JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 2ND
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 CARQUEST/GO.DADDY CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 3RD
POST QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
MODERATOR: “Qualifying is over for the 42nd Annual Aaron’s 499 that will be run here tomorrow at Talladega Superspeedway. Hendrick Motorsports becomes only the third team in NASCAR Sprint Cup history to qualify four cars in the top four starting positions. The other two times were done by Pete DePaolo in 1965 at Charlotte, Jack Roush in 2004 at Auto Club Speedway. Congratulations to Hendrick Motorsports. We have two of the top four (4) drivers on the podium right now. Third fastest is Mark Martin, No. 5 CARQUEST/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet and second fastest is Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet.
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT AND THE FACT THAT ALL FOUR HENDRICK CARS QUALIFIED IN THE TOP 4 POSITIONS FOR SUNDAY’S RACE
MARTIN: “Well, restrictor plate qualifying is kind of fickle. You have what appears to be the fastest car and then do your qualifying run and be greatly disappointed, which we were at Daytona. We thought at Daytona we had a shot at the pole and expected to and should have by every indication, but qualified 17th. I don’t think you ever know until you get the lap in what it’s going to be. But we’re certainly pleased with that. Honestly. Once again, humbled to be a part of Hendrick Motorsports. That is such an awesome accomplishment. Kudos to that tremendous engine department always. Always the engines are just amazing at Hendrick Motorsports. Obviously they build nice race cars as well and Lance (McGrew) in the No. 5 car team did a great job in preparing this car to make this race. We felt real good about it in race trim and didn’t have any idea how qualifying would be, on one hand. On the other hand, we had felt like that we should be a contender for the pole based on the history of this particular race car, even though it did disappoint us qualifying at Daytona. So, it was nice to be a part of all this.”
JOHNSON: “I really have to echo what Mark was saying. You never know what your lap time is going to be and where you’re going to fall in the ranking until you go out and run the lap. We experienced something very similar to Mark in Daytona. We had high hopes and were sorely disappointed. So to see my three teammates at the top of the board, I know that I was unsure about what would happen and then looking at my engine tuner once the lap was over, I know that it was a tough session for him to sit and watch. As soon as we came off the track and came over to the holding area, he mentioned he was going to go pass out because he had been so stressed out and knew that the weight of the world was on his shoulders and that fourth Hendrick car needed to be up there with the other three. So, happy to have it work out and I’m very happy for Rick (Hendrick). I know today was a very special day for him to have all four cars where they are. It was a great team effort, regardless of the shop that these cars came out of to run that close in speed, just shows the commitment of all four teams and the company and the engine shop. So we’re happy to have fast Chevys.”
ARE YOU CONVINCED THAT YOU’VE MADE THE NECESSARY CHANGES WHATEVER THOSE ARE, WHETHER IT’S COOLING OR WHATEVER HAS TO BE DONE, SO YOU ARE EQUALLY AS COMPETITIVE DURING THE RACE?
MARTIN: “I think I can speak for all of us. There has been a lot of effort put into this and we have made significant improvements in many areas and we don’t know what the competition has done. We only know what we have done. I would much rather be lucky tomorrow than good. But you have to do everything you can to be good. We had a shot to win the Daytona 500 with a wrecked race car (laughs). So, I don’t think you can plan all this out. You have to make your best race cars and then hope things go your way.”
HAVING ALL FOUR CARS IN FRONT TWO ROWS, YOU GET TO PARTNER WITH YOUR TEAMMATES. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN WORKING WITH SOMEBODY YOU KNOW? MARK, YOU WORKED WITH JEFF (GORDON) IN PRACTICE AND JIMMIE, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY YOU PAIRED UP IN PRACTICE WITH KYLE BUSCH INSTEAD OF A TEAMMATE?
JOHNSON: “Yeah, for us, in working with Kyle yesterday, it boiled down to how we left the garage area and Kyle was right there behind us based on points going out of the garage. He didn’t have a teammate close by to work with either, so we just rolled off. The plan was for us to wait and let the first wave of cars go and then the No. 88 (Earnhardt Jr.,) and the No. 48 were going to go out and work together. But with the shortened practice session we felt was coming because of the rain, it was just one of those things where we just had to go and get our laps in. But the No. 24 and the No. 5 have worked together and the No. 88 and No. 48 plan on working together. We couldn’t have done this any better in the way we qualified and I think Junior had a funny quote. He told (crew chief) Stevie (Letarte) to send a text over to (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) that we’d better qualify second so we don’t mess this thing up. So the cars are all lined up in the order in which we’d hoped they’d be. It worked out and it’s nice to work with teammates. We’d prefer to work with one another and this at least ensures that first run that we’ll have a chance to work together. And we’ll try to do it more from there if the opportunities present themselves.”
I’M GOING TO ASSUME THAT BECAUSE HANDLING IS NOT SUCH A BIG ISSUE HERE THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO USE VERY SIMILAR SET-UPS DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOU LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS WITH YOUR CARS. IS QUALIFYING AND SWEEPING THE TOP FOUR SPOTS A REFLECTION OF THE KIND OF TRACK WE’RE AT OR WHAT’S THE MOJO BEHIND THIS?
MARTIN: “I haven’t looked at any of my teammates. I’ll bet you that we’re very similar. But because it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter (laughs). It doesn’t even matter enough for me to be curious of what someone else is doing. But I’ll be you that if you looked and compared notes, they were all in the same area and range and zip code, so to speak.”
JOHNSON: “That’s all based on the rules that NASCAR has in place. So I would assume that pretty much every car out there is very, very similar. In my opinion, the small little details from the finish fab shop, engine department tuning, and just the small details separate the field at every restrictor plate track.”
THERE IS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT THE FORD ENGINE BEING POWERFUL, DOES HAVING THE CHEVROLETS OUT IN FRONT GIVE YOU A PRIDE FACTOR?
MARTIN: “It’s a huge engineering feat. It’s bigger than you guys (media) realize. And it’s bigger than we realize. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because we’re sitting here doing it and it doesn’t seem like it’s that big of deal. You try to be one of those guys that’s got a 30th fastest car. You try. And then come to qualify in the top four. And I’ve been there many, many, many years. And it is huge. It is an incredible engineering feat to be able to put the speed together (with) every single component: horsepower, aero, chassis, and the whole thing. And it’s largely controlled by all those people and very little influenced by the drivers where it’s hugely influenced by the drivers at the next race track. It’s a huge feat by an organization to be able to pull that off.”
JOHNSON: “Just one more thing to add to that. With the smaller plate, maybe we found something a little faster or better that works with our combination. With the plates on the cars in general the power is so different here than what we tune with and have to adjust and work with. But maybe the smaller plate fits our combination here better. The competition is tough out there, regardless of manufacturer. All teams seem to have plenty of power. And those Fords at the last race weren’t slouches at all. I think on the bigger track stuff, the unrestricted stuff, they’ve got plenty. We’ve got plenty but we always want to have more.”
-source: team chevy