Daytona 500: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from ...

Continued from

He pursued the open wheel world. Had a lot of success there. Made it to the top, was driving in the Champ Car division. We'd see each other maybe once a year, maybe every other year. He called me one year and said, "I'm going to come and race in the Busch Series with the Cicci Welliver team at the time. Nice to have him back, to be around one another. Moved to the East Coast, into Charlotte. We've been very close through that and even closer since we're now living in the same area ever since. I was happy to see him back there.

Just at the end of these races, if you go to the outside, no one's going to take that bait, nobody is going to go out there. When Ryan pulled up, I knew to block the bottom. Ryan pulled up. I saw Casey just stay in line because he knew he could benefit from third to second. I felt very good about that, was happy to see him come around and finish second. I owe him a lot for staying in line and giving me a big push to the end.

Q: Rick, Tony Stewart was very vocal after the shootout about aggressive driving, bump drafting, all that. Today he had a scrape with your 24 car, maybe hurt its chances for contending. Had a scrape with the 17 car. Do you feel his actions were somewhat hypocritical, considering how vocal he was last week after the shootout?

RICK HENDRICK: I think the incident with Jeff I don't think was intentional. Jeff might have taken the air off the front of his car, I'm not sure. A lot of times you go in the corner like that, that could happen.

But I can't really comment on that because I didn't see. I watch our cars. If our car's involved, you know, I think I'm familiar with it. But I think if Jeff said that he thought they took the air off the front of the car, got into the wall, he said it was probably partially his fault. I don't think in that situation that was the case.

Q: Darian, I wanted to find out what your normal race day duties would be and what was the toughest decision you had to make today?

DARIAN GRUBB: Normal race days, I hang out in the two seats over from Chad. We have an engineer in between us that runs fuel mileage, keeps up with the race, keeps up with all the laps, green and yellow laps, things like that. I just kind of try to pay attention to what's going on in the race, see who takes two tires, how they work out, who takes the four tires, who can make it on fuel, who can't, pay attention. I scan other teams, see what they do for track bar adjustments, weight adjustments, see how it's affecting their cars.

I try to pass that information along to Chad so he can use it and make his decisions for the adjustments.

Q: What was the move of the race, as far as you're concerned?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess what got me the lead, which was the 2 and the 12, if I remember right, were on the top lane making the top work. I got up to block it. Brian stayed on the bottom. Just edged me ahead in front of Brian before the caution came out. Once I was at the point that was my goal, if we could get the lead after the last pit stop, be leading late in the race. I feel like the racing that takes place in the closing laps, everybody prefers the bottom. Things happen from second on back that really protect the leader. I wanted to be in that position, be the leader in the closing laps. It really worked out. We were able to get our nose ahead of Brian. The caution came out, got the lead, I could control the race at that point.

Q: Were you happy to see Newman pull out and try to go with you? They had no momentum at that point, you could just take off.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: When he pulled out, I was nervous. Once the 42 got inside of him and they stalled out side by side, at that point I felt pretty good about the victory. Trying to understand what Ryan was going to do, he was trying to get me off the bottom so he could take that spot. I was trying to block him to a certain degree, but not leave the inside open. So it was pretty nerve wracking at that point. I was just waiting for his move looking in the mirror. He made it. The 42 stayed with me.

Q: You said that maybe you guys would be better well served to not give as much, maybe you were pushing too hard. Do you mean you didn't give 110% because you didn't think after the challenges of the weekend you would have these opportunities? Why did you hold back or did you just soften up?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, the hardest thing being a driver, especially on a plate track, is when you have some momentum and you feel like you can pass someone, you want to take advantage of that and try to pass. But there's more to the pass than the energy that you have in your excitement, your desire to win and race.

Today I just really, you know, slowed down the pace of the race, in my eyes, from what I was doing, made sure that I made smart moves that wouldn't have me hung out of the draft. In some ways, I just didn't try to lead the race as much. I didn't try as hard to be the guy that led the most laps, made the most aggressive moves. I stayed committed to the bottom, worked with a few cars throughout the day, worked on the handling of our race car, so at the end of the race we had the best driving car. I think we did.

I was able to get by two or three cars just on the green flag lap after a caution because my car had so much speed on the inside and I could hold the yellow line. I just focused on different things and didn't focus so much on being aggressive and leading laps. That's hard to do as a driver. That's what we're trained to do. On normal tracks, you can go out there and push as hard as you want and pass somebody on your own. These tracks, it's completely different.

Q: Jimmie, how big a role did patience play in today's victory? Obviously I think it did. Would the Jimmie Johnson of three or four years ago have been able to exhibit that patience? Is that something you've added as you've progressed?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I've been trying to learn from my mistakes and learn from the experiences in different races. Today I really felt like I drove a much different plate race than I've driven before. You know, everything worked out.

You know, I did take a different approach to today's race even the practice sessions, after we got out of the duels. I didn't worry about speed in the car, I just worried about how it drove. That's a different thing for what I've looked for before. I wanted a car that really sucked up good, had a lot of straight line speed. The car that Darian and I worked on that's sitting in Victory Lane, we just really focused on making it handle and turn and stay on the bottom to protect the bottom, hoping that at the end of the race, we'd be in a position up front to defend the bottom.

It worked out. We had the lead. The car was doing the right things. Looking at Brian Vickers' car, he had a car with a lot of speed in it, but it couldn't hold the bottom as well, it would get loose up off the corners. We a vulnerable spot that the 12 took advantage of. I felt good about our car. We had a really good driving race car.

-nascar-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup