NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 2, 2011
With Runner-Up Finish Jimmie Johnson Jumps to Fifth in the Standings;
Kevin Harvick Takes Points Lead after Solid 10th Place Run at Dover
DOVER, Del. (October 2, 2011) – With three races of the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint (NSCS) Cup in the books, Jimmie Johnson led the six Team Chevy contenders in the battle for the title with a runner-up finish at Dover International Speedway behind the wheel of his No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet.
The strong run jumped Johnson to fifth in the standings, just 13 points out of the lead and just four points out of third place. The five-time defending NSCS champion led a race-high 157 laps in the AAA 400 at the Monster Mile.
Kevin Harvick once again sits atop the point standings after a solid 10th place finish in the No. 29 Rheem “Chasing the Cure” Chevrolet. Harvick started 22nd in the 43-car field and was credited with leading once for 10 laps.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet finished eighth to give Team Chevy three of the top-10 finishers.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, is now third in the standings, only nine points behind the leader with seven races remaining in the Chase. He battled handling issues throughout the race to be scored 25th at the checkered flag.
Four-time NSCS champion Jeff Gordon powered the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet to 12th in the final finishing order. Gordon is now ninth in the standings, a mere 19 points away from the top spot.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, suffered a setback with a sway bar mechanical failure early in the race; then a loose right front wheel late in the race. He finished 24th and now sits 10th in the standings, 34 points behind the leader.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 U.S. Army ROTC Chevrolet also battled handling issues throughout the 400-lap/400-mile race. He finished 23rd and sits 11th in points, 41 points out of the lead.
Kurt Busch (Dodge) was the race winner. Carl Edwards (Ford), Kasey Kahne (Toyota) and Matt Kenseth (Ford) complete the top five finishers.
The Series moves to Kansas Speedway on October 9 for Round 4 of the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND:
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – CHASE POINT LEADER:
KERRY THARP: Kevin, I know you were up front most of the day, the weather got a little sticky there at times, I’m sure the track conditions changed some, but you’re the points leader coming in here and after the third race, so you can’t really argue with that, can you. Kevin is tied with Carl Edwards for the number of points, but Kevin would get the higher seed due to the tie breaker rules.
KEVIN HARVICK: No, not at all. Obviously we circled this one as a place to come to, to overcome some things, and the guys did a good job today. We were just so loose on two tires, which is kind of backwards from what it should be, but we had to put two tires on there at the end to protect the track position side of it. So all in all it was okay.
Q. How have you circled Kansas, because that’s not a place you’ve had a lot of success, either?
KEVIN HARVICK: You must look at a different stat sheet than I do. We have run really well there the last few times and I think we should be fine.
Q. Looking for your first win, I guess is what I’m saying.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, if you’re looking for wins; you know, right now we are looking for a championship so whatever we have got to do to fight through that is what we’ll do. Obviously you need to run good at all of them. You can run bad at any of them to tell you the truth but Kansas has been a place where we have been pretty solid.
Q. Coming into Dover it’s usually pretty hot out there, how did it feel with the weather, and the rain through the cautions probably didn’t help too much, but as far as temperature goes inside.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, inside the car, obviously cool days are great for us. But I think I would rather have had a hotter day than today, just because I felt like our car was better in practice when temperatures were warmer. It seemed like the groove that I was running in practice really wasn’t there for us today because our car was too loose.
So, you know, it was good for inside the car but not great for the handling conditions of our Rheem Chevrolet.
Q. I think 11 points changes during the first 26 races; why does it seem like more this year than maybe in the past?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the competition level is so even. I don’t think you’re going to see anybody come in here and dominate like you have before, as far as just taking off and running away. You’re going to be consistent and solid and it’s just a matter of keeping yourself in it until you get to the last couple of races and if you can keep yourself in contention, hopefully you’ve eliminated most of the other guys in the Chase.
Q. The new points system this year, do you think that plays a factor in how you look at the competition, seeing, wow, they are only two back or five back or the Top 5 or ten back or something like?
KEVIN HARVICK: It’s definitely easier to add up.
I think the points system definitely has changed the complexion of having a bad day. I think when you have a bad day, it hurts you worse than it had in the past. Maybe it just seems that way, but it also seems like if you can win some races, you can make up ground fairly quick and get up front and get the bonus points and the things you need to do.
A lot of those guys that were pretty far back, that everybody thought were pretty far back had a pretty great day today and won’t seem that far back anymore. You just have to take it one week at a time and I would much rather be sitting on top of the points three weeks in than sitting 12th. So we’ll just keep at it.
KERRY THARP: Only 15 points separate the top eight; 15 points separate the top eight drivers.
Q. Did anything surprise you from the way this race went, the other competitors, Jimmy being strong, Carl being up there; did anything surprise you today?
KEVIN HARVICK: You look at this racetrack, obviously the 48 has had a lot of success here and the 18 has had success and the 99 has had success. So it’s been a good racetrack for those guys, and obviously not a super strong racetrack for us. But we felt like we had been solid over the last couple of years not to win the race but solid enough to get decent finishes and get out of here.
KERRY THARP: Thank you so much and congratulations on taking over the points lead and we’ll see you at Kansas. Thank you.
Our race runner up is Jimmie Johnson, five-time NASCAR Sprint such series defending champion and Jimmie comes back with a strong second place finish here today. And talk about that, Jimmie. You certainly had a car that could you had a race winning car and certainly you were strong and a tired day and certainly one of those tracks you feel like you needed to excel at that.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Obviously a great day for us, to lead that many laps and to have great stops on pit road across the board, very, very strong effort. Wish that we could be one spot better but I just did not get two good restarts at the end of that thing and cost myself.
So all in all, though, exactly what we needed. We needed to run in the top three here at one of our better racetracks, and mission accomplished.
KERRY THARP: After today you are in fifth place, just 15 points out of the lead. So you made up a lot of ground today here at Dover.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Are we out of it? Last week I was considered done.
KERRY THARP: Jimmie, you are never out of it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just making sure, Kerry.
Q. Coming here to Dover for a third race in the Chase, do you think that plays into the factor of how the Chase shakes out; when you won your past championships and prior years past, it was the second race; do you think it makes a difference or it benefitted you more that it’s the third race in the Chase?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don’t think it really matters to be honest with you. When I looked at the schedule, with Atlanta not being in the Chase, that’s been a tough track for us to consistently run well at and Chicago has been a more consistent track. My focus was more on the Chicago Atlanta switch. Didn’t really matter to know. I was happy to that I was in the Chase; that Dover was in the Chase.
Q. You mentioned the last two restarts, and Kurt looked like in a pro stock the way he took off; was that a case of him being so much better or you not hitting your mark right?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I did a really good job, up until those last two. I have to say, when you’re the leader, you have a small advantage, because you go when you want. I blew it by spinning the tires. Kurt got a good launch, and we were door to door going into one, and he was able to get by on the outside.
And then the next one, I was going to try to do that same thing back to him, and I was just trying to time it when he was going to accelerate. And I didn’t time it right. And I had too big of a gap, and fell in behind him going into turn one.
I put it on me, because the starts I had earlier in the day, regardless of the lane, leading or not yard guys, I cleared them typically going into one so, it’s on me.
Q. The two of you have had really very similar seasons, both of you have won one time and won once, and both of you could have run a number of other races. The regular season is sort of graded on a curve for the Chase, but the Chase is just a system that rewards consistency. Have either of you ever had seasons when you have actually been more consistent?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Is that a brain teaser? You’re making me think, man.
Q. Tony Stewart complains that we don’t make him think and now you complain that we do.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Laughing).
Q. Are you proud of your damn consistency?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think that the year that we raced Jeff for the championship, I know in the Chase, at least, we won a lot of races. I feel like that was maybe my most consistent year. I don’t know how the regular season was.
But you know, victory lane, there’s nothing like it. I wish that especially in the first 26, the consistency wasn’t there, but we went to victory lane more; would have been a better regular season for me.
Q. We have seen in the first three races, a pattern of you being up there, contending for top five finishes in Chicago, you run out of gas the final lap. You go to New Hampshire, you were on track for a top ten finish and you struggle with Kyle Busch’s contact in the final laps, and then here, it looked like you led the most laps, you’re in contention to win, and then you end up finishing second. Do you feel like you’ve left a lot of points on the table the first three races and do you look back and say, oh, that’s going to hurt me down the road? Or are you confident with the speed you’ve shown in the first three races and you’re saying, okay, I feel like I’m in good position for the final seven.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I look at it and say we left points on the table. New Hampshire, for sure all three of them, absolutely, without a doubt. Not getting the restart I needed today at the end, that’s on me and no one else.
Definitely. This Chase is so tough to know what it’s going to take, and I just we look at the 14 car, and what he did in the first two races and then the struggles they had today. I think it speaks to how tough these ten races are going to be and how you think somebody is on fire and the fire can go out.
So we’ll just keep fighting hard. I hate leaving points on the table, and we have these first three.
Q. You both (Carl Edwards) talked about essentially mistakes that you made today that prevented you from winning. How do you get over that? How long does that take? What’s that process in moving forward?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: If I was Carl, I wouldn’t get over that mistake.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I maybe wouldn’t show up next week.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Laughing). Not sure we answered your question.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely, giving up a win by not getting a good restart; I’ll think about it tonight. And certainly disappointed in the fact that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity I had up front.
But finishing second, big picture wise, we’ll take it. It’s not the end of the world, but the mistake’s on me.
Q. Did you say that maybe you had something on one of your tires on that restart? And also, can were you concerned at all just restarting against Kurt Busch and knowing if you had contact, then, oh my gosh, this could lead to other stuff?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, it didn’t cross my mind at all. It was just another guy to race, another car to worry about fighting for the win with. I didn’t think twice about Kurt being out there.
We raced hard and clean and did what we both needed to on the track, so that’s a good thing. Coming around to get the green, there’s a lot of rubber chunks laying around and I picked up a piece of rubber and I could feel it on the tire kind of thumping as I was coming around. It could have been on the rear. I think it might have, but I didn’t want to climb out of the race car saying, I had stuff on my tires and that’s what messed it up. I should have done a better job of cleaning my tires and worked harder to get it off. Whatever it is, it’s still on me.
But I did feel like I had a little pick up there right before I went to the gas are for the start itself.
Q. How glad are you guys that it wasn’t a mileage race today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Very glad. Very happy that it wasn’t. Racing, worrying about that stuff, it has not been our strong suit but it’s an area we are working hard to get better in and happy to know it didn’t come down to that.
KERRY THARP: Jimmie, thank you and good luck at Kansas.
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