Jimmie Johnson Follows Daytona 500 Win with Runner Up Spot in Subway Fresh Fit 500
AVONDALE, Ariz. (March 3, 2013) – Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, remained hot today as he vied for a second consecutive win in Round 2 of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Phoenix International Raceway. With the finish, Johnson extended his series lead to eight points ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, who finished fifth.
Johnson’s hard-fought battle came up slightly short when the race was settled by a green/white/checkered finish. Although he couldn’t make the pass for the win, Johnson was able to hold off a challenge by Denny Hamlin (Toyota) who finished third.
Earnhardt led the 316-lap race for 47 circuits, but rallied late to score his second straight top-five finish. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, started sixth and finished eighth in a solid run after being involved in an early crash in the season-opener last week at Daytona. After two events, Stewart sits 23rd in the point standings.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet SS was ninth, and Richard Childress Racing driver Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cheerios Chevrolet SS was 10th, giving Team Chevy five of the top 10 in the final order.
Three other Chevrolet drivers finished just outside the top-10. AJ Allmendinger, No. 51 Guy Roofing Chevrolet SS was 11th, Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS was 12th, and Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS was 13th.
Carl Edwards (Ford) was the race winner and Brad Keselowski (Ford) finished fourth, to round out the top five.
The series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week for the Kobalt Tools 400 on Sunday, March 10th.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND:
KRISTI KING: We welcome our second?place finisher Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. Jimmie is currently our points leader by eight points over Dale Jr. Talk about your run out there today and those last few laps specifically.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, definitely a good performance. First pit stop we went with four and nobody else did, and we lost a lot of track position and realized then that the game here, it was going to be a little bit different than what we had expected. That was our last four?tire stop that we made. That was really key to keep track position.
I think we made the car better as the day went on and I know we made it a lot better from yesterday’s practice to today. We are still learning this Gen?6 car and made some good improvements to it. At the end it got a little crazy, especially that last lap. Denny got a huge run, cut the corner down there and cleared us both, but I felt like I still had a chance if I just hung on, on the outside around turns 3 and 4 and I was able to do that and just kind of beat him back to the finish.
Q. Did you expect the Fords to gang up on you there at the end?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn’t even notice the make situation at all, no. I felt like Carl didn’t follow the restart protocol and was slower than the pace car on his last two restarts, and it gives the leader a huge advantage when that happens. You’re supposed to wait until you get between the two lines and take off and this was all going on before it. Outside of that, yeah, that was the only issue that I saw.
Q. How close were you on fuel at the end, and for the last part of that green?flag run before the caution, were you and Carl ?? it looked like you were running all out but I couldn’t tell.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I started at the beginning, Carl got a comfortable lead and I knew how hard it was to pass the leaders so I went into fuel?save mode then and felt like I did a good job early. I’m not sure the 99 did because I’m not sure they were concerned, at least what was being relayed on the radio to me. So I’d say just inside 40 to go, I started trying again and brought the pace up and using more fuel and that kind of stuff, and I got within three car lengths but that’s as close as I could really get to him.
Q. Were you kind of shocked to see Denny suddenly start to appear there beside you or were you keeping up with what he was trying to do dropping low?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: My spotter was all over it. I didn’t expect Denny to get up in front of us like he did. I thought we were going to enter three wide, and I was going to be in the worst spot. The clean line turns away from me, so I was looking out my window, and I could see a lot of the 11. I thought, well, I’m not sure really what’s going to happen here, sure not going to let off, and the 2, gave him some room, and we all rolled in there without wrecking. When I first heard that we were three wide I was pretty concerned that I wasn’t going to have a clean lane to race in.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, we’ll take it one week at a time. That’s a cool stat and I want to keep it alive, keep it going.
Q. Yesterday in Nationwide qualifying I heard Brad Keselowski say on the radio that he would like to beat you to everything including the race to the bathroom, and seeing how you guys raced out there today in the closing laps, coming off of the championship battle last year, do you think that this is going to be an ongoing rivalry between you and Brad for the 2013 season?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Without a doubt, and it’s not just Brad-related. I’m sure Brad has a few others on his radar, and whoever is ahead of him on the track or in the points. But I’m well aware that with the success that I’ve had over the last eight or 10 years that there’s a lot of bull’s eyes on me. I’m kind of afraid to sleep at night sometimes. I know those guys are all gunning for me, and that’s a huge honor, it really is, to have the garage and then the reigning champion thinking that way about me.
Q. It looked really hard to pass the leader out there today. Is that more a factor of this track still being relatively new pavement or is there still some kinks to work out on the new car or a little of both?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It didn’t seem a lot different than other races here to me since the reconfiguration. I don’t think the Gen?6 car has anything to do with it at this point. I think next week in Vegas we have a track that has multiple lanes and we’ll see some great side?by?side racing. The garage area and the teams and owners and the competition side of NASCAR have worked so hard to make these cars equal and we keep changing and jumping through hoops, new chassis, new bodies, new this, new that. The cars are equal and when they’re equal you’re going to have a situation like this. What we need now is the racetracks to consider the asphalt they’re putting down and even reconfigure the lanes so that we have somewhere to race.
Q. The final restart, it looked like you had a little bit of problem on the final restart. Did you, or did it just seem to appear that way?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, you’re supposed to maintain the speed of the pace car, so I maintained the speed of the pace car and the 99 is dropping back. At some point you can’t see the guy to know when he’s going to accelerate, and that’s the goal of the leader. If he can get you looking and get out of your sight and punch it, you never have a chance to recover and that is why the rule states that you’re supposed to maintain pace car speed.
You have the double red and the single red to work whatever you want to inside of there and to go when you want to still give the advantage to the leader of the race. So this was all happening before that, and that’s why I mentioned he didn’t follow the protocol.
Q. This kind of relates to one of the other questions, but in general, what did you think of the Gen?6 car racing today, and do you have any ideas of how it could be improved?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think we have a great product. It’s going to continue to get better. One of the things that we’ve all recognized over the years is the faster we go the narrower track gets the harder it is to pass. Speeds will be up, especially when we get to the mile?and?a?half’s, so with all that being said, I think we need to leave the cars alone for a good 10, 20 years. Let the teams be. Right here on this blacktop there’s a lot of work that can be done to help create better racing and keep the fans in the grandstands.
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