Chevrolet rookie Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo, picked up his third career NASCAR Winston Cup victory Sunday at The Monster Mile. He is now just 30 points shy of the point lead. Johnson's win marked the 25th Modern Era ...
Chevrolet rookie Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo, picked up his third career NASCAR Winston Cup victory Sunday at The Monster Mile. He is now just 30 points shy of the point lead. Johnson's win marked the 25th Modern Era event victory for Chevrolet at Dover International Speedway -- more than any other manufacturer.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
"I've obviously got a great team in the Lowe's team - everybody at Hendrick Motorsports - everything from the engine department, bodies, chassis - everything is where it needs to be. I'm just glad to be back on track. This is going to do great things for the points battle. Right over here - these guys - they made it happen. Mom hasn't been to victory lane yet - this is her first time - and I've got my dad here. I wish my two brothers were here. I know they're going crazy at home.
"These races are won by team work and my guys won the race for me today. The top four cars were so equal, it was all down to that pit stop. My guys were on the deal all day long. They got us out first and we were able to hang on from there."
ON CLEAN AIR
"Clean air is always going to be better. I don't think that's ever going to change. We had a car that worked good in traffic still. So I think that was key for us. We started 19th, and worked our way up to the front. We had some great pit stops to get us track position and it all worked out good for us and the Lowe's Monte Carlo."
ON THE SUPPORT HE GOT FROM HIS FAMILY WHILE GROWING UP COMPARED TO THE FAMILY SUPPORT OF RYAN NEWMAN
"I think there are a lot of similarities between Ryan's family and mine. Both families have been really big into racing and enjoy racing and brought us up in it and supported us one hundred percent. It's pretty neat. Speaking of support, I'd like to thank all the Lowe's employee owners for supporting us. I hope we'll be at the head table in New York."
ON MARK MARTIN BEING RIGHT BEHIND HIM
"We were all so equal, it was just track position. We got caught up in some traffic and he'd get to me and I'd stretch it back."
WHEN MARTIN GOT UP TO YOU, DID YOU THINK HE HAD SAVED SOMETHING FOR YOU AND MIGHT BEAT YOU?
"Earlier in the year I wore the tires out trying to get a big lead on people. I've learned how to look in the mirror and just keep that distance the same so I can save something. One thing that disappointed me was that the No. 55 (Greg Biggle, relief driver for Bobby Hamilton) was racing me really hard. Once I thought about it, he's teammates with Mark (Martin) so that made sense. That scared me for a while, but luckily I cleared him and got away."
HEADING INTO THE FINAL STRETCH, HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF CALM AS A ROOKIE?
"We're just going to try to win some more races. We're going to some tracks that are going to be very good for us like Lowe's Motor Speedway and Atlanta. There are three or four races here where we think we can win. We've started off here today on a good streak."
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO BE IN THE POSITION YOU ARE RIGHT NOW?
"The season started off so strong and then we kind of had a flat spot in the middle there. Now it looks like we're back on track. We had a great car. I think the No. 88 (Jarrett) and the No. 6 (Martin) and the No. 20 (Stewart) were pretty equal on speed. It was just a matter of who got out of the pits first. My hats off to my guys. Today, when the pressure was on, they stepped up and got the job done."
ON THE NEW GOODYEAR TIRE
"Today I was a little surprised. I thought the tire was going to fall off a lot more that what it did because it was a softer tire. But the tire was faster and had more grip and you drove harder. I drove my butt off every single lap today - especially those last 60 laps - working traffic and trying to stay ahead of Mark (Martin) once he cleared the No. 88 (Jarrett). I thought they wanted some fall off in the tire. But it was amazing how much grip that tire had through the whole run."
ON BEING 30 POINTS OUT OF THE POINT LEAD
"To be able to be this successful in our rookie season is great. All year long we've tried not to have it be in the forefront of our minds. But here we are with eight races to go and we're in this points battle. It's a reality that we need to look at. You never know when these opportunities come along. We need to make the most of it. We did everything we could today. We led the most laps and we won the race. So we got all the bonus points we could get. It looks like with the No. 12 (Ryan Newman) having problems it helped us in the rookie battle. The No. 2 (Rusty Wallace), the No. 40 (Sterling Marlin) and the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon), had some problems. Hopefully we can break away a little bit and see ourselves in a top five finish for the year if not the championship."
IS THIS TRACK MORE OF A MONSTER OR A KITTEN?
"It's definitely a monster. You fall off into the turns and carry a lot of speed doing that. The way I've found success is you pick the gas up firm and hard and almost get the car in a little bit of a slide to hit the banking to exit the turn. If you get the car pitched out there far enough to hit the banking, it straightens you up and you get great drive off. I've had a lot of fun here, obviously. It's a place you can take a loose race car and go somewhere with it." (More to follow)
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"Those guys (crew) stepped up when they needed to step up. They rose to the occasion. They've struggled off and on throughout the year and just went out there and made it happen. Jimmie went out there and he was calm, he was cool, he was collected and when it was time to get up on the wheel, he went after it. We kind of rode around there in 4th, 5th, 7th, early on in the race and then towards the end we decided it was time to go."
WERE YOU WORRIED IN THE FINAL SEGMENT?
JHONSON: "We were a little bit free. When we came in and took those four tires on, the car had been a little tight all day. So we decided to put a round and a half of wedge in the right rear. And it may have been a half a round too much. But Jimmie likes a loose race car. When the car is loose he can drive it fast, he can feel it. So he was able to control it and bring it home. If it had been a little bit too much more, we might not have gone to victory lane."
WERE YOU REALLY EXCITED MOST OF THE DAY?
"I'll tell you what. If you would have walked the No. 48 transporter, there was so much energy around. Those guys were so excited to come back here to Dover and try to pull off a sweep for the season. We're going to try to do what we can to win the championship."
HOW DID TODAY'S WIN COMPARE WITH THE WON IN THE SPRING?
"I think it was more meaningful - just because we had to go through a bit of a transition period where we lost the momentum. To be able to bounce back and come here and win again at Dover is awesome. That says a lot for this Lowe's team."
CAN YOU WIN THE PRIZE?
"Yeah, I think we can. The only reason we can't win it is because everybody keeps telling us we can't. So, we're just going to keep doing what we're doing and we're going to try to win races. We're going to try to sit on the poles, we're going to try to lead the most laps, we're going to try to be fastest in practice, and we're going to try to do all that stuff - just like we did at the beginning of the season. And that's the way we came to the racetrack at the beginning of the year. Whenever we started to get a little more cautious and a little bit more conservative, that's when we got in trouble. So we're just going to go for it and see what happens."
WERE YOU SINGING ON THE COOL DOWN LAP?
"No, that was Jimmie. This team is back. We're on a high and we're just going to keep riding it. I can't believe it.
ARE YOU AMAZED AT YOUR ROOKIE YEAR SUCCESS?
"Three wins for this young team and this young driver and this semi-young crew chief. I just can't say enough about this Lowe's Chevrolet and this team that Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon have put together. They took a big group of young guys and put them together in a little pot and said okay you sort it out and see what happens. We dove in there head first and we're making the best of it and it's just awesome."
RICK HENDRICK, TEAM OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
"We just wanted to make races and make sure we qualified (at the start of the season). I had no idea that with eight races to go, we'd be in this position. Boy he is a heck of a talent and this is a heck of a team."
WERE YOU EXPECTING TWO AND THREE GROOVE RACING?
JOHNSON: "Actually I was surprised that the top didn't work as well as it did earlier in the year. There's something about this harder tire that I could run the top all afternoon. I started off on the bottom and moved up. But this (new) tire had so much grip that you beat on it lap after lap and it wouldn't give up. It had the grip on top of that so the fastest way around was on the bottom all day long."
ON STARTING OFF THE WEEKEND WITH MECHANICAL PROBLEMS ON FRIDAY
"It definitely concerned us. We only got about a half hour of practice before qualifying. With the new tire, we could have used the two hours to get the car set-up. But a freak accident happened and my guys were able to figure it out and get us back on the track with some practice. Starting 19th, I was a little worried at first. But, knowing Dover and knowing that you can search out a line is not like starting 19th at Loudon where you can't pass. We had a couple close calls. Fridays have been hard on us for the past couple of months. It's been like Friday the 13th every week. From crashing cars and having an engine blow one time, it's been putting us behind. Luckily we were able to get through this Friday's problem and win."
OF THE EIGHT REMAINING RACES, ARE THERE ANY THAT YOU HAVE TROUBLE WITH OR THAT YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT?
"Yes, Martinsville was a place that we had some trouble with. We ran okay but we broke a gear and that put us out. But we're going to go back with a similar set-up to the No. 24 and they've run really well there. So I think we'll be in good shape. Rockingham is another one. It troubled me a lot in the Busch Series. But the biggest won is Talladega. Anything can happen there."
WHEN DALE JR. WAS RUNNING WELL EARLY, DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A CHANCE TO WIN?
"I knew Jr. was going to be tough. On new tires at the beginning of a run, he would take off. I didn't want to do that. You start the pressure so low here, I didn't want to start a problem with one of our tires. When I was in second behind him, I said on the radio that I wasn't going to run that hard. He didn't have any trouble, so I guess I could have pushed a little harder."
ON THE CLOSE CALLS BETWEEN JEFF GREEN AND DALE JR
"When I got to those guys, I think those guys were pretty mad at one another. Green was beating on Jr. and got Jr. out of the way and then Jr. started beating on Green. They were both about to wreck a couple of times. I tried to find my way by. It was pretty tense for a while there."
WITH MARK MARTIN AND DALE JARRETT BEHIND YOU, HOW DID YOU STAY CALM?
"I didn't. I'm still trying to catch my breath. I drove my butt off those last 60 laps. Mark was on my bumper. I couldn't even see the hood of his car. All I could see was his windshield, and I thought, 'Here we go.' You've really got to mentally remind yourself that if you hit your marks and you drive a smooth line, you're going to be okay. You just keep talking to yourself."
DO YOU STILL FEEL LIKE A ROOKIE THIS LATE IN THE SEASON?
"Definitely. I've crashed in qualifying. I've crashed in practice. I've crashed in testing. Those are all rookie things. I crashed week before last in Kentucky while testing. I'm reminded that I'm a rookie all the time."
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE 25 POINTS YOU LOST EARLIER IN THE YEAR AND HOW THAT MIGHT AFFECT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"If we lose this by 25 points, you guys will probably see some headline somewhere that says 'Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson committed suicide' (laughs). Of course we think about it. What do we do? Pushing the envelope and trying hard - some of the guys were docked some points this year. Hopefully if something does happen from that, hopefully in the years to come we can rally back from that and win a championship somewhere down the road."
ARE YOU ENJOYING BEING A ROOKIE?
"I have had a great year and I think it's because of the support I've had from Lowe's and from Hendrick Motorsports and from having Jeff Gordon as a coach and mentor, it's really made it a lot of fun. It could easily have gone the other way. I would trade some years for experience. I've having fun."
ON WINNING TWO RACES AT DOVER THIS YEAR
"It's something that'll take a while to sink in. I didn't realize the depth in that. I've always loved coming here in ASA and in the Busch Series. I sat on the pole in the ASA Series."
WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED THIS YEAR?
"The biggest one is probably to run as hard as you need to maintain the lead and save something. Beyond that, staying in your pit stall is always good. Don't race (Jimmy) Spencer that hard for the lead has been another key one."
-team monte carlo-