Dover II: Pole winner interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- POLE WINNER TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT TODAY: "Very good day for us. Excited to have a fast car in practice then be able to go out and back it up in qualifying. During the lap I was a little...

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

TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT TODAY:

"Very good day for us. Excited to have a fast car in practice then be able to go out and back it up in qualifying. During the lap I was a little nervous about things. The car was really loose for me. I just didn't know if it was going to be a fast lap. Luckily it was and we were able to put down a good one and get the pole today."

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE TIRE TEST THAT WILL TRANSLATE OVER TO THE RACE ITSELF?

"Running laps never hurts from an engineering standpoint, the fact that we're able to get a current data set for us to take back to the shop and use on the machines and all that kind of things is very important. As far as specifics have ironically shown up just like we were at the spring race and that is how we qualified the car. Even with the different tire, it seems we have ended up with the same setup we had here in the spring. At times, there is no doubt it is helpful for me. There is no doubt that it is helpful for certain levels of engineering. It is nice to go to the track and get in the rhythm of things, but, we came back with the same stuff we had in the spring."

DOES JEFF GORDON SEEM AS MOTIVATED AS HE EVER HAS BEEN TO WIN HIS FIFTH TITLE?

"I've seen more intensity from him over the years. I wasn't around, I was part of Hendrick Motorsports but I was still racing in the Nationwide Series when he won in 2001. I know since 2002 and on, it's not that he wasn't intense and committed to it before, as times goes on and the questions are asked, I see more intensity in his eyes, more desire from him to get that fifth championship."

YOU LED NEARLY 75% OF THE LAPS HERE IN THE SPRING RACE (THAT YOU WON), AT OTHER TRACKS THAT IF YOU BROUGHT BACK YOUR SETUP TO NEXT RACE, IT WOULDN'T BE SUCCESSFUL SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT DOVER THAT WILL MAKE THAT WORK? 'I think it must be relative to the concrete and the way the car and tire interacts with the concrete. We'll see somewhere like Pocono where the race pace for the spring race is a second faster across the board. You come back a month later and things heat up and the track is a second slower and the conditions are different. It must be something along those lines. We didn't have the fastest car in qualifying in the spring. I car was too tight. I think we ended up eighth, so maybe our race setup is going to be too loose with that in mind and we are going to have to do some work tomorrow to make the car more comfortable on the long haul. It is so weird. I know it is so frustrating for you in the media to try and follow the crazy-ass comments we say all time and it is just as confusing for us living it because tracks there are certain trends and you count on them and sometimes they work or then they don't work. It's back and forth. We feel like we are chasing our tails so don't worry about it."

CAN YOU USE JUAN PABLO'S AGGRESSIVENESS ON A GREEN WHITE CHECKERED LIKE MARK MARTIN DID LAST WEEK?

"I really don't think that there is a ton you can do. In any situation you have go to go. You have got to get away from whoever it is. If you brake check, there is a good chance the tower will call it and you will have a penalty. They warn guys throughout the day about brake checking on the restarts. The biggest thing is the guy on the inside washing up in to you. Trying to prevent against that and leave the guy some room and hope the person knows where the limit of their car is and doesn't just clean you out. Juan's been aggressive but Juan has for the most part driven within his means and I have had personally no issues with him. There has been a great deal of respect on the track, in tense moments and all those types of things. So, I wouldn't be concerned.

WHO ELSE WAS HERE FOR THE TIRE TEST AND WHEN DID YOU DO THE TEST?

"I think it was after the second Pocono race. There was the No. 18, the No. 42, us, the No. 12, the No. 5 truck, there was I think the No. 6 truck. I know there were some Nationwide cars but I don't recall who it was. I've hit way too many walls over the years, I forget stuff. I thought we had a good group of cars. I think the No. 47 was here if I remember right from the Cup side. I felt like we had a good group of cars for the test."

HERE AT DOVER, HOW DO YOU GET BACK TO THE FRONT OF THE FIELD IF YOU END UP IN THE BACK? 'Just like any other race, you have got to go out and do what you can. Minimize problems and kind of hope things end up your way with pit strategy and I'm sure at some point there will be some guys off sequence. Just work on having a fast race car. That is really the bottom line. It is very important to have a fast and stable race car so you can come up through the pack if you lose track position. I think it was real helpful for us in the spring race, we were back, I can't recall way. It must have been a track position thing and was able to pass a bunch of cars and put on a great race with the No. 14. If I didn't have a comfortable car to drive and one that I could really lean on, I wouldn't have gone anywhere. So that is really the goal tomorrow."

IS THERE ANYTHING IN GENERAL THAT WAS LIKE A VISION DURING YOUR THREE CHAMPIONSHIP YEARS THAT YOU HAVE SEEN THIS YEAR?

"You know, in 2004, I really felt like it was our year to win the championship. We win at Martinsville, then the plane crash then we go to Atlanta and win and we are making up points. I felt it in my body, I just knew that it was our year. The race starts, Kurt's (Busch) wheel falls off, everything is looking good. We are pit stop or so from the end and there is the No. 97 (Kurt Busch car) in the mirror and I knew I needed to be three or four spots ahead of him. I am like now it is meant to be and I am believing this, I am believing this and we lost it by eight points. Since then I have been careful to really let my mind run on to many emotions. There is no doubt, you have a good day, you leave those emotions come through your body and you think 'man it was a good race, it could mean good things' and I am stupid, if I get a $48 bill for dinner, I'm like 'oh man, that is a sign'. Something has changed here through the years, when I see the 48 on anything, I look at the clock and it is 5:48 and I am like 'oh is that a sign'.

"So there are stupid little things that go on but I try to chase them out and the most consistent thing over time has been to not let the highs take you too high and the lows take you too low. You just have to show up and do your job each week and fight through that stuff."

DOES SUCCESS CARRY YOU TO MORE SUCCESS?

"It does, I mean it really does carry you. A victory, a pole today will make the start of the weekend much better and give us a lot of direction and momentum moving in to tomorrow. It does carry you and there is an aspect of momentum. But at the same time, you have got to go out and perform. The thing I have leaned the most over the years it doesn't matter what kind of hype you have or don't have, it really boils down to what you do on Sunday afternoon. Momentum will only carry you so far. It will help with all the discussions on pre-race and leading in to that, but when you are really out there, just you and the car racing, it is about what you have done to set that race car up. That is really try to break it down to and focus on is how is that car driving and let that really dictate how the day goes because the emotional side will only get you so far."

GREG BIFFLE SAID THIS EARLIER TODAY, DO YOU THINK IT IS AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE FOR A CHASE DRIVER TO TEST AT A CHASE TRACK?

"Man, he could have been really upset because if the No. 18 would have made it, there would have been three cars. Everybody has an opinion and Goodyear contacts us and tells us where they would like to use us and that is how it goes. I mean, I didn't have a chance to test at Indy and there were 75,000 cars that went to Indy and ran laps and miles and the No. 48 didn't go so you just kind of go where they tell you go and run and test. We tested here and that was our perk. There is no doubt there is an advantage to it but we overcame that at Indy and didn't have a chance to test there and went up and won the show."

WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT EACH OF YOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS AND WHAT MADE EACH ONE SPECIAL?

"The big trophy and check at the end of the year. 06 to get the monkey off our back, we were so close. Then it was a very emotional year because we opened the Chase with the crash at Loudon. Fought back in to contention, had our problem at Talladega and still was able to come back and win. Just huge relief. In 2007, with the split season, we were really proud of how we stayed on top of technology for both cars, not old maintaining the old car but developing the COT and making it competitive and a very tough battle with Jeff. He put up one heck of fight for the championship. Then last year, we got off to a very slow start as you all know. We had to fight back. I think we tested 26 times to get our equipment to where it needed to be and then made a run during the Chase and got things. So they have all been different years. At the end of the day, it has been about the people and the team working together and fighting through issues."

DO YOU GET FRUSTRATED AT SOME OF THE THINGS PEOPLE SAY THAT YOU GET AN ADVANTAGE IN DIFFERENT THINGS?

"No, I am used to it to be honest with you. Everybody has an opinion. You guys probably see it better than anyone. You bring in 12 drivers and you probably get 12 different answers on every topic. Watched a little bit of the pre qualifying show and the stuff that went on sitting right here. To see the perspective and the guys talking about the tires. Then the Nationwide broadcast and everyone loves the tire so you are like, this is just everywhere. There is no doubt that with the tire test we had here, that the tire was different. It laid down more rubber and it made the car turn a lot strong. My suggestion to Goodyear was we have done everything we can to make these cars turn. It would be nice if you could help us to make the cars and we could backoff some of the crazy setups we are running and tighten these cars up. Put some more mechanical grip back in them and maybe we can run side by side, maybe we can race better. So I think a lot of guys came with the setups they have before and they are too loose and it is frustrating. By the time the race gets going, we will have them all tightened up and be where they need to be."

DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT THE FACT YOU COULD REALLY BE GOING FOR YOUR EIGHTH STRAIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BECAUSE YOU WERE SO CLOSE THOSE OTHER YEARS? "No I don't. I think back to 2004 and see that as a miss. Even though we had a shot in 2005, Tony (Stewart) has us beat. We were kind of hanging on and he slowed down a little bit there at the end of the Chase and gave us some hope then we had our problem at Homestead. It does help and it is nice to know that we led the points every year that I have been competition and the worse finish we have had in the points I think has been fifth. So there are some really cool things that I look at, but looking at eight in a row, I haven't really considered that or thought that was a really opportunity."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports