Jimmie Johnson talks through his victory in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Q: Tell us about your race:
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, obviously the weekend we would dream of, were able to get it with winning the pole, leading the most laps and winning the race.
It was a challenging weekend, to say the least. The tire that Goodyear brought back, it's the same as it was in the spring. It blackened up the track in a hurry, but really made the track challenging after 30 or 40 laps. The rubber would build up on the track and create handling issues for the racecar that you couldn't tune to. The car would act different and do different things when you ran over the black patches.
I had to fall back on my dirt racing background. I think that helped me out some. I had a great car. Everybody did their jobs today. Very pleased with the effort. Came at a good time, clearly. We got eight to go and we'll see where things go from here.
Q: Chad, your thoughts from on top of the box?
CHAD KNAUS: It was definitely a good day for us, obviously. We really had our hands full this weekend. We came in qualifying trim. As we unloaded, the car wasn't reacting the way we actually anticipated it. We had to make some pretty significant changes to the racecar. When it came time to qualify, we actually had to put a setup underneath the car that Jimmie had not felt yet. He had to trust in us, and thankfully he did, to go in there and bomb it for qualifying. It stuck.
Being able to qualify on the pole is obviously huge here because track position is critical along with your pit selection. Race practice, we weren't where we needed to be then either. We really had to work hard on the car going into Happy Hour. Got in much better in Happy Hour. Made some big changes over the course of the evening to get even better yet.
Honestly, just like what Jimmie said, we could adjust the car, make the car do some different things, but we really couldn't make the car better. The difference today was definitely in the driver.
Q: Jimmie, when AJ Allmendinger got out in front early on, did you think you had a fight on your hands or that you had the car to overtake him down the road?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I feel like coming into this weekend he was in the back of my mind as one of the guys to worry about. He certainly did a great job in qualifying and in the race. In the spring race here, he was chasing us a bunch in that race, putting a lot of pressure on us.
With the momentum that team has had, the confidence he is getting in his abilities in a stock car, he's a real threat and was a real threat today. It looked like they had some tire issues, potentially, or something was going on when he pitted from the lead, put us in the lead, gave us control of the race at that point.
Early in the race, I just had to push my car way too hard to run that pace. I don't know if the pace led to the problems he had, but it was past experience for me here. I knew I'd run the tires off the car and have a problem if I went that hard.
We played it smart. He wasn't a Chase guy, so I didn't feel good about letting him go. But when he got to me and put pressure on me, I let him by. I just needed to worry about those 11 other drivers and really about myself. Way too early to worry about stuff. Come the end of the race, he wasn't there to have to fight with.
Q: Chad, I saw you looking just so directly at the 11 car on Saturday. You looked at all the drama that was going on next to you. It was like you had already taken those two guys out of the Chase; now it's just us against nine guys. How do you get the mental mindset going in and moving forward, stick with your game plan?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We were watching them because it was entertaining. Who wasn't watching (laughter)?
CHAD KNAUS: Honestly, I didn't know anything was happening. I had seen some stuff happening on the racetrack. As we pulled onto the track, I told Jimmie, "Watch that 29." I was trying to get him to look into his mirror so he could see the action. Obviously, he didn't, so he missed all the on-track stuff.
Once we got into the garage, I didn't really know anything about it. Jimmie and I had been talking for probably a good solid two or three minutes, hadn't even realized there was any type of altercation in the garage between the two guys. Jimmie was, "Hey, those two guys are about to fight." I was like, "Wow." At that point, I kind of looked up to see what was going on.
But quite frankly, we didn't waste a whole lot of time being spectators at that point. We put our heads down, got to work on what we needed to do to work on our racecar.
We've been through all of that stuff. You go back to 2005. We had a bit of a match with the 20 car. We've had on-track problems with other people. We've lived all that stuff. We've had suspensions, fines, all that kind of stuff. Everything that's possible to be done in the sport from a negative and a positive, we've, unfortunately, been involved in. We don't really pay a lot of attention to what goes on outside of our four walls. We worry about our racecar, our toolbox, try to make it right.
Q: Jimmie, if you could expound on that a little bit, too. Do you find it humorous? Do you feel those guys were giving themselves self-inflicted distractions you don't need in the Chase?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, like Chad had mentioned, I didn't see what went on on the track. When I got out of the car for the change we were making, I think round two of their discussions started up. That's what we saw.
It's an emotional sport. Guys have all different points of view. You have two very competitive drivers with different points of view. It turned into what it did.
I haven't thought much about it. The reason I don't want to think much about it is I need to worry about my racecar and my team. I want to expect the best out of those two race teams and not think, "Well, they're occupied with each other, they're not going to be as strong." That would be a mistake on my part. I need to look at the 11 like it's the 11, the 29 like it's the 29, regardless of the feud or whatever could exist in the future. I wouldn't be doing my job then.
So, we've done a very good job over the last four years worrying about ourselves and we've got to maintain that.
Q: Jimmie and Chad, I think you tried to make the point Friday that you actually didn't run that badly last week, but circumstances produced a bad finish. Everybody looks at the final outcome. Given how your team has performed these past two weeks, is this how you hoped you would start the Chase as far as on-track performance?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think so. The short run at New Hampshire was really our weak spot. That showed in qualifying, trying to get one fast lap, and on the short runs after restarts, just couldn't get going. Today we were much more competitive. Maybe not where we wanted to be on the short run, but much more competitive than New Hampshire.
Qualifying went well. Our goal was to come in and qualify well. It starts the ball in motion. It starts kind of the trend for the team, just the arc of what the team is going to deal with. If you qualify badly, you're in such a hole from pit road pick to what takes place on track, it's stuff to overcome.
We met our goals this weekend, moved up a lot today. I think today shows you, I saw the 11 finish ninth and we're only 35 out. We look at 80, 90 points, whatever it is, and think it's a lot. It really isn't. I mean, you finish 10th or 15th, you lose 60, 70 points. There's eight races left, and the points can shake up a lot. I think it's going to be as exciting a Chase as everyone is hoping for.
Q: The first hundred laps of the race y'all were pretty good, then the sun came out. Looked like you were really good. Did that play into your plan? You were just happy it came out and it worked out?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't really ever remember the sun being out. Maybe I forgot about those hundred laps (laughter).
Our car didn't change a lot. We made very, very small changes in the racecar throughout the day today. Throughout the sun and cloud situation, our car stayed within a very, very small amount on adjustments. It was more about me over the course of the long run doing the right things with my line selection on track to keep speed in the car than anything.