All-Star: Winning driver interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: FINISHED FIRST "When the race started, I really felt like the No. 9 car was going to control the race based on practice and qualifying because he got out there and got the lead right away.


"When the race started, I really felt like the No. 9 car was going to control the race based on practice and qualifying because he got out there and got the lead right away. My car was really, really good, I kept trying a little harder, just trying to find where the grip level was with the car because when the sun was out and the track was really slick and I had a real loose race car so I was a little tentative at first.

"Then I got the lead and we came in and pitted. As I came to pit road, my spotter told me they were wrecking behind me and a car went by me in the grass. I looked up in my mirror and saw more stuff coming and smoke so I jumped back in the gas to avoid being hit from behind. I was speeding through that first pit area or whatever that section is.

"I was hopeful that NASCAR was going to let it go because of what was going on but I knew deep down inside, I had already committed to pit road and I probably wasn't going to be able to walk away from that one without a speeding violation. When I came out of the pits and was still on the lead lap after my penalty, at that point, I knew I had a shot at the win. My goal then was trying to get to 12th to catch the inversion. We ended up in 11th, I felt like I was right in the right spot to at least catch some of the inversion, but we missed it by one spot.

"From there, I just went to work. I knew I had a good race car, there were some good cars taken out already, but once we got going and got in a rhythm of things, I really felt like we had a car good enough to win the race.

"The last stop at the end with four tires, ended up being the right call. At first when the No. 29 left with just two tires, I felt like that was a very good choice to make at that point in time. But four tires ended up prevailing at the end. I think everybody in the garage area learned something there."

On car he will drive in 600 next week:

"He is really going to need to convince me, because I think this one is pretty good, the one we were in tonight. We have two, no three cars that we rotate through. This is the car we have had success, the car we won Las Vegas with. We crashed it here in the tire test and put a rear clip on it and came back, it has been really strong. He is going to have to put his salesman hat on and convince me otherwise to bring back that other car."

On combination team has at LMS:

"I think there is just a line around the race track that my driving style fits. We keep adjusting to it. We have had so much success here that I just stay set in my ways and work on my line that I need around this race track and we keep adjusting the car to it. Once the sun goes down and the grip is in the race track, we end up working our way to the front. I am not so sure it is the right line and that I drive this place right when the sun is out in the heat of day. But when the checkered flag is around the corner, we always seem to come to life. All I can say it is my driving style and the way I drive this race track, it just works."

On having a premonition of hitting right combination to win here:

"I wish I could have Babe Ruthed that deal. I really felt like the No. 9 was going to be that car and the Gibbs cars. Those guys were so strong in the testing. Kasey ran a lap last night in qualifying that was much much faster than anyone else was. I really felt like it was going to be one of those guys. But then the No. 9 got crashed out and I think the No. 20 was caught up in something too. We were one of four or five really good cars that was left on the race track. Harvick had a great car, but I think the two tires ended up hurting him a little bit there at the end. When we were both on equal tires, I couldn't catch him, we were both running equal lap times. There at the end, Jeff had a damaged car so it was really just Jeff and myself. The 29 had two tires and I had four tires. I was really able to take advantage of the four tires."

On how timely caution was when No. 2 car blew an engine:

"At the time, I was really happy to see that caution. I felt like I needed that caution to get into an inversion spot and I thought I had gotten there. But I missed it by one so I am not sure that caution at the end really played out for me that much. I can say that I was in the right lane when that crash started happening off of two. Maybe my positioning and where I was in the inversion on the inside really helped me get through that. If I had been on the outside when the crash started I would have been caught up in it as well. I was just in the right place at the right time."

On starting to sense this might be the championship season:

"I believe so in my heart. I really do. It is no different really than the last two years that I have been out here competing, I just feel like we have always been there and as you all know, we always do so well until August and that is the big challenge for us this year is to make sure we can keep that momentum. We are making every adjustment to our race team through the approach that we have toward the end of the season. We are looking at everything and trying to do everything we can to put together out best 10 races at the end. We will try again as hard as we can this year and hopefully we can do it."

On his input on what car will be brought to race the 600:

"I don't know, I will let you guys know next week when we come back Thursday. I will let you know how my negotiating skills worked out."

On new Hendrick contract being signed too early:

"Possibly. I was able to work on my contract with Rick (Hendrick) and Lowe's during the off-season. It was very nice when that came together that we weren't racing and we didn't have to play any games or have the extra burden of going to the race track thinking about that stuff. I am just so happy to know where I am going to be for the next five years. I am not aware of a contract outside of Jeff's that is a five year term. I am very pleased with that, happy to know where I am going to be and tonight paid pretty well so I am not too worried about missing the opportunity to negotiate.

"There is still two years left on Chad's contract with Hendrick Motorsports just as there was on mine before I put this together with Rick and Lowe's. He is in a great situation, he is going to be my guy and I don't think there is any reason to look in to it. He will have his chance to re-up with everybody here before long I would imagine."

On feeling guilty about winning so many times around this place (Lowe's Motor Speedway):

"Hell no. As long as it has Lowe's on it, there is going to be extra motivation to win here. We approach every race with the same attitude and give 100%. But there is nothing sweeter than standing on the stage with Robert Niblock, the CEO of Lowe's and seeing the smile on his face and knowing that all the employees around the country are just flipping out about this victory."

On tire chattering:

"When the car is not handling right, it definitely picks up a chatter. Instead of the tire slipping like it used to, because it is so hard, it chatters now. That is kind of the tire slip that you feel. The way I kind of look at it and at times tonight, I did have it when my car was too tight, the front tires would chatter across the race track. It is something we are all paying attention to and trying to understand why because this is the only track where we have such a severe chatter with the tires. The other mile and one half and short track, you rarely, rarely see a chatter unless the car is so tight and you put an absurd amount of steering wheel angle in to it, then it will chatter. But very minimal amount of steering wheel angle here and the tires chatter and that is something we aren't used to. I think that is why most of the drivers have been paying so much attention to it and talking about it. "

On challenge to race side by side with Kevin then make more to pass him:

"I really felt that was my chance to get the lead. Kevin was so strong, on the run before, in my mind I sat there and told myself, 'Well, if you make a big mistake here and fall back fifth it will be tough. It is worth the risk right now at this point in the race. When you need to poke your nose out there and see if there is enough grip and enough rubber down to make it work.' I got up there and I was really surprised that I had as much grip as I did. A couple times I got pretty loose especially in three and four, but I held on to it and got by Kevin finally. To me, that is really encouraging for the 600. I think that we will be moving up the race track. In one and two, there used to be a pretty big crown in the center of the race track that prevented us from running in the outside lane and that is gone. It is the same banking from the white line to the wall. I think as we get some more racing on it by toward the end of the 600 next weekend, we will have a couple of lanes out there."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup