JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 2nd: WHAT A DAY FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, FINISHING 1-2 HERE. "To have a 1-2 with the 24 and the 48, being housed under the same roof, and Jeff being an owner and mentor to me and...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 2nd:
WHAT A DAY FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, FINISHING 1-2 HERE.
"To have a 1-2 with the 24 and the 48, being housed under the same roof, and Jeff being an owner and mentor to me and Robbie [Loomis] and Brian Whitesell being mentors to Chad Knaus and this whole team, it was a special day, a very special day. I've been struggling this entire weekend. The fastest I was all weekend was 24th or 25th on the board, and to be able to get things figured out and sorted out on how to drive the track and finish second is such a cool accomplishment. It means a lot to me. This is one of the places that is hardest mentally to drive, and even after being spun out and all kinds of crazy stuff happened to us today, we still ended up with a good finish."
YOU FOLLOWED JEFF THE LAST PART OF THE RACE. WHAT WAS DIFFERENT ABOUT HIS CAR AND YOURS?
"I think if the track position had worked out a little differently, I don't know if he would have been able to get by me. He was a little better getting off the corners, but you have to be so much faster than somebody to pass them on the inside, especially as the tires go away. I don't know how the cycles worked out, but I guess he was in front of me all day long and then I caught up to him. If I had been able to get by him sooner, I think I could have held him off at the end. It was a great performance, He's the master. Everybody knows how many victories he has here and how successful he's been here, to run second to him--I hate running second, but I'm going to run second to him here."
YOU MENTIONED THAT JEFF HAS BEEN YOUR MENTOR. DID HE HELP YOU GET AROUND HERE BETTER?
"We definitely talked about what we look for inside the car, but a tenth of a second here, you're a hero or a zero. A half a tenth, you're going forward. A half a tenth slower, you're going backwards. To actually pull the information out of him to find that half a tenth that I needed to be competitive today and attempt to race for the win, I was doing the same things, telling them the same things and I just couldn't get it. It took me getting into the race today for me to figure out what I needed to do. On top of that, we put his setup in the car, so to have that luxury, to fall back on Jeff Gordon's setups, helped me a lot on that front. This is a hard place to get any help from anyone when there's such little margin between first and 30th."
WERE YOU WORRIED THAT YOU'D NEVER FIGURE THIS PLACE OUT?
"No. I was running in the 20s and we broke a rear end my first time here. I wish I would have been able to stay in and learn more about it. When I came back the second time, I think I qualified in the top 10 and finished in the top 10. These cars are so heavy and so big and you can upset them easily with the brake. The more experience you get, you don't realize how much you're maturing. I think this finish today--it took me a while to figure it out, but the end result was from another year's worth of experience and another four or five months worth of experience when we ran here earlier in the year."
THOSE LAST 40 OR 50 LAPS, DID YOU THINK ABOUT STEPPING UP THERE AND BEATING ON THE BOSS AND MOVING HIM?
"I knew that question was coming. Of course I want to pass him. Of course I want to put a bumper to him. I wouldn't have wrecked him, but that's what I'm out there to do. That's what we're all out there to do, race for the win. I'm racing him for points. I wouldn't have wrecked him, but I wish I could have gotten inside him and put on a good show and ended up the winner. That's all I had. At the end I had the brakes pretty hot and mad at me. I was afraid of blowing a right front, so I just kind of settled in with four to go and brought it home."
IN TALKING WITH JEFF THIS WEEK, DID HE GIVE YOU ANY INDICATION THAT HE THOUGHT THIS WAS THE WEEKEND HE'D WIN AGAIN?
"I know that every week he feels he has a shot at winning. This week, being at this track, I think his chances and his confidence is probably higher. As a teammate and a friend, I can tell you he doesn't get rattled by much, and by everything we've seen with his personal life and his career, you can't get inside his head and that's one of the big strengths Jeff Gordon has. As for him being under pressure, I don't see it. I haven't seen it. He's Jeff Gordon. He doesn't crack under pressure and sometimes when you count him out he steps back up,"
TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN TURN 4 WHEN YOU SPUN?
"It just got bottle-necked and we were all trying to stop. I was going around the outside of the 42 and somebody tried wedging themselves between Jamie and the car that was spinning. We were essentially four or five wide and got clipped and turned around from that."
OF THE TOP SEVEN IN THE POINTS, SIX OF YOU FINISHED IN THE TOP SEVEN TODAY. AS A GROUP, ARE YOU TURNING UP THE HEAT?
"I think it's been pretty progressive here lately. Since the midway point, I think the top 10 in points has really been the way we've been finishing on the track and it's been pretty competitive. >From my standpoint, I'm looking in the mirror behind me and I see Ryan Newman and Dale Jr. I think, 'oh great, I'm ahead of them and I'll gain a couple of points.' But in front of me is Jeff and I lost some to him, and I guess we're slowly chipping away at Matt's lead, but the top five or six in the points keep finishing that way on the track. I think it's going to continue to be like that. The final results in the championship are going to boil down to who doesn't make a mistake in the end. Everyone is too close in speed and too competitive to really run away with anything and make up a lot of ground on anyone."