JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "I was scared during our rookie season at the second race. The car was so loose I spun out twice on my own without any help. That wasn't a fun day. But when the car is hooked up like all the...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"I was scared during our rookie season at the second race. The car was so loose I spun out twice on my own without any help. That wasn't a fun day. But when the car is hooked up like all the other times I've been here, It is a lot of fun. I wish we'd have been a little quicker. But we learned a lot throughout the practice session. This early in the season, I'm very pleased with this Lowe's team. I'm not sure how it's going to stack up, but hopefully it'll be in the top five. Regardless, we'll have a good starting spot." More to follow
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"It was a good run for the GM Goodwrench Chevy. The car was perfect through Turns 1 and 2, I just got a little bit tight in the middle of Turns 3 and 4. The car pushed up toward the wall and I had to let off before coming to the checkered flag. We unloaded good this morning and we were strong in practice this morning. We always seem to step it up for qualifying. I always look forward to coming here because it's where I got my first win. We should have a good car for Sunday."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"Unfortunately I left Las Vegas last week and started feeling a little bit under the weather. And then I came here today hoping I was on my way on the upswing and then Robbie Loomis (crew chief) started feeling pretty bad. But I can tell you what. That lap right there is going to make the whole team feel a lot better because that's the best time we've put out here in qualifying in a long, long time. Notoriously, we have not been very good at qualifying here. We've been good in the race. Starting further toward the front is going to make the race go a whole lot easier for us on Sunday I hope.
"This is usually not a good qualifying lap for us. To put that kind of lap out there is really exciting. The race has always been a good track for us. We've always been competitive here. I've never really been overly concerned about our race set-up for this race. The tires are different, but they're not that much different. We'll just have to see what happens tomorrow in practice and see what we've got and how much the tires fall off.
"One of the reasons I wanted to come here and do a qualifying test is because we've been off in qualifying. You can't really test the race set-up here because the grooves on the bottom are not there when you're testing. There are not enough cars to push you all the way up to the top and to me it's useless because that's where the race gets won."
WHAT DOES QUALFYING FEEL LIKE HERE?
"My heart has calmed down now but boy, I'll tell you. It was pounding out of my chest. Your hands are shaking. You're whole body is shaking. There is no other place that you have to be as aggressive and on the edge as you are here. You know you're going 200 mph going into the corner. You know you've got to drive in there extremely hard and turn the wheel and just keep you foot in it and hope that it sticks. That's not a very comforting feeling. I think it gets all of our hearts going before we get out there on pit road. And then when you get out there on the track, it really starts pumping."
IS THAT PART THRILL, PART SCARE?
"None of it's thrill for me. It's a thrill for me when I come back and see my name up there on the board toward the top."
BRIAN VICKERS, NO. 25 GMAC CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"I can't hold my hand any straighter than that. It's a fun race track. I'm really proud of this GMAC Chevy team. They gave me a car we needed for the pole. I'm not real happy with myself right now. We should have been on the pole. I knew it was a pole lap all the way until I got to the center of Turns 3 and 4 and I got on the apron a little bit and the car shot up the race track and I had to get out of it. And to lift and still run a seventy-something should have been a pole. We'll get them next time. Hopefully we'll have a good car for the race."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME OUT OF THE GATE SO STRONG IN QUALIFYING THIS YEAR?
"It's nice. The whole No. 25 team is doing a great job. We've got our whole qualifying game down pretty good so far. We've got to keep that intact. We don't need to lose our focus there, but we just need to pick up our race program a little bit every week."
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THE RACE PROGRAM SO FAR?
"It's good. The team just has to learn when I need in a race car and I've got to learn what they need to hear in the race set-up. And that'll come with time. Race set-up is always a little bit harder to find than qualifying. So we're just going to keep trying."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"I gave up a little bit getting into the corner and hoping to get the car down and staying on the bottom and being comfortable. The car was real good."
ON TESTING THIS WEEK
"We did improve. It rained the majority of the day (at Kentucky) up until the end there. We got to run three or four hours and we worked real hard and tried to get as much out of it as we could. I was real happy. We stopped just at 7:00 just before it got too dark to see. We tested at Bristol the day before that.
"One of the problems I had at Vegas was the tires moving around - the wheel moving around inside the tire. And it made me real uncomfortable and I felt like I was spinning out and pushing and I didn't know what was going on with the car. We even worked on some stuff that I think will be helpful just giving us some knowledge about the tire. We worked on some of the things the tire does and on what to do to and how to fix some of the things they do.
"We're going to Texas Tuesday and Wednesday. We're trying as hard as we can just to get back to where we need to be. I hope that run at Vegas isn't a good gauge of where we're at, but I feel like it shows that we're behind. We're working hard."
WHAT WILL YOU WORK ON AT TEXAS
"We'll just go there and see how the car feels and try to fix the problems. Basically, we worked on this car real hard in Kentucky and changed a lot of major components that seemed to be some of the keys to fixing the problems. Here today, we did the same thing and it helped the car a lot. We're not where we were a year ago. I want to test every day until we get it right.
"We've just got to get the balance right on the car. I know there are some things in the works to improve our body. But you can't do those things overnight. The guys are doing all they can. They're having to build new cars plus trying to learn on the side. We have to go test. We've just got to see what we can do to make it work.
"What we've got is what everybody else is got. We're not behind the eight ball or anything by any means. Tony Jr. and those guys have just got to try and resolve issues that I'm having with the car. They've got to gain some ingenuity. You run so good and then you get a package handed to you and you have trouble with it right off the bat. You've got to knuckle down."
IS IT HARD NOT TO STRESS OUT OVER IT?
"Oh, I've stressed out over it. There isn't any way not to, I guess. I've been ready to throw up ever since the first lap (in Las Vegas). But one thing that I feel now that I would not have felt two years ago is that I want to test every day. I want to be out on the track. Get me out on the track. Hurry up, I want to get back out on the race track. Let's go test. Let's go. Let's go. Two years ago, I wouldn't have cared about testing. I would have said let's wait 'til next week. We'll figure it out. We've got a 38-race schedule.
Last week, if anybody was listening to the radio, that situation two years ago would have been a season killer for us. It would have taken Tony Jr. and I months to get over that. We would have fought every second of the day until we got over it. Last week, nothing was really said. There were some tones, but nothing was really said or directed at anybody intentionally. That's something we've really improved on and I'm happy about that."
ON THE SEVEN-SECOND RULE DELAY
"To be honest with you, what we say on our radio inside our race car is our own business and nobody else's. Anybody else can tune in, but it's at your own risk. That's our office. My opinion - whether you want to say it's not - I don't care, it's behind closed doors."
WHAT ABOUT THE DELAY ON THE BROADCAST ITSELF, NOT ON THE SCANNERS?
"Oh well, I don't think you should get out of the car and cuss, but I'm as guilty as anybody. There is a time when you've got to sit down and remember there are kids watching. You forget. In the moment, that's not what you're thinking about. You're thinking about what's making you mad. You want to vent and you can get out of hand."
DOES IT PROTECT THE DRIVERS?
"I don't now why we haven't had it before. As corny as it sounds, as role models we're not perfect. You don't want a little kid hearing his driver and wondering what is wrong with him. All the drivers go home and regret things they say from time to time. But it just doesn't get any more volatile in there (the car)."
HOW SCARY IS QUALIFYING AT ATLANTA?
"Remember when you were a little kit and you almost felt 'forced' onto that roller coaster ride? That's kind of the feeling here when you qualify. It's like that feeling when you're cruising up to the stop and you know the bar is raising out of your way and you get to get out. You're proud of yourself and you're happy because it was exciting and fun. But at the same time, you're kind of relieved that you don't have to take off again."
IS THIS A NERVE-WRACKING DAY LEADING UP TO QUALFIYING?
"No, not really. But then we qualified 36th here last year and finished 3rd in the race. So, it's not really an issue here. You've got a big race track to move around and if you can punch your way to the front in the first 60 laps of the race, you can be in the top 10 if you've got a good enough car."