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April 9, 2017

Jimmie Johnson

Fort Worth, Texas

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the winner of today's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. This is his record seventh Cup win at Texas Motor Speedway, his sixth victory in the last 10 races here at the speedway. You move into sole possession of second for most wins at this track behind Kyle Busch, who has 13. Your first win of the season for Hendrick Motorsports, and this is the fourth different track where you have seven or more victories.
First off, more importantly, how are you feeling?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Much better now. I thought I was‑‑ I had heat issues. I got out of the car and I was really hot, and I felt much better there and was on the right path, I felt like. And then I was doing an interview with Claire, and I felt my back lock up and then my chest and my arms, and I was starting to cramp everywhere. That was an immediate trip to the infield care center to get some IVs. I had three bags of IV and feeling a ton better now.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about the challenges. There's a lot of unknowns, but you guys answered them. Obviously Texas is a track that you guys have success at.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm really surprised that we won here. I feel like the‑‑ whenever there's a repave, I think it doesn't fit my style. I suffer more than anyone. I also feel like it kind of lends itself to the new guys coming in, the brave ones, the ones that haven't hit many walls yet, and to go out and score one for the old guys today feels pretty good.

Q. Two weeks ago you burned me down at California for asking the question. I guess you were washed up, a has‑been. Obviously rallying from the back today. Talk about your run.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just a great race car, and it was nice to really execute all day long. I think we've just been trying too hard. You know, we won the championship, obviously, last year, and feel like we have good cars and want to come out and be aggressive. To dial in right at 100 percent is just tough to do.
Pit road speeding violations, spinning out, crashes, all those things, just not executing cleanly as a group put us where we were, and then to come out today and really face a lot of adversity, starting last, the way stage 2 strategy worked out, I think I restarted 21st and then to be able to drive from there all the way up to second, there was a lot of close calls with traffic and lappers. The groove was very, very narrow and fortunately started widening out just a little bit as the afternoon proceeded on.
But we executed top to bottom today, and that's what we needed to do.

Q. Could you kind of explain what exactly went wrong with the fluid delivery system or whatever it's called? And how were you feeling in the car as the race was going on?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know exactly why it wasn't working, but I have a button, and there's an electric motor that pushes my Gatorade to a bite valve that I have in my helmet. I pushed the button and nothing happened. I don't know why or what failed, but it happened, I guess we had a caution lap 3 or something, and I pointed out to my guys that my drink system wasn't working, so I just didn't have any fluids. Stage 1 and 2, they handed me a small bottle of Gatorade, which I drank, but the 160 laps at the end or whatever it was, I just didn't have any fluids at all in the car.
I knew I was warm, but I didn't feel too bad. When I caught Joey and was racing with Joey, I started cramping pretty good on my left side, my chest and my biceps, my forearm, and I knew I was real low on fluids, and I got out of the car, and I was okay, certainly hot, but then again, when I started doing some other interviews in Victory Lane, big muscles started cramping, and I knew I needed to go get some IV then, some fluids.

Q. Why don't you think that this race fit into your wheelhouse considering you're a guy who's known your great car control and adapting to conditions?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I just feel like the rougher the track, the more porous the surface, it just falls into my upbringing and slipping and sliding a car around. When you have a repave and the car slides, you usually can't catch it. It's usually a much tighter window for car control, and just my own history and just calling myself on it, I don't feel like Michigan when it was repaved, Charlotte‑‑ what else there, Kentucky? I'm not the guy at those tracks for whatever reason. To have‑‑ and we unloaded and were decent, and then clearly ended yesterday very happy with our car. I was like, all right, cool, we've kind of figured it out.
So it was a bit of a surprise to me. I expected Ryan Blaney or Chase Elliott, somebody like that, to win their first race today.

Q. With the adventuresome route that you took from Friday to get to Victory Lane, did this ever feel like a vintage Jimmie Texas weekend where it was just locked in, in the zone, no one is going to get you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wanted to believe that, and I felt like we were really in the zone with the car and the communication we were having and making the car faster. But track position, I thought we were going to be totally out of luck with track position today. To be able to pass as many cars as we did was out of the ordinary.
It was really treacherous out there, very slick. You don't have a second lane to work. That deep in traffic, the car is not comfortable at all at hard produced speeds. I'm really surprised and then also impressed with the car we built and created that could handle those conditions.

Q. I asked Chad the same question, but what is it about you that when things are kind of stacked against you like at Homestead, starting last in the field, that you're able to come back? Today you also had to have a similar thing. What is it about you that you're not only able to overcome but overcome in Victory Lane, not just a little bit but so dramatically?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know. There certainly is a mindset that works for everyone, and for me, much more on the reserved side has always paid off for me. It may be the environment. At Homestead, kind of reracking things and keeping me under control was good. Today was good.
I feel like at times when I start up front or we've had a dominant weekend, you're kind of expected to perform, and you can try too hard easily in this sport. I don't know, I feel like there might be‑‑ I don't know exactly, but maybe there is something, and kind of just being knocked down a notch, like okay, this is going to be a workingman's day, we're going to have to fight through a lot, stay calm, identify with 100 percent, because again, it's very easy to step over that line and bust your butt, from a pit call being too aggressive, too aggressive on pit lane in the car, passing other cars like we did today. I had to be so patient, and in the end, the patience kind of paid off for me.

Q. I assume you're fairly particular about what's in your fluid system, so when you're not getting it, how angry are you? Are you as angry or worked up as like maybe last week at Martinsville when you were at some drivers? Does it reach that level of frustration or worry?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't really say much about it. I was so happy the car was running good and we weren't making mistakes, I kind of overlooked it all, and until I was dogging Joey and had my left side kind of cramp up, then I was like, oh, I'm pretty far behind on fluids to cramp like that. That was my first warning sign. I knew it was hot. I knew it was an aggressive race. I knew my heart rate was high, all those things, but I didn't think I was in any trouble until I cramped and it was pretty close to the end of the race, so I was like, I can make it from here.

Q. Was there any point in time did you think I'm going to have to take this thing to pit road and get out of this thing?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, never crossed my mind. There was one race I ran in the GRAND‑AM Series that I just ran out of energy and couldn't push the brake pedal to stop the car when I was racing in a six‑hour race at Daytona, and that's the only time that I've experienced something like that and had to get out.

Q. This track is notorious for not a lot of cautions, and you were guaranteed at least three with competition plus the two stages. Do you think that really helped you able to come up through the field?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Not really. I mean, the first stage we had to start last, and then the way strategy played out for the second stage, we elected to stay out and virtually the whole field came down for tires and fuel, and that rotated me back to 21st I think it was on that next restart. So we didn't have any luck with strategy, stages, the cautions where they fell. It was pretty tough on us to be honest. We had to do it the old‑fashioned way.

Q. You've got an off week coming up going into Bristol. Do you have any big plans for the off week? And also, Bristol you only have one win, but talk about this momentum going into a short track like that.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it won't hurt, momentum is so powerful in either direction if it's for you or against you, so we're excited about that.
Taking a trip to‑‑ since we're so close to the border we're heading down into Mexico tomorrow, taking a little Easter trip with some friends, and definitely get in some margaritas and some chips and guacamole and a sunburn. I doubt I'll be tan when I come back. I'm either red or white, so I'll show up with a nice sunburn at Bristol.

Q. Were you surprised at all, a lot of people thought when you got in position on the final restart that maybe Joey would be sort of a sitting duck, that it took you as long as it did for you to get around him? And then once you did, he didn't really go away, he kind of stayed relatively close and he said, I thought that I was even in a position where if he had made a mistake, I could have maybe had another chance at getting back in the lead.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I was really surprised catching the 4 as I did, and then also the 22, that I couldn't get by them any better. I passed every other car out there multiple times with ease, and even those two cars, I made competitive passes on at different points in the race.
But when they were the lead car, they were just‑‑ unfortunately still at a pretty big advantage, and then I was just managing my gap once I got the lead. I didn't want to have a nice lead and have a caution come out.

Q. You've talked about how repaves typically go, but now that you've run 500 miles, what's your overall impression of this track and specifically the reconfiguration?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it's going to be really fun when it widens out. I don't know why it was as difficult to create multiple lanes as it was. Tire monster running, ran again last night, we still never really got that second lane in. It was drivable finally, kind of midway point of the race on, but I'm really excited for when we come back and we actually run the middle to the high side in 1 and 2. The way we turn into Turn 1 right now, it's so different than it's ever been here, and I think it's really the slowest way around here.
Once we can run the second to third lane, I think we can come close to running wide open around 1 and 2, and right now it's actually ‑‑ you're out of the throttle pretty early just after the start‑finish line and on the brakes to make such a tight radius with how they widened the track out to the bottom, so I think we'd want to run the natural line and go in there and use more of the banking up higher.
I think the track will change a lot in the next four to six trips that we come here, and it's only going to get better.

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