Jimmie Johnson-- ...
Jimmie Johnson-- #48 Lowe's Chevrolet
Note: Brought his car back to the garage after seven laps in the first practice session, reported engine problems and will have to switch engines.
TALK ABOUT THE MINDSET GOING INTO THIS RACE RE: POINT STANDINGS It's the same, really. I think if you're leading the points or 12th, 13th, 14th in points, all you're worried about (getting more) points. Even though we're second right now we still want to be first. If you're first you still want to stretch it out get our from the guys that are behind you. Really it's the same thing. Making your cars right and getting as many points as you can every weekend.
RE: THIS YEAR VERSUS LAST YEAR I think we're better off than we were last year. I guess we're better off now than we were last year at this point. I think Indy was a good race for us even though things didn't turn out right. We made a lot of ground at Indy and we're bringing some of that mindset here. Had a good road course race at Watkins Glen which is something we haven't head in a couple of years. Things are looking good for us and we're coming to some great tracks for the Lowe's team.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THE CHASE I don't really know if there's anything you need to prepare yourself. I just remember (last year) it was a lot harder than I ever expected. There's a lot of pressure. So, I just take the experience last year and learned not to panic, not to over worry about things and just try to take that into this year.
YOUR BROTHER IS RUNNING HIS FIRST EVER ARCA RACE - MUST BE EXCITING TO SEE THAT AS AN OLDER BROTHER Yeah, very excited for him. He practiced well, qualified well. Just trying to get some laps-it's his first time on a big track. So, it's been good for him. His speed looks good. I think by the end of the day he'll
WHAT ADVICE DID YOU GIVE HIM? You know, I probably over lectured. He got in the car and took off and has done a great job. I just tried to think about when I started and what I was experiencing on these big tracks and pass some advice to him. When he did test at Chicago last year, he took to the track instantly and was one of the fastest cars there. He's been top 10 throughout all the practice sessions and qualified 16th and is really showing a lot of promise. I'm excited for his career. He worked very hard to get to where he is. Hopefully someone will notice him and be able to help him out and give him a chance.
Jeff Gordon-- #24 DuPont Chevrolet
HOW WAS PRACTICE? We were decent there when we made our qualifying run but we definitely weren't there for our race runs like we wanted to be. The track has definitely changed a bit since we tested, so we're chasing it a little bit right now.
IS IT DOWN TO WHERE THE RALLY ABSOLUTELY HAS TO START HERE? Absolutely. As far as I'm concerned it started two or three races ago. You know, each race that goes by where we don't get that win or that top 5, the next one only becomes that much more important.
RE: PRESSURE It's there, but honestly every weekend I think there's pressure, so I think we're used to dealing with pressure. You know, I think Richmond is where the extreme pressure would get you, just like Homestead was for us last year where we had a shot with the championship, there was a lot of pressure on us there. And, just like Mayfield and McMurray last year at Richmond, lot of pressure. You know, where we're at right now, I expected there would be quite a lot of pressure on us at Richmond, but I don't feel it so bad quite yet.
HOW DO YOU WANT TO GO INTO RICHMOND? I want to go into there with as much of a cushion as possible. I don't want to go in there chasing guys and knowing that you have to finish ahead of guys. I mean, we want to make these next three weeks as solid as we possibly can and make gains. No matter what, we're going to have to come out of Richmond with a solid finish. But, I don't want to be at Richmond where you have to lead the most laps to win the race.
RE: CONTRACTS AND RECENT COMMENTS THAT YOU MADE TO USA TODAY REGARDING DISRESPECT AND DRIVERS SIGNING CONTRACTS EARLY FOR OTHER TEAMS It's not that I would get rid of them, it's that if they've already decided to make a move to another team, then obviously you know where their commitments lie and where they want to be. I think that those guys made that move because they want to be out of their contracts. They want to be in those cars next year and hoping that their car owners would allow them to get out of it. Go ask those guys if their car owner would let them out of their contract, would they go? If they say no, I'd rather stay here for another year, then I take back everything I said. I'm not saying that they can't go next year and have a good year, but it creates a lot of confusion and puts up a lot of questions within the team as to what the future is for the race team and who the drivers are. I've always been one of, if a change is coming, I'd rather get ahead of the game and start planning what our next move is, instead of just dealing with it. I'm not saying that, if I was a car owners in that position, that we'd have to get them out today, but I'd be searching for a driver, especially if you're not chasing for the championship. Kurt Busch is a different situation from McMurray, but if any of those guys were not in the top 10 in points, I would start putting other drivers in the car to try to get them experience within the team. Now, I do want to make a comment where I heard something John Erickson said with Penske and he needs to go back and check his facts out because I had no contract with Ford or Bill Davis when I signed with Hendrick Motorsports. I had a contract that lasted through the end of that year in the Busch Grand National Series. I had nothing for the next year. Had I, I wouldn't have done what I did.
RE: LIFELONG CONTRACTS Yeah, but there are only a few guys I think that are capable of having a lifelong contract. I mean, I think Tony Stewart is a guy that if Gibbs has enjoyed their relationship (with him), Home Depot enjoys their relationship. Jimmie Johnson is another guy that has the potential of getting something like that. I pretty much feel that Rusty Wallace had something like that with Penske. I have that at Hendrick. Dale Earnhardt would have had something like that, you know, or sort of had something like that at DEI. So, there are a few guys that are capable of doing that, but a lot of guys don't know how to structure it and you know, that are questioning whether they want to keep that guy, you know, for the rest of their career.
IS THIS GOING TO BE A TREND? No, because they're going to start changing contracts. That's what's going to happen. It's not going to be a trend. It's going to be a change in the wording of the contract that doesn't allow drivers to go and negotiate with other teams without negotiating with them first.
MCMURRAY'S RESPONSE TO YOUR COMMENTS WAS THAT YOU HAD NEVER BEEN IN A SITUATION LIKE THE ONE HE WAS IN, IMPLYING THAT HE HAD TO GO LOOK FOR A BETTER DEAL I don't blame Jamie for going to look for a better deal. In my opinion, with Jamie's situation, I think Chip waited a little bit too long to talk about renewing for the following year. And so, when he signed that deal, I'm not saying that Jamie did anything wrong. I'm saying as a car owner, if somebody signed with another team and didn't really want to be there for next year, I don't want somebody driving the car if they don't want to be there. That's what I'm saying. I'm not saying that Jamie did anything wrong because according to the contracts of today, according to the way their deal was handled, he probably did what he needed to do. I'm saying that what I do as a car owner now. I'm not blaming Kurt Busch or Jamie McMurray, I never said that.
RE: CONTRACT WORDING Yeah, that's why I say we're going to change the wording of our contracts to make sure that any negotiations that go on, that they have to happen to us prior to them talking to anybody else. And, we've got to have something in there where if a team approaches a driver that's currently under contract, we're going to have to find a system in place that either penalizes or is a breach of contract or something where they could be released immediately.
ARE YOU IN THE PROCESS OF REDOING JIMMIE JOHNSON'S CONTRACT? We've been working on Jimmie and Lowe's on some things anyway, so you know, it's good timing for that stuff to happen.
SO, YOU ARE IN THE PROCESS OF REDOING THOSE, NOT JUST JIMMIE'S, BUT AS A COMPANY? We've been talking about a lot. I don't know if any of it's been put to play yet.
HOW HAS THIS TRACK CHANGED Well, the temperatures were pretty warm when we were here. I think it's just a combination of all the Hoosier rubber from all the ARCA cars and all the rubber down on the race track in general. It definitely changes the grip level of the race track.
Tony Stewart-- #20 The Home Depot Chevrolet
HOW WAS PRACTICE? Wasn't bad. Kind of windy today so it's making the two ends of the track drive a little bit different, but nothing that was uncommon for coming here.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU GUYS LATELY WITH YOUR SUCCESS? I don't know. That's a question for Zip (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief). From the driver's department, no, I haven't found anything. But the team obviously worked hard and have found something to get us going better than when we were going the first part of the season.
TALK ABOUT THE BRICKYARD WIN AND HOW SPECIAL IT WAS FOR YOU I think we covered that when I got out of there at 9:30 at night that night. I think we covered that.
WOULD A DAYTONA 500 WIN BE AS IMPORTANT TO YOU PERSONALLY? No, it won't be as important as the Brickyard, obviously. You know, it's obviously important to the stock car community and it is an important race to me. But, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is in my backyard and it's always been my life.
RE: THE DECISION TO BRING THE CAR FROM INDIANAPOLIS AND NOT THE ONE YOU HAD HERE IN JUNE? I'll tell you what I know about bringing what cars and this and that. Ever since I've started in Cup, I don't know which car ran where and who and that and I don't have a favorite car and that. To me it doesn't matter. Whatever car is in the garage is the one I have to climb in and that's the one we've got to work with for the weekend. You know, Zippy's a smart guy. We wouldn't have won a championship and all 24 races without the guy. That decision was probably made by him in seeing something better in the car than the one that was here before.
DID YOU CRASH AT ELDORA AND ARE YOU OKAY? Yeah, I'm fine. Actually, that's about as easy as I've ever crashed at Eldora. We had a part break on the car while we were leading and Blaney was running second and he had nowhere to go but getting into me and the third place guy wasn't far behind him. So, we were having a lot of fun running there, but it didn't end up the way we wanted to.
YOUR GREAT RUN STARTED HERE AT MICHIGAN-WHAT DO YOU TAKE FROM THAT INTO THIS WEEKEND? You know, the car started off really well like it did last time here. Just comparing the notes to what we had here last time and trying to think of things that we can do to make ourselves a little better.
WHAT CAN YOU TAKE FROM STRATEGY FROM THE EARLIER MICHIGAN RACE. TWO TIRES OR FOUR TIRES, ETC? I don't know. You never know. This race is typically hotter than the spring race, even though it's not really in the spring I guess. We just go over our notes and go over little things in the equation we think we can make better. You know, we'll see early in the race. I'm sure guys will take two tires and try to experiment and see how it works and make a judgment off of that and see what we need to do for the end of the race.
IS THIS A BIG RACE DUE TO THE MANUFACTURERS HAVING THEIR HEADQUARTERS HERE? It always has been. Ever since I've been coming here it's always been a big race for the manufacturer being in their backyard.