Richmond II: Pole winner interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS - 10TH NASCAR CUP CAREER BUD POLE, 2ND BUD POLE IN 2007, HAS FIVE WINS THIS SEASON: ON THE RICHMOND RACE: "I'm excited. I've figured out how to drive this track when were here in the spring and was able...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS - 10TH NASCAR CUP CAREER BUD POLE, 2ND BUD POLE IN 2007, HAS FIVE WINS THIS SEASON:

ON THE RICHMOND RACE:

"I'm excited. I've figured out how to drive this track when were here in the spring and was able to win the race. So I think we've expanded on that. We've improved the car some. And we felt like today we would be in the top five for qualifying. I've been slow with qualifying this year. We've had a couple of second place qualifying efforts where we've missed it by a thousandth, but in general it's not our strong suit. We felt like we had a good car and I just got really aggressive in there driving in and the car stuck and did all the things I needed it to do. And we put up a lap that I can't believe we had a couple of tenths on the guys, especially at a short track like this. So, I'm real proud of all the hard work that's gone into it. I hit my marks and did a good job and we'll get in 400 laps tomorrow night and see what happens."

HOW MUCH CAUTION DO YOU THROW TO THE WIND TOMORROW NIGHT?

"It really depends on the situation I'm in. If I'm in second, and in a position to race for the win at the end, I'll be extremely aggressive. There is nothing to hold back for. But if I'm running 15th, there is no sense in driving like a fool out there and risking getting somebody really mad at me and having to deal with him in that final 10."

COULD YOU BE GOING FOR ALL-OUT WINS IN THE CHASE, OR DO PEOPLE GET STRUNG OUT AND NOT SHOW THAT THEY'RE IN THAT MODE?

"You bring up a good point. I remember a couple of years back there was a conversation about too much point racing going on and I think it was maybe around when the Chase got started. I remember a lot of it was the drivers saying we're doing all that we can. We're racing as hard as we can. We're trying to win every single lap we're out there and trying to go as fast as we can. So I don't think you'll see a huge difference. I do think that if it comes down to fuel strategy, why not? If it comes down to tire strategy, we'll roll the dice and try to go for a win. If you're in second spot and the guy in front of you is locked into the Chase and he's trying to get 10 points, you'll probably rough him up. They'll be some exceptions to it but I don't think the feel of the race is going to be a lot different."

WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE TO THE DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU AND JEFF GORDON IN QUALIFYING COMPARED TO THE DISTANCE BETWEEN GORDON AND THE 17TH PLACE QUALIFIER?

"Skill. (laughter) "I knew I got a good lap in. I was listening to Jeff between practice and qualifying and some of the things he was messing with. The first lap, I did it my way. The second lap, I did it the way Jeff would in really attacking the entry, and I went slower. So I just think we had everything right."

WHEN YOU SAW THE TWEAKS MADE TO THE CHASE INITIALLY, DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE A BENEFACTOR GOING INTO IT?

"The bonus stuff I didn't really think about and I think after we're done this year we'll see what those bonus points really do in order to form an opinion on them. I've been critical of the Chase getting started and the gap from where Gordon is to where I am in points, I'm like 430 behind, I knew even though I wasn't in love with the Chase getting started I knew someday I was going to be in that position where the Chase would help me and give me a chance for the championship because I wouldn't have a great 26 getting started. And this year has been that way. We're pretty far back. We've got a lot of speed and the Chase is working out to help us and give us a berth or a shot for the championship."

SO IS IT SAFE TO SAY THAT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON YOU WEREN'T THRILLED ABOUT THE CHANGES THAT WERE MADE?

"Yeah, the tweaking and everything that goes on, at times I'm skeptical of it, but it keeps working out for whatever reason. Of course you can only speak from a place that you know and I look at our scenarios and how we won a championship and I didn't like it getting started. But now it's coming around for me. All of us drivers like it if it benefits us is what it boils down to (laughs)."

THE WORST YOU LEAVE HERE IS 10 POINTS AHEAD OF JEFF GORDON AND TONY STEWART. IS THIS GOING TO PHYCHE-OUT THE COMPETITION?

"I don't think anybody is going to be psyched out until we get about eight (races) in will be the first opportunity to get in someone's head. There is just so much racing and the 10 points for bonuses is helpful for what we're focused on now because that's all we can control, but when you get into the Chase and leading laps, and leading the most laps, you can make up that 10 or 20 points quickly. Last year, the way the Chase went and how of a start we got, we weren't in position to think of a championship until about eight races to go and then we left Phoenix with the points lead and things were going our way. I'm just going to try to stay calm and cool and get through these first five and try to be smart and smooth and attack when I can, but save that stuff to the end because at the end last year, we had momentum on our side. And I think we had the other guys on the ropes. We were knocking down those top two finishes, I think we had five of them, and that was doing all the t rash-talking we needed. I was kind of sending a message and playing the head games that we needed to do."

WITH YOU AND JEFF GORDON STARTING ONE-TWO AT RIR, IS THIS A MESSAGE YOU'RE SENDING EVERYONE ELSE, OR TO JEFF?

'There are really no messages to be sent. We show up every week and try as hard as we can and it's been a good track for us this year and in the past it really hasn't been. But I learned some things in the spring and we came back with a little better race car. So I think there maybe a situation where people may think things and go down that road, but I'm not sitting up here saying I'm trying to send a message to anybody. I'm just showing up and giving 100 percent in practice and qualifying and the race and just see where we shake out."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup