to figure out what we needed to do to try to get the car better for Jimmie.  We had some really tight conditions on Friday, and well, we did a really good job of fixing that‑‑
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  There was no sign of tight all night.
CHAD KNAUS:  We weren't tight tonight.  Unfortunately, we couldn't really get the car back where we needed to, and obviously Jimmie almost lost it there early on in the event and did a fantastic job saving the race car, and then the guys, man, we just got to work.  The guys just executed flawlessly on pit road.
We made a significant amount of changes to the race car from ride height changes to chassis changes to air pressure changes to pit calls and strategy and so on and so forth.  To be able to come out of here tonight with a victory was a lot of fun.  A lot of hard work, but a lot of great people put us here tonight.
KERRY THARP:  Jimmie Johnson, your 73rd Sprint Cup Series win, your third win in 2015, your third win at Kansas, and as I was mentioning to Chad before you came in, it's your 200th top 5 in the Sprint Cup Series and your 300th top 10.  Outstanding numbers.  Just talk about this win here tonight.  Obviously you made the right call there at the end, and your car was good, and you had to overcome some things as Chad was talking about, too.  This one has to feel pretty good, coming on Mother's Day, too, because this race actually ended on Mother's Day.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, that's amazing.  I thought my wife might have been asleep and then I caught her on face time in [mark] victory lane and she was not so happy to be on face time and other people looking in the phone.
CHAD KNAUS:  Did you really?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yep.  I hit the button and I meant to call and she answered and I hit face time and I think the signal went out or she hung up, one of the two.
But yeah, finishing on Mother's Day is very sweet, and shout out to all the moms, my mom and Chandra for Mother's Day.  I'm going to take the trophy home to my kids and see what their response is with that trophy.
Tonight, I felt like we had a good car.  As we got to the front and got out of the turbulent air and traffic our car just got faster and faster.  I felt like we were a top 2 or 3 car but I didn't have enough time up there in the top 2 or 3 to know where I stood against the 78 and the 4, but we gambled with our pit call and had just enough time to get to the finish line before the 4 on his new tires could get to us.  Just well played.
In some ways we fought really hard to get to [mark] victory lane, but it's fun to win one gambling.  We haven't really gambled before and won.  Not to my knowledge.  So it feels a little different and pretty cool to have that come together.

Q.  What went into the decision to stay out there on that last restart, and what were the factors in your mind?  You kind of mentioned gambling there.  Why did you think that was the best strategy to stay out even though the 4 and the 78 were coming in?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, as I was coming through 3 and 4, you're trying to watch‑‑ I'm watching the 4 and the 78, looking in the mirror, and sometimes you can tell what the masses are going to do, if they're looking at pit road or not.  Usually Chad gives me some indication early in Turn 3 what he's going to do, and he didn't really say much, so I knew he was thinking hard, and I could see most guys were favoring down and trying to find their way onto the apron.  And he asked me what I wanted to do, and it just dawned on me, we've won two races, we're locked in the Chase, points don't matter, it's all about wins.  I said, man, I feel like gambling, and that was the call, and we stayed out.
It's just kind of a gut feeling and a split‑second decision that we peeled right and pretty much everybody went left.  At that point I felt like I was pretty lonely and it wasn't going to work out.  The 88 stayed and I think Chad was trying to be optimistic and fill me full of some sunshine, oh, a few stayed out.  I only saw one stay out.  And then four lined up behind me.
The way the tires would fire off, you could put together four or five good laps on older tires and then they would slow down.  So I felt like with maybe nine to go it would have been tough, and then they waved off the 1.  I'm like, sweet, we're getting in the window, keep waving him off.  And it worked out.
CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah, it was obviously‑‑ from our standpoint, we were in a unique situation because the 4 and the 78 were actually really close on fuel, we were not.  We were well within our window.  So we wanted to stay out.
We knew that we were going to need to have probably four or five guys at the minimum stay out for us to have any shot at pulling it off.  We were tossing back and forth what we should do, and I didn't want to say too much until the very last moment, and when I threw it out there to Jimmie and he said, well, let's gamble.  I was like, that's easy, it's done.  So when we did that I felt very confident the 88 was going to stay out, I felt very confident the 24 was going to stay out.  I didn't know about the other guys.  And I felt like even if those other guys came down, like 78, for instance, he took fuel.  And I really expected the 4 to take fuel as opposed to taking right side tires.  Once he took right side tires, I knew that he was going to be difficult.  I knew that he was going to be the one to beat.
But yeah, it was‑‑ man, it just played out.  We started to set up that strategy three stops from the end, and it worked out.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  And I ran out of gas doing a burnout, so we timed it just right.

Q.  (No microphone.)
CHAD KNAUS:  I think so.  It was the 88, the 24, somebody, and then the 78‑‑

Q.  41?
CHAD KNAUS:  41, thank you.  And the 78 only took fuel.  So we had a pretty good buffer there.
The 4 car was the wild card.  Man, he made quick work of the 24 through 1 and 2.  I don't know where Jeff went, but the 4 just rolled right through there.  And I thought we were going to be in trouble, but man, we were watching the in‑car camera video a lot of the race and Jimmie had his hands full the majority of the race in traffic and counter steering the majority of the event through the corners.
Once the car got out front, he was actually able to really feed the wheel to the car, held a pretty wheel and the car definitely came to us once we got out in clean air.

Q.  I think the margin of your lead was somewhere between like three tenths of a second and maybe close to an actual second when you got the lead out of that last restart.  Were they telling you what your margin of‑‑ what your comfort zone was and if they were gaining time on you at all?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  No.  I can see in the mirror where everybody was.  What was being fed to me was the lines they were running.  And for maybe, at least a lap, I guess, the 4 and 88 were door to door, and I was trying hard to take advantage of that, and then even on the straightaways I was trying to pull down, and if I was to help somebody with the draft, give it to the 88.  He was on older tires and I felt like if I could keep them side by side longer, it would be a benefit.
The 4 ended up getting by them pretty quick, and I was like, okay, I have to put it together here.  The car, as Chad mentioned a minute ago, was driving so much differently with clean air and steady air on the car that the tools I have inside my race car, each lap I kept playing with stuff and moving my brake balance, track bar, and just trying to find out how to make the car turn stronger because in the pack and in traffic all day long the car was so loose and unstable that we made massive adjustments every stop to try to secure the car up.  And once I had steady air on the car I was, ooh, I don't need all that right now, but we were able to get there.

Q.  I would assume after six championships and 73 wins, confidence is not an issue, but on a night where you talked about battling the car, nearly spun out, perhaps didn't have the best car, but is the feeling any different when you're walking home with the trophy?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  You know, confidence, even though we've won six championships and won a bunch of races, for me at least, it never has an effect on the present.
Then leading into the race today, the only thing I had to go off of was practice and then qualifying.  Practice was good, qualifying wasn't good.  So I'm like torn on where I should be.
It's easy for even the successful teams in the sport to have confidence waver over the course of a weekend, over the stretch of time, over the course of a year, whatever it might be.  It comes in and out, and honestly we live and die by the NASCAR timing and scoring, and the last time we were on track, it's all you have to live off of.  The last time we were on track we were 19th.
Once the race got going, I felt like my car was more stable than others that I was around.  I saw some really nervous race cars, and once I could get a little gap of clean air, I could put down a couple good laps and I could hear that on the radio.  I knew that if we could ever get there that we could be competitive.

Q.  I'm not sure which one of you can answer this question.  Given the rain last night, the rain partway through the race, two green tracks in the course of this, which of you was the most challenged to perform tonight?
CHAD KNAUS:  (Pointing to Jimmie.)  He was by far.  It was really safe where I was sitting.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, and once we decided on the car and it rolled through tech, there's only a couple screws to turn on the car.  Yeah, I'd have to agree with that.  There was one point I was looking out the right side window thinking, this is going to hurt.  But we made it.

Q.  I don't know if you're aware, I know Kerry rattled off a lot of stats, the top 5s, top 10s.  It's also your 23rd career win on a mile‑and‑a‑half, which is a Cup Series record.  You've won four of the last seven on mile‑and‑a‑halfs and Harvick has got the other three.  Why have you been so dominant on those tracks?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  The first thing that comes to mind to me is the guys that I have working on my race car and the attention to detail that Chad puts into his race cars, the resources we have at Hendrick Motorsports and the cars we show up at the racetrack with.
This track, I feel like much more of the‑‑ I feel like it's weighted more towards the performance of the car than what the driver does.  Texas, Atlanta, some of the tracks where it's more abrasive, I think it does back into the driver's hands a little bit more, the way you drive the car, the way you work the tires, you can over abuse them, you can just run the tire off the car there and a lot of the responsibility falls on the driver.
But on the big tracks, aero, balance, the engine performance, the small details that separate our team from others, that's where you find that tenth of a second that puts you in the winner's circle.  I'd just say it's the equipment I'm sitting in.

Q.  Next two weeks we're at mile‑and‑a‑half tracks, Charlotte, where you are known to dominate historically.  The momentum here going forward, what do you look forward to next week?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Looking forward to it, the way we've been running on the mile‑and‑a‑halfs, I feel really good about it.  Charlotte, the way we land in the corners at Charlotte pose a different kind of challenge for the race team.  So the entries here and the way the cars transition out of the corner, Turn 1 there's a little bit of loading, but Turn 3 it's so flat and smooth that it's not all that close to Charlotte, and I don't think we've seen anything like Charlotte yet.
I think who runs well at Charlotte you can look forward to Dover being a strong race for that team, as well, just because at Dover you come over the rise and land so hard and you have that same event going on at Charlotte.
But Charlotte has been great to us and so has Dover, so we're definitely excited with the success we've had on mile‑and‑a‑halfs, taking it back home.

Q.  The 4 car has been the one that everyone has sort of has to compare themselves against this year because it's been really good.  11 races in you've got one more win and only one less top 5, so how do you guys stack up against those guys at this point?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I still think he's the car to beat right now.  I mean, he qualifies better than we do.  We're finding ways to win races, but I just think that they have a bit more control of their own destiny right now.  We're getting better.  We're closing the gap a little bit each week.  I think over the off‑season we made a tremendous improvement and closed the gap.  But we've still got a little bit of work to do.
CHAD KNAUS:  Yeah, I do agree.  I think we execute better than they do consistently, but as far as having all that raw speed, I think they've got us beat on that right now, so we're working diligently on that right now to try to figure out how we can get a little bit more speed out of the 48 car.
You know, I wouldn't say it's always the 4, but we aren't used to not being as fast as we need to be, and we're about a couple tenths off every week from where we want to be.
Now, that could be to the 4, it could be to the 22, it could be to the, it could be to the 19, whoever it is.  So we just got to try to broach that and once we get there we're going to be where we need to be.
KERRY THARP:  Congratulations to the 48 team tonight, and we'll see you guys at Charlotte.

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