THE MODERATOR: We welcome Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Madagascar Chevrolet, winner of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks. This is Jimmie’s 57th victory in 376 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, second victory of 2012, seventh victory here at Dover, which ties him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison for most all-time wins here at Dover. Talk about your win out there today.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I’m just proud of this hair. The hair really brought some speed to the team. I could see our engine tuner who is catching the front tires that came across on pit stops, and I got a laugh every time I came on to pit road.
Just a fun day. Clearly we had a fast race car, amazing pit stops. Strategy, when you lead the most laps, sometimes at the end the way the cautions fall it can backfire on the dominant car, and the way cautions fell today, it allowed us to really flex our muscle and bring home the win.
So, proud of the effort and you know it was a brand new race car we brought to the track. Had never seen a racetrack before and rolled off the truck and awesome all weekend long.
THE MODERATOR: Is Chad going to make you wear the hair every weekend now to win the races?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don’t think this fits the M.O. It’s going to be short lived.
THE MODERATOR: Also joining us is Chad Knaus, crew chief of the 48.
Chad, obviously we talked to Jimmie yesterday about the Hendrick dominance, obviously you’ve had a lot of success the last few weeks with the All-Star win, the pit crew win and the resurgence of the Hendrick teams the last few weeks, especially at Charlotte. Talk about your strategy coming into Dover this weekend and the win sitting up here today.
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, it was a great weekend much like what Jimmie just referred to. It’s a brand new race car, so you have always have to have a bit of an acclimation period for your car when you get to the track just to learn the intricacies of it.
Man, we came off the truck and we were real fast right off the box. We were trying a different set up and Jimmie felt like we needed to do something different. He made a big call personally for us to shift the setup in the race car and we did and he felt like it was some big changes.
So we had to significantly change the race car once we got here. First in qualifying, Jimmie did a great job with the car then and that led us down the path we were today. Man, it went great. It went really well. It was a lot of fun.
Obviously everybody at Hendrick Motorsports is putting a lot of effort right now from the engine and chassis and body department trying to get the cars built because the sport is evolving so quickly with rules changes and things of that nature, it’s difficult to stay on top. To get to where we are, a solid three or four weeks for Hendrick Motorsports is nice.
Q. What does it mean to you to get that seventh victory at this track?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It’s just a huge honor. I’m never one that paid attention to stats. I truthfully never thought I would be a guy that would build up any cool stats and here I am with some pretty cool stats. With legends of our sport and guys that I’ve looked up to.
Very proud of the effort and I know it’s hard to give you a serious answer with this hair on right now, but very proud of the seven wins here and to be in that very elite company.
Q. The outside lane on the restarts were so much better today; is that indicative of Dover or is there a particular reason for it today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It’s been tough to sort it out. Some tracks, inside works, other tracks the outside works. You don’t know until you get in the race and you get the flow going and figure it out.
The All-Star Race in Charlotte, I was convinced the outside was the place to be. And Chad was like, look, everybody on the inside has won the race to turn one and had no one outside of him and was in the lead. So each week it changes. This week I just had a good rhythm out there and kept that up and made it work.
Q. You’ve clearly had dominant stretches before. How does this compare? And also, to both of you, do you feel right now you’re in the driver’s seat for a sixth championship?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, it’s just way too early to talk championship. I mean, we are doing the things right now that will win one, but we need to do this in September and on.
You know, it’s nice to have the success right now because the last two years, we have been working very hard in a lot of areas and when you have success and continued success, you narrow down your focus in where you need to be.
So you know, I think things are very good for our company. We know the areas where we found some raw speed and now we are fine-tuning from there. So honestly, first of all, have to make the Chase. And I think two wins puts us in a very nice position.
We need to keep the pressure on and roll into September with the same thing going on in order to win a championship. When you look at what Tony and Carl went through last year, that’s a perfect example. You just don’t show up and think everything is going to turn out as you hoped. You have to get in there and race hard for all ten races.
Q. After the win at Darlington, Rick said there was a lot of tension to get the 200th win. Curious how much of a relief it was to get that and if that impacted the roll that Hendrick has gotten on?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don’t think so. From the 48 standpoint, I know that’s not the case.
We, of course, wanted to be the team to win the 200 for Rick, but we didn’t sit there and obsess over it and talk about it. We were really so close since really the start of the year to Victory Lane. We were more focused on our deal and not making mistakes, and continuing with the technical side of the race car that has given us the speed that we are finding right now.
So for us, it was really about refining our package and not making mistakes. And that happened at Darlington, and All-Star Race went our way, and today was flawless, no mistakes and we had the speed to back it up.
Q. I know you don’t want to talk about the Championship, but if you look at the points standings today, Roush is one and two, but would anybody look at what’s gone on in the last month and think that any team other than yours is No. 1 right now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The last month, if you take the points and look at who is doing what, we have got to be the top guy, if not top two guys in collecting points.
So we can look at that mark through the regular season and move it around and work up the case to say anybody is the favorite. But none of that matters until we go to Chicago, the first race. None of it matters until we get to Chicago. We need to be in the Top-10 or the wildcard spot, and then all that matters is the final ten.
Q. The rest of the field had several chances to get you there late with the cautions and so forth; did you ever feel like you were in serious jeopardy of losing the lead on those restarts?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, the tricky part about the restarts, especially on used tires, we laid down a lot of rubber and the hot tire would pick up that rubber. And it was so tough to keep your tires clean so that you could accelerate right on the restart.
You know, I had probably my weakest restart with the 29, who was alongside of me going into 1. And the way track position is, you know, even if you have this dominant car or strong car, it’s tough to get by guys.
So I also look back and say that our effort on pit road today kept me in control of the race and that that was a plus, so I could pick the lane that I wanted and control the start.
And then that last one, Kevin stayed with me up through the gear box, and I was able to rally around the outside through one and two.
That was the part I was most concerned about was hot tires on a restart. Again we just picked up all that rubber and could you feel the wheel get out of round and the car would just start bouncing around on a straightway, and you’re like, man, I have stuff stuck to my tires and trying like crazy to clean it up, but a lot of times it wouldn’t even come off.
Q. Jeff was obviously really upset afterwards. He said they felt they had the best car and he said they felt they should have won the race. Do you feel like if he had not had the trouble with the loose wheel, do you think he would have won the race? What do you live about that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, the middle part of the race when he got by me and drove away, that’s all I had. I didn’t have anything for him then. I’m not sure what he had at the end of the race.
But it just shows how much of a team sport NASCAR is. It takes every element. And last week we were on the end where a mistake cost us, and this week it cost the 24. Without a doubt through the middle part of the race, he had us covered.
Q. What advice, if any, do you have for a four-time champ when he’s going through all this stuff? He’s had everything under the sun happen over the course of the season, and you guys were really good at keeping Kasey pumped up when he was going through his slump. Do you have any advice for your quote, unquote, boss and what do you do to make sure the 24 team is pumped up and intact going into the next race weekend?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It’s tough to give him advice. He’s a guy I’ve looked up to my whole time here at Hendrick Motorsports.
So I’m always here for him and this team. I could see that the communication between Alan and myself even in team debriefs, they are looking at our setups and what’s going on with our race cars and trying to understand why we do certain things. I’ve been very available for Jeff, and the feel that I have in my car, and Alan on the direction on the way some adjustments go.
Jeff is a strong guy. I know it’s tough on him, but it won’t keep him down. Those guys have way too much speed and are way too good of a race team to stay down. We just have to get them some wins and he’ll be in the Chase, he’ll be real strong.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on your win here today.
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An Interview With:
THE MODERATOR: We are welcomed by Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Best Buy Ford, who finished third in today’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks here at Dover International Speedway.
Talk about your run out there today, you’re one point out of the points position, talk about your run here at Dover.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, our finish was really good. Our end result, can’t really complain about that. We just kind of missed all day. Good thing we qualified good yesterday. Kept some track position.
So my car was really tough to pass with the setup that we had in it. Just really struggled getting the balance we needed to run fast. So got way off on time in the race and Jimmie did a good job of recognizing what we did and got the car back to where we could keep up with everybody except for the 24 and the 48.
Q. Talk about restarts, you were a sitting duck down there today, is that different than normal or is that typical Dover?
MATT KENSETH: Well, you’re asking the wrong guy about restarts, although the same thing happened – not the last restart unfortunately because Jimmie actually spun his tires. But everybody starting underneath him, it was tough to get going. A couple cars would get by you every time. I was able to get back by Junior in that last restart starting behind Jimmie.
It’s always kind of like that. It’s not necessarily which lane you’re in, it’s just the leader dictates when you go and can’t go until he does, and you know, they were really fast and he was really good at that and by the time he gets going you recognize that and try to get going, he’s already pulling away from you.
It’s tough. It’s easier to be a row back because you can kind of watch him when he gets rolling and you can roll toward him but when you’re underneath him, it makes it difficult. At least for me it does.
Q. You and Greg leave here 1, 2 in the points, but with what Hendrick is doing, do you walk away feeling good about your position or feeling like you have some work to do at Roush?
MATT KENSETH: Both. I feel good about our position. Obviously I mean early in the year, you wants to be as high as you can in the points, obviously if we make the Chase, they rack up by wins and so that’s really what you look at right now. But certainly we know we have got some work to do. I don’t think anyone could run with the 24 and 48 today. They seemed to me, anyway, that they were just in a league of their own and we had some work to do.
THE MODERATOR: Now joining Matt is Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet who finished second and he currently sits seventh in points now. So talk a little about your race today out there here at Dover.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, we had a solid race. I made a mistake on pit road there and got us back to about 20th. The car was good enough to be able to drive back through the pack, and for whatever reason, we were able to adjust our car well today when we needed to and we were able to keep up with the racetrack and keep our car better through the day. And I think that was a big key to getting through the traffic and putting ourselves back in position to at least have a chance.
Q. Goodyear brought some new tires here and you’ve been complaining about the track; what did you both by about the way the tires and track worked out with the rubber and the cautions?
KEVIN HARVICK: For me I thought it worked out a lot better. I didn’t feel any of those patches or sliding around or getting in the corner. Seemed like you could move your car around so it seemed like they definitely made an improvement.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, me, too, way better. All that stuff used to build up an inch or inch and a half and couldn’t really restart, and you didn’t really get that rubber down, but it never stacked up very high, it didn’t seem like. I thought it was better, too. Seemed like it widened the track a little bit.
Q. Can you walk me through the one pit stop error; is that a situation where it’s an odd angle coming into the kits in?
KEVIN HARVICK: I was having trouble all day, the pit stay (ph) was on the corner and I was having trouble picking up my mark and I tried to get too much in between the timing lines there and just over-shot the pit. So just a bad mistake. But I didn’t do a very good job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your time.
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