|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
November 8, 2015
Fort Worth, Texas
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the winning crew chief of tonight's race, Chad Knaus. This is the sixth win for you and Jimmie here at Texas Motor Speedway. Talk about the success you have here, then sort of what unfolded for you atop the pit box as the race started out with tire wear, just seeing Jimmie make his push towards the front.
CHAD KNAUS: It was really interesting, obviously. We didn't know exactly what we were going to have due to the lack of practice. We went into it with a lot of unknowns. As people started to have some tire failures, we saw some of it in the XFINITY race yesterday. It's kind of typical here until the track rubbers up.
We didn't really know what to expect. Initially we took off, the car was really, really tight for us. We made some big swings to try to free it up, we were able to move back towards the front a little bit. We had a huge transition and the car started to loosen up for us again, so we had to tighten it back up.
We kind of played back and forth depending upon where we were running on the racetrack, what position we were, clean air versus dirty air, green flag versus caution flag.
Jimmie and the team did a great job. We made huge changes on the racecar today throughout the pit stops. Our guys did a really good job. The guys that prepare the car were jumping over the wall, making changes. Other guys were changing the tires. There was a lot of activity. The guys really worked hard for it.
For not having any race practice, I'm really proud of what these guys were able to do today.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. When you have a day like today, how comfortable does that make you feel when the day is over and it's a checkered flag?
CHAD KNAUS: Look, you got to be honest. It's been a tough last three months. The beginning of the year was pretty damn good, to be honest with you. But we've worked hard. We tried to figure out what was going on, battling different aero packages, different things. The summer slump that the 48 typically goes through. It's been a bit of a challenge. We'd be in the middle of this championship Chase if it wasn't for a small mechanical problem.
That being said, I feel like we've run the last six weeks, Martinsville being the track we ran the worst at, which is really odd. We haven't been able to post the finishes.
To be able to come out of here today with the win, to be able to race for it the way we did, I think it speaks volumes about where the 48 is, the no‑give‑up attitude that we've got.
As far as me, yeah, it feels great. I like it. I don't want it to take that long before I get back here. How is that (smiling)?
Q. Did you hear anything from other crew chiefs, maybe other Hendrick crew chiefs, about the tire situation?
CHAD KNAUS: We actually had one left rear tire. We were slipping back a little bit. Jimmie was talking about getting loose. The caution came out shortly thereafter. As he came down pit road and took the tires off, we saw we had a left rear tire going flat.
We didn't communicate with the other teammates about it that much. The 88 had a problem with the right front potentially. You know, they were running in some pretty clean areas of the racetrack, so I wasn't too shocked that the 88 had some trouble.
But, again, I was kind of prepared for it. This track does that a lot. So we were pretty conservative on our settings knowing we didn't get any race trim practice to make sure we wouldn't have a problem. Thankfully we really didn't.
Like I said, that one left rear tire we had a problem with, but thankfully the caution came out and actually saved us.
Q. Looking at Rodney Childers, the Chase is a meat grinder for 10 weeks anyway, Rodney has had a tough run, situations on the track during the races. Throughout your Chase experiences, how draining is that? It's a mentally taxing thing, but to have ups and downs throughout a race, how does that wear, how do you keep that from beating down a team?
CHAD KNAUS: You can't keep it from happening. It's very taxing. It's a challenge. It's an emotional challenge, for sure.
Honestly, the driver actually has it the best because he gets in there and he kind of gets in a little (indiscernible) and he's active for the three, four hours that you're driving. He really doesn't have the residual effects of, gosh, I hope we got the right shocks, hope we got this tight, that tight, things of that nature. On a crew chief it's grueling. It's really, really tough.
But that being said, that's why we do it. We like that. That's the thrill. That's the challenge. What they're going through, I don't know. I mean, to be honest, I don't even know what happened to him today. I didn't pay any attention.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHAD KNAUS: I don't know. All the stuff is in the details, man. Let's be honest. The 4 car is going to be tough to beat at Phoenix. I bet the 22 is, as well. I bet the 18, I bet the 48, the 24, the 88 and a bunch. It's going to be a challenge.
The 4 car I would say has the upper hand going into Phoenix. We'll have to see how it all shakes out.
Q. When a team locks in at a track, you guys certainly have places where you win time and again, Kevin no secret at Phoenix, is that generally the driver loves the feel of the place, really smart crew chief figures something out?
CHAD KNAUS: It's all crew chief (smiling). Next.
No, it's a combination of both, quite honestly. Things change. The tracks change a lot. Charlotte Motor Speedway, for instance, we won I don't know how many races, we won a bunch of them, they repaved the racetrack. We lost. We're starting to slowly get it back.
Martinsville is a challenge since they've changed some of the stuff. We've had difficulty getting back on top of it the way we need to.
Texas is one of those racetracks that fits Jimmie's style. We've taken horsepower away from the cars, we've added downforce, done a lot of these things. It's been tough for us to get on top of where we actually need to be because a lot of the tracks, honestly you don't have to handle that good, you don't have to be able to drive that well to run up front.
Texas is where you have to have a hell of a driver to make it happen. Atlanta, Chicago, places like that, Kansas, for instance. You really have to be on your game to be able to run well at those tracks.
This falls into Jimmie's wheelhouse. What helps us is Jimmie needs to be able to drive the racecar. When you drive it, you have to be able to communicate with your crew chief. That's what Jimmie does. He speaks to us in a language we understand at these types of racetracks. That makes better racing for us.
Q. Do you feel I don't know if it's disrespected or overlooked when you had four wins, five now, but people tend to think that you've had a bad year?
CHAD KNAUS: It has been. Washed up (laughter).
Q. Do you ever feel like, What do we have to do?
CHAD KNAUS: We have to not have mechanical issues, axle seal problems, things like that. Like I said, we'd be right in the middle of this.
Look, we did it to ourselves. Let's be honest. We did it to ourselves. I don't want to say we slacked, but we stunk up the summer 100%. It was horrible, pathetic. Then we come into the Chase, we're running pretty good. We ran well at Chicago, we ran well at New Hampshire. New Hampshire we had a problem, came back and finished well. Chicago we had a solid run. I'm sure we had something wrong there, too. Stacking up the problems we had throughout the course of the season, you get written off.
Man, this is a tough sport. 39 events, 39 weeks we race with 43 of the best teams in racing. It's tough. It only takes one or two little things to make you feel like you're out of it.
I can tell you, my guys are strong. We've got a group of guys that have never been better. Our pit crew is the best it's been. We brought in three new engineers this year. You would think from the onset that we should have been behind the eight ball. Unfortunately we came out strong, so everybody was like, They're great, they're awesome. But there's still a learning curve you have to go through.
I think coming into 2016 it's going to be right where we need to be, especially with these new rules. I can't wait.
Q. With the changes you made this year, did it surprise you that once again you had the summer you had?
CHAD KNAUS: The damn summer (smiling). I'm just going to stay home next year.
I don't know what the summer thing is. I wish, I wish, I wish I knew. We're not going to have it next year. How is that? We're going Voodoo, something. I don't know. We're going to figure it out.
Q. You made the remark about being conservative in your approach to this event. How much of that conservation did you throw out the door on the final pit stop?
CHAD KNAUS: We made some small adjustments right there at the end. The car was pretty good the run leading up to that, so we kind of had a basis of where the car was. We made some small adjustments right there to be pretty aggressive, to try to make something happen.
Look, let's be honest, in the position we're in, if we finish fifth or second, does it matter? Not really. You got to go for the win.
We made some changes there, let Jimmie light the fuse, put on his cape and go after it.
Q. How much did the lack of practice impact these tire issues teams were having? Is it that teams are pushing the envelope? Saw the same thing in the XFINITY race yesterday.
CHAD KNAUS: That's a good question. Obviously it's things that we can get on top of with more track time. This type of racetrack, which again, don't take this wrong, this type of racetrack, the surface and the tire and all that makes for really, really good racing. Don't think we have to go hyper‑conservative the other direction to make it where these tires don't wear out. That's what we need. That's where you develop good racing and you have passing.
I think the lack of practice hurt some of the guys. It's unfortunate for them. But this combination of tire and asphalt that we've got right now is actually what you're looking for if you want to have good racing.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHAD KNAUS: You know more than I. If they were tire rubs, you know what it is. If the tires were worn out, that's a different story. I don't know the story, all that stuff. I'll know after I watch the race next spring.
Q. Do you feel like maybe there's a renaissance, you're starting to see a little more popularity with other disciplines, sports car racing, Le Mans, Formula One? Do you see a renaissance of motorsports popularity as a whole in the United States?
CHAD KNAUS: I think so. Look, you got to realize the competition we've got is just unmatched. It's pretty amazing. If you want to watch any type of motorsport or racing, this is as close as it gets.
I think with the new rules that we've got, going into the fuel injection, things like that, people can start to identify with what it is we do on a regular basis a little bit more. We need to continue to push that. I think that's a huge, huge thing. The closer we get our cars to what it is people actually drive, the more they're going to have that connection.
If you watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that technology is what people are driving day‑to‑day. That's why it interests them. That's neat, that's fun. We get to the point we're supercharging, running legitimate turbos, in Sprint Cup, you're going to get a lot of these kids to pay attention. That's years down the road, if ever. I think that's got a lot to do with it.
Quite honestly, the instant thrill you get from motorsports is what a lot of the younger generation wants and looks for. Man, we deliver it. Let's be honest. The last 20 laps right there, the middle 40 laps, the first 15 laps, that's what people are looking for, for excitement. Man, we deliver.
THE MODERATOR: Chad, thank you very much. Congratulations.
CHAD KNAUS: Thank you, guys.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the winner of tonight's race, Jimmie Johnson. This is Jimmie's sixth victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
Talk about your evening and that late push there at the end.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, a big day for the Lowe's race team. Summer didn't go as we wanted. There were some good races in there, but no trips to Victory Lane.
To start the Chase, we had two good races, then Dover happened. From that point on, we had to swallow that pill, and certainly disappointed that the hopes for the championship were gone.
We tried to make the most of it. I think our mile‑and‑a‑half performances have been really strong in the Chase. We've been building and knocking on the door for a win.
In today's race I felt like the 2 car had the field covered. Whatever went on with the adjustments in that last pit stop, the track getting shade on it, cooling down, really helped my car and it hurt his car.
Maybe the second lap I could see that his car was getting really tight. He couldn't even run the bottom of one and two as we rolled off in there. I was pretty optimistic hopefully I could get the pass done.
Got close. Got next to him. Just couldn't really pull the pass off. Then finally he slipped pretty good off of turn two, and I came from like the third lane with a huge run down the back straightaway and was able to clear him going into turn there.
Wished we were in the Chase, still fighting for the championship. But getting a win here does a lot for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. Couple that with Jeff's win last weekend, his hopes to go to Homestead and become the champion. We definitely have a very excited 600 plus employees back in Charlotte, North Carolina. Good stuff.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Jimmie.
Q. Any special satisfaction in beating a car that dominated, then keeping a guy from locking in a spot in the championship after you've lost your shot at the title?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Nothing in my mind. I'm not happy I kept somebody from advancing. I just don't think along those lines.
Happy I beat the dominant car. That definitely was in my mind. To see him miss the bottom as he did the second lap through, like, All right, it's on, we got a chance. I got the second pretty quick. I looked in the mirror. I had a lot of space between where I was and third. I knew that gave me an opportunity to run anywhere on the track. I didn't have to worry about defending. Then it was a good old‑fashioned race. Just race your guts out. That part was fun.
I had a great time with it. Clearly Brad had a lot on the line. Thankful he ran as hard and clean as he did. We just went out there and raced hard.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: He did a nice job of driving wide. His car wasn't driving as easily as it was beforehand. He had to get in the corner and take a set. His car was set on that arc from the rest of the way off because it looked tight to me. My car was driving better. I could kind of move around and pick a different lane.
Honestly, if he didn't get loose off of turn two, first he got tight, then the back end stepped out, if he didn't lose that drive and momentum there, I'm not sure I could have gotten by him. All it took was that one slip and I was there.
Q. It looked like over the last six or eight laps that you were almost as dominant as Brad was the rest of the race. Was it more a case of what you've been talking about, his car going away, as opposed to yours getting a lot better?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know. Chad was kind of asking the same question in Victory Lane. For sure it was the best we were. I hadn't seen him that vulnerable. I guess just a combination of the two.
Chad was really impressed how long I was able to dog him, keep pressure on him. He didn't feel through the course of the race he saw any other car be able to hang that long, for that many laps, put pressure on somebody to overtake him, especially for the lead.
I don't know if it was the track cooling down, adjustments, a culmination of both. His car wasn't as good and mine woke up.
Q. What happened on the last restart as far as how things played out with Brad and Martin in front of you on the front row? What did you do to get clear of all that, get in position?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Took off, made it back around to turn one. They rubbed a little bit getting into turn one. That's the last I saw. I don't know what happened, how significant that rub was, if it did any damage or what.
Yeah, I just saw him rubbing going into turn one. Brad was just racing hard up there, rubbed a little bit door‑to‑door. That was it. After that, yeah, went to work trying to get by the 2.
Q. What were you looking for when that restart happened?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was hoping they would spin each other out and hand it to me (laughter).
When they touched, the 78 was gone pretty quick. I'm wondering if the 2 might have a tire rub or something like that. I didn't see any smoke. I assumed he was fine.
Q. Did anything in the last three weeks impact how you raced those last 10 laps? Would you still have done as much contact as you needed to as you would have done in the past?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, honestly I race people how they race me. Brad's always raced me clean and hard. He did that again today. We both showed each other that same respect, so...
What's gone on between other drivers the last few weeks has no bearing on myself. You really handle your own situation, how people treat you, how respectfully they race you. We just had a good, hard race today.
Q. 75 career wins, puts you one behind Dale Earnhardt. We saw Jeff tie that and move on past that. What would it mean to go past his record?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It would be huge. Hard to even put it into words. I came into this sport hoping to win a race. To have 75 of them is mind‑blowing. If I'm able to tie Senior, it's something I would be just extremely proud of.
Q. Six wins at Texas Motor Speedway. What is it about this track that you do so well here?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Honestly, I feel like the tracks that are abrasive and bumpy fit my style, our team's style. This track has more content in it. I think the asphalt is on the older side of really anywhere we run. That really suits us well and fits for us.
Q. Heading into Phoenix, the success that Kevin Harvick has had there, winning the last four, there's a lot on the line for the Chase guys. You're there to win as well. How do you explain that success there? You've had some streaks at some tracks. Why does it seem to happen? How tough is that going to be for others? Did you see Matt Kenseth's tweet that referenced you and how you handled things at the end of the race?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. Clearly he was watching and bored at home. His Packers lost so he's probably not in a good mood.
Q. Good work, Jimmie Johnson, textbook pass at the end for the win when someone is trying to take your lane, #quintessential.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's a nice buzz word (laughter).
We always thought he was boring and quiet. He's always on fire. No, thank you, buddy. I don't know how to even answer that, to be honest.
Phoenix, defending a streak? You know, when we've had a streak going, deep down inside you're happy you're going to that track. But also deep down inside you know that was a year ago. You know the instance at Phoenix it was months and months ago, a lot has changed. But you know what you're looking for as a driver, you know what you're looking for as a crew chief.
What's tough is where you unload and you're off at a place you've had success. You show up calm and relaxed. When you're faced with some adversity, it's easy to overreact, easy to kind of hit the panic button, especially with all the pressure that's on the line. That's something you have to manage.
We've had to. Anybody with a streak at a particular track, you've got to show up with realistic expectations but enough swagger knowing it's a track that's good for you, then go get it done.
It's so hard to make it through an entire weekend, make it through an entire race. We saw the flat tires today, mechanical issues, racing issues that can pop up. Phoenix is a tight little scrappy racetrack. The streak with four wins in a row is impressive. That's not an easy place to get it done.
I guess there's a couple other cars, the Penske cars are strong there, they both need a win. It's going to be an interesting race out there.
Q. With two races left in Jeff Gordon's Sprint Cup career, all your years with him as a teammate, what is your favorite memory of racing against him?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me, I think the championship battle we raced for in '08 comes to mind. I guess a particular race, it's somewhere in that area, as well. Raced him for the win at Martinsville. He was trying to move me out of the way the last lap. We were door‑to‑door to the finish line at Martinsville. It would be between those two thoughts, memories.
Q. Chad mentioned about the struggles you had this summer. Obviously as good as it feels now, is there a little bit of frustration you think you might feel down the road knowing this got away from you where you could have been chasing another title?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yes and no. I mean, I've got to be fair and honest and look at the race after Dover, which was Charlotte. We had a problem with an oil pump there. Then our next two performances wouldn't have helped us transfer. So we would have been out.
The reality of it is we're not as strong as we need to be. We've been searching for a couple years. I feel like we're making progress. I feel like our mile‑and‑a‑half stuff is improving. The cars are a lot more comfortable to drive in traffic. I can go out there and race like I did tonight, lay it on the line, not worry about spinning out.
We're getting there. Unfortunately we still have a ways to go. The win is important. I think we were a top‑five car, a top‑three car all day. Then circumstances at the end got us the win. We want to be back to being the dominant car and we still have some work to get there.
Q. With Jeff Gordon, this being his final season, him being the last Hendrick driver standing as far as the championship battle goes, how much as an organization are you rallying to try to get him that title?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We're doing everything we can, there's no doubt about it. When you get into the race weekend, the driving style that Jeff has, the style that Alan has with his racecars, it's tough especially for the 48 to say, Hey, this works for us. Alan goes about it differently than Chad does. Jeff and I look for a different feel in a racecar.
We're trying. We're doing everything we can to help. But unfortunately you're pretty limited. I guess it's good. It's really up to the individual team to go out and get the job done.
I'm certainly pulling for him, will do everything I can to be of assistance.
Q. Keselowski not winning here essentially means it's going to be him or Logano advancing at Phoenix. If Keselowski wins this race, there's a possibility that Logano can advance at Phoenix. Now it's an either/or situation. You've been in that situation battling for championships. What do you think it's like for a team like that where it looked like throughout this entire race they might have two shots at the finale and now only one?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Racing teammates is tough. There's nothing easy about it. The way those two cars have become so successful and fast is the way they've worked together. I'm sure Roger is going to continue to preach that. The only way one of them will have a shot at Phoenix to advance is if they continue to work together. A good problem to have would be both cars running up front 1‑2. I assume that's the direction things will go. But it's not easy.
Then you get on the track, if you really are duking it out for the win, you're supposed to leave your teammate an extra inch or two. Championship's on the line, your career is on the line. It will be interesting to see how that goes, how everybody handles the pressure.
Q. There was a lot of super hero illusions being tossed about your victory. Kyle mentioned Superman, Chad talked about your cape. Those are things we used to hear a lot during your championship runs. Does it make you feel good to hear people talk about you that way, that awe‑inspiring he finds a way to win?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It is cool to hear. I wish I would have found a way to win a few more times this year. It's been a long, dry summer. Glad I found the cape. Wasn't too dusty or too far away.
Q. Forgive me on how I ask this question. On the radio before the final restart, Chad said, Let's go out and scare the shit out of them. How much of that inspires you? Did that fire you up?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I've always told him he's a terrible cheerleader. He tries like hell. I've even yelled at him a few times telling him he sucks at it. He still today tells me he to eat and drink in the car. Wouldn't you think if I was thirsty I would take a drink or if I was hungry get something to eat. It's just a crew chief thing. They go through it.
At that point in time it did bring to my attention both those guys. Tells you how much I pay attention. I just thought they both just needed to finish well. I forgot the 2 had to win.
I took that as, Put pressure on these guys. If there's enough pressure on them, they might choose to get a good finish over racing for the win.
As soon as the green fell, we went racing, that all goes out the window. You're just worried about passing the car.
Q. A general motorsports question. NASCAR is growing in popularity. There seems to be a renaissance in motorsports in the United States from ARCA to sports car to endurance championship to Formula One, other disciplines. Give us your thoughts on that, what you attribute it to, how well the growth of those disciplines also helps NASCAR.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, it's hard for me to see where other forms of motorsports are at, even on a weekly level in the NASCAR world or stockcar racing, because our circus is on the road every week, we go track to track, just know our environment.
I'm just happy that there are many other passionate people out there, people that love the sport, love this industry, and choose to spend their life doing it. That's what really advancing it, is people that are all in, people that are passionate about this sport. Hopefully in the end they put the right hat on and try to keep the sport healthy and advance it and do what's right for the industry.
Happy to hear that it's strong. Hopefully we can keep growing the NASCAR side of things because I think if we're successful, you know, all ships will kind of rise at the same time.
Looking at the other major divisions of racing, compelling racing that's taking place, great personalities, series and divisions, I know that's helping the cause.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, thank you very much. Congratulations.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports