JIMMIE JOHNSON and CHAD KNAUS, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVY MONTE CARLO - POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: JOHNSON: "We had an awesome car today. The cool thing about the race car was that it was forgiving enough to let me search around and...
JIMMIE JOHNSON and CHAD KNAUS, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVY MONTE CARLO - POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS:
"We had an awesome car today. The cool thing about the race car was that it was forgiving enough to let me search around and find some different lines. I really thing that was the advantage we had today. On the short runs, Mark (Martin) and those guys were right there with us and I was driving hard just to get a small advantage. But over the long haul I was able to save my tires better by line selection that I just searched around and found. I've got to give my days of racing in the off road trucks and being on the dirt credit for that. This track was very slick today. It was hard to get a hold of it. You did not have a perfect race car anywhere. Chad made some great adjustments to help me, but you're still sliding around and abusing the tires.
"Over the long haul I was able to put the car where I needed it and save the tires. I think that's why we were so good as the day wore on."
"It was actually pretty scary yesterday when we found out we weren't going to have any practice at all before we started the event. The rules have changed since we were last here. The track has changed an awful lot between when we were here in June and now. It's hard to believe but it truly does. We really had to dig deep. Our team engineer and our shock specialist sat down and came up with a good plan. It really had to do with educated guesses on what the car was going to need today. We put our heads together and put a real team effort forward and pulled it out today. We had to do some air pressure adjustments for the longer runs to try and make the car last longer for us. This place loses so much grip as it gets later in the year and as the race progresses. But it obviously worked out.
Q: HOW EARLY IN THE RACE DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU HAD A STRONG ENOUGH CAR THAT MIGHT WIN THE RACE?
JOHNSON: "We started 14th. Five laps in, we were inside the top 10. I had the realization that to look around to see where we were because I was focused on the bumper covers of the guys in front of me and trying to pass them. You just get so into your zone, or whatever you want to call it, that you really don't realize what's going on around you. So I knew by 8 laps in that the car was going to be really strong. But I could also tell that whoever was going to be able to win the race that they would have to be on top of their car adjusting because in a five-lap swing, the car would really change. The sun would come out and make the track slick and then it would go away and the track would tighten up. It was a handful to stay on top of the changing race track."
Q: WITH THE NEW POINT SYSTEM, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE FACT THAT AS OF RICHMOND, THIS POINTS LEAD WON'T EXIST ANYMORE?
JOHNSON: "It's the same thing. I would believe that if you guys were in my shoes or Chad's shoes, you'd feel the same. At the beginning of the year, we knew what the points would be like and I voiced my opinion then. I've voiced it many times since then. But it doesn't change what we're racing under.
"But if we complain about it too much and don't stay focused, we'll just be complainers at the end of the year finishing third or fourth. I've been vocal about it this year so that I might influence things so that next year it might be looked on differently. I just have to deal with the rules they way they are and race as hard as we can every week. There was a curve ball thrown at us a few weeks ago when they changed the shock rule in the back. Now the teams are forced to look in different areas to find grip. Today Chad showed he's got his eyes focused on what we need to do. Hopefully we can have that for the final 10. It's going to be great for you guys. For us, it's not going to be good. You might want to get all your smiles and good photos out of us now because with 10 to go, it won't be the same."
KNAUS: "I've been in NASCAR Cup competition now for 12 years. I've seen rules change from the amount of races we've had to the amount of templates to tires to points - I've seen a lot of stuff. The people who are successful in this sport are the ones who can adapt and change with the times. This is something NASCAR feels is necessary to do with now and so we deal with it. That's part of it. We buck up and dig in deep. That's one thing about this Lowe's team that's so extraordinary. Anytime there's a problem or something that's going to hurt them, they just buck-up and get it done. It's pretty awesome. That's what takes this team to the next step. The guys who complain and want rules changes and point system changes and things to help them out, it only hurts them in the long run because they don't have the drive or the determination to do what it takes to win. That's what it's about."
Q: ARE YOUR CELEBRATIONS NOW AS INTENSE AS THEY MIGHT BECOME DURING THE FINAL 10 RACES?
JOHNSON: "I think so - especially wins. The top five's maybe don't carry the weight that they have in the past. An ideal way to win a championship with the old system was just nailing down top fives. But wins are wins and every competitor was out there today trying his hardest. We were able to beat them and win the race. Three wins in our first two season - four now - I really feel like we can put in another four. This team is incredible. When adversity is thrown at us, they don't look the other way. They look at it as an opportunity to be better. I'm lucky to drive for these guys.
"I think we can win more races and be a serious threat for the championship at the end of the year. A little luck will play in those final 10. But if it comes down to performance, I'll put my guys up against anybody."
Q: AS GOOD AS YOUR CAR WAS TODAY, WOULD YOU CONSIDER USING IT NEXT WEEK AT INDIANAPOLIS?
KNAUS: "Here's the situation: We've got to look at the rules and use them to our advantage. Everybody thinks losing all of our points at the end of the 26 races and going back to nearly zero, is a disadvantage. We're taking this time to experiment and to find new race cars we think we like and new chassis set-ups and new aerodynamics packages. We're going to Indianapolis with a new aerodynamics package that we want to try at a high-speed race track. If it works, great. If it doesn't, who really cares? It doesn't really matter. We want to win the race, don't get me wrong."
JOHNSON: "If you could have been in our meeting this morning, it went like this: Chad said it was going to be a hard-fought day and that is was going to be either really good or really bad. It was really good for us. And for Indy, we're in a lucky situation where we're trying stuff. It didn't work out for New Hampshire, but it'll be right when it counts."
Q: WHAT'S ONE KEY FACTOR IN YOUR CONSISTENCY THIS YEAR?
KNAUS: "This man right here (points to Jimmie). That's all there is to it. I'm jumping in on this one (question) because it's all driver. There are a lot of drivers out there and many of you have seen them. They fight with their pit crews and their team if they're not running well. They get frustrated and crash people on the race track. They have a heck of a time keeping a cool head. If you scan anybody on the radio, you can hear them cussing this and cussing that. If we've got something bad, we don't get into a cussing match between the crew and the driver. It's a situation where he explains what's going on and it's our responsibility to fix it. If we don't fix it, he doesn't get mad and he doesn't give up. He still drives just as hard as he possibly can. That's the key element. He's the one key factor."
JOHNSON: "Obviously I couldn't do my job if I didn't have good equipment. From everything Chad puts into it and everything that happens there - from the engine shop to the aerodynamics and everything - it's a whole team package. I'm able to climb into a race car that I know is going to be fast every week. I put a lot of weight into that. If I make smart decisions and the equipment gives up, I'm going to finish 35th. But that doesn't happen. The car is always running and it's always good and it lets me do my job."
Q: DOES THAT MEAN YOU DON'T NEED ANGER MANAGEMENT TRAINING?
JOHNSON: "I get emotional at times. But I know that if I blow up on the radio, it's going to disturb the environment in the pit and the guys are going to flip out. If I stay level headed, the guys will stay level-headed. Maybe looking at Jeff (Gordon) and seeing how he is able to be a team leader has trickled into my mind and it fits with my personality to know that you've got to lead by example. If I'm blowing up, it's not going to be good in the pits either."
Q: ON LAST NIGHT'S RAIN - DID YOU HAVE TO TIPTOE THROUGH THE START?
JOHNSON: "I think so. Everybody did. We talked about it. The only real worry we had was to not overwork the right front and have a tire failure. Luckily our car was balanced. After I got a few laps in, I could really start pushing hard. When they dropped the green, the track was ready to go."
Q: HOW DO YOU REACT WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THE NO. 24 AND NO. 48 TEAMS BEING THE BEST IN THE GARAGE RIGHT NOW?
KNAUS: "I think a lot of people would react differently. When we come to the race track, there are 47 to 50 cars at the track every week. We roll in trying to be the fastest car every single week to win the pole and qualifying and practice sessions and to do all we can every week. When you're in competition with that many cars, you're never going to be able to do that every single week. That always gives you something to shoot for. So we don't really take the stand that we're the best team out there because you cannot be in this sport."
JOHNSON: "I agree with Chad. In most cases, we go to a totally different type of race track every week. It's usually a different set of circumstances to be quick.
"Our sport is very humbling. You're only as good as you were last week. Last week we were 11th. This week we are first. But we're going to Indy and it does carry over from here to there but after that, it's a totally different environment again. To stay ahead of the curve, you can't relish what you've accomplished. You've just got to hope that you at least get a week or two to soak in it when the year is over."
Q: IS THERE A DIFFERENT VALUE PLACED ON THE BRICKYARD 400 AND ENTERING INTO THE INDIANAPOLIS EXPERIENCE
JOHNSON: "We're obviously both in great moods and not focused on next week. But when Chad brings something to the race track, even though it might be a different package, he's put so much work into it that he is gracious enough to say so what. But that's not the case. When he says we're going to take a better car to the track, I believe him. We may need to find the balance with it, but when we do get the balance it is a better car. He's sent me out with some crazy stuff but I believe in him 100 percent each and every week. We'll be good next week."
Q: AFTER FINISHING UNDER CAUTION, HOW DID THE FANS REACT TODAY WHEN WE FINISHED UNDER GREEN?
JOHNSON: "I thought we were treated well today - and even at the other race when we finished under caution. Circumstances created a caution last time. I think we had two or three restarts - one in which I passed the No. 19 and then two others when I defended the lead and was still able to win. So even if the green-white-checkered was in place, I think you would have seen the same outcome. This weekend it was a different set of circumstances. I feel the displeasure was maybe a little unnecessary last time - especially throwing stuff at officials - that's not very cool."
Q: DID YOU SHIFT TODAY?
JOHNSON: "Oh yeah, everybody does. I don't even know how many times.....four times."
Q: COULD YOU SHORT SHIFT TO SAVE FUEL?
JOHNSON: "When we'd get 20 laps into a run, I was able to save my tires a lot better and have an advantage to where I could short-shift a little bit.
"But really, when you have straightaways this long, you can't take your time through the corner to try to save fuel. If you do, you pay for it - especially down the frontstretch because it's a mile long. You'll lose a half-a-second if you baby it off the corner. But you can help with some short shifts. There is a little bit you can do. You can save more under caution than you can under green flag conditions."
Q: THIS IS THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW THAT YOU'VE SWEPT AT A RACE TRACK. WHAT GOES INTO DOING THAT - ESPECIALLY AT A TOUGH TRACK LIKE POCONO?
"It's not like we come loaded any differently to Pocono than we do for New Hampshire or to Chicago. We come every single week to win the race. It just so happens that the package we came up with yesterday afternoon was suitable for the race today. The package we had in June was obviously very dominant. Hopefully when we go back to Lowe's Motor Speedway we can have a package that's just as dominant that we had in May and do the same thing we did there. But you can't say there's a reason. There's always an air of confidence when you go back to a place where you've won. You always feel just a little bit better with a little spring in your step. The driver and crew are more confident. The crew chief is more confident about making the calls. There's obviously something to that, but I don't know that I can really put my finger on one thing. It was a completely different set-up and situation and day. So I don't really know."
JOHNSON: "We've been able to do it from spring to fall, but not year to year. So maybe the fact that there are only a few months between spring and fall, maybe we're able to keep that same advantage for the second one. But it's tough to keep that kind of advantage from year to year."
Q: ON THE NO. 24 AND THE NO 28 BEING THE CLASS OF THE FIELD AND GOING HEAD TO HEAD IN THE FINAL STRETCH
JOHNSON: "We both respect each other. Our teams respect one another and work side-by-side every day. But I feel like if I have to make an aggressive pass, I can. Today I had us in a three-wide situation but I had to get in the lead. I'm sure Jeff would have liked for me to have more patience and wait for a different scenario, but I could get two cars at once and I did.
"He knows that and understands what it's like to be in those situations and needing to do things. So he respects that and everything's great. And I respect him in the same situation. Jeff and Robbie, in my opinion, lead the way on how the flow works in our race shop. They're the senior people there. The way they act and handle things determines how Chad and I handle things. They've handled it with respect and class all along, and we've been able to give that same respect back and I think you'll see it throughout the whole year. Granted, we're going to race each other really hard but there's that level of respect that's always going to be there."
Q: WERE YOU TOLD TO TOUCH OR NOT TO TOUCH ANY BOTTLES IN VICTORY LANE?
JOHNSON: "No, I wasn't. I was a little more aware of camera angles to try to honor my sponsors and take care of them. I even took the liberty of putting a sign up in front of brand 'X'. So, it's weird that the driver - in Victory Lane - has to worry about defending and honoring your sponsor because of relationships that exist outside of your control. I hope we get this rectified and when you pull into Gatorade Victory Lane you're drinking Gatorade and that's all there is to it."
Q: HOW MANY GROOVES WERE THERE ON THE TRACK TODAY AND WERE THEY SIMILAR TO WHERE THEY WERE IN JUNE?
JOHNSON: "I would say it seems like the grooves are moving higher up the race track. I don't know if it's the set-ups that make the car harder to drive over the bumps or if actually the track is changing and it's rougher in the racing line. It's probably a little bit of both. I find that I've had to favor above the typical racing line to be on a smooth surface so I can carry the right speed. But the corners are so tight and narrow that when you move up - especially in the tunnel turn - you're going to run out of race track quick. It took me quite a while to find my lines and how I could use the bump to help me and which ones would hurt me and find out where I needed to be on the race track."