JIMMIE JOHNSON AND (CREW CHIEF) DARIAN GRUBB, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS: SINCE THIS TEAM IS DOING SO WELL, SHOULD CHAD KNAUS STEP BACK AND LET DARIAN GRUBB BE THE PERMANENT CREW CHIEF? "Chad started this race team and picked Darian to be...
JIMMIE JOHNSON AND (CREW CHIEF) DARIAN GRUBB, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS:
SINCE THIS TEAM IS DOING SO WELL, SHOULD CHAD KNAUS STEP BACK AND LET DARIAN GRUBB BE THE PERMANENT CREW CHIEF?
"Chad started this race team and picked Darian to be the race engineer and has brought him through the organization and has really shown us all what we're made of and what our talents are and what we can do. Chad is a huge asset to this race team and has built this team and has been at home working on the races ahead of us so we're prepared and ready when we get to them. We've had a very good record so far. Our cars have been very strong from all the work that Darian and Chad and everyone has done over the off-season. It's just really a team effort. I'm very pleased with this start. We're looking forward to having Chad back. We're all learning with you -- with everyone out there. We thought that we could, but we didn't think we'd be in this position. We're very grateful. We're all more confident in our abilities. We've all had to assume new responsibilities and more responsibilities."
ARE YOU FEEL YOU'RE ON THAT HOT STREAK AGAIN?
"In a way I do. Fontana was good for us. Today we didn't have the fastest car at times but we got it right at the end of the race. I'm happy and confident in the team's ability to listen to me throughout the day and Darian's ability as I'm telling him what the car is doing and he's making great adjustments. He's put us in race-winning contention at the end of every race this year so far. We wanted to be off to a nice start and this is more than that. We hope to keep this momentum rolling."
ON THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISHES
"I personally feel that the green-white-checkered is a great compromise. If I was a paying fan and sat in the grandstands and the race ended under caution, I'd be upset. I think one attempt at a green-white-finish for the competition side and for the fans. I don't think I would have caught Matt Kenseth. I was slowly catching him. If we'd have had a long run, I think I could have been up there racing with him. But if it stayed green, I believe Matt had it in the bag. When the caution came out, I could get right on his bumper and could work out my game plan from there."
WERE YOU BIDING YOUR TIME FOR MOST OF THE DAY?
"It was tough. I don't want to make a mistake and crash the car trying to get extra speed out of it. There were times today where we were a little too tight and some cars were faster than us and I just pulled down and let them go. I really tried to focus on my car for three-quarters of the race and make sure I had the best driving race car I could. The game plan was to stay in the top five and be smooth and clean all day long and then from the second or third pit stop from the end, really pour it on. That's what we did. I didn't think it was going to come together that well. But it played out. If the caution hadn't come out, we would have been closer to Matt's bumper, but we wouldn't have won."
HOW NERVOUS WERE YOU AND WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT BEING CAREFUL AT THE END?
"Throughout the race, I was thinking points and racing just hard enough. But when you're that close at the end, all the sensible thinking is gone and you do all you can to win the race."
GRUBB: "Those last couple of laps, I was nervous because our job was done. The pit crew did a great job all day. I don't think we lost any positions in any stop except for the stops where we did major adjustments. That took time. They did a great job every stop getting the most they could. They didn't make any mistakes. We got Jimmie back out there that last stop. He came in second and we go him back out there in second. That's all we can ask for. It would have been nice to have come out in the lead, but Kenseth had a great stop as well. But Jimmie just got out there and got it done after that."
THIS IS YOUR 20TH WIN. IS IT MORE FUN TO WIN WHEN IT COMES RIGHT DOWN TO THE FINISH, OR TO HAVE A13 CAR LENGTH LEAD?
JOHNSON: "To win like this is the best. In Matt's defense, I lost one to Carl Edwards like this and it's the worst way to lose a race."
DID CHAD KNAUS HELP YOU PREPARE DURING THE COURSE OF THIS WEEK? ANYTHING SPECIAL?
JOHNSON: "It' not just over this last week, it's really from the inception of this race team -- the start of it. We just have a mindset in the way that Chad runs and operates things and the cars and the direction the cars are going. Darian has been on the box with Chad helping him make decisions. So it's been an easy transition for us to work together. We have a couple of other crew chiefs who could jump in at Hendrick Motorsports. But I didn't want to start that communications process over. Darian has been there. He's extremely talented and deserving of the chance."
GRUBB: "I guess I have to thank NASCAR for this. Chad's at home seven days a week working on these cars. It's pretty easy to unload fast when you've got a mind like that back at the fab shop working on it. Those guys are working unbelievable hours just trying to keep things going and keep them up front because they know we can. The cars and preparation are just second to none. It makes my decisions easy. I can look back at past history and use Jimmie's input and then talk to Chad at night and just see if he's agreeing with the changes we've made."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS?
GRUBB: "If you started on the pole and you led every lap, then maybe you don't learn anything. But we're really working on it. We're improving our qualifying and working hard on every pit stop. The guys make suggestions to me. We keep learning. It might not be the same track or the same circumstances, but it still goes back in the back of your mind. The things we've built in the last three years I've been here and the four years Jimmie has been with Hendrick, there's a whole lot to build on. Hendrick cars are up front. They were all up there all day. That just goes to show the strength of our whole program."
HAVE YOU AT ANY TIME FELT A DISADVANTAGE BY NASCAR'S PENALTY?
GRUBB: "I'd definitely say so. Chad's leadership is second to none. We really miss that. But then it's also given us a chance to expand on our role. We get to grow within our positions and it makes us a tighter team so we really cannot wait until Chad to get back to put his leadership back in his team and everybody understands their role that much better and how much input they can have to the team and how much better we can make these race cars and make Jimmie happy on the race track. You can all see what Jimmie can do in the last two laps."
JOHNSON: "If you were inside our minds and the transporter and the garage, I think Darian explained it perfectly. We're learning as we go and expanding in our positions. Between Darian and I, we look at each other and gauge by each other's intensity and we say all right, let's try this -- where Chad says we need to do this. It's been good for us to expand and learn. It's making this race team stronger and me a better race car driver and leader. It's making me more sensitive to what's going on underneath me in the car. So we've been performing well, but it's been a challenging road. It hasn't been as easy as it looks, I promise you."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'LL HAVE A WEAKNESS IN ATLANTA?
"No, I don't feel that there is a weakness. We're a very strong race team. My goals this season were to win a plate race, a road course race, and Bristol. Fortunately we got the plate race out of the way. I'm strong at all the tracks on the schedule so I feel good about it. We're learning the new Monte Carlo SS every day and we're making it better from week to week. You can only learn so much in the wind tunnel and we've really been developing the car and we're very happy with it and making some more gains. After Dover last year, when the shocks were not available for us to use any more, we had a lot of time invested on the back of our cars where Roush and other teams had worked on the front. On the off-season, we really worked on finding the right balance we needed. All the crew chiefs and engineers at Hendrick spend a lot of time working on the suspension and geometry to get the front of these cars better. I think we're off to a great start."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE IDEA OF HAVING A CREW CHIEF AT THE SHOP AND ANOTHER ONE ON THE ROAD?
GRUBB: "That's definitely been talked about. A lot of people see how the F-I races go. You have to have a huge team of people to call a race correctly. It's nice to have technology and all those things going on, but you have to see the things in person. You can't sit and look at every car on the track on TV. You can tell a lot more by being here."