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Mar 30, 2014 - 08:56 PM
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2014 Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR Sprint Cup Post-Race Press Conference
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 30, 2014 - 06:46 PM
NASCAR News
2014 Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR Sprint Cup Post-Race Press Conference


JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, FINISHED 2ND

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS, FINISHED 3RD

KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post‑race for this afternoon's 65th‑annual STP 500, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at Martinsville Speedway, and our second‑ and third‑place finishers have joined us here in the media center. Our race runner‑up is Jimmie Johnson. He drove the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Our third‑place finisher is his teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He drove the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie, certainly contended for the win throughout the day, back and forth with the 41 car over the last 50 or 60 laps. Tell us what happened out there.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just a very strong race car. We unloaded off the truck fast and qualified well and had an awesome car here in the race today. Of course disappointed not to get to victory lane, but there wasn't anything else I could do. Man, I got back by him and I thought that we had control of the race then. I felt like since I hadn't seen him through really any part of the day that he might have me on short‑run speed but he would fall off. He stayed in my mirror and found a way back by me and then got a car length or so on me and did an awesome job. I wish I could have gotten the win here for the 30th anniversary, but I came up a little short, but it wasn't for a lack of effort.

 

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KERRY THARP: Dale, certainly you battled throughout the day, got in a couple of bumps and bruises out there it looked like, but just talk about the race out there today. Certainly was no easy task out there getting around this short track today.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, well, it was pretty easy until the end. You had to just discipline yourself to not use the throttle, and I think we'll have a lot of fun looking at the throttle trace on some of them runs because I was quarter throttle at the max, under the lap I was probably quarter throttle toward the end of them runs, even on the straightaways. There just wasn't no point in mashing the gas any further than that. When guys were faster, I just let them go and just sit there. I was real patient all day in saving the left rear, saving the left rear and just waiting until the end, see where we'd be. We had good track position. Inside of 38 laps to go I thought everybody was going to go like hell, and we all did and ended up running third. I think the two guys in front of me were ‑‑ I was losing my car pretty fast there the last five laps so I didn't have anything else to get there. I got a couple lapped guys gave me the outside instead of the inside. That's their right, but that cost me a little time and maybe some wear and tire on my tires. I thought when we passed the 22 we might be able to roll up there and get in the middle of the race for that win, but no, those guys' cars, they were pretty good.

Q. Jimmie, I think you set a record for lead changes today with 32. Seemed like with you and Kurt the last 20, 30 laps, seemed like exceedingly clean racing. Is that how it felt?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, we were so on edge slipping and sliding. I gave him a little nudge to get inside him, and he came and put some pressure back on me, but it was so slight, honestly the cars were so on top of the track and slipping and sliding you would go out there and push one around with your hand. I think the lack of security in our own car kept us from feeling more racy and putting a bumper to someone or really getting inside someone aggressively. From the minute I would hit the brakes and go into the turn I was turning right and just drifting in there the whole time.

The lack of comfort probably prevented us from racing a little harder.

Q. Dale, I was listening on Fan Vision, and Steve was apologizing during the race that he was reminding you so much about taking it easy and making your stuff last. You mentioned that discipline. Does it help having him in your ear to remind you when you're running 30 or 40 laps that you've got to keep maintaining your speed?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I mean, that's exactly what ran through my mind when he said that, when he was saying I'm probably getting on your nerves, I'm thinking, man, I'm just going to bring it on because I'll be missing this next year. There's nobody like him. I don't expect the next guy to come in there and mimic him or be like him. We'll work that out and communicate like we need to communicate going forward. But yeah, he does a great job of keeping my mind focused on the tasks, and there's several different things you're doing in the car during a run, and you can forget to ‑‑ you can easily get yourself carried away and race a guy and forget taking care of your car and taking care of your left‑rear tire. It's easy to get swept up in the competition of things, and he's good at sort of cheerleading you along the way and running the show. He does a good job on top of the box.

Q. With Stewart‑Haas winning two of the first six races, do you ever look at Rick and go, what were you thinking about bringing them on board as partners?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I don't. You know, I look at it as an opportunity to learn more. I look at it as an opportunity to understand new ideas. It's a good partnership that works both ways.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, totally agree. They're an important part of Hendrick Motorsports in general. We wouldn't be as strong as we are as a company if we didn't have the relationship, either.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I'll say I don't know the crew chief on the 41 that well yet, but it's been a real pleasure being able to communicate with Rodney from the 4 car. You sort of build those relationships throughout the year with those guys, and it all works back and forth.

Q. Did you feel any added pressure going into this week knowing that it was the anniversary of Rick's first win and knowing that it happened at this track?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: You know, Rick has had so much success here starting with the first win, and it's been great to watch Rick have so much success here. It's been awesome seeing the company go to victory lane. It's been great to be a part of understanding how that works and benefiting from it. We run third today because we got great teammates that understand how to get around here and put good cars on the track, and we lean on that. It's been a great experience seeing it happen, and I'm sure that one of us would have loved to have won that race for Rick. We'll get more opportunities to win more races, and I'm just frustrated I've been chasing the clock here for so long. Hopefully one of these days it'll work out.

Q. Dale, you mentioned racing with discipline today. Can you afford to race with less discipline at other tracks like next week, for example?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, when I mean by racing with discipline today, you couldn't run any harder with the wear we had on the tires. You just couldn't afford to. You saw how the 20 car and the 18 car, those guys would run real hard at the lead early in the race, and they set an example for the rest of us to watch out and be easy on that left‑rear tire, and it just goes away like a snap.

I couldn't afford to run any harder if I wanted to be competitive on the end of these runs, and particularly we seen longer runs here than we saw today. None of the runs went past 80 laps, but typically we see a good long run in the middle of the race, and we were just ready for that.

Q. Jimmie, I don't want to be the downer, but over the last couple years for as much as you've won, you've lost a lot of races dominating like today. Are they starting to add up in your mind? Any frustration?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, but thanks for the reminder.

Q. I said I didn't want to be a downer.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I've got to figure something out. Hopefully I'll win a race soon or a championship.

To be truthful, last year I felt like some got away that I definitely had control of and was disappointed in myself on some of that. Some of the stuff circumstances got me, but we left a lot of wins on the table last year for sure.

Today I couldn't have done any more. I just got beat. You're going to have those, too, and you've got to recognize when you get beat and you've got to recognize when you make mistakes, and today we just got beat.

Q. What is the feeling today besides the fact you know you got beat at Martinsville, which you've won here eight times?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's nice to know our cars are good. This track is in the Chase, so we'll come back a lot smarter and try to prevent running second again. You just learn from the situation. I'm not saying there was a mistake today, but you learn from this weekend and carry it forward. This is a brand new car and a lot of stuff to figure out, so I know in the coming months the car's setups will be a lot different, and we'll just keep evolving and try to prevent running second.

Thanks for the hard questions.

Q. Jimmie, a couple years back Kurt was quoted on camera as saying there were 41 cars on the track he would rather lose to than losing to the 48, but you guys obviously had a great race today and it was predominantly clean. Is that indicative of the fact that you two have gotten beyond that point and you're now able to race without any kind of animosity?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, for sure. I think things came to a head at Pocono and then Richmond was shortly thereafter. After the Richmond race we sat down and talked long about things and got through it. Through some of the struggles he's had the last couple years before he landed at Stewart‑Haas, I've been there and kind of advised ‑‑ not necessarily advised, but had conversations with him, gave him my opinion. I was happy to see him go to Stewart‑Haas. He's a fantastic driver, and with the way we share information, we can learn from him and learn from that.

We're definitely in a good place, that's for sure. I think today was very representative of that.

KERRY THARP: Dale and Jimmie, congratulations on a strong run here today and good luck at Texas next week.

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