Chicagoland: Pole winner interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Bud Pole Winner, posting a new track record: (ON THE RUN) "I've been pretty critical on myself about my qualifying capabilities and I know Chad (Knaus, crew chief) has too. We're known ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Bud Pole Winner, posting a new track record:

(ON THE RUN)

"I've been pretty critical on myself about my qualifying capabilities and I know Chad (Knaus, crew chief) has too. We're known to race better than qualify. In our rookie year we had three poles. Last year we won a few. It's been slowing down, unfortunately. A lot of the season has gone by and we haven't won a pole. There were weeks when I felt like we had a shot at it but didn't get it done. I felt so good in practice about the car, and then to back it up on the track in qualifying and take the No. 12 (Ryan Newman) off the spot means a lot to me and to the team. We're working hard to get our cars sorted out. We've been competitive and leading laps and able to win races. But we're trying to use our heads and get things developed and have things right and we've got nine more. All the money is on the line and that's what we're preparing for."

(ON SUNDAY'S RACE)

"Race-wise, we should be good. I don't think that the qualifying speeds will translate to exactly what you see on the track for performance in the race. If we had to throw a cover on them and line them up and race on Sunday, I'm feeling really good right now and I think we're going to be great (Iaughs). We have tomorrow's extra practice, it allows us to mess up our car and other guys to make their cars better. But I really feel we'll do good. We've learned some things over the past few weeks and things seem to be coming together right now."

(HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN YOUR DIFFICULTIES IN QUALIFYING AND HOW IT'S DIFFERENT TODAY?)

"If I honestly knew what was going on, I would fix it. Over time, I've formed my own opinion and I believe there is a different feel that you need in a car to race it and have it be fast over an entire tire run versus one lap that's real fast. My style and Chad's style is always on the race. That's always been our mindset. That's been a big part of it. The car feels fast to me, but I'll qualifying 15th and I don't understand it. But I'm typically loose and we leave some on the table from that. And that's what you need in the race. And then as the run wears on, the cars naturally tighten up and it comes to you. I think it's been more style to Chad and I both."

(DID JEFF GORDON INVITE YOU TO GO ON THAT TRIP TO WRIGLY FIELD IN MAY? IT SEEMS LIKE HE'S HAD BAD LUCK SINCE THEN)

"I never thought of it like that. He didn't invite me. For some reason, I think he didn't think anybody was going to see him sing, but evidently everybody in the world did. So, I don't now if that's exactly why he's had bad luck, but the black cloud found him at Wrigley 'stadium' as he called it and it's not finally left after last weekend."

(DID YOU HOLD YOUR BREATH DURING YOUR QUALIFYING RUN?)

"No, my car was great. It really was stable and comfortable and drove great for me. It was one of those days where everything was right. I've had some difficult cars to drive lately. This was the first one that was really nice and smooth. I could lean on it and beat it up, but be rewarded for it whereas most times when you're leaning on it you're out of control and losing time. But today it paid off."

(WHY DO YOU THINK RYAN NEWMAN AND THE NO. 12 TEAM IS SO STRONG IN QUALFIYING?)

"The only thing I can come up with is that it fits Ryan's style and his team's style. It's just the way they work. If you look at Bobby Labonte at the end of the race he's going to be there and be in position. I know that with Mark Martin as well. I think Ryan's style just blisters laps. I think I've got more of a slower approach for whatever reason and it pays off for me over the long haul. So I really think it's just a style thing. I know Ryan is working hard to win races and doing everything he can there. But their times are just unstoppable in qualifying. That's why it means so much for me today to knock him off."

(ARE YOU SO FOCUSED ON THE FEEL FOR SUNDAY THAT YOU DON'T WANT ANYTHING CLOSE TO THAT DURING QUALIFYING?)

"That's exactly what I was trying to say. There's just a feel that I look for and that feel pays off in race trim. It's not always the fastest in qualifying trim, and maybe Ryan's feel is exactly what it needed for qualifying but in the race run sometimes it doesn't pan out for him. I've worked hard to get better at qualifying. This weekend it's paid off."

-gmracing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Ryan Newman , Mark Martin