Charlotte II: Pole winner interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- POLE WINNER ON THE LAP "I don't think we changed anything in any of the runs we went out and ran during practice. It was just a great effort. I'm very proud of Chad (Knaus) and the guys to give me a...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- POLE WINNER

ON THE LAP

"I don't think we changed anything in any of the runs we went out and ran during practice. It was just a great effort. I'm very proud of Chad (Knaus) and the guys to give me a car right off the truck like that and then happy to go out and back it up when it counted in qualifying. The lap was good. I think the track was a little slick compared to what we saw in practice. I think as the temperatures were dropping, the moisture was settling down on the race track. But we still ran a very similar lap to what we did in practice."

YOU RAN THE FASTEST LAP IN PRACTICE AND FASTEST IN QUALIFYING, DO YOU HOPE YOUR COMPETITORS ARE JUST SAYING HERE WE GO AGAIN?

"I hope so. But I don't expect them too off qualifying. It was a good lap, but it's just one. And we've got 500 miles to run. So I think if we can lead a lot of laps, win the race, and something along those lines will send a statement. But qualifying; I know if I was in this situation and Mark (Martin) won the pole, I'd tell myself oh that's just one lap (laughs). He's got to do it for 500 miles come Saturday night. So I don't think it's going to faze guys much. When I look at the performance that we've seen out of the No. 42 (Montoya), and No. 24 (Gordon), and the No. 5 (Martin) nobody's making mistakes. It doesn't seem like the pressure is really bothering anyone right now. So I don't expect tonight's pole run to do that."

AFTER THE PRACTICE LAP, YOU SEEMED PRETTY EXCITED. IS THAT BECAUSE YOU HEARD YOU RAN A 28.05 OR WAS THAT BECAUSE YOU COULD ACTUALLY FEEL THE SPEED YOU HAD IN THE CAR?

"That was all based on sensation. I can't remember, I could be wrong, but I don't think I've gone that fast before. The cool thing about the lap I ran in practice where I said the track had some more grip is I drove outside of my head and just did the stupidest things possible, I thought. And the car was still secure underneath me. I just couldn't believe that I could drive it that hard and it didn't budge. It was unbelievable. To experience that was really, really cool. And then in qualifying I think the grip level changed and the car was sliding around a little bit more but I don't think I've been that fast before."

YOU'VE GONE FOUR YEARS WITHOUT WINNING AT THIS TRACK. HOW MUCH HAS THAT BOTHERED YOU AND DO YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO RECLAIM THAT LABEL OF "YOUR HOUSE"?

"I can't remember how the label came along; if I said it or it was place on me. If I did say it, that's a lesson learned for being cocky because we quit winning after that (laughs). So, I've been saying the old track really suited my style; the abrasive surface and the bumps and all that kind of thing worked well. And when tracks are repaved, it kind of brings the group together and it's a little more forgiving and your set-up doesn't have to be as close. Courage will get you a long way too because there is so much grip. So the last couple of years, we've been competitive but didn't have that advantage. I hope to get it back. It's not that I'm looking to reclaim a title, it's just that I want all the points we can get here. Also since I've won here a bunch, there are some other cool stats that I could hopefully someday surpass what other drivers have done here at this race track. The more I keep racing and win races and have cool things take place, I've become more interested in the sport and stuff like that. Hopefully we can do it."

WHAT'S IT LIKE TO HAVE MARK MARTIN AS A TEAMMATE AND A COMPETITOR?

"Man, there was one year when we were all in that group and we went to Homestead and had a chance for it (the title). I can remember racing with Mark, but this was my real first experience I think, heads-up, this year racing him. He's been in that No. 5 car and his confidence and his abilities have increased the confidence of that race team and you can just see a team that just is rock solid. They'll tell you they're making mistakes, but from my perspective and everyone's perspective, they're so consistent and doing so well that we'd say it's no mistakes. And that's the type of stuff you need to do to win championships. And they just seem rock solid. Mark is not going to make stupid mistakes and unneeded risks. He might not be the guy who is going to push the groove around on the race track or try to bust off the fastest lap right off the truck. But when he sees someone do it, he knows in his heart that he has the skills to do it and he'll go out and do it. It's almost like you don't want him following you in practice because you could show him a line and you might have him by a little bit on laptracker, and you show him how to do something a little different, and he's got it and he can do it. And you're like damn, I wish he wouldn't have followed me (laughs) because now he knows what we're doing. But the battles I've had in the championship from trying to chase Tony (Stewart) down and Kurt (Busch) down, those guys just one-upped us each time. Every time we thought we had them where we needed to, they'd just beat us by a little bit. So, I think that's what you have to do with it being as close as it is. Somebody's going to have to squeak by with a couple of more points here and there to get this championship won."

IN PRACTICE WHEN YOU HAD THAT FAST LAP, YOU COULD HEAR IT IN BOTH YOUR VOICE AND CHAD'S VOICE. ARE YOU GUYS HAVING MORE FUN THIS YEAR? HAS THERE BEEN A TIME WHEN IT WASN'T CLICKING?

"Today, from looking at the lap times and visually just looking at the car, I think Chad could just see the speed and knew that it was really fast. All of us shared in that excitement of what the car was capable of. Over the years there definitely have been ups and downs. In 2005 was the toughest period in time for us. Chasing Tony for the championship I came up short and was frustrated and we had a talk with Mr. Hendrick and went through some things. There are ups and downs and that's what I feel makes our relationship stronger. It's not always perfect and great. He speaks his mind and I speak mine. We fight and do all the things that go with it. But we don't cross certain lines and there is a great deal of respect that we have for one another And I know at the end of the day, he's doing everything he can and he knows I'm doing everything I can and some days you get beat. Some days you don't have it. We've worked through it enough over the years to have a good understanding of each other and have found a way to work together."

DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE THE NORMAL DROP-OFF IN THE SPEED FOR THE RACE OR IS IT GOING TO BE A REALLY FAST RACE AND ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THAT?

"I think it is going to be a faster race. Especially with the cooler conditions. We can run more tape on the nose, the engines are going to run better. Less fall-off on the tire. The track will stay with us longer and not be as slick. It has the potential to be a much faster pace than what we normally see. My only fear with that is that the faster we go, the narrower the racing line becomes. We could see more of a single groove race track. That is only downfall that I could see. It is tough to get a really good reading on things because I didn't run any race runs today and I am not sure how much this tire will fall off. It clearly has a ton of grip for one lap. I mean there is a ton of grip there. Hopefully it does have some fall off and we'll be moving around the race track trying to find other lines."

WITH YOUR PAST CHASE EXPERIENCE HOW MUCH HAVE YOU NOTICED GUYS TRYING TO FOLLOW YOU AND HOW MUCH HAVE YOU TRIED TO FOLLOW SOMEONE YOU MIGHT BE BEHIND TO SEE A LINE?

"It has been helpful for me over the years to follow guys. I can say that it wasn't in the Chase but my first real experience, maybe not real experience, but the largest one in my mind, is following Tony Stewart my second race at Martinsville. First race, man I was terrible and then we broke. Second race he came to lap me early in the event and I followed him for 30 or 40 laps and just following him and figuring the rhythm out and the line and how to enter the corner, where to put the car, just something clicked. I recovered in that race and ran well and since then have been really really competitive there. That is probably the first example that comes to mind for me. Certain guys that have the open mind to explore and to look and follow, other guys are so consumed on the line they are running, they may not look around as much and try things. One guy that I see that is becoming very alert in the car and watching and learning is Juan (Pablo Montoya). I followed him, he was catching me at California last weekend, and I knew I just didn't want to show him what I was doing. I knew he was catching me, I knew he was faster, changed my lines up, he got by me and I could see him running a little different line from what I saw in the mirror. Once I had a big enough gap between where we were, he started running his line again and I got a good look at it. I'm like "Okay, that works". So I can see guys, there are a few guys that are really smart with that. It impresses me with Juan because he doesn't have a dirt background. But I can say guys like Jeff (Gordon), Kahne, Stewart, Newman, guys that have been on the dirt where they are required to find different lines usually explore a lot more. So, it does impress me that Juan is noticing those things.

HAVE YOU SEEN MORE OR LESS MISTAKES FROM JUAN?

"I can say that I have seen less because from my perspective in the car, when you see a mistake, then that is only thing we can tell without seeing the in-car (camera) and all that stuff. So, I've less mistakes, sliding around less and some cases driving away from me so I feel he is managing the car really well."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart