Atlanta II: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Carl Edwards said a couple of times that he thought it would have been a heck of a race if the green and white checkered had gone on through green. Can you describe how you saw it? Were you confident you would have...

Continued from part 1

Q: Carl Edwards said a couple of times that he thought it would have been a heck of a race if the green and white checkered had gone on through green. Can you describe how you saw it? Were you confident you would have held him off anyway?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. We got a really good start at the end, and, you know, I had four or five car lengths on him getting into turn one. Our car was the best it had been, and I'm not sure where he had been running before the caution.

I do know that Carl would have been committed to running wide open and doing whatever it would take to win the race. I assume it would have been a great battle but confident we would have been able to hang on and win the race

Q: I was struck by Rick's comments on Jeff Gordon's fans and Jimmie Johnson's fans, because don't you think some people like Jimmie and some like Jeff, and that for those fans, there's really no loser here?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Is that to me or Rick?

Q: Jimmie will be fine.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think the potential is there, but there's more drama that you have two teammates racing for a championship. I think there's more people paying attention because of the drama and what team is going to race each other and what's going to happen. It's not like we are out there just giving each other position and pulling by, "Hi, Buddy, go on"; "no, sorry you go through." It's far from that and I think that is putting a lot of drama in our sport.

Q: I was talking about the fans, not and you Jeff.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I got booed so much, I don't know if I have any fans.

RICK HENDRICK: If you remember Talladega, it was a Jimmie Johnson fan with a 48 shirt that was throwing beer cans at Jeff. There's a lot; they are diehard fans and they are don't care if they are teammates. They are Jimmie Johnson fans and they are Jeff Gordon fans, and they are not going to be happy if the other guy wins.

So, you know, I think the fans appreciate hard racing no matter who it is, and they like it when the cars mix it up and get up front, and nobody is cutting anybody any slack. You know, there's a lot of racing left, so I think you saw today, the fans appreciate good, hard racing.

Q: Jeff said earlier that there were quite a few drivers having tire problems. What's your opinion?

RICK HENDRICK: Do you want to repeat that? I'm not sure I can understand what you were saying there, something about tire problems

Q: Jeff Gordon said earlier that Goodyear must design a new tire for the speedway because a lot of drivers are having tire problems so what's your opinion about the subject?

RICK HENDRICK: I think this is an older racetrack, and I think I kind of like it when, you know, it wears the tires out and different cars hit the setup get to run up front. I didn't see that many blown tires today. I guess there were a few, but I think they were getting into the fence first.

I think Goodyear for the Car of Tomorrow test, that's one of the things it's all about. This car won't be back next year and we'll have the Car of Tomorrow. They have already done a tire test here with the Car of Tomorrow and then we'll have a lot of cars out here tomorrow testing on that tire.

And the difference -- it's going to be totally different between the car we ran today and the car we run here next year. So I think Goodyear has done a good job and they are going to continue to work on it and we'll probably know more tomorrow night than we do today.

Q: Could you explain what the thought process was in putting Junior in the 5 instead of the 88 when he goes out for the test?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, the 88 is not until next year and the 5 car is now and it's a 5 team and the 25 team, and the 88 is next year. So actually Junior wants to do it and we're bringing back the All-Star racing car. And it's exactly like it was when we started with the same 5 and the same logos and City Chevrolet, my dealership, that was a lone sponsor on it at the time.

It's a little bit of history coming back, and, you know, again, the cars that are out here to race now are the teams, the 25 and the 5. So that's why we are going that way.

Q: Jeff sort of mentioned this but I'll ask you, we've been trying to make this a two-guy race for a month now, but the point of the matter is, all you really have to worry about for three races is him beating you and you beating him and it will take care of itself. Is that the mentality that you have or do you have to think about other things?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, we both need to finish in the Top-10 I would say, would be the first goal. The 07 had a good run today and then three good tracks coming up for him. So we can't get to another where we're making mistakes and having issues and running 15th because the 07 can close up if that's the case. If we're running the Top-10, and then look for the 24, going to start outscoring him from there. Just so we don't end up in a situation where it's a three guy race, I know the fans would love it to be a three-, five-, six guy race come Homestead, but for us, Hendrick Motorsports would like to keep it a two-car race.

Q: At this point you guys have just sort of beat the Hendrick haters. Do you have any advice for them or should they just start rooting for you now or wait until next year? What would you say?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know how to answer that one. I've always been one that wanted my stats to speak for me and have always been focused on racing and what I need to do for that and whenever I needed to do to get my shot to win races, to be a part of a company like Hendrick; I sacrificed it all.

So I've never really been very good at playing into the fan base and getting that energy going, so I feel that over through time, that winning races and winning the championship last year has brought a lot of respect to the team and myself. Even if it's not a 48 fan, I think people respect the fact that we have been able to win races and fight for a championship so that's the road I've been going down and just let my stats speak for me.

Q: This is the last race here on this track for this generation of cars and with coil-bound suspension, and with some of the tire issues that we have here, it's pretty fast and pretty scary in these cars. Down the road, will you look back on this race with any special pride with this last generation of cars?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Without a doubt. I didn't realize it until you brought it up. Things will be much different years to come. I'll be excited to see how tomorrow's test plays out and get it rubbered up and get some great information on what the Car of Tomorrow will do. It's an intimidating racetrack, and it will be interesting to see how the next few days go for everyone. But that's a great perk for today and it's a victory that I didn't think of until you brought it up.

Q: For Chad, you're obviously a great strategist out there but it got to be more than just strategy for you and Steve. There's got to be anticipation and luck, even when you have a bad day, you can find a way to turn it around and make it a good day at the end. How do you explain that?

CHAD KNAUS: I don't know. I can promise you that neither one of us give up, and that's been instilled in us from day one with the crew chiefs that we work for in the past, working with Ray Evernham and paying attention to the way that Rick runs his lifestyle. He never gives up on anything and he's a mentor of mine for sure.

If you ever get to the point where you feel that you're in a submissive position, then you're going to be beaten, and we really don't allow that to happen.

You know, we never stop working on race cars throughout an event and we've been in races where we've crashed and practiced and got to the back of the pack, and we always try to look for the upside potential; and that's the way we live and that's what we go by. The day that we stop doing that will be the day that things like today stop happening for us, so we can never give up.

Q: The second to last restart, Kyle Busch had a slow pit stop and was caught on the radio saying, a bit saltier, "Don't say another word to me if it comes back wadded up." Just wanted to get your thoughts on that; seems to suggest that he might not have less than the highest regard for your race cars. Any thoughts on that? Did you hear it or anything like that?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, I did not hear that. I'm sure he was frustrated as good as he was running, and, you know, to be leading the race and kind of have it going your way and then a caution comes out and you come in and have a bad stop, but there were good stops that put him in that position earlier.

I kind of look at things like that as when guys are frustrated and some of them handle it better than others; it's just one of those things that we'll all talk about it next week. But I think Alan and the guys put him in a great car and he drove his butt off today and he's just disappointed. I think that's just the way it goes sometimes.

Q: As we get further into the Chase, you and Jeff have talked about your friendship, but can you have a normal friendship or relationship in the next three races with so much on the line?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't see any more challenges ahead of us than kind of what we have now, what we've been dealing with. You know, we're both very competitive and we've been through this a bunch already. But there's a level of respect that I think Jeff has for people he races against, including me, and I have the same.

And we are racing each other for a championship, but if it was Tony Stewart Jeff was racing for the championship or Kurt Busch, he wouldn't race any differently, nor would I if it was me in that situation. It just the same challenge that we've had. We need to go out now and perform one another. Whoever outperforms the other guy is going to be the champion the way this thing is shaking out. I know his weaknesses, the weaknesses of his team, and I'm going anything I can to exploit any weakness I can find and capitalize on that and I know Chad is doing to do the same thing and that's what the 24 guys are doing to us

So we are really bringing the best out of one another and we are being required to step up our games to both the 24 and 48 shops and keep just keep duking it out. It is not impossible to -- I was thinking about this earlier. If you look at Skinner and Hornaday and the battle that they have going on, on the track, two pretty intense drivers, but great friends. And it's not impossible and I don't think Jeff and I are the only ones in this situation to be racing for a championship and be friends with one another.

I think there are some teammate situations out there where there is not as much love flowing around and guys are not being as good as they need to as teammates. But at Hendrick, that's something we work really hard on. And I can think of other really great teammate situations that exist out there, and if those guys were in the situation, it would be the same thing. It's just a level of respect that everyone likes to operate with.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, gentlemen.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Ray Evernham , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch