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NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: FEDEX 400 BENEFITING AUTISM SPEAKS


May 31, 2015


Jimmie Johnson

Chad Knaus


DOVER, DELAWARE

AMANDA ELLIS:¬† Good afternoon.¬† We're going to continue with our post‑race media availability for this afternoon's FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks, and we've now been joined by our race winner, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Pro Service Chevrolet, and Jimmie, an incredible accomplishment this afternoon, your 10th victory here at Dover.¬† You become one of five drivers who's been able to accomplish that at a particular track, joining the ranks of Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and David Pearson, and you're also just one lap shy of leading 3,000 laps here at Dover.¬† An incredible day for the 48 team.¬† Just talk a little bit about the race and being able to come home with your 10th victory.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:¬† Just a tough race today.¬† We went from 14th to 5th in pretty quick order, and then just the top 5 cars were so equal that it was just‑‑ you couldn't pass.¬† You really just could not get by somebody.¬† If they made a bobble or a mistake you could close up, but then the next set of corners, they would get back to the bottom and run a line and kind of hold you up and you couldn't go anywhere.¬† I really felt like it was going to be a game of inches today, and as the race progressed, my team did a great job on pit road and got me a couple spots and then I'd lose them on a restart being pinned down on the inside, and I felt bad for my guys that I couldn't do anything with their awesome pit stops, but when it came to green flag stops, they once again nailed the stops and we were able to leapfrog some guys on the racetrack, and then that really set up our race at the end, and I was able to finally get to the 4 with 25 to go, get kind of close to them.
That first caution came out, and then really I'm just telling myself inside the car that you're locked in, this is an all‑or‑nothing situation, you need clean air.¬† You can't really restart to get the lead, be as aggressive as possible, and I was able to get the lead and get control, and then with control of the restarts and having lane selection, that was also a huge advantage for those last two restarts that we had.
It all came together for us very late in the race, but once we had our opportunity, we took advantage of it and got our 10th win here.
AMANDA ELLIS:  And we've also now also been joined by our race winning crew chief, Chad Knaus.  10 wins here at Dover for the 48 team, a tremendous accomplishment.  Talk a little bit about the call of the race today but also what it means to the team to be able to win the 10th victory this afternoon.
CHAD KNAUS:¬† It was‑‑ gosh, it was so great to be able to come here this weekend and compete for that.¬† I didn't realize that they were going for 10 wins until we showed up here.¬† I don't remember anybody even saying anything about it last year in the fall, so it was kind of a shock to me.¬† I didn't really touch on that.¬† To be able to go out there today with the Lowe's Pro Service Chevrolet and run the way that we did was really great.¬† We didn't qualify quite as well as what we wanted to, but Jimmie made quick work to get up to the top 5, and gosh, it just seemed like we were going to run the top 5, in fifth all race long.¬† For about 75 percent of the event, we just couldn't seem to get together.¬† Much like he said, he'd put together a couple of really fast laps and gain on somebody and then he would lose the air and we would gain a couple on pit road and we'd lose them on a restart, and we just couldn't get it.¬† It was just tit for tat all day, and then finally we started to put it together and get a couple here and a couple there, and once Jimmie got into position to where he could battle with the guys for the lead, he did a very, very good job and made quick work of those guys.
I couldn't have been prouder.  He did a fantastic job on the restarts, got it out there, managed what he needed to, got the gaps where he needed to, and it was pretty awesome.

Q.  I'm guessing you weren't necessarily toying with the field all day even though people kind of would look at it because you moved forward, you were always there, and it was Jimmie is there, we can't consider this done yet.  Was it really towards the very end that you felt you were going to challenge for the win or did you kind of feel like the car was good all day, you just needed certain things to happen?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I really felt like we had the speed in the car, and I made my way to fifth, but the top 5 cars were so equally paced that I couldn't go anywhere, so it might have looked like I was just kind of setting up something for the afternoon, but that was certainly not the case.  I wish we would have had clean air earlier and controlled the race and made some adjustments for the car up in the lead.  But we couldn't go anywhere, and then the 78 led a lot and I could see he was pretty close by.
I think the 4 probably had the biggest gap.  His car had a lot of speed until that last run.  Looked like they struggled a little bit on that last run.  But we couldn't get there, unfortunately.  There was enough time left at the end.  When we finally had our shot there was inside 20 to go, I guess, to win the race.

Q.  Jimmie, in the previous nine Dover wins, you led at least 170 laps.  Today you led 23.  Did this one feel the toughest of all of them?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I think so.  I mean, it was so difficult to pass in the top 5.  I was encouraged because we were all very close and I could see the leader in most scenarios, and then second, third, fourth was right there, so it was inspiring to stay on your game in the car and stay disciplined, and I was just hopeful I could put pressure on the car in front of me and have them make a mistake to where I could get by.
It's shocking to say, but those guys are all pretty good.  Nobody made mistakes, any big ones for that matter.  It really took creative strategy on pit road and fast pit stops to get the passing done inside of the top 5.  That's really what set us up for the win.

Q.  On Friday Jeff Gordon came in here and he said of the three previous wins that you had that we all scratch our heads and are amazed that he's been able to do that because we don't feel like we have really performed, any of us to that level, but they have done an excellent job with execution.  Is that a fair statement to say, that you've been able to win races this year through a lot of execution and not necessarily dominance at times?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Man, I feel like we've had good cars in race circumstances.  Qualifying in raw speed hasn't been our strong suit, and that's set us up for some long Sundays, as we all know.  Gosh, one race I didn't even get a chance to qualify and we came back and won, at Atlanta.
In the raw speed department I feel like we are lacking a little bit and we are aggressively going after that.  I mean, my guys are working so hard, and that might be some of the anxiety you sense or feel or hear on the radio when we're just trying so hard to create speed with our cars that Friday it might show a little bit there, what Jeff was speaking about, but come Sunday I feel like we've been racing really well.  I think our cars have been much more friendly to drive than what I had last year.  I haven't been as much on a knife edge racing through traffic in different scenarios.
I feel like we've been racing good, just could use a little bit of raw speed on a Friday.

Q.  Since this win, you led 20 something laps compared to 170.  Would you have left today if you finished second or third and been like, that was a decent day?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah.  I think that any of the top 5 cars had a chance to win today.  It seemed like that last run or two we got strung out a little bit more than we had all day long, but you know, up until that point, up until maybe that last set of tires we were on, that kind of went through my mind, like man, I'm doing all that I can, 78 has been leading, he's right there.  The 4, the 20, the 18, then me, and then the 42 ran behind us all day long.  I'm like, maybe it's just meant to be this way.  We're just all that equal.  And then at the end it seemed like that last run things kind of stretched out a little bit more for us.
You know, it was a hard‑fought day.¬† I mean, to run second today, those guys, their tongue's hanging out just as much as mine is.¬† Second to fifth really drove the wheels off their cars today.

Q.  When you came to Dover your first time in 2002, how has your impression of the track changed, or is it still the same even though you've now won 10 races here?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: ¬†It hasn't‑‑ my love for it has just grown deeper is about all I can say.¬† I came here in an ASA car in '88 or '89 and fell in love then, and even though I didn't have the greatest success in the Nationwide car or XFINITY car here, I still loved the track, and then we won both races here in our rookie season.¬† You know, it was cool to have the track that I enjoyed so much turn into a track that I could win at, and then we've been able to keep that feeling going for a lot of years.

Q.  Becoming the fifth driver to win 10 races at a single track and also coming near Dale Earnhardt's mark, what does this mean for your legacy before you turn 40?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Man, I really don't think about those things.  I'm very thankful for the opportunity that I've had at Hendrick Motorsports, the amazing people I've had to work with, the support from our sponsor Lowe's, Chad, Rick.  All of those things and the fact that I sit in that 48 car has allowed me to win the 10 races here and have this great opportunity at history with Dale's win total.
But it's not something that I said, yeah, I'm going to go do that.  It's not a goal that I put out in front of myself.  It's right there in front of me, so I look at it and think, wow, this is incredible, what an opportunity.
So yes, it's a priority for me and something I want to do, but I'm almost in shock that we're there.¬† I mean, 74 race wins, 10 here, I mean, you can't dream that big.¬† I'm just blown away and honored by the success‑‑ what we've done with our opportunity and honored to have a shot at history with Dale and then the 10 wins here.

Q.¬† Once again, you and Kevin Harvick finished 1‑2.¬† You guys entered the sport at almost the same time.¬† Have you ever thought that all these years later you guys would be battling nose to nose practically every week?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  No, I really didn't.  Most know the story that we both spent time at Ron Hornaday's house trying to find our way in the NASCAR world and the Charlotte area in general.  To be two guys that were sleeping on couches at Hornaday's house to leading laps and fighting so hard for race wins and potentially a championship in 2015 is nothing that was on our radar then.

Q.  Jimmie, your tires were pretty old coming to the end of 400 and then you had the extra laps tacked on.  You didn't appear to be under a lot of stress, but was there any concern about the tires the last four or five laps?
JIMMIE JOHNSON:¬† Yeah, there was, especially on the first restart.¬† I didn't know if Chad was just being a car salesman or what, but he told me the guys on two hadn't been very successful, and I wanted to believe him, so I believed him on that one.¬† And we fired off well and maintained‑‑ I know you're going to say what you've got to say.¬† We got going and the guys on four didn't come through and the guys on two didn't go anywhere.¬† I thought, well, damn, he wasn't lying to me.¬† We're going to be in good shape.¬† It was really about getting down the front stretch on the restarts, getting up through the gears well.¬† In that last restart Harvick hammered me in the back of the car and shot me out in front of the 5, and once I had the racetrack to myself, we were in control then.

Q.¬† Chad, this year you guys have had a little bit of a yo‑yo.¬† You guys will have wins like at Dover and then you guys had a difficult week at Charlotte, had a difficult week at Martinsville.¬† With the new Chase, does that concern you at all or not really because you guys are bouncing back and winning the following week?
CHAD KNAUS:  Well, I think that you're spending too much time looking at the result and not the performance, first and foremost.  I think at Martinsville if we hadn't had a power steering cooling problem we probably would have finished in the top 5 easily.  Last week in Charlotte we qualified poorly and Jimmie did a great job of managing it and driving to the front, we worked on the car really hard.  Unfortunately he spun out, which gave us the opportunity to work on the car, but we were tracking in and waiting for the evening hours to come.
I think that as we're finding our stride with the rule package this year, I'm actually fairly pleased with the way that we've been performing.  I think that we've got to do a better job on Friday.  I feel as though the race starts on Friday, and we've really done pretty pitiful on Fridays and got to do significantly better there and we're working really hard on it, really hard, and if we can do that, it'll set us up to get in position to get a solid pit pick and really let our pit crew start to shine.
Although we've had a couple of bad finishes, I think the major problem there is the starting on Friday, and I think when we've had the bad finishes, I think we've actually performed fairly well, solid top 10.

Q.¬† Jimmie, two questions:¬† One, could you maybe talk a little bit about the drivers' meeting; and two, next week how do you make this momentum into Pocono and other places you've had‑‑ you haven't won ten times but you've had some success there.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, the drivers' meeting, what about the drivers' meeting?

Q.  The drivers' meeting that was last night.
JIMMIE JOHNSON:¬† I missed that memo.¬† I wasn't there.¬† I was on a bicycle ride.¬† I rode 52 miles yesterday.¬† Hopefully I'm not going to get in trouble for missing a meeting that was taking place.¬† It must have been‑‑ gosh, now it's kind of‑‑ I don't think I was invited to that meeting.¬† I haven't won enough races or championships.¬† That was for something else.
Pocono, I'm excited.  It's such a different animal at that racetrack and what creates speed.  Last year we had strong performances, the year before strong performances, so looking forward to going up there.  It's always a fun area, great roads to ride on, do a lot of cycling when I'm there.  Just excited to get up there, and what's neat about the position we're in with these wins, fuel strategy is such a player in how the outcome of that race works out, and we can go up there and not care, so that gives us an advantage, and the guys with wins right now can take advantage of that situation in the race on Sunday.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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