Homestead: 2007 Champions press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Chad, we always hear the story about you dreaming to be top Crew Chief. How many championships would you win in your dreams? And after seeing the oldest, not oldest, but most veteran crew chief/driver combination up...

Continued from part 1

Q: Chad, we always hear the story about you dreaming to be top Crew Chief. How many championships would you win in your dreams? And after seeing the oldest, not oldest, but most veteran crew chief/driver combination up here with Reiser and Kenseth, and seeing that break-up, could you ever envision not being Johnson's crew chief?

CHAD KNAUS: There's a lot more championships, I hope, out there for us. I didn't put a number on it in my dreams when I was a kid of how many we'd win. I know that it's definitely a ride I don't want to get off of. I hope we can go three or four more, or three or four championships.

They say a dynasty is anything over three, and we're on two. So you know, we go for three, and then we try to break that. That is something that I would be very, very proud of.

The guys on this team worked real hard. They've done a good job. To be quite honest with you, to see Robbie and Matt break up, or not break-up, but Robbie say I've had enough after all these years of racing.

I remember racing with Robbie when I was a 14, 15-year-old kid up in the Midwest and he was racing super late models up there. This guy's been racing a long time. He deserves to take a break and spend some time with his son and his family.

As far as Jimmie and I, I don't know. I guess I'm stuck with him until 2010, right?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: At least.

CHAD KNAUS: Something like that. No, there is nobody else I want to work with. I can promise you that. He's a great guy. He's my best friend. He's a great race car driver. His wife, Chandra is phenomenal. It's a great thing. I really cherish it.

Q: Jeff just came in here and said that he thought that at some point you guys were being so aggressive down the stretch in the chase that you were bound to make a mistake. But he didn't think somebody could be that aggressive to go for wins like that in the Chase down the stretch without something going wrong. So he said, you know, he had miscalculated. He thought you guys were being too aggressive and would eventually fail at some point, and you didn't. How do you feel about that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, from my standpoint inside the car, I know who I'm racing against. And I knew that I had to get on to a terror like that. I had to win races to stand a chance to beat Jeff Gordon, just plain and simple.

He had an amazing season the first 26 races. He just kicked everyone's butts, week after week. I knew going into the Chase that I needed to do everything I could.

In the closing laps of Texas, Phoenix, all those races, I knew that I needed every point. One, because I didn't know what would go on in this race down here. But that's Jeff Gordon, he's the best out there. I had to bring my A-game.

I felt like I was driving within my means in though races. I look back at the video, and maybe I was a little outside, but that's what I like to do.

Q: When it got down to those last 30 laps (Indiscernible)?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, when you're in the closing laps and you know what's on the line and you're in a safe position, it's not easy, but you can see the big prize and focus on the right things.

The thing that I'm most proud of today on top of the things we've done as a team and everything that's gone on, inside my own head today, I took -- I learned a lot last year in experiencing the Championship and the stress that comes with it and what goes on out on the track and the doubt that goes through my mind. The ups and downs of the event. I learned a lot through all that. I just wanted to keep it simple today.

We all talked about it. We talked about it last week leaving Phoenix. It was something that we really wanted to do. In my own head today inside that race car, I executed that. It is something I'm very, very proud of, not only today in the race, but also Friday and Saturday.

I think that was something Chad focused on. The team did as well. Pit stops were awesome all day long. The pressure did not get to anyone. That's something as individuals we'll all look back and say we were in the fire and executed like we needed to. On top of the great things we've done as a team, I think individually we all look at our responsibilities today and say that we did a good job.

Q: (Asking about Chad preparing for Daytona)(Indiscernible)?

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I'm looking forward to Daytona. I really am. When you're fortunate enough to be with a group of guys and have an organization behind you like we've got right now, all you want to do is just keep going. I think there are more wins out there for us. I think there are more Championships out there for us.

Don't take that the wrong way.  I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this
Championship.  It's going to be fun in South Beach tonight.  New York
next week, I'm going to have a blast.  I'm looking forward to it.

But the thing is you can't lose sight of the fact that next year is coming. There is a next season. We have to make sure we're on our game, and I want everybody to know we're on our game when we get there. That is probably a message more to myself than anybody else to be quite honest with you. Making sure I did my own mental check there

Q: (Indiscernible).

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I believe so. Especially if the car was comfortable. At this don't think Matt was going to go down without a fight, especially the last race of the year. If we had been in position to come out of the pits in the lead. If we were coming into the pits in second or third, and took advantage of our pit stall location, came out in the lead, I would have been comfortable racing for it that way.

But to get there up and race Matt or still had a lot of guys in front of me there, it would have been tough. It's a tough thing. I mean, it was cool riding around. I can see the 24 right in front of me. The 1 car was real tight, and losing time off the corners.

You know, I could squeak out another spot here. So I would think I would have that same approach if I was up there fighting for the win. But I was just being smart today. I didn't have that opportunity to try to take advantage of.

Q: (Indiscernible).

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I'm not sure it means as much. No, I guess it would. If a young driver is coming along, it's something that a car owner would pay close attention and look at. There are drivers coming from all forms of Motorsports coming into NASCAR.

We've seen the elite guys, like Juan Pablo and Dario coming in from Open Wheel. But you look at Tony Stewart's background, it was Open Wheel in the end coming from IRL.

But you look at Jeff's background, my background, Robby Gordon, Casey Mears, there are a lot of guys out there that have the ability. And really in the last 10 or 15 years, car owners have been able to see these guys running from Sprint Cars to Dirt Late Models, off-road trucks, whatever it may be. There is a lot of racing talent in Californian and Southern California.

And I also see a lot of crew members in the garage area from California. Not only just drivers, but there is a big racing group out there that is getting exposure to NASCAR now.

Q: (Indiscernible) if had you to race against this team, what would you do?

CHAD KNAUS: I am. I'm racing against the 24. It's about as close as you can get. I think the thing that we've done well as a team on the 48 tonight is we've looked back at our previous seasons and broken them down where we felt like we needed to improve.

Whether that was a particular racetrack or particular style of car or pit crew or whatever it was, then we've always really focused on that area. Not letting any of the other tracks go to the wayside or other areas, but really focus on the weak links.

I think that's something that maybe some of the other teams, I guess, should probably do. Whatever their weak links are, try to improve on those. But I don't want to say a whole lot. I don't want them to beat us, you know.

Q: You lost two close Championship runs earlier, and it prepared you for your first Championship last year. The lesson that you learned last year's first championship allow you guys to really hang it out this year to win this championship?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think so. I think every year that the team is together, we're stronger, and we learn from the past season, and try to pick up, you know, our weak points. Like Chad just pointed out the question before that. We picked out tracks that are tough for us. We picked out characteristics in the car that we think have left us vulnerable, the mental aspect of dealing with the pressure, all the different things. Managing people, there are just so many different layers to a race team.

As each year goes by, and the core of the team stays together, we're able to make it stronger and stronger, and better and better. There are a lot of lessons, not just one specifically, but a lot of lessons learned last year that helped this year. Even losing those two Championships taught us a lot. It was painful. We went back and looked at it and tried to adjust and fortunately it's worked out and it's led to these two Championships.

Q: You've been part of some of the most dominant seasons in the history of the sport, where would you rank this year for the 48 guys in your estimation as far as overall dominance in years are concerned?

RICK HENDRICK: I think this has been the most unbelievable example of team work and dedication.

Jimmie's just getting better and better, and just phenomenal. He's so intense. He studies what he wants to accomplish or tries to accomplish. And Chad just eats, sleeps and drinks getting better every week.

For the level of competition to do what they've done and to do it in the Chase, it's as our organization and I look at it, I don't think I've seen a more dominant performance since I've been racing.

Q: Earlier today Brian France was in here and saw the run that you're on is pretty much the most dominant he's seen in the modern era you're now only the tenth driver in the history of the sport to win back-to-back titles. Can you put that in perspective? And also if you could just discuss what the lifetime contract over the off-season?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's tough to put into perspective, but I can tell you how proud I am to be in this position. To be considered or to earn our way, I should say, into the statistics and victories and being a back-to-back champion. Only ten teams having done that.

In my heart of hearts, it means the world to me. Since I was a kid, I just wanted to race. I wanted to be the best at racing. I didn't know where it would lead me or what was in store for me or where it would go, but I loved to race.

And to be here racing on the main stage of NASCAR, and to have the success of the championships means the world to me. It is something I'm very, very proud of and thankful of as well. And thankful for the relationships and friendships that I have. I look forward to the future, a lot of good times ahead of us.

As far as the contract, that is Rick's department. And it's a lifetime contract with unlimited budget, right (laughing)?

RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, that's the way it works, then I'm ready to sign up.

Continued in part 3

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon