CONCORD, NC – October 13, 2012 – Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson, led the way for Team Chevy with a third-place finish in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Fuel management was key in the 334-lap race and Johnson put his No. 48 Mylowe’s Chevy in fuel-save mode during the final laps, a move that aided Johnson in closing the gap on series point leader Brad Keselowski (Dodge). Johnson sliced his 14-point lead in half, and is now just seven (7) points shy of Keselowski, who finished 11th.
Round five of 10 in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup saw Clint Bowyer (Toyota) in Victory Lane. Denny Hamlin (Toyota) finished second, Greg Biffle (Ford) was fourth, and Kyle Busch (Toyota) rounded out the top five.
Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate and fellow Chase contender Kasey Kahne, piloted the No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet to an eighth-place finish; followed by defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, who was 13th in his No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy.
Other Team Chevy Chase contender Kevin Harvick, fought handling problems in his No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet and finished the 500-miler in 16th position while Jeff Gordon, was caught a lap down for speeding on pit road in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, he finished 18th.
It was also a disappointing night for Regan Smith, temporary substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is sitting out two races with a concussion, when the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy experienced engine failure on lap 61.
The next race on the tour will be at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, October 21, 2012.
POST RACE NOTES AND QUOTES:
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 MYLOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED THIRD ON HIS RACE:
“I did a good job (saving fuel). We started saving double the distance, so I knew we were going to be fine. We were just being really cautious. We didn’t want to go up there and chase the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin), and get ourselves in trouble. We’re getting a lot better at this fuel mileage racing. It is a tough thing to do. We’ve worked hard to get it right. We’re still not the best car out there at it, but we’re making it work week-in and week-out. It’s part of the game right now for whatever reason. Happy to have this MyLowes car third, and glad to gain some on the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) car. We’ll go to the next one. This thing is still wide open for anybody.”
WHAT A ROLLER COASTER RIDE, HOW FRUSTRATING IS IT TO WANT TO RACE AND HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT FUEL MILEAGE?
“It’s a tough way to race for sure, but I’m happy that as a group and a team, we’ve figured out how to get better at fuel mileage racing. It’s something that we didn’t have in our repertoire for a lot of years. So, I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made; that I’ve made in the car. My driving style just eats up fuel. Making good changes, and playing the game the way it needs to be played right now, and closed in a little bit on that No. 2 car.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET – FINISHED 13TH
AN ISSUE EARLY ON PUT YOU WAY BACK IN 36TH. WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE?
“That’s what I’d like to know too. I was following the ‘2’car (Brad Keselowski) there and he had to check up big time, for whatever was going on in front of him. Man, I drilled him. And the further back you were, the worse it made it. It really screwed up the nose of our racecar, but I’m really proud of our guys. This Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy was pretty good. That’s the best we’ve been here for a while. I’m proud of the effort of these guys. I thought we might get a top-10 out of it tonight, but I’ll take this. It’s a lot better than we were in the spring.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 MYLOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 3RD
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
KERRY THARP: Let’s roll right into our post-race for tonight’s 53rd annual Bank of America 500 here at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and our third-place finisher in tonight’s race and that’s Jimmie Johnson. He drove the No. 48 Mylowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie is now second in points, seven points behind Brad Keselowski. Jimmie, talk about your run this evening at Charlotte.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Went in a bunch of circles, and we’re done, and I made it on fuel.
Q. How did you think the team performed out there tonight?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, it’s just weird running so long, saving fuel like we had to at the end, and the two segments’ worth. But there’s some tracks and some conditions where that’s just the game you have to play. The thing I’m excited about is that we’re now as a 48 car, myself as the driver, able to do that when needed.
We’re still learning. We don’t have the confidence just yet that we see the 2 car show in some situations how hard they can run, but we finished two fuel mileage races here and stretched it much further than we have in years past.
I feel like we’re becoming a stronger race team in that department. We had speed tonight. It was pretty cool to see the 2, the 11 and the 48 running 1, 2, 3 through a large portion of the night, and then with two stops to go, the opportunity developed, stayed green, and just arguing with yourself lap after lap how hard to go, how much fuel you’re using, then you’re wondering if you used too much or not enough. It’s just a big head game. That’s why I was giving you a hard time when I started.
Q. If you’re even aware, what goes through your head when you see the points leader run out of gas?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Live by the sword, die by the sword (laughing). I saw him; he was going down the back and had a lot of speed, so I figured he was going to be fine. I don’t know how much it hurt him at the end of the day. But he was still rolling pretty quick.
I don’t know, I’ve been doing this long enough, too, when you see something happen, in your mind you’re like there’s an opportunity and before you know it happens to you. I still had a few laps to go. I wasn’t really having bad thoughts or too excited seeing him run out because I didn’t want to run out myself.
Q. A couple of things: You took two tires earlier in the race, and it seemed like that wasn’t the move to make. Could you talk about your feelings about that call and what it did to the car as far as what you all had hoped you would get out of that? And also, you were involved in a restart with Greg Biffle when it was three wide. Is that just something that we’re seeing in the Chase because you’re only going to get so many chances to get out front and you’re going to take more chances?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. I think what hurt me more than anything was being in that three-wide situation and the car in the middle usually is in a bad spot. Once we got through 1 and 2 and those two guys went around, I felt like my car was decent, and then I was trying to shut the door on the 55 into Turn 3 and I think there was a little contact and it shot me up the track, and I lost another chunk of real estate at that point.
I think my lap times were competitive but just couldn’t go anywhere. I lost the track position. I don’t think the call was a bad call, I just didn’t get a good restart, and I’m real shocked that Greg got to my outside as fast as he did. Denny and I were side-by-side trying to get up through the gearbox. I think he lagged back and left a good gap and rolled up on me pretty hard to do that.
Just one of those things. He was able to pull that off and get away with it. Normally you get in trouble if you leave a big gap like that and roll up on the guys.
Q. Can you just kind of talk and assess where you’re at right now in the Chase and your thoughts overall about how you feel about where you’re at?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel great, and I think that we see three very equal teams and cars, and teams and cars that are showing up at the racetrack ready to go each week. This has been a lot of fun. I think we’re probably at the halfway point now, to have us three this tight, the good, hard competitive racing, the respect for one another, I’ve had a lot of fun over these five races and I know the next five will be great, too.
Q. You kind of made light of the fact that it wasn’t that big a deal out there when you first came in, but how unusual is it that you got a top-three finish in a fuel-mileage race?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, I think at Phoenix in like ’09 we finished a race and actually won on fuel somehow. Every other attempt we’ve come up short and been out. I certainly think of Michigan, multiple times at Michigan running out, Chicago comes to mind, as well. It’s just really not our deal. We all have the same stuff at Hendrick clearly with all six cars including the Haas cars, and it’s amazing to look how good Tony does even when they’re full rich qualifying runs. He gets so much better gas mileage than I do, and I guess I drive the car a lot more with my foot and the throttle and use more fuel as a result.
I’m the worst out of our group. Within the race there’s a lot of little victories here that we’ve got our tough better from the car standpoint than when it’s time to save fuel. I’m trying to retrain myself here and in general use it so that I always have that working in my favor. But I still have my habits, and I’ve got to really talk myself through that lap after lap.
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