NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
APRIL 17, 2011
Jimmie Johnson Wins in Wild Finish at Talladega;
Team Chevy Drivers Claim Top-Five Finishing Positions
Talladega, Ala (April 17, 2011) – Jimmie Johnson timed it perfectly coming through the tri-oval for the final time at Talladega Superspeedway to take the checkered flag in the Aaron’s 499. It is the second victory for the five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion at the 2.66-mile track and the 54th victory of his career.
With eight races in the 2011 season record books, Johnson now sits second in the standings just five points out of the lead. He led four times during the day for a total of 14 laps after starting second.
Team Chevy drivers swept the top-five finishing positions in the second superspeedway race of the season.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet, who led a race high 15 times for 38 laps, finished second by a mere 0.0002 seconds. In a virtual drag race to the checkered flag, Bowyer claimed his second runner-up finish in his past three races with and scored the win here in October, 2010.
Bowyer jumped two positions in the top-12 standings to 10th place.
After claiming the top-four positions in qualifying Hendrick Motorsports claimed three of the top-five finishing positions and four of the top-10 at the end of the 188-lap/500-mile race.
Pole sitter Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, finished third and is 13th in the standings, just six points out of the top-12 Chase contenders. The four-time NSCS champion led three times for a total of nine laps.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet finished fourth and jumped three spots in the points to third place. To the thrill of the crowd, he led 11 laps during his four times at the point.
Richard Childress Racing’s strong showing continued with Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, who finished fifth. Harvick led five times for nine laps and now sits fifth in the standings.
Mark Martin, No. 5 CARQUEST/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, finished eighth to give Team Chevy six of the top-10 finishers. He led once for one lap and is 14th in points, just 19 points out of the Chase.
In total, Team Chevy drivers occupy eight of the top-12 Chase contention points positions.
After recovering from on-track contact and a spin. Ryan Newman, No. 39 Haas-Automation Chevrolet, the first of the Stewart-Haas Racing cars in the Chase standings, remains seventh in the standings with a 25th place finish.
Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet, was making a charge to the front when he received damage after an amazing save from incidental contact late in the race. He finished 30th and sits ninth in the standings to represent Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the battle for the Chase.
Paul Menard, No. Schrock/Menards Chevrolet, is the third RCR car in the Chase standings, sitting 11th after today’s race. He led twice for four laps on the way to a 12th place finish.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, rounds out the top-12 in the standings and gives SHR both cars in Chase contention after a 17th place finish in today’s race.
After a weekend off, the Series’ resumes competition with short-track racing at Richmond International Speedway on April 30th.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
JIMMIE JOHNSON AND CREW CHIEF, CHAD KNAUS, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – RACE WINNER
KERRY THARP: Let’s roll into our race winner for today’s 42nd Aaron’s 499 here at Talladega Super Speedway. And our race winner Jimmie Johnson. He drivers the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and is joined up front by crew chief, Chad Knaus.
As I mentioned earlier, the margin of victory of the margin of victory of .002 seconds ties the closest margin of victory since the history of electronic scoring previous .002 was in Darlington, 2003, and the 88 lead changes ties the all-time series record.
This is Jimmie Johnson’s 54th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, his first in 2011, his second here at Talladega. Jimmie, talk about the closing laps and when you were making your way up through the pack and that last part of the race where you got to the lead.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we had a plan coming into the race, and stuck to it and learned a lot as the event went on, really Junior and I did, on how we would communicate, on what runs we could make, how we could set them up, how we could pass, how to have the guy push and could cool his car. Really there was a lot of learning that went on through all of the laps throughout the race.
Once we got to the end, Junior started getting warm and had to pull out a couple of times with three or four to go and at one of the points we got disconnected, and a bunch of guys went buy. But we stayed committed to the top and had our momentum wound back up and somehow trucked by a bunch of guys on the bottom. I don’t know if they had to switch lanes or what, but before we knew it, we found ourselves in third after we took the white and a decent gap from us to the leaders.
And they got side by side, which allowed us to really close up and as we went into turn three, I had a big run, and was thinking about the bottom, and the 5 and 24 defended that, and then I kind of wandered to the middle and didn’t have an option then and knew I still had probably a mile to go.
So I just chilled out and sat in their draft and as we came off of four, those two groups were occupied trying to side draft each other and racing each other at the top, covered up. As we started rolling up on them, I shot down to the bottom, and we were able to surge by out of the triangle (ph) coming out of the bottom because they kind of left it open there. Just worked out.
So very, very proud of the effort Hendrick Motorsports has put in as always. I think it showed in qualifying and here are our four cars fighting for the win at the end.
So very proud of that; Chad and Stevie, and the growth of the 48/88 shop, and the way Junior and I worked together today. So very proud of the effort.
KERRY THARP: Chad, talk about the performance of the 48 crew.
CHAD KNAUS: I thought it was a really good day. To hit on what Jimmie was talking about, it was much more than just the 48 car that was able to pull off this victory. We worked really hard. We have a collective group of guys at Hendrick Motorsports that work on our Super Speedway program and they do a fantastic job of putting a very good product out there. And I think that started to show signs on Friday. Definitely started to show shines in Daytona when we were able to qualify with the 88 car on the pole and bring some of that momentum back here for qualifying at Talladega.
You know, we have been working a while to try to get to where we could get the drivers to really commit to one another and work together, and I think it was really nice to see the 5 and 24 work together the way they did today. I thought it was nice to see the 48 and 88 work together. It made it a lot easier on Steve Letarte and myself to call the race when you have that kind of strategy going on.
I think it was a good race for Jimmie and Dale to get a lot of experience work together and learning how the draft works and hopefully we can apply some of that to the race when we come back here in the fall. So it was a very collective effort on a lot of people’s parts and it was really nice to see.
Q. In watching the replay, it appears that your left wheels had come across the yellow line; were you concerned at all that NASCAR was going to call that on you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Someone mentioned that to me outside, and my eye line was on the 5 and the 24, because they were coming down the track trying to protect the inside lane. I have not seen the video yet, and I was not focused on where that yellow line was. I was more worried about causing a big pile up and luckily the 5 quit coming down and then the 24 pulled back up.
So I don’t know where my left side tires were, but I’ve heard that a statement has been released and everything is cool. So I’m glad I’m not sitting here having to worry about that.
Q. You kind of answered this but a follow up to the question about the yellow line. Were you surprised the 24 and 33 didn’t crowd you so that it became an issue possibly that you were near the yellow line?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, the way it’s working with the tandem situation, the spotter calls you in a way that like if I’m inside the 5, the 24 thinks that a car is in the side of him. So in some ways I guess Jeff could have come all the way to the bottom and blocked me and it may have worked out for him.
You know, as soon as he heard I was inside the 5, I could see the 24 pull back up, and maintain his line with the 5 connected to his bumper. So, I don’t know. There’s still so much going on at the end of that thing coming to the stripe, I haven’t seen it yet, either, like I mentioned and I don’t know what anybody could have done differently. When you’re four-wide across a start/finish line, I think that’s a pretty damn good race.
Q. You pulled up and gave Dale Jr. the checkered flag at the end, class move on that. Can you tell us the exchange and why you did that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just came to mind. I handed it to him and he said, “Man, I don’t want that.
I said, “Well, I have to give you something for the push and working with me.”
He said, “No, that’s what teammates do.”
I smiled and I said, “Take the damn flag. I’ll give you the trophy, too.”
He says, “No, I don’t want the trophy. I’ll take the flag, though.”
Man, he’s a riot. You guys scan all the time but to hear him on the channel and Stevie and the things he talks about; can I have this channel more often just to listen?
CHAD KNAUS: No.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean there’s some entertaining stuff going on. On a serious note, he was committed, and as was I, and it showed today. We were; neither one of us were selfish and we worked as a group. And at the end, he felt like the 48 car leading was faster; we agreed.
Looking back, it could have gone either way if we were single file and he was in the catbird’s seat and could have pulled a move like the 29 did to the 1 that we saw in the in the fall or spring at some point; but the way the race unfolded, the leader had the spot, and he pushed me to victory. So just proud of the effort and hope to do more and continue to work like this it as time goes on.
Q. How far back in the race did you decide that you were going to be the one that was leading and that Junior was going to be the one that was pushing?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We kind of traded responsibilities off so that we could each learn and get a feel, just know we didn’t know what would unfold at the end, and after the last pit stop I was pushing him for a while and we were getting disconnected pretty easily. And at that point, he just said, hey, you need to lead, it works better with you leading and Chad and Stevie confirmed that our lap times were faster with the 48 in front of the 88 and we made a swap going into turn one and just kind of stayed that way from there on out.
Q. Was it fairly evident to you as you crossed the finish line that you had won or was there some mystery left?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There some mystery. I didn’t hear anything on the radio and the first voice I heard as we went into turn one was Junior and it was something like, “Hell, I think the 48 won.”
And then I started going nuts. Chad didn’t know what radio to talk to me on, and I didn’t know whether I had won or not, so I was going to stay in the throttle until I heard different. But he was the one that broke the news to me. But it was close. I knew in my mind that if it that was the checkered, it was close, and I didn’t know if I had it won.
Q. At one point Jimmie waited in his box for Junior to come out; how much against the grain is it for you guys to do that and what were you thinking at that point?
CHAD KNAUS: It’s tough. It’s tough. You know, you have to change your mentality when you come to a track like this, and I think we have done as a team a good job of changing the mentality of how you run a racing organization at Hendrick Motorsports and being committed to the team and the betterment of the organization.
We had to carry that to the nth detail today to make that happen. If you saw how we were working on the car, we were taking four tires; so was the 88. We had damage, the 88 hung out and made sure their stuff was right; and they took two tires, we took two tires and vice versa.
It’s different. It’s different. Usually you’re going for the win every single one, but today we wanted to get one of those cars in victory lane.
Q. The last lap, the two different tandems came up and side drafted each other and stalled them out; is that how you saw it and it also looks like watching the videotape, you talk about being high, you make a very big moving to down two lanes. I’m guessing you normally wouldn’t do that, or how dramatic of a move was that, and were you able to give any warning to Dale Junior or he just has to follow you in a situation like that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I was on the radio with him going down the back, and just trying to explain what I saw in front. We had a good run coming into three, and I talked him down to the bottom, and then the 24 and 5 defended that.
And so then I thought I could get up to the middle and was telling him on the radio, and the 29 and the 33 had that kind of covered where there wasn’t a move.
So I just stayed in the middle of the track and those two side by side, those four cars side by side punched such a big hole in the air that I kind of let off the gas a little, let Junior really to me and create some energy and as we came off four, worked my way back to wide open, we were rolling.
From my perspective, they were up there worried about each other side drafting and really stalling each other out, and I had such a run, I was talking to Junior, I was like, low, low, low, and off we went. We got down there and the 5 and 24 were trying to defend it, but we just had a little too much speed coming, and we were able to get by them.
Q. For you, you and Junior obviously worked really well today but there was a point at Talladega like six years ago where he was pretty upset with the way you used to draft. Was there a moment when you guys sort of like learned to work well together and sort of change your style and became to the point where you guys could work so well to go today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, in plate racing, you go out there before we could push all the way around the track, we would kind of bump on the straights and different things. I’m learned, coming up through the ranks, learning at the Cup level, made some mistakes. Certainly caused some big wrecks here at this track. That’s where one of those comments came from.
As you race and as time goes on, watch the best guys in the business make mistakes and cause big wrecks and watch guys that don’t have a lot of experience make wrecks; they end up causing wrecks.
So there’s really nothing consistent about it. You’re mad at the time and you leave the track and you go on and next time you come back to a plate race, you’re mad at someone else and a whole new group of people. You see it week in and week out with the interviews after plate races. There’s a lot of blame floating around, a lot of guys mad when they are wrecked. That’s what it was, and I’m glad that I haven’t been the root cause of anything major lately.
Although, I’ve been in a ton of wrecks. Seems like each plate race, especially Daytona we are in wrecks and we did that again this year. So I have climbed out of the car upset at plenty of guys, as well, just part of the game.
Q. I heard you say on the radio you told Dale, “Next one is on us, brother.” Do you approach the rest of the season differently and try to turn it around and try to help Stevie and Dale Jr?
CHAD KNAUS: I think we take the exact same approach and see how it shakes out the end. You have to be aware as to which situation is faster, and definitely today, we would have been pushing the 88 car if Dale had not come on the radio and said, high, guys I don’t think we are fast enough the way we are right now, we need the 48 in front. If we get to Daytona and the roles are reversed that will be it, we will follow him across the line with sparks and fire a blazing.
Q. Jeff Gordon earlier came in and talked about the fact in his estimation, this has always been a 15 or 20 lap race in, his words. He said that either you can run up front or you can run in the back but you’re crazy to run in the middle, which of course is difficult to see how you would have a race without someone in the middle. But what I’m saying it, your methodology was different from his today, and why do you do it your way, as opposed to his hanging back, and he and Mark roared up front near the end. Why do you do it your way as opposed to theirs?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: To be honest I’ve tried it pretty much every way and had plenty of issues take place. Today we had our Jedi senses in order. If you look at we were up front at the right times; we road at the right times; there were wrecks around us; in front of us; the leaders wrecked one time down the back with the 18 in that mess that took place; and we just sensed something that didn’t look right, and between Junior and myself and the spotters we backed off and put some distance between us and them.
There are other times where it was thinned out and we wanted to lead a lap and we marched up there and I led a lap we switched roles and marched Junior up there and got him his bonus points. It’s really a gut feeling and it’s good working with someone all day long so you can understand what they are thinking and you can work together and before you know it, you’re thinking more alike than you ever thought you would.
So as a group today, that’s how we when we decide it and how we decided to race and when to ride.
Q. Can you remember any time during the race where you were not with Junior? Was the only time that he wasn’t pushing you or you pushing him was when you went down pit road to victory lane and he made the left into the garage?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Pretty much. There were a couple restarts where we were separated, but we didn’t go more than half a lap before we found each other again. In that last restart, I was a handful of spots ahead of him on the outside and he was on the inside and I just went to the wall on the outside and just was waiting and he found a way to get out of the inside lane and the next lane and to my bumper before we were at the center of one or two. I don’t know how that all worked out for him but we made it happen quick and got it done we only had 11 to go or something at that point. We knew it was time to find each other quick.
Q. Are you guys far along enough in your knowledge to know what makes a car a better pusher or what makes a car a better pushee? Yeah, just leave it at that.
CHAD KNAUS: That’s about the answer as well, I hate to say it.
We are not. We do know in years past before you had the restrictions that you did on your water capacity, your air inlet, things of that nature. You could begin to delegate who would be a good pusher or out front.
For instance you would take a car and put the car with maybe less grill inlet opening and the smaller radiator in front and the car with the bigger radiator and larger radiator grill in the back, and he then could push for a much longer period of time. And that would work out pretty well for you.
Now, it’s just not quite like that. NASCAR has got us in a pretty good little box to where everybody has got pretty much the same equipment when it comes to that.
So there’s, what it boils down to is a little bit of set up, a little bit of the body dynamics on the car and things of in a nature, and the way the lead guy draft. So I wish I could say we were smart enough to be able to do that but we can’t really anymore.
Q. Wondering how much you and Dale worked together on it practice on Friday?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: This weekend we didn’t get any time together on the track. We had a good plan in place before practice started and with the weather moving in, we just rolled out and the car behind us when we left pit road was 18 and he didn’t have a teammate to work with and we went to work together and got a handful of laps and that was that.
In Daytona we waited for each other because we didn’t have weather as a problem and worked together a lot during the race, or tried to in the race but didn’t have the overall commit many. It was more of, when I see you, I’ll work with you thing. But today, we knew what we were doing from lap one.
Q. There’s been a lot of different thoughts on this kind of tag team race, great finish obviously but maybe not the greatest racing to get to that finish. I know you’re happy with winning the race but what’s your thoughts on this style and does NASCAR need to do anything to kind of get the drivers away from this a little bit?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: From my perspective, we were complaining with the old package and riding side by side and not enough passes for the lead, and there was always the big wreck. Now we have a ton of passes for the lead and statistically you look at the race and it looks pretty awesome.
From a driver standpoint, we have a lot more control now with what we can do. Yes, it is still plate racing, but race. You can make stuff happen and there is a technique required to stay together and to work traffic together and to communicate and it puts it back in the driver’s hands a lot more than the old combination of racing.
So I think it’s entertaining. And again, I don’t remember people excited about the way it was before. So I think we’re evolving as teams and drivers, and continuing to put on a better show, and from where I was all day long, I thought there was a lot of racing that took place. I thought it was a great race.
Q. On that last lap, did you feel like you had enough time to make the move to get to the front? And do you think that most of these races will now come down to like three wide packs of two rather than a guy trying to pull out from behind another and making a slingshot pass for the win?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The two or three to go, Junior and I got separated and I felt like we were in big trouble. We got together quickly and found ourselves back in third. And at that point, I felt like we still had a shot. When I went into three and didn’t have anywhere to go with my run I felt like I was out of moves. But then it’s still such a long distance from the exit of four to where the finish line is here that a whole new environment or whole new opportunity opened up for me, and I had a shot and got it done.
So in my mind, I felt like I had missed my chance a couple of times before the end and I was still too anxious and too eager worrying about the win; whereas that didn’t really need to place, instead of much later. And opportunities presented itself in a way that I could take advantage of it. Those guys were really side drafting hard.
I think the way this is evolving now, the lead car, unless you can get out pretty far, you can’t stay there long. The two car tandem situation punches such a big hole in the air that if you’re 20 back, you’re able to pick up a draft and close, quickly.
So those four cars racing side by side punch such a big hole in the air, Junior and I were running a quarter of a separate away back, we were able to have two shots at the win. So I think you will see the side by side racing at the finish like we did, especially at Talladega. Daytona a little bit more narrow; we’ll probably end up crashing before we get to the finish line but here there’s enough room that we can run four wide.
Q. Following up on what Paul and Bob asked, can we now expect to not see anybody running second, try to pass for the lead on the last lap? Was there any chance Junior was going to try to pass you? Was there any chance Mark was going to try to pass Jeff? Was there any chance that anybody was going to try to pass anybody in the last five or six laps today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: In the situation that we had today, no. If for some reason we got by those four cars and they were bumping and banging and slowed up and we had a gap coming to the triangle, absolutely, Junior would have been in the right situation and would have been the race winner. It just did not unfold that way.
McMurray or Harvick, was it in the spring race last year, for whatever happened there, it worked out to be a two car break away, Kevin got around the one and won. We just didn’t have that today.
Q. Everybody very controlled this afternoon; as you do more of this tandem drafting and become more familiar with it, will drivers take more chances out on the speedway?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we are all getting wiser and I don’t know
CHAD KNAUS: Hmmm, he always is wiser.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Seems like it. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I mean, I can work up an answer to both sides of it. I felt like today there was a lot of control from the drivers. We gave each other enough room. We had respect for guys that had big runs coming.
Daytona, there’s less room so it’s a bit tighter and more of an issue. But today guys were real respectful and smart. I don’t know what caused a couple of the wrecks, but we didn’t have big, big pileups like we typically see.
Q. Can you just talk about getting a win and what it means for you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we have been knocking on the door. We had Bristol and Martinsville and California and was not able to get it done, a variety of little situation that is popped up. I’ve always said it, when you run in the Top 5, you’re going to have your opportunities and today we did that and certainly had a Top 5 car if not the fastest car and opportunity presented itself and we got the job done.
Q. Depends who you talk to, some drivers say it was a lot of fun others of course saying it was completely different perfect what they have ever experienced. How would you describe the race out there today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Sounds like a plate race to me. The guys that run well are happy and the guys that are crashed and don’t run well are mad.
It is different. In some ways I thought it was cool to see I don’t even know who is in 32 but the 32 and 71 were up there running in the Top 5. It’s good for those teams.
You know, there is some technique required now, instead of just running wide open all the time and just sitting there in a guy’s tire tracks, now there’s some work required and some skill. I think that this racing is fun, and certainly easy for me to say because I won, and probably if I crashed I would be bitching and moaning. But it was a good day. When you have this many lead changes for a Cup race, that’s a good thing.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations enjoy the win, happy Easter.
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POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 BB&T CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED 3RD
KERRY THARP: Clint Bowyer, you won last fall here, you were all of strong here again today. Talk about this race here this afternoon.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. You know, the whole race was fun. BB&T Chevrolet was fast all weekend, the same hot rod that we won with in the fall, and just proud of the guys and everybody at ECR Engines. You can’t say enough about their efforts and the job they have done. We didn’t sit on the front two rows, but we were up front all six engines were up front pretty much all day long. So, proud of their guys. Proud of their efforts and just come up short.
Man, what a bummer. Man, I saw them coming, and the 24 and I were, you know, trying to suck off each other and break each other’s momentum and drag racing each other so much, I was like, oh, no, block ’em, block ’em, block ’em. I knew if he dipped down to block them, that we had the race won. But we just come up short. It’s frustrating. I know the importance of getting a race win right now is big.
You know that win; if I would have won right there, it could have put me in the Chase. I was thinking about that. That’s going to be important throughout the year, and you know, that was a good shot at it. It just slipped through our fingers.
Q. Could you speak about how much you were able to work with Kevin today, how much you were compelled to work with him and how different it is finding partners and staying with partners in this type of racing than it was in the big pack racing?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, start to with that, it’s very difficult to stay with a partner all day long. My partner is Jeff Burton. I hated that we got separated there. It happened you know, when the caution that didn’t happen; when Ryan Newman spun, everybody lifted. Everybody thought the caution was coming out, and looked out the side mirror and he gathered it up and I looked up and it was still green.
So, I was like, oh, man. Jeff and I were way separated and luckily Kevin had got separated from his guy and still had the momentum I did. We hooked up and were able to go on. I hated that for Jeff; that very spot right there put him back in the field, and I don’t know where he finished, but it separated us.
So it was very difficult to keep together. But like I said, when Kevin and I got hooked up, we were able to work well together. We were talking amongst each other. We were down and out you know that was the biggest thing about Kevin and I. I was pushing him and his car wouldn’t lead at all. We were bad. We went all the way back to 17th there I think with four to go and I was like, we’ve got to switch, we’ve got to do something. Everybody was blowing by us and we switched there on the front straightaway and drove all the way back up through them and had ourselves in position. So, we tried.
Q. Throw out the weekend and I guess since Daytona too, there’s been mixed reactions about the two car draft. Junior said all weekend he hates it and drivers that got spun out today said they didn’t like it. After that finish, I mean what do you think’s going to be the general reaction in the garage?
CLINT BOWYER: Here is the thing. It doesn’t matter what happened throughout that race or what your thought was. If you didn’t like that finish and it didn’t make you forget about the race, you’re crazy.
Something about that, it just makes you forget about it and makes it if it was a problem, it ain’t a problem anymore. You know, it always seems to fix itself at the end of these restrictor plate races. It doesn’t matter who is up there.
You know, whether it’s ten cars or 43 cars left, it’s always a hell of a finish at these plate races, and always comes right down to the wire for whatever reason. You know, that wasn’t a green and white checkered; you thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be, and it never presented it receive. But it was still, you know, an unbelievable finish.
Q. Any satisfaction to know that your name is NASCAR history is losing by
CLINT BOWYER: Hell, no, that sucks (laughter). It’s never very good to know you made NASCAR history by losing. Sooner or later I need to start making history by winning. That guy’s won enough (chuckling).
The only thing that bums me out about that is those guys lagged back all day long. That’s what makes it tough, losing by somebody that did that. We were up front for our sponsors and our team and digging all day long. When you get it taken from you at the end by somebody who lagged back all day, it’s hard to take.
Q. How much deliberation was put into swapping?
CLINT BOWYER: It really just depended on your temperatures. You know, how you were able to manage that, and once you got together, if you were three wide, you couldn’t manage it anymore. You couldn’t duck out. You couldn’t get air. As long as you were two wide and out front, you know, Jeff and I were able to manage it and pretty well push each other the whole time. No different than Michael and I did at the beginning of the race. He never did, you know, switch.
So if you were able it to manage it and your car would do it, if it was capable of it the guys have worked hard on making sure that it does that. And some instances, it wasn’t even necessary.
Q. I know, but that last swap that you talked about. Did y’all talk?
CLINT BOWYER: It was necessary. No, we got passed we found ourselves 17th from the lead. And when that happens, something’s wrong. We’ve got to switch something up.
Q. Do you think you would have been any better at the end of the race with Jeff?
CLINT BOWYER: I don’t know. Like I said, it was a shame that we got separated. We worked well all day together. Jeff is a great teammate. Like him a lot. I appreciate everything he’s done for me and that’s just one of those situations where it sucks. You know, you wish that the guy that helped you get there was a guy that, you know, got the reward and unfortunately he did.
I don’t know where he even finished. I don’t know, but it is that’s the frustrating part about it.
KERRY THARP: Clint thank you very much. Great show out there. See you at Richmond.
Jeff Gordon drives the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger AARP Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Jeff, certainly a competitive race out there. A lot of cars had an opportunity to win there at the end. Your thoughts?
JEFF GORDON: Obviously very happy with the results. You know, to come back to come away with a third place finish, I mean, any time you come to a restrictor plate track, you know, you’re on the fence of survival, keeping the car in one piece and try to win.
I feel like we had a great strategy coming in. We played it very conservative obviously and I think it paid off for us for sure. I really did expect there to be some more cautions there at the end, but you know, I feel like Mark and I did a great job working together. We just communicated well. Our spotter did a great job; the whole team.
All weekend you know we put ourselves in position to win. We were leading coming off of four. I’m sure when I watch the video, there’s definitely plenty of things I would have liked to have done a little bit different, but I feel like we did a really nice job.
Q. Could you speak to your day long commitment to running with Mark, and what lengths you went to to maintain that relationship close to each other on the racetrack and how it’s different from how you found partners in the big pack racing?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, we pretty much just had the philosophy coming in this weekend, you know, don’t leave your wing man. And I think we learned a lot in Daytona. In Daytona, we kind of said, oh, let’s just kind of ride out and see how it goes. We didn’t expect everybody to get right into twos as soon as they dropped the green flag.
Based on that, we realized that you have to have somebody that you can count on, somebody that you trust, somebody that you can get on the radio and work; and who better to do that with than your teammates? And in our case, this weekend, was Mark Martin, which I thought and this is the first time we’ve done it. Now going through the experience, we’ll be even better the next time. But I thought we did a really good job, and like I said, we put ourselves in position to win.
But I didn’t work with anybody else all day long. Mark was the only one. Sometimes I was pushing him. Sometimes he was pushing me. And we were just trying to maintain that gap to the leaders. We got behind one time. You know, they kind of strung out and got more spread out and so the pack picked up pace. And they were not racing as hard so that got us behind one time and made us a little nervous.
But from that point on, we pretty much maintained about a five to seven second gap that worked out really well for us.
Q. You and Jeff and Mark were working together there and he was doing the majority of the pushing. Is this something you talked about before the race and did he feel uncomfortable leading with you pushing him?
JEFF GORDON: Well, we had talked, you know, and you can’t always control who comes off pit road first and who is going to be pushing or if you’re going to be pushing.
So it’s just it was one of those things where actually, I think he got off pit road on the last pit stop before us. I was in behind him pushing him, and they basically wrecked without throwing a caution down there in three and four, and when they did that, everybody checked up, and I was able to keep the momentum pretty good. And I got in front of Mark, and at that point, he got in behind me. And we had already talked he kind of said, you know, hey, I would like to push you instead of you push me.
So you know, it kind of worked out in our favor the way we wanted anyway. Seemed like we did a bit better job communicating in our pace and everything; not speed wise, but just being able to judge the pace and stay connected with me leading and him running behind me.
But at the end, I was just as happy to be pushing him and would have done everything I could to push him to the front just like he did for me.
Q. It wasn’t too long ago that bump drafting was considered taboo and reckless and dangerous in the turns, and now things have changed and people bump all the way around. But almost every crash was caused by cars bump drafting in the turn or the entrance; is there a certain way to do it; do you not push as hard in the turns or not rest or just push and not bump? What is the way to do that?
JEFF GORDON: First let’s backup, the reason why it was silly to bump draft in the corners before is the bumpers didn’t lineup. So you would get somebody that would get aggressive with it, and they would basically wreck a guy in front of them.
But what we learned was the closer you could get to the bumper of the guy in front of you, the faster you wasn’t went. If you had the bumpers lined up back then you might have been able to push all the way around. Now we have a car that has a tremendous amount of downforce. There’s very little we can do to this car for here versus other tracks like we used to do. We used to come here and not that we don’t put that effort into this car; we do, but the cars, amount of down far as difference between our Daytona and Talladega cars versus our short track and intermediate track cars was huge, you know, ten years ago, or eight years ago. Now, it’s not near as much as you would think.
So that’s kind of the evolution, and you know, I don’t know, to me, at Daytona is a little trickier pushing, where you had to be a little careful if you got to the left rear corner of somebody.
I didn’t see any of the wrecks today, what caused them, so I can’t really comment, but Mark and I pushed and checked up in front of one another, switched lanes. We did all kinds of things, and it all worked out pretty well for us. I thought the cars were very comfortable here. Usually what happens is somebody breaks the momentum and checks up and you swerve and that guy behind you, because he’s basically blind, he tries to follow you and sometimes they hook you.
But I couldn’t comment any more on it than that it, because I didn’t see it.
Q. After that finish, is there any question that this is the style of racing to go? There are some people that don’t like it, but I don’t see how you can argue with that kind of finish.
JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, it comes down to a strategy race to try to get yourself in position with 20, 25 to go. And there’s more to it than you think. I mean, you know, when you see me and Mark out there riding around, six, eight seconds back to the lead, it’s not as easy as you think it is to manage that and to figure it out.
You still are having to watch your temperatures and different things. But let’s be honest: In my opinion, Talladega has always been about a 15 to 25 lap race, and the rest is just trying to get to the end. And that’s basically what we have now.
If you want to survive and you want to make it to the finish, you know, you have to either choose to try to push to stay up front, or ride in the back. But being in the middle, to me, is not worth it. And we have just had such terrible luck here at the restrictor plate track in recent years that we didn’t feel like there was any choice but to go to the back, once we got shuffled back from the lead. And we kind of planned that coming into the weekend and it worked out for us. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, but that certainly worked out for us. But this two car draft is here to stay. Unless they drastically change the cars, something is going to take that. The restrictor plate is not going to change that. It would take a whole new revamping of the car to change that. But you know, I kind of laugh at that because that’s kind of what was designed, you know, with this car, was to create that.
And not necessarily two car draft, but you know, to be able to get to the bumper and not spin one another out; have a car that’s much boxier to blow a bigger hole in the air. You know, that’s what we have to deal with now and that’s what’s created the kind of racing that we have.
I personally don’t have a problem with it actually. I think I thought that was pretty fun there at the end, whether I was pushing or being pushed. Those last ten, 15 laps are fun from a driver standpoint.
Q. Having said what you just about did the kind of race to go stay, when we saw the wrecks today, in the past it had been 12, 15, 18 cars at a clip that had gone out. Barring a last lap kind of thing where there’s all kinds of craziness, today there were four or five cars, just a little bit, as opposed to what had been. I hate to put is the big one gone in this type of racing with the two car draft and their separation? Give me your take on that.
JEFF GORDON: You know, just depends on how the cautions fall in my opinion. I thought that everybody did a really awesome job there in the closing laps. I’m surprised there were not more incidents than there was in the caution, you know, with four or five to go, because I was expecting it. Even though we are in these two car groups, at the end of the race, we are actually in packs of them. You know, and they might stretch out a little bit on the restart, but then it seems like they come right back together.
So it’s just as easy to me to have a big one now as it ever has been in the closing laps. I think that and I’ve always felt this, that even with the old car and the way we were all bunched together, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that we were out there pushing and shoving and running three and four wide, at lap, you know, 40. Didn’t seem to me to be very smart. And I think that with this two car draft, it forces you to think a little bit more about, you know, how aggressive you’re going to get with it.
And there’s still some guys that want to be aggressive with it and I think it caught them today. But there’s other guys that want to be real patient with it.
Q. How sure advised were you to see Dave Blaney running at the front today and sounds like you’re fighting a cold, was it a physical struggle?
JEFF GORDON: I am sick as can be and have been the last couple of days and not having a lot of fun with that. That’s the beauty of driving a race car, especially at Talladega, is here, it’s not so physical as it is mental. And you know, once they drop the green flag, it was mind over matter and I was so focused I didn’t even think about being ill.
As far as Blaney, or anybody in this field, when you’re pushing like that, if you’ve got a decent car pushing you or you’re pushing a decent car, there’s anybody that can win this race that can go to the front, which is not that much different than the way Talladega has always been. And I thought that was pretty cool to see Dave up there in the closing laps. It just seems to me like you always see that 22 car up there at the front in the closing laps. Doesn’t matter who he’s pushing or whose pushing him. He seems to know his way up there, and Dave is a great race car driver. Certainly happy for Tommy Baldwin and those guys to run good like that.
KERRY THARP: Hope you feel better. See you at Richmond. Happy Easter.
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