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May 24, 2020

Jimmie Johnson

Concord, North Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We have the driver of the No.48 Ally Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, tonight's runner‑up in the Coca‑Cola 600.
Jimmie, walk us through your run.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, a competitive night. Qualified very well. Running up front towards the start of the race, trying to run that outside lane. The traction compound was a bit tricky. I slipped back.
It was just amazing to me how difficult it was to get ourselves back into the top five. Track position was so hard. The cars were so equal. It took a long time for the traction compound to widen out where we had a second lane.
We stayed patient, had great pit stops. Cliff did some nice strategy to get us in track position. At the end we had a shot at it. Just lacked a little bit of short run performance. Probably five to seven laps in my times were competitive, but the guys kind of got away. The times I started on the front row, they were able to use me up pretty good and get going.
Good weekend. I hate finishing second. Probably the worst place to finish. But solid. We got points in each of the stages. Nice runner‑up finish. Of course we're worried about Playoffs, transferring, getting those points.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it to the floor for questions.

Q. Was there any time when you were leading or maybe on that final restart where you were thinking, Please let this be the day, let me get this winless streak over with?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Wow, that doesn't run through my head. I mean, after the fact there's like, Dang, we were so close, it dawns on me. But in the moment, you're so focused on doing your job, trying to think through all the things that I need to do and be ready for, the scenarios that will come along, I'm not in that head space thinking like that.
After the race, coming to the finish line and seeing the two ahead of me, I'm like, Damn, I'm so close to that win to break the winless streak. That was the first time it crept into my mind.

Q. Did hitting the hundred the other day matter at all? You're at 102 now.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, I'm not in the stats. Never have been, never will be. Just not something I spend time on.

Q. Talk through the final restart, what didn't go the way you needed it to go.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think the last two restarts, gearing played a huge role in things. I had control on the second‑to‑last restart, and the 2 car, kind of a drag race getting going, cleared me into turn one. The next one he was in control and should have had the advantage, and did.
I think we need to play with our gearing on the restarts there. Brad was different than what we were. I think he was using first gear. That really gave him the launch that he needed. I was in second gear and down on the rpm.

Q. You talked about the PJ1 taking a while to come in. You're going to be starting back in the field Wednesday night. What are the challenges with an inversion for Wednesday night?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Hadn't thought that far ahead. It will be tough. Hopefully they don't put any more down. Is there a race, Xfinity race, something coming up, too?

Q. Monday night Xfinity, Tuesday night trucks.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That will help. We just need traffic on it and cars running it in. Usually it's really nice about the halfway point on for us in a Cup race. That's after truck or ARCA and Xfinity, then our cars, then all the practice that takes place.
More cars on track will help push that out and get it worked in.

Q. (Question about the Hendrick cars.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Atlanta we are really excited for. I think the high downforce tracks are really a strong suit for all four Hendrick cars right now. After we left Vegas and Fontana, we were really excited about the speed we had. Not only the raw speed but also the grip in the car, the longevity the car. That kind of showed again here tonight.
Atlanta, you don't go to a track that requires longevity more challenging than Atlanta. We're really excited to get there. Also Homestead, I think that could be another nice track for us.

Q. You mentioned the last couple restarts, knowing what you have to work on. Do having some of those keys now plus the speed you have already shown, does that all combine to give you belief that win is coming? You really have kind of a path forward now.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, there's been some bright spots over the last couple of years. Whatever reason, things just haven't turned out. I feel like I've made plenty of mistakes trying too hard.
I think Cliff is doing a really nice job of managing me, keeping me in check, the team, the emotions for pit stops, my emotions inside the car. Our car is coming off the truck fast and ready. There's this energy that's coming along. It's really kind of bound together by the leadership that Cliff has, also the leadership at Hendrick Motorsports and our car is getting better.
As Kevin Harvick always says, You can't drive a slow car fast. We've had some issues over the last few years. It seems we're going the right direction now.

Q. How much more is going to apply to Wednesday night from this week's race as opposed to how Sunday and Wednesday went at Darlington? How surprised were you, if at all, by Chase's decision to pit on the final caution?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Two night races is helpful. Everybody is going to be better next week. With the inversion, it's going to be even harder to get through the field. You can't give this garage area a chance to work on their stuff because they always make it better.
Shorter race, inversion, everybody coming back with some new ideas is going to make it a very challenging race. Hopefully it widens out. I really think it will. That will be helpful.
I feel for those guys. It's tough being the leader, making those late‑race decisions for pit road. I've lost some like they have, I've won some. Man, I feel for them. The silver lining is they have speed. I know they don't want to hear that right now.
Last two weeks they probably should have won the race, last two races I should say. But they're strong. This is only making them stronger, only making Chase more of a fierce competitor than he already is.

Q. From a team perspective and leadership standpoint, in these coming days before you race again, what sort of advice or comfort might you offer Chase?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: He's been through some tough moments. I'll certainly reach out, make sure if there's something I can do, be there for him. He's been through some tough ones already. I know he's got a great family, great friends. He does a nice job of getting away and letting some of these frustrating things just roll off his shoulders, go on and show up at the track ready to go.
He is a younger guy. He's an old soul. He's been around racing his whole life. He watched his dad go through stuff. He's lived and experienced a lot in his own right. He'll come back more motivated and hungry.
Alan Gustafson is just about as goods as they get in the garage area. With Alan's leadership, they will dust themselves off on Wednesday and get ready to roll.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for taking the time tonight. Awesome run. See you on Wednesday.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you. Appreciate it.

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