Continued from part 1 Q: Dale, if you don't win the championship, a year ago you were in a very different position right at this point, how do you assess this year if you don't win the championship? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm real proud of my...
Continued from part 1
Q: Dale, if you don't win the championship, a year ago you were in a very different position right at this point, how do you assess this year if you don't win the championship?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm real proud of my team. I've had great cars every week and that was something I hadn't had in the past. We all got along really good, and even during the bad times and we struggled last week and we still just kind of, you know, that was the best we could do.
You know, just real happy with my team and how my cars have drove, and it really makes me look forward to the future with this team and you know, how we can run next year, year after that and whatnot.
It's great to be racing these guys here for the Chase the last nine races. And have being able to be competitive, that's really all I've ever wanted, so it's been great. Really been one of the better seasons for me.
Q: Anything extra special for qualifying knowing what's at stake?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I don't think so. Just the same stuff that we've been doing. I really think, and as everybody else has pointed out, we're all in different situations competing for this championship, but we all need to go out and do the same job we've done all year long, and that's what's put all of us in this position. Tomorrow, we're going to do whatever we can to make it just a normal day of qualifying and practice.
Q: This weekend, the Busch Series is done, you've already clinched, so this is like the victory dance so to speak. Do you want to be remembered as the Busch Series champion, or how would you like to be remembered?
KEVIN HARVICK: Any time you get in the car, you want to win and we've been able to win a lot and we probably won't ever get to do what we've been able to do this year again. It's probably the last time we'll ever run both series. I think from my standpoint, I've been a part of RCR's Busch program from the beginning and it's been really good. I know from the time the year started, we've had things go our way, and we've performed well. When you have all the stuff on your side as far as that goes, it makes it a lot of fun to go to the racetrack and be a part of it. We've just tried to enjoy it. How you remember it is, you know, up to you and I think from our standpoint, we're just happy to be where we are and have done what we've done. So I guess I should just say it; I don't care how anybody remembers it. If they want to, they can come look at the trophy.
DENNY HAMLIN: For myself, we thought that what Kevin should do is the last five races is just sit on the back stretch with no one around him and his arm around the trophy and just watch us race. Just say, y'all go around, I'm done. No, his season's been unbelievable. It's frustrating from our standpoint because as a team, we know we're not at the level that RCR is at right now in the Busch Series. You know, we're close on a good day. But usually when he passes me, I know that will be the last time I see him.
Q: Talk about the whole journey, not just this year, but looking over your career, what have been some milestones or obstacles that have put you in front chair today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: My biggest challenge looking back, there's plenty of them, but I think the biggest is a lot like a lot of the guys up here and guys racing Saturday nights across the country is just getting recognized. Growing up in southern California ten years ago or whatever it was when I really started pursuing stock car racing, it wasn't what it is today there. People weren't looking in the dirt series. Jeff Gordon just got going, but this was before Tony Stewart. It was before a lot of guys in general moved out to the Charlotte area. Being recognized and getting that chance was really the toughest thing, and I think that's a common problem that a lot of drivers have. I was very lucky to get hooked up with Randy Herzog while I was racing off-road trucks and they provided my chance in ASA and in Busch. I don't think I would have had either one much those opportunities if it wasn't for their commitment to me and their own goals of racing and trying to make it to the Cup some day. And then I was picked up by Hendrick Motorsports. Being recognized, and the Herzogs really made all that come together for me I think.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, because that's racing and we all go through it. When I look back on the year, I know that everybody in the garage area will respect what the 48 team has done regardless whether we have a championship or not. If you don't get the championship trophy, I think all of us are after respect from the media, from the fans, competitors and things like that. I think we have earned that this year. We've been a threat and been there week after week, been able to win the big races, we've overcome adversity and we've put ourselves in a position to race for a championship. And that's something I'm very proud of, regardless of the outcome and things I can't control; I'll sleep well Sunday night knowing that we tried as hard as we could and we did all that we could.
Q: Who worries you the most of the four guys sitting next to you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Myself? First has to be Matt (Kenseth), closest in points. It just really boils down to the spread that you have to cover and the position that I'm in. From where Matt, if Matt leads most laps and wins the race to where I need to be and there's one scale for Matt and the next for Kevin and right down the line, it kind of goes in that order.
Q: For the other drivers, talk about waking the fine line of being aggressive and not going over the edge, how do you balance that?
KEVIN HARVICK: For me, it was win the race or wreck. So I knew I kind of knew where he was at. I mean, obviously you don't want to put anybody in that position. But knowing that we needed to gain the most amount of points that we were in, the position that we were in to have a chance to get to here, you know, you just kind of throw it all out there and see what happens. So you know, it's just go for it.
Q: Will you go for it or stay back?
KEVIN HARVICK: Probably stay back. That's what I would have done.
DENNY HAMLIN: I was in third. I told him he should have gone for it.
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you were the first one in the car telling me that, too. (Laughter).
DENNY HAMLIN: Like I say, if I was in Jimmie's standpoint, I'd do the exact same thing he did. We don't know how much he held back or you know was just that much better. But, who knows, you've just got to think about where you're at at all times and think about the risks that you take. I know I was in that position with Jimmie at Martinsville and I chose even though we were going to lose more points, we could have lost a lot more had we been more aggressive.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Judging by my past experience, I probably would have went for it (laughter) and it probably wouldn't have worked out. (Laughter). When you're in Jimmie's situation, I haven't never been in that situation, but I imagine that you're very cautious. Like Denny said, you really don't know how good Kevin was or how much if any Jimmie was holding back. I'm sure if he saw a window to win the race, he would have had a hard time remembering where he was in the points standings.
Q: The four guys that are chasing you, any thoughts of a mind game that you might be able to start today or tomorrow, anything to upset these guys and get them off their normal game?
DENNY HAMLIN: He's already having mic trouble. (Laughter).
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is, it's a lot easier to race from where we're sitting. If you want to stuff it in there and see what happens, I mean, that's probably not what you should do with, you know, a 65 point lead, I would imagine. That's what I would think. We're really the underdogs here. We are looking for a miracle to happen and we're going to go out, you're not going to do anything on purpose or anything like that because you don't want to fault the integrity of the sport and everything to get to this point. So I think you go race as hard as you can, but we're in totally different shoes here. He's racing to protect something and we're trying to make something happen.
Q: Is it fun to race at this point, or is it just business?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Inside the car is fun. The rest of this we could do without. That's what we all look forward to.
Matt (Kenseth) is known to have a lot of fun in these settings. We like being in the race car, that's what we do. I know can say from my own experience as a kid, I've always watched football games and just respected guys like John Elway, (Dan) Marino, guys that closing minutes of a game could get it done. I always wished that I could have that ability, and being in our sport and all of us being champions at different levels and winning races, we've all got to perform. We've done that to get to this point. So I think we're all more comfortable in the car doing our thing than we are with the other stuff leading up to it.
Q: For in most part you're a fairly likable guy...
JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Laughter) Thank you.
Q: It seems lately the booing of you is louder; why do you think that is?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know, but I know riding into the 8 car doesn't help that any. (Laughter) I've made mistakes, and restrictor plate tracks, worked out for me for a while there and made adjustments and corrected that. You know, it's part of it and I've used this a million times and I know you've heard it and other people. When you go to a sporting event, your team comes out, you cheer for them. When the opponent comes out, you boo them. It just part of it. We can't deny the fact that if you look at the statistics I'm probably fourth, fifth, sixth in licensed merchandise sales; so that would probably reflect in the cheers and boos.
(Whispering and laughing from other the drivers.) What's up over there? (Laughter)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: (Laughing) there's this video over on the Internet of one of my fans that I was going to send to you. It after the Talladega race, this guy is in his kitchen. The family is camcording in his kitchen and the guy is like a Dale Junior fan and after the race, he goes crazy. You just had to see it. (Laughter) We was just laughing. Didn't mean it interrupt you.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Evidently that family boos me. (Laughter).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It was funny. I'll send it to you, it's hilarious. You'll like it. You'll like it a lot.
KEVIN HARVICK: Someone sent it to me yesterday and I was like, that was one of the funniest videos I've seen. Even the toddler was ripping you. (Laughter).
-credit: gm racing