NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MAY 29, 2011
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S SUMMER SALUTE CHEVROLET – SIDELINED ON LAP 395 WITH ENGINE FAILURE – FINISHED 28th
“What I’m taking from this week is that we had a fast car. Unfortunately four laps from the end we lost an engine, which never happens. We’ve had a lot of things go our way over the years and the last couple of weeks, things have not gone our way and that’s just how it goes. So we’ll dig in deep and work hard and get this Lowe’s car back where it belongs.
“We dropped a cylinder and it blew the engine with four (laps) to go. So it was definitely a disappointing way to finish up. We fought so hard all night long and to get track position from multiple issues and then got ourselves up there and were looking at a top five finish and lost the engine. It was very uncharacteristic. Our engine shop is very dedicated and focused on building reliable power. So it must have been a fluke deal.”
ON THE PIT CREW LEAVING THE WEDGE TOOL IN THE CAR AND HAVING TO START AT THE REAR OF THE LEAD LAP
“Yeah, we’ve been stubbing our toe on pit road. We have a great group of young guys that just need some race time to develop. They are true athletes and amazing, amazing guys. They are very talented at what they do, we just need to get them some more race experience and we had a couple of miscues there on pit road. So, we’re all growing as a team and growing them inside of our team. It’s just going to take a little time to get everything right.”
DO YOU STILL LIKE THIS PLACE, CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY?
“I love this place. It will come back and love me one of these days. It was very good to me for a while.”
RICK HENDRICK, OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
“Another 400 fee and he (Dale Earnhardt Jr.,) would have won the race. So it was one of those deals that we had to do it. Dale just did a super job and (crew chief) Stevie (Letarte) called a heck of a race. It was a great race all night. It was the best that the No. 88 has won on a 1.5-mile. So we’ll take it and it was a rough night for the rest of our guys. But I’m real proud of Junior and real proud of Stevie. They did a heck of a job.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET, FINISHED 7TH AFTER RUNNING OUT OF FUEL ON THE FINAL LAP WHILE LEADING:
ON HIS RACE: “Great race car. We should find our fortune here soon if we keep working hard.”
WHAT DO YOU SAY AFTER THAT? “I’m going to have a good time tomorrow. (LAUGHS) Nah, I’m kiddin’. I’m not kidding about that. I’m pretty happy. I was sitting there…I’m disappointed about running out of gas, but we knew we were…we knew we were short. You saw the No. 16 (Greg Biffle) give up the lead. Everybody knew they were short. We were just fortunate enough to get around to the back straightaway and have enough momentum to carry us around to the front straightaway and get a seventh place finish I think, wherever we finished…somewhere in the top-10.
“I’m disappointed, we came so close to winning but, I was sitting there looking at maybe a 20th place finish if we would have run out of gas sooner. I thought those guys wrecked on that restart and that would have brought the caution out before the white and we’d have had to pit. This was probably, in all honesty, the best turnout of events for us besides winning the race. But it wasn’t the car, we just ran out of gas. That is just the way it goes. We will keep working hard. We run good.”
WHEN YOU WERE IN TURN FOUR, DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO RUN OUT OF GAS? “I was already out. I was out on the back straightaway. My car just kept up enough speed it didn’t look like it was out. But, I was out. The spotter is like ‘man, they are comin’, they are comin’ and I’m like I’m just crusin’ here, what am I supposed to do? Get out and pedal this thing with my feet? It was a long race and a really hard race and I haven’t ran good here in a long time. We ran really, really good tonight. Real good and I’m real happy about that. The wins are going to come; we just have to keep working’.”
TEAM-WISE, MOMENTUM-WISE, WHAT DOES THIS DO FOR YOU EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE DISAPPOINTED THERE AT THE END? “Well, I know we are doing a good job. I know we are unloading good cars and the car we unloaded for the Shootout, I didn’t get into the meeting for what our plan was and it wasn’t a good car. So we knew better so we came back with a good car. It showed it and we’re really happy with our effort. These guys just have to lift their heads up man, because we are doing a good thing. We’re building a good team and building good chemistry and they keep their heads up and we’ll keep proving. That’s what is important. If we let this bother us too much, we won’t improve as much as we should. So, we want to win races and we are getting close enough that a couple of them are about to fall in lap and when we get that little extra stint, we’ll be in business.”
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU CAN TASTE IT? “It is a good feeling. it is a real good feeling. I was going around one and two (turns) and T.J. (Majors, spotter) there is seven car lengths, there is eight car lengths. I was like this is a great feeling. I feel like I’m about to win this race. When we ran out of gas, I’d already had my mind geared for that in case that happened so I wasn’t too upset. The crew chief said we ought to be out of gas before that green-white-checkered even happened.”
YOU HAVE ALWAYS SAID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO GIVE YOUR FANS SOMETHING TO CHEER ABOUT AND FEEL GOOD THE NEXT DAY, IS THIS THAT? “To be honest, I know there will be disappointment about coming so close tonight but our fans should be real happy about how we are performing and how we are showing up at the race track. How competitive we are. We’ve definitely improved things and we want to keep getting better and better. I think they are pleased with our efforts and pleased with the results so far this year and I’ll be the first to admit we need more, but this is going in the right direction. I felt like a true front-runner tonight. I’ve felt like that several times this season, but Charlotte is a true test. The 600 is a true test of our team and we performed well all night long.”
I HEARD STEVE LETARTE SAY 500 MORE FEET AND WE WOULD HAVE HAD IT, DESCRIBE YOUR NIGHT. “I believe we needed more than 500 feet. We weren’t supposed to win tonight. We played our hand and those other guys came in. I tried to save a ton of gas but I know I didn’t save enough. I tried to save as much as I could. I’m disappointed we didn’t win. I know all our fans were disappointed to come so close. We were a top-five car. This was our Vegas car and it is really, really good so we will keep taking it to race tracks and running good. We were so fast at the start of the race and once the sun went down we kind of went back. We ran good tonight, I’m proud. I’m proud of my guys and I’m proud of the care we unloaded.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – RACE WINNER
CONGRATULATIONS, ON THE WIN. HOW DO YOU FEEL?
“I tell you what; I’ve got to give a huge credit to all the race team, Gil Martin and all these guys. We started saving gas from lap one when the green flag fell, just hoping that we’d go to the end. I saw those guys up there racing and I knew how close we were on gas but it all worked for our Budweiser Chevrolet. I want to thank all the men and women who have served and are currently serving that give us a chance to do everything we do in this country.”
YOU HAVE LED NINE (9) LAPS AND WON THREE RACES. THAT’S PRETTY INTERESTING.
“Yeah, I mean, you know, it’s just one of those deals I guess. The last two we earned and this one we conserved gas to be around at the end. I can’t stand driving in this place. This is a great facility, great management, great people running it, but it’s just been a race track for me where I’ve struggled every time I’ve ever been here. Yesterday was probably the best day I’ve ever had in the Nationwide car and to be here in Victory Lane says a lot!”
DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS IS THE SEASON THAT FEEL LIKE YOU CAN REALLY GO AFTER THE CHAMPIONSHIP HARD?
“Well, it’s one of those deals like today, when everybody started pitting we said to heck with it. We’re just going to try to save gas and try to get to one pit stop to go by saving gas. And the caution came out with like four or five laps before we were supposed to pit. So heck, it’s just one of those deals where we had enough gas to get to the end and wound up winning the race.”
THIS IS YOUR THIRD WIN WITH A TOTAL OF NINE LAPS LED, HOW ARE YOU CLOSING THESE THINGS THAT WAY? “Today we were lucky. I told them at the beginning of this thing that we haven’t fixed this thing in two weeks, there’s no way we’re going to fix it today. Nothing against this race track I just don’t like racing here. It just doesn’t feel right.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET, FINISHED 8TH:
“I guess you can say the longest race of the season paid off in our favor. We were patient, and crew chief Pete Rondeau made the right calls on the pit box. We had a pretty good car but then a lug nut issue knocked us to the back and it was a battle from that point on. But we kept our cool and didn’t quit fighting for track position. The pit strategy was perfect, which was the main reason we made a pretty good leap near the end of the race. It was a good points day as we continue to fight for a top-20 position in the driver standings.”
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