JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: ON THE HISTORY OF JIMMIE JOHNSON'S SEASON: "Well I had the pleasure of flying back and forth to the race track with Jimmie this weekend. It was a cool moment for me because I felt like those guys really...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
ON THE HISTORY OF JIMMIE JOHNSON'S SEASON: "Well I had the pleasure of flying back and forth to the race track with Jimmie this weekend. It was a cool moment for me because I felt like those guys really had it in their grasp and were going to do it. I didn't want to say anything that was going to make him nervous or anything but we did talk about the type of season that he's had. He's had an amazing year. He's had one of those championship caliber years. You know the Chase just makes things more challenging and sometimes no matter how great of a season you've had it doesn't always going to mean you're always going to win a championship. So for those guys to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and have the type of season they've had and to win (the championship) and the seasons they've had in the past. They've been so close. I'm just proud of Jimmie. He's a great friend of mine and one heck of a race car driver. We're proud to have him there at Hendrick Motorsports and to get Rick Hendrick his sixth championship is something that is very, very special. That entire Lowe's team, Chad Knaus and all of them have done an amazing job since they started really. It's awesome to see him get it."
ON JIMMIE'S COMEBACK AND IF HE THOUGHT JIMMIE WAS DONE AFTER TALLADEGA: "You know I thought ah man here we go again. The Chase starts and those guys had their problems. The one thing about those guys is you never count them out. Sometimes they do better when they're down. This Chase, 10 races is a lot longer than you think it is, and I'm pretty happy that we finished sixth in points. We had a lot of trouble and still finished sixth in points. It's a lot of racing out there and those guys never gave up."
WAS JIMMIE MORE NERVOUS THAN WHAT HE WAS LETTING ON TO? "Yeah, probably. He was pretty quiet and wanted to go home and rest. There wasn't a whole lot of interaction. He's got a lot of friends, a lot of people here that wanted to see him win this thing. He's happy to have them here but he really didn't want to get caught up in all that and be let down or let that affect his thinking process. I thought he did the right thing. He was smart all weekend long and focused on the car and the team. When he left the race track he went home, got his rest, came back solid the next day and today he was ready."
ON JIMMIE WINNING THE DAYTONA 500, THE BRICKYARD AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP. IS THAT LIKE WINNING A TRIPLE CROWN? "Heck yeah, that's one heck of a year. These are years you dream about. Jimmie and I talked a little bit this weekend when we were traveling back and forth to the race. One of the things we did talk about was that it's been a dream season if they could pull that off, the championship. I mean you can't do it any better than that - the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the championship. That's pretty awesome."
ON HELPING GIVE JIMMIE HIS START AND OWNING THE CAR AND HOW PROUD HE IS: "I'm very proud. I don't like to take much of the credit because Jimmie is a heck of a race car driver. Somebody was going to pick him up and I'm just really thankful that the opportunity presented itself to us. I mean I give Jimmie a lot of the credit. He came to me you know and just asked me some opinions about car owners and teams and what his next move should be and I was really kind of blown away for him to look up to me in that way and to come tap me on the shoulder and ask me for that advice and it just so happened we were thinking about building a fourth team at Hendrick Motorsports. I went to Rick Hendrick and said 'Rick, what do you think of this Jimmie Johnson guy? I think he's got a lot of talent and I think if we put him in some good equipment he could do some great things.' Rick asked if I was willing to put my money where my mouth is (laughs) and I said yes I am. That's where the partnership kind of came together."
ON THE FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP BEING THE HARDEST AND WHAT HE SEES FOR JIMMIE'S FUTURE: "I tell you what. What happened was the first year they were kind of surprised to be in it and the next year they're like 'yeah, we're capable of doing this' and then the third year it was like wait a minute every time we get to the end here it seems to fall apart so they started to maybe second guess themselves a little bit. This year they had the opportunity to really pull it off and they did. That's only going to make that team and their confidence level that much stronger for next season."
WHAT WILL BE THE LEGACY OF JIMMIE'S SEASON? "It's hard to pick one thing. The guy won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the championship. If you really look at the 10 races in the Chase it really said it all about the No. 48 race team. The guys are solid, they're strong, they never give up and they know how to pull the team together when they need to. Chad Knaus is a great leader and Jimmie is just a solid, consistent race car driver who knows how to get the job done when he needs to. Those guys just fought back and that's the type of race team that it takes to win a championships. They're fighters. They got down and that's a championship caliber team. They earned it and they deserve it. They've been in contention for the last several years and finally pulled it off."
ON WHAT KIND OF CHAMPION JIMMIE WILL BE: "I think he'll be one of the best champions we've ever had because he cares so much about it. It means a tremendous amount to him. He's a great spokesperson. He's comfortable in front of people and the cameras. I think that Jimmie is really going to help take our sport to another level and going to be a great representative."
ON ANYTHING JIMMIE MAY HAVE DONE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR THAT HELPED HIM WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP: "I think that it's just the determination they've had. They've really been good when they need to be good. Maybe in the past like at the start of the Chase when things started to go wrong and they just never gave up on it but they never had in the past either. They never just finished it all off and this year they finished it off. It all depends on how everybody else runs and what happens to everybody else too. Even when they started bad and it wasn't looking good they never gave up but then other things started to happening to other guys that put them right back into it and all the sudden they're like all right here we go, now let's get it done and they did."
ON JIMMIE'S CHAMPIONSHIP AND WHAT IT MEANS TO MR. HENDRICK AND WITH RICKY NOT BEING HERE: "Well honestly I think Ricky was probably one of the first guys that pointed out Jimmie Johnson to Rick Hendrick. I think they gave him a ride home from a race or something one time and I think at that time Ricky said to Rick 'Hey, this guy is somebody you may want to hire one day.' There's a lot of those moments that come back into your mind when a moment like this happens. I know how proud Rick is and I know much he would have loved to share this with Rick, with John, with family members that were lost. He's excited. It's a great moment but I know how much better it could have been and we're just going to try to make the most of it and just try to keep a smile on Rick's face because he deserves it. He's a great car owner. He provides all of us with everything we could ever ask for and to have three cars in the Chase and all four of them in the top 15 and one is the championship, that tells you what kind of organization we have."
DID YOU HAVE A PEP TALK WITH JIMMIE? "I did not. I really just wanted to stay away from saying too much and letting him over think it. I kind of let him do his thing. I don't feel like mentally any of that has been the reason that he hasn't won the championship. I think that he's a talented driver. When you fire up the engine you put your helmet on, go out there and do your job and all I said to him last night was get a good night sleep and then today I just told him there's nobody out there any better, just do what you know how to do and that was it."
HAVE YOU SEEN ENOUGH OUT OF YOUR TEAM MAKING THE CHASE AND IN THE CHASE TO TAKE YOUR TEAM TO THE NEXT LEVEL TO COMPETE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT YEAR? "I'll tell you what, ever since the Chase started this team stepped up, other than tonight. We were horrible. It reminds me of Richmond. That's what's scary is that you never know when those bad days can come like that. But nine out of the 10 races in the Chase we ran awesome so that has got me really pumped up. With a championship team there and Casey Mears coming on board next year, Kyle Busch and that team as good as they are, I think all four teams are going to be really solid and it's only going to take us to that next level."
ON MAKING THE CHASE THIS YEAR: "Well you've got to earn it. It doesn't just come because the car has the 24 on the side (or) because you won four in the past. That doesn't mean anything. You've got to go out there and earn it and be a solid good team and know how to build that chemistry with good race cars. It's all got to come together. Just like Jimmie, when things start to happen that get you down you've got to be able to fight right back and get back up on top right away. That's what I started to see our team have at the end of the year but tonight wasn't one of those moments. We know we've got to still work on a few things. You always got to work on making your cars perform."
ON IF THINGS CHANGE WITH JIMMIE NOW HAVING A CHAMPIONSHIP: "You know what, if it is that's fine by me because I love what Jimmie Johnson brings to Hendrick Motorsports. I'm excited to be a part of it and you know what, we've had some great years and I feel like we have great years still in us. I feel like we had a car capable of winning the championship this year if we hadn't had problems. I just like not being the guy that has to carry all the reigns because I felt like in the past so many things have been on our shoulders and now that weight is being distributed out and we have other teams that are capable of doing that too. Next year I think we'll see that. I want to do the best that I can for my team and make sure we have a team capable of winning the championship. If we win it, we win it. If we don't, we don't. We can say that because we have four. We've never had an A, B, C or D team. There's never been any ranking order. It's been here's all the best equipment you can possibly have, go do the best with it and those guys have been doing a great job with it and it forces us to have to step up."
-credit: gm racing