Phoenix II: Pole winner interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- POLE WINNER YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT SITTING ON THE POLE FOR SUNDAY'S RACE. "Just a great lap for us. I think everybody watched the television broadcast and heard from drivers that the vision getting ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- POLE WINNER

YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT SITTING ON THE POLE FOR SUNDAY'S RACE.

"Just a great lap for us. I think everybody watched the television broadcast and heard from drivers that the vision getting into (turn) one was really the toughest thing. The first lap I missed it and tried talking to myself down the backstretch to not mess up (turns) three and four. Did a good job of that and came back to the green and kind of guessed where I was going to be on corner entry and how much brake I needed because there was no way to see where you were going to end up and how much speed you were carrying to the bottom of the race track. Once my eyes adjusted I was on the line, had a good angle pointed in the car and knew that I hit it right and then just went down into three and four and put together a tidy corner. Watching Jeff (Gordon) and some of these other guys that went down into one and made a mistake and knew they left some time on the table and went into three and made another mistake which really affected them. Did a good job of managing that stuff and very happy obviously with the result."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO LOCK IT UP ON SUNDAY AND JUST GO INTO HOMESTEAD AND START THE RACE?

"Fifty-six points. That's really the bottom line. I need to be 162 up leaving here and then all I have to do is go down there and start. Am I planning on that being the case, no? Carl (Edwards) and those guys have been so strong. My goal is to outrun them. I don't want this margin to shrink any more. This is one of our better tracks. I think history shows that Homestead has been better for the Roush (Roush-Fenway Racing) guys so I want to leave here without losing any points. If I can get the 56 points and end up 162 ahead, right on. That's the ultimate goal but the goal is to outrun the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) wherever that is."

OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT GETTING ON THE POLE HELPS YOU TO WIN THE RACE WHICH IS YOUR GOAL IN THE POINTS, AFTER LAST WEEK LEADING THE PRACTICE SESSION, TAKING THE POLE KIND OF SENDS A MESSAGE OUT THAT YOU'VE GOT IT TOGETHER FOR THIS WEEKEND AND THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO RECKON WITH YOU. WAS THAT THE CONVERSATION OF YOUR TEAM LEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND?

"You know it's one of those things that just goes unsaid. I was watching the Nationwide broadcast and they're bringing up points, how Carl (Edwards) was sending a message to the No. 2 (Clint Bowyer) bunch and that stuff goes without any effort, without anyone planning to send that message. You just know as a team where you are at and you can't help but look at where the guys are that you're racing and that message is sent without really saying anything internally or to the guy that's next to you that you're racing. It's just one of those things. So you go out today and post that lap in practice and then back it up in qualifying. We've done a good job but it's the first day of three that we've got to worry about. Tomorrow is a whole new day and so is Sunday."

HOW WAS YOUR TONIGHT SHOW EXPERIENCE?

"Yeah, it wasn't bad. Had some fun with it. Some of the things I didn't think came off as funny as they could have and other parts of it I thought were really funny. It was cool to hang out with Jay (Leno). He was really excited for me to be there. Took me outside and showed me this Oldsmobile car that has 1200 horse power in it that he finished up. Great personality, very friendly, spent a lot of time in the green room talking to all the guests. So all in all a great experience."

STARTING 15 SPOTS AHEAD OF CARL SUNDAY, DOES THAT MATTER AT ALL?

"It just depends on what takes place. If he gets through there clean and has a great car and has no problems and is on our bumper than no big deal, it's just how it kind of is. If that throws off the rhythm, there can be things that come from it. Again, I'm just going to plan on the worst case scenario for myself which is he's going to have the fastest car and he's coming. Then that way I'm prepared from A to Z on where I need to be mentally. So we'll just kind of see what happens. We'll have a better feel tomorrow where things are at as well. As we get into race practice, look at guys over the long haul, see where we are at. It's one thing to make the car go fast for one lap but to have it do it over the course of a run is another thing."

IN 2004 IT WAS LIKE FIVE GUYS GOING INTO THE LAST RACE, WE DIDN'T KNOW WHO WAS GOING TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP UNTIL ABOUT THE LAST LAP, ARE YOU SURPRISED HOW THAT'S BEEN THE ONLY YEAR WE'VE SEEN A MAD SCRAMBLE LIKE THAT IN THIS FORMAT?

"I guess I would. I guess it's usually been a 50, 60-point margin come the end of Homestead. Yeah, you would think a 10-race format it would bunch that up more. You look at the Truck Series and its six points between first and second right now. I don't know why. I really don't have an answer for you why you'd think the 10-race stretch would keep that from happening."

CAN YOU TELL US THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT YOU DO TO TRY TO COMBAT THAT VISION PROBLEM AND GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT IT'S LIKE TO FLY DOWN INTO THAT CORNER WITH THE SUN IN YOUR EYES?

"The only thing, I knew it was going to be a problem. So before I went out we put some tape on the windshield and you could see every car on pit road doing it. As soon as the first driver made a complaint about it all the teams were scanning and the duct tape rolls came flying out and everybody was putting it on the windshields of their cars. In the first lap I was shocked because I had one level of light I was dealing with on the straightaway and then as you turned in the corner you went into a shadow and then there's a gap between the top of the grandstands and the press boxes up there and another ray of light was shooting through there so it just really confused your eyes and you went bright sun and think you had an idea of where to go to a shadow back to bright light to a shadow and by the time your eyes adjusted you're at the center point of the corner.

"The first lap I missed it. The second lap I just kind of had a talk with myself coming down the front stretch, you did this in practice. I could see my initial breaking mark.

"Like just go to that mark and remember the rhythm of pressure and all those things going into the corner and I just kind of went off of memory what I'd been doing and the rhythm that I had in practice and it worked out. I was surprised when I got to the center of the turn and my eyes adjusted that I was at the right spot and then was very happy that I did it right and time to go. I just didn't know where I was going to end up."

CHAD WAS FEELING A LITTLE EMOTIONAL LAST WEEK WHEN A COUPLE OF THINGS HAPPENED, ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO SWITCH PLACES WITH HIM A LITTLE BIT OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES AND TRY TO KEEP HIM CALMED DOWN?

"We had some things that didn't work out like they should have last week. Chad's an emotional guy. It doesn't matter if we're winning, loosing, whatever the situation may be he expects a lot out of everyone and the race just started off wrong and we had some things go wrong that got us a lap down and got us in trouble. From what I heard and dealt with him on the radio, he did a fantastic job. I think a younger Chad would have had a complete and total meltdown. Maybe he just had a partial meltdown (laughter) He did a very good job and kept me focused on the right things. We did all that we could. We didn't get into a situation where he was so mad we were making bad decisions and risky decisions. We raced the race that we had to as that race wound down. We couldn't stretch it on fuel mileage, we couldn't go up and get our lap back so we just had to play it smart and not do something stupid. We came through there and did the best that we could."

HAVE YOU FOUND A WAY TO BALANCE YOUR ROLES, WHERE MAYBE ONE GUY IS HAVING AN OFF DAY AND YOU STEP UP AND BE THE COACH SORT OF SPEAK?

"Yeah, that's happened. It certainly does happen from week to week and it can be in the race, it can be in practice, it could be the team debriefs, that definitely comes in and out. Also, myself and really all of Hendrick Motorsports, Chad when we have a good practice or good qualifying effort he's on cloud nine, everything is easy going. If we're low on the board, had a bad practice whatever it may be that team debrief isn't going to be fun. He's like what's thinking there at times and we just know how to adjust and adapt to him. But the thing Chad's done a really good job with has been after events everybody needs to vent and how you come back and deal with things at that point, that's where Chad has grown a lot. He still needs to vent that's just who he is and what his personality is but when he comes back he's able to get focused and work on the right things."

REMEMBER AFTER THE CHICAGOLAND RACE WHEN YOU TRIED DOING EVERYTHING YOU COULD TO BEAT KYLE (BUSCH) AND HE STILL CAME BACK AND WON THE RACE YOU WERE PRETTY DISAPPOINTED, DID YOU THINK AT THAT TIME THAT YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THIS POSITION THAT YOU WERE IN RIGHT NOW?

"No I really thought it was the No. 18's season the way things were going for them. And then the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) was really matching his pace before we did. Those were the two guys that I had my eyes on all season long.

"At Chicago I couldn't have been more mad at myself for loosing that race. It was my fault on that restart. So that's where that really came from. But no I couldn't really see us here but I hoped and I knew we were working really hard to get things right. If you told me in Chicago in July that Kyle Busch was going to be 12th in the points there was no way I would believe you. There's just not a chance."

-credit: gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports