Talladega II: 2nd, 3rd, points leader press conference

Talladega Superspeedway October 31, 2010 An interview with: KEVIN HARVICK - 2nd place finisher JUAN PABLO MONTOYA - 3rd place finisher JIMMIE JOHNSON - Points leader KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post race here at Talladega Superspeedway.

Talladega II: 2nd, 3rd, points leader press conference

Talladega Superspeedway
October 31, 2010

An interview with:
KEVIN HARVICK - 2nd place finisher
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA - 3rd place finisher
JIMMIE JOHNSON - Points leader

KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post race here at Talladega Superspeedway. Our third-place finisher is our Coors Light polesitter, Juan Pablo Montoya.

Juan, talk about the race out there. Certainly it's a race that features a lot of different ebbs and flows, but talk about you were able to get back up there towards the front towards the end.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We tried to lead a lap early. The plan was to run 90 laps on the back. At least my plan. We ran into lap 60, got a caution. Nobody really wanted to run in the back. I said, I'm not going to run back here, back of the pack, so I went to the front. From there, pretty much ran top five all day.

KERRY THARP: Let's take questions for Juan.

Q: Juan, take us through the last three or four laps. You got behind Bowyer on lap 186, pushed him to the front. Can you walk through how you set that up.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: There's no setup. You know, it's what it is. You know you got to hook two cars up. At that point I was the pusher. You know what I mean? I couldn't really wait for the guy behind me to push me. It made sense to try to win the race.

The best chance I had to win the race was push Bowyer up front, when we got to the line, try to make a move.

I've been twice here, I've been running second or third, whatever. Every time you're there, a caution comes out on the last lap. If you make a move, then it doesn't come out and you finish 20th (laughter). It's what it is.

KERRY THARP: Juan, thank you.

Let's go to our second-place finisher in today's race, Kevin Harvick. Certainly just a stellar performance bringing that wounded racecar up to the front.

KEVIN HARVICK: Our guys did a great job. We got a little nose damage when the 47 slid across us. The cap came off the front. It had a big dent in front of it.

When it came down to the restart, I thought we were in better shape than we would have been just letting it play out. I knew the 00 was a good pusher behind me. I just got myself attached to the 56. I saw cars start peeling away from the front of him. I could feel him hitting the front of his car into my car. You know, it was one of those deals where it was time to go. You just got to keep pushing and hope for the best there.

Cool that it came down to myself and Clint. We didn't know who won. I knew that we had beat him to the start/finish line, but I didn't know when the caution had come out.

Great day for RCR, great day for our points position. We're headed to Texas.

KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.

Q: Kevin, I know it's every man for themselves out there. There was so much talk about how Toyota was going to work together to help Denny, they wanted this championship. Were you surprised to see the 00 push Denny's main competition?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, main competition, I don't know. Maybe as we creep closer, we might be.

It's hard when you line all those cars up at the end. There was a couple times, with 30, 40 laps to go, I pushed Clint all the way up there, kind of got detached, I got a hole. He was up. That's just part of it.

When you get down to the end, I mean, unless you're just going to let off, I just don't think that's in many natures that sit behind the wheel of these cars. You have to just push whoever's in front of you and go for it.

I'm sure that the 00 was thinking the same thing that happened in the spring, if he can wind up second coming into the tri-oval, he's going to have a good chance to win the race. At that point it's all about winning the race and seeing where it falls after that.

Q: You did not seem perturbed about the front end damage from the time it happened till now. In the end, that split second when y'all crossed the loop over there and Clint was a little bit ahead, in the end did your front end damage make the difference in the outcome here?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we drove up there and drove by those guys. My car probably wasn't as fast as Clint's. Definitely I was probably impeding the progress a little bit compared to that group. So it definitely didn't help. But we still were able to get up in the right position with the 00 behind us.

You knew it was going to come down to, especially after the restart, whoever got the breakaway there.

Q: You said you beat the guys you needed to beat. Is it really a lot easier to lose even to a teammate when you've beaten the guys you need to beat in the points race?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, about six inches and we would have won every Speedway race there was this year. It's just one of those deals where we've won a few by a few inches and we've lost a few. It's hard to complain because you can wind up on the wrecker pretty easy.

Happy we kept the trophy at RCR. If you're going to lose to somebody, it's good to lose to your teammates and keep the trophy and the money in the right house.

Q: What goes through your mind when you have somebody come across you and your car gets damaged? How long after you got back on the track did you know it was going to be okay?

KEVIN HARVICK: When I saw him start to spin, I didn't want to spin out. I didn't want to come back up the racetrack. I didn't want to spin backwards and have a chance of getting in the wall.

He just kind of rolled across the nose. I was able to just kind of not keep hitting him. I was able to just kind of go back on the gas and push him off of me. That was the best way I knew at that point to minimize the damage on the nose.

After that, the hood wasn't wrinkled up. I didn't see any fender damage. I knew I had flat spotted a couple tires. My main concern was not popping the tires. We came right into pit road. The dent in the front was the biggest problem we had. The cap blew off on one of those restarts.

Did a great job fixing it. Got the fenders pulled out. As long as we were in the middle of the pack, we were fine.

Q: Now you, Jimmie and Denny are right on top of each other. Three races left. How do you see this thing playing out? Can you beat the guy sitting beside you?

KEVIN HARVICK: I really think it's -- one of the three guys is going to finish in the top five overall over the last three races. If you're not able to do that and be in contention to lead laps, you're probably not going to win the championship. You can't be conservative. You can't go there hoping for a top 10 because, as you've seen over the past few years, top fives, leading the laps is what it's going to take over the next three weeks. I just believe it's one of three cars that is going to do that and hopefully we can keep pace.

Q: How do you feel about giving yourself that opportunity?

KEVIN HARVICK: I feel good about the last three tracks. We run good here, about you just never know what's outcome can be like. We've ran well at all the last three tracks. Hopefully we can continue that progress as we go over the next three week.

KERRY THARP: We're also joined by Jimmie Johnson. He's still our current points leader, finishing seventh today.

Jimmie, your comments about how things unfolded for the 48 team.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, all in all, great day. I mean, we had a strategy. Stuck to our game plan. In the end, I had a shot at winning the race, which is what we were after. Unfortunately, the 24 felt like he had an engine problem developing once we got to the front, kind of pulled out of the way so he wouldn't blow an engine in front of me or the field. In the end, he was pumping some oil out and didn't have an engine problem.

It didn't necessarily hurt our race at that point, but I wish that he still had been up there in the pack because we were working so well together.

Where things kind of went wrong for us was on that restart. Things must have shuffled around behind the 77. The 77 and I were the only ones in the middle lane, which was the outside lane at the restart. The inside lane was well-organized. The outside lane, I think Kevin and some of those guys were hooked up and motoring on by.

At that point we were just trying to get back up in there for a decent finish. On my way sliding backwards, I found the 24 again. He pushed me. We made our way up through the center. I got up into the top 10.

Not a bad finish. We'll take it. As Kevin was saying, it's going to be an awesome championship battle all the way to Homestead. I'm really looking forward to it.

KERRY THARP: We'll open it up again for questions for Kevin and Jimmie.

Q: Jimmie, talk about the stress level that you felt today, not only holding back for so long, but in the closing laps you were in the middle of a hornet's nest.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, since we were riding in the back, I felt like our odds were better to avoid a crash. You've always got to be a little concerned about losing the draft, which happened to the 11 at one point, be on top of that.

I really didn't have much stress. I don't know what it was today at all. But from the moment I woke up to driver intros, getting in the car, I just didn't have a lot of concern today, which was nice not to overstress things, be more in tune with kind of the flow of the race, what was going on.

Did a very good job of staying at the tail end of the pack, not being in a position to fall off the end.

At the end when you come around with two or three to go, you're in the hornet's nest. At that point it's cool. I really I would like to be in it all day long. It's more fun to race like that. If you wreck with two or three to go, that's it, that's fine. But if you wreck on lap one or two, that's kind of a bummer.

It was a low-stress day for me for the most part.

Q: Jimmie, in the past going in the last three races of the year you've had one guy chasing you. Now you have two. How does that change the dynamic for you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me we've always really approached each race with the mentality that we needed to win. You can go back to the Texas race a few years back where I worked hard to get by Matt. We've been able to win at Phoenix. Our Homestead performance has been getting better and better each year. I felt last year we had a chance to run with the lead group of guys and didn't need to, played it smart.

It's really the same mentality. We need maximum points. Of course, it's a little bit more forgiving or easy on your team and yourself with a big points lead. But we don't have that this year. We're going to have to race, and we're ready for it.

Q: Kevin, what was going through your mind sitting in the apron by the start/finish line and saw Clint doing his burnouts? Did you think he was trying to influence NASCAR's decision there?

KEVIN HARVICK: No, I was just waiting. You know, it was so close because we didn't know where the caution had come out. I was pretty confident that I beat him to the start/finish line. But you just never know where the caution flew. Heck, I honestly didn't even know the caution was out until halfway through turns one and two. They probably told me on the radio. But at that point you're so in tune with what's going on, trying to focus on when you got a guy behind you pushing you. You got to hold the wheel straight.

So it was just one of those deals where, like I say, we've won some that way and we've lost some that way. When you come here and your car is still rolling, we're definitely not going to complain about finishing second. Sure, it would be nice to win. But it's a great day for RCR.

Q: Denny said he believes one of you three are going to have to win a race or two in these last three. That's the only way you're going to get separation. Do you agree with that? Do you believe it's going to take a win to get any kind of separation?

KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, for me it's all about not making a mistake. I think if you make a mistake, obviously there's three guys, of those three everybody's not going to make a mistake. You're going to have to run in the top five and have a chance to win, in my opinion.

Forcing it usually leads to mistakes. So if it happens, it happens.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The only thing I would add to that is the only way you'll really get separation with three to go, three teams involved, is two of the guys having bad luck, having something go wrong. I don't think we're going to get separated by much. I think it's going to be a small margin all the way to the end.

Q: With the exception of a couple relatively minor incidents today, it was a relatively clean race. No giant wreck like there always is here. What kept you guys on relatively good behavior throughout the race? Does it mark some kind of philosophy change in racing here?

KEVIN HARVICK: I really think that everybody's just gotten better at the bump-drafting and maneuvering their cars. I think you could kind of see it in practice, the way it was going to be, there were going to be less cautions. I think a lot of the guys in the back kind of realized after the beginning after the 11 lost the pack, a lot of guys riding around in that last group, the 1 and 42 were up there racing.

It just had that feel of gonna be a clean race. I've only been a part of one of 'em. But we did run a whole race here several years ago that never even had a caution. So it happens. It has happened here. Obviously with the bump-drafting and everything, the reason it -- it didn't seem tamer inside the car, it just seems like everybody is better at it.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Didn't we have a big one at the end? Didn't we finish under caution? Just wondering if I was at the same track at everybody else (smiling).

Q: Jimmie, you've said all along for the last three or four weeks, Let's get through Talladega and with three to go I'll develop a strategy. What is your strategy now?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: All out. We need to be as competitive and as fast as we can possibly be at this point. We're going to three tracks that are good for all three competitors. As Kevin as saying earlier, you're going to have to run in the top five to stay in the game. Then obviously take advantage of things and win if you can.

10 extra points from first to second are going to be important. Leading laps, leading the most laps, you're going to have to be on your A game from here on out.

Q: Three great teams. Any one guy have an advantage?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think so at this point.

KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, we've gone through seven races, and you can throw a blanket over the three of us. It's really going to just come down to dotting the Is, crossing the Ts, keeping that performance level where it needs to be. If you go to one of those three tracks, if it's your off week, you're in trouble.

Q: Jimmie, I know you said it was a non-stressful day. Was there any extra thought because this is the first time you raced here at Talladega since becoming a dad? Did that at all weigh on you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, no. My little girl was dressed as an angel today, so I was hopeful that that brought some good luck. Everybody else was wearing scary costumes. I had a halo and wings on my little girl before the race. I hope that brought us some good luck.

Q: Jimmie, if at the beginning of the Chase somebody was to tell you after seven races it would be this tight with two drivers, would you have picked Denny or Kevin as those two guys?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah. The way the 29 ran through the first 26, I would definitely have picked the 29. I mean, a lot of people argued the point that us and the 11 were kind of out of sorts when the Chase started. I think inside the garage area, we all expected the 48 and the 11 to be where they needed to. We ran good the last couple races to show that before the Chase started.

These guys have been so consistent all year, didn't matter if it was a short track, big track, superspeedways. I'm not surprised to be racing these two.

Q: Kevin, when it comes to you and Denny, no offense to Jimmie, but he's won four in a row, there seems to be at least some fans who are going, Somebody get up there and beat this guy. It looks like the two of you will have at least some extra fans in those final three races. Your thoughts?

KEVIN HARVICK: No offense to him, but somebody else needs to win.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Says who (laughter)?

KEVIN HARVICK: Everybody but them wants somebody else to win. I like Jimmie as good as anybody. But for the sake of the sport, one of the two of us needs to make something happen. I can promise you that (laughter).

But, you know, when these guys have done what they've done over the last four years, the Chase started, they're right back on track, it was important for the two of us as teams, speaking of the 29 and the 11, to go out and knock those top fives off and not make any mistakes. When you go back and look at the stats over the last four years, top 10s do not cut it. You got to be in the top five and being up front every week. It's the same pace that he's had this year, it's just the two of us have done a lot of the same things.

You know, it's important to continue to do that over the next three weeks.

Q: Kevin, you run a full lap without knowing who wins. That's 15 extra points sitting there. What was that like for you waiting on that decision?

KEVIN HARVICK: I just waited. I mean, there's no reason to worry about the things you can't control. You go up and you wait. They make the call. Doesn't stress me out at all. Just part of it. You just go along with the flow. You take the points as you can get them.

15 points is great. But they weren't ours. It was just a good day for us.

Q: Jimmie, the last four years you've gone to Homestead and you didn't have to win. Do you think that's going to change this year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's the way I'm going to prepare for it. The way it's gone, I better be prepared for that. If I'm not, then we aren't doing our jobs. The last couple years down there, we have made sure that we had pace in our car and speed. Last year we won the pole, finishing sixth. Ran good, had a strong night being conservative.

I feel like coming to Homestead, we need to race for this thing, which I'm pretty confident we're going to have to, that we'll have a good shot at it.

Q: Kevin, did we ever figure out where exactly the last loop where they actually said, This is the snapshot?

KEVIN HARVICK: I would assume it didn't go to a loop. I would assume it went to video.

KERRY THARP: I believe it was video, but I'll confirm that.

KEVIN HARVICK: They usually sync the video with the caution lines. Probably didn't come to a loop. Usually it goes to video at that point.

Q: Kevin, Gil said that one of your tires was flat by the time you got in. Did you know it was flat? If it had gone green, do you think you would have been able to keep your position?

KEVIN HARVICK: Didn't know anything about it, so it didn't bother me. It must have been flat coming in or something. I don't think it was flat as we were going along.

Q: Kevin, what is the tape that goes on the front? What is that?

KEVIN HARVICK: It's Bear Bond. A sticky patch they put on there with like glue. They put, what do you call it, green tape over the edges to keep the edges of the bond to stay down. Just realistic can I glue basically on the tape.

KERRY THARP: Got the official points for the top three now. Jimmie has a 14-point lead over Denny Hamlin and a 38-point lead over Kevin Harvick going to Texas.

Guys, great show today. Good luck this weekend at Texas.

-source: nascar

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