JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS CHAMPION YOU SAID YOU'D TRADE ALL YOUR WINS FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO NOW: "It's such a long day to get here. There were times when we were down and out and in the back and had to come...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS CHAMPION
YOU SAID YOU'D TRADE ALL YOUR WINS FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO NOW: "It's such a long day to get here. There were times when we were down and out and in the back and had to come back through. It's going to take a little bit to sink in but just to think of what this team's accomplished. It's everything I've ever wanted to be. It's been a long time since I've won a championship. This means the world to me. I can't thank Lowe's, Hendrick Motorsports and the entire No. 48 race team. And there's somebody very special behind me and that's my wife (Chandra). They say behind every good man is a good woman and you have no idea how good she is. I've worn her out the past few weeks with my emotions and stress. I love her. And I thank her (plus) my family and friends and everybody who has supported me through the years. This is just the most amazing day of my life."
WHEN THE CHASE STARTED, THINGS DIDN'T GO WELL. AND THEN THINGS TURNED AROUND. WAS THERE SOMETHING THAT THREW THAT SWITCH TO KNOWING YOU COULD STILL DO THIS? "I think we knew in our hearts we could do this. We just had some bad luck in the beginning and that's what let us get the momentum and sleep at night because we knew this team was capable of winning a championship. We just needed some luck. Some guys had some back luck and that allowed us to get back into it too. When I think back to the Chase and Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth and a lot of the guys in the Chase and they've taught me a lot this year. I have a ton of respect for all those guys. Tony Stewart was a big help to me this weekend and last weekend. Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Brian Vickers and I just can't thank enough people for today. This is amazing."
WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE THAT ALLOWED THIS CHAMPIONSHIP TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR? "I think we all just matured as a race team. I have to put a lot of credit in Chad Knaus' hands. At the beginning of the season when he was suspended for those four races; we had a plan in place how we were going to do things different and that sped things up. He did a phenomenal job putting this deal together. This has been his baby since day one."
WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE THESE PAST FEW WEEKS? "It's been hell (laughs). There's just no way around it. It's been hell. I knew we had a good team. I knew we'd be able to do things right. But you just can't control the outside variables. Today I was around three or four wrecks and had a piece of debris go through the front of the race car, which we had to fix on pit road. There was just a lot of crazy stuff going on and luckily we missed all those problems."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE INSIDE THE RACE CAR? WAS IT NERVE-WRACKING? "Once I fired the car off, I was in my element and in my place to be. And things really mellowed out for me. My mind really paid mind games on me in the hours leading up to the race. So I had to stay busy during the week, which was helpful. And then on the weekends, I couldn't get away. I couldn't hide, you know? I was around it and like I said, I wore my wife out."
CONGRATULATIONS, YOU'RE A CHAMPION 'Oh thank you. Gosh I love that."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS CHAMPION
"These guys (the team) are just awesome. We had to battle back from a lot of weird stuff this year. They did what this team is all about. It took us a little bit of time. There's never been a team, I don't think, that's had to come into the Nextel Cup Series with as much pressure as this team has had on it. When we showed up here in 2002, we had Jeff Gordon's championship winning race cars. So Jimmie and the team and I all had to step up and go out there and do what Jeff Gordon did. For us to come out of the box and finally to come back and win the championship in 2006 is just an incredible feat. Rick Hendrick is by far and away the best car owner out there. He's got the best demeanor and leadership and everything you'd ever ask for. We've got the best stuff at Hendrick Motorsports - chassis, bodies, engines - the guys who assemble these 24/48 cars are just incredible. This is a childhood dream. I'm very fortunate."
DID YOU HAVE DIFFICULT MOMENTS DURING THE DAY AS YOU SAT ON THE PIT BOX? "Yeah, I really didn't want to have to do that two-tire bit there at the end. I didn't like that at all. I'm not a big two-tire fan anymore with these tires. You just don't know what the car is going to do. And people started doing it and we knew that we were going to have to go through that bit. But the car was handling well. We had a top 10 car all day long. We ended up 9th. I think it's a great way to end the season. To come home 9th, that's 24 top-10's for the year and that's a pretty phenomenal season for these guys."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH MONTE CARLO SS:
"There is no disappointment here. Everybody on this No. 29 team and at RCR has done a great job. We knew coming in to this race that unless the No. 48 team beat themselves, we were all kind of on the outside looking in. It was a good night for us, we struggled a little bit early, but Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and the guys made great adjustments and we kept working our way toward the front. It really came around there at the end. We didn't need that last caution but all and all it was a great night for us.
"We were pretty tight early on but we got it going there at the end. We are just looking forward to 2007 and coming back and going after it again. I am so proud of my team and everybody at RCR for what we have accomplished this year."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS:
"I can't express how proud I am of this team. I just have a tremendous team behind me. They just never gave up all year. We battled back when we are down race after race. We battled back today and got a good finish.
"We didn't have the best car today but we just kept making it better and better.
"We made the Chase and we fought hard and we are going to try and do that next year, we have a great team, just a really, really great team.
"It is a definitely a great year for him (Jimmie Johnson) to win the particular races that he won and the championship. It has got to be a dream for him. They are a great team, just on the verge of doing something like this for a long time. If they realize exactly what they have as a unit, they will have a lot of success if they stay together."
We had a really, really good car when the sun was out and led some laps, but as soon as the sun went down, it was like a switch and we just weren't that good. I got to tell you, man, my team, I am real proud of them. They have got a lot to proud of over what they have been able to accomplish this year, the kind of cars they have been able to build, they are kind of down on themselves about tonight. But they have a lot to be proud of; they realize that.
"I just got tight and drove it in the fence. Oh well, that is just the way it goes sometimes, man.
"I am excited about 2007. My guys are kind of bummed out tonight, we had a great car tonight and they are really bummed out about how we finished but we have had a great team all year long and we have so much to look forward. We just have to maintain a great positive attitude going in through this off-season. Just get some work done, get some good cars built and put it to them next year."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS:
"We kind of struggled, we got to a portion of the race where we needed to be. We got to be a fifth place car, then, we had trouble on pit road. Came in running sixth or seventh and then went out where ever we did, it really didn't matter, we lost our track position there. The pit crew is working hard, putting a lot of effort out. It is a shame that they had that one bad stop as the last stop of the year. But they will use that as motivation, and we will get our cars even better.
"Certainly we made some gains obviously, but we still have a lot of room to grow. That is what our focus is one, how to grow and how to be better. We still need a little bit of speed, no question. We are working really hard on that. I have a tremendous amount of confidence on everybody at RCR and I feel good about it. "I hate to get down with this year and already be on next year but that is the business we are in and that is what we have to do.
"I feel good about our opportunity to be able to do that and we will keep diggin. We haven't contended for wins and championships the last four years like I had gotten accustomed to, there were lots of people who lost faith and confidence in me but Richard Childress, Cingular and the guys on this race team even when we didn't run well, they never gave up on me. That means a lot to me. In many ways all that helped get me back to the way I am used to being and hopefully we can make that pay off next year.
KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS:
"I just got loose going in to one, it is the first time I have been in loose all day long. I slapped the wall, it hurt the front end and must have broken the brake rotor because I went in to next time around and just had no brakes. Tough break for all the guys on the Kellogg's Chevrolet team, they never give up, obviously, we can see that. The No. 8, he got by the No. 20 pretty easily there, he let him go, but when I got to the No. 20, he must be mad at me for last week, talking bad about him, but whatever. Daytona 500, 2007, here we come."
STERLING MARLIN, NO. 14 GINN CLUBS & RESORTS MONTE CARLO SS
"I felt the motor start missing and knew right then we had an engine problem. Kyle (Petty) and I have been racing for the top 35 the last couple of weeks and this is the kind of luck we continue to have. Kyle's been real classy about it and we've been racing hard and clean on the track--we both wanted to the decision made on the racetrack, not by bad luck.
"But things happen. Hendrick Motorsports provides us with great motors each and every week and it's very rare that they have a malfunction. I hate it for the team and for everyone at Ginn and Waste Management. We had a good car today, but we can't gain points sitting in the garage.
"Everyone on this No. 14 car has kept their heads up and kept fighting and working hard but things just haven't worked out for us lately. We'll come back next year and try it again."
RICHARD "SLUGGER" LABBE, CREW CHIEF NO. 14 GINN CLUBS & RESORTS MONTE CARLO SS
"This team's performances have improved every week over the last couple of months-- we just haven't been able to get away from the bad luck. It's frustrating, but we know that if we can keep improving each week and being competitive like we've been doing lately, the finishes will start improving too.
"I'm very proud of everyone on this race team. It isn't the way we wanted to end the season, but we're going to get things turned around and be better next year. All the guys on the team and at the shop are excited and prepared to start working hard in the off season to be sure the way we've been performing lately will carry over to the entire season next year."
JOE NEMECHEK, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET
You qualified 13th, finished 13th and will drive the No. 13 Chevrolet for MB2 next year. What do you make of the 13s? "I'm not sure what to make of all those 13s," said Nemechek. "I'm not superstitious, but maybe I should be. All I know is that we had a pretty good run today in the 01 Army Chevy and I am happy that we gave our soldiers a good showing in the final race of the year."
ON THIS BEING HIS LAST RIDE IN THE ARMY-SPONSORED CHEVY? "It's been an honor to represent the Army," said Nemechek, who took over the Army ride with four races remaining in 2003. "It's not like I'm going away. I'm still going to be around and help our soldiers as much as I can. The soldiers are the ones who give us the freedom to come here and race. They are my heroes and always will be. And everybody needs to make sure they go out of their way to tell our men and women in uniform thank you."
You've had seven straight top 20s with an average finish of 15th during this period. It's been a good turnaround. "The past few months we've gotten a lot closer and that's a good thing for all of our teams at MB2 next year," said Nemechek. "We really learned a lot. It's just disappointing that we got so far behind and had to play catch-up for most of the season."
JEFF GREEN, NO. 66 BEST BUY MONTE CARLO SS:
"(The car) was a beast. I'd go into the turns and it would be loose, then tight in the middle, then loose off. I couldn't do a lot with it. My hat's off to Harold (Holly, crew chief of the No. 66 team) and the crew. They never lost faith, and kept making changes to try and make it better. I know they're looking forward to having some time away from the track to work on the cars and get them where they want them. I'm looking forward to 2007."
-credit: gm racing