JIMMIE JOHNSON , No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo - Race Winner AFTER LEADING ONLY 17 LAPS, HOW DID YOU PUT TOGETHER THE WIN TODAY? "It was just a lot of hard work today. I think everyone who has been around this sport of racing long enough knows...
JIMMIE JOHNSON , No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo - Race Winner
AFTER LEADING ONLY 17 LAPS, HOW DID YOU PUT TOGETHER THE WIN TODAY?
"It was just a lot of hard work today. I think everyone who has been around this sport of racing long enough knows that the best car doesn't always win the race. The No. 6 car (Mark Martin) he was the best car. Circumstances at the end didn't work out in their favor. The adjustments Chad made to our car made it really good on the short runs. And when they dropped the flag there at the end, we were a spot of two in front of him on the restart due to an incredible pit stop and with the tragedy that took place and the determination I had and the screaming Chad was doing on the radio, there was a lot of motivation. I got on the outside of the 01 (Nemechek) and flat-footed it through one and two up on the top. Kasey Kahne was sliding up, he was having some kind of problem, I really didn't think I was going to come out of turn two with the fenders on that car but we came out with a great run down the back stretch and were fighting for the lead heading into turn three. This is just an amazing series of events to make quick work of traffic to get to the lead. At that point the 6 creeped up close on us but with the adjustments Chad had made, for the last run when the money and the trophy was on the line, we were where we needed to be and were able to get it done.
WHAT ABOUT THE REMARKABLE TURN AROUND YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO:
"It is just amazing. I just want to be a realist. I thought three weeks ago that with the way that some of the teams have been working, especially the 24 team, that there would be no way between those three teams, the 97, the 8 and the 24 that circumstances would work out to allow us to have a shot at it. They would need two bad races and I don't know how it happened, but I guess winning we make up a lot more points this year than we did last year. To win three in a row, to have the 24 have some trouble today along with some of the other guys that were ahead of us in points put us right back in this thing. It is a whole new world for us. I think at this point with three races to go, nobody can play defense, everyone is going to have to be on offense and that is where this Lowe's team shines the best.
"When we have to go out there and work for it and fight for it and really get in the ditches and dig in, that is where this team comes in and really shows what we are made of. I look forward to these final three races and to be honest with you, I want to win the championship, but I want to win the next race. And if we just keep going out and doing what we have done these last three races, and just act like we have been to win the next three races, it will take care of itself. The points have closed up, it is anybodies, championship and we are going to try and win six in a row. I don't want to sound cocky or anything but the mindset that we have had of going out and taking care of business has worked. When we had a 230 some points lead and we were in a position to defend, it just fell through our fingers and something off the wall happens. But when we play offense, we are as good as anybody.
HOW HARD WAS IT TO BLOCK EVERYTHING OUT THAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK AND GET IN THE CAR AND DRIVE?
"I think Sunday night was the hardest. I went over to Mr. Hendrick's house and spent some time with and his family and then went over to Diane Dorton's house after that and spent some time with her and family. And throughout the week and through the services on Thursday, that was tough. There was no way around it.
"Coming back to the racetrack, thinking of racecars, getting in the car was something that took place to take my mind off what happened. I think probably from a team aspect, the hardest day we had was Friday. It was the first day back at the track, the first time getting that energy flowing and working together. From a team aspect, I think that was the toughest. Today being Sunday, we had two days worth of work behind us and we definitely had inspiration for lots of reasons and more motivation to win the race. But when there was five to go and I came by and saw the flagman hold up five, the butterflies really hit me, I thought I was going to get sick in my helmet, I don't think I took more than five breathes the rest of the way and I was scared to look in the mirror but I knew I had to because I knew Mark was back there.
"I changed my line in turn one and able to keep him behind us and cross the finish line then everything went into slow motion. It has been that way since. It is something that I want to savor and enjoy and it is an honor for this Lowe's team to win this race and dedicate it to the memory of everyone on N501RH.
CHAD KNAUS , Crew Chief, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
WHAT WERE THE CRITICAL FACTORS IN THE WIN TODAY?
"I think the most important factor and an incredible factor besides Jimmie was what the pit crew did today on pit road. They pulled off an 11.9 second stop and that was just a great team effort. It was a little trying there when that caution came out with just a few laps on our tires. We didn't know if we wanted to pit for sure or not. Jimmie was questioning it. I was questioning it. We did it. It definitely showed some dividends there. So when the caution came out just a few laps later we felt like we definitely needed to pit. We made some air pressure adjustments and some other small things and the car really came to life for the short run because we knew there were only about 15 laps left. .
"I had the same thing happen to me at the spring race at Martinsville. We were leading the race. There were 80 laps to go. We had just pitted 30 laps prior to that and then a caution had some out. I made the decision pretty much to stay out all by myself and all 22 cars that were on the lead lap - besides us - hit pit road. It's unfortunate and it's very difficult for Pat and Mark to make a decision like that when you are sitting out there. But the falloff on the tires is so much here because the cars don't have the downforce they need to run the speeds we run and the tires take such abuse that the falloff is just incredible.
"So we knew that for the amount of laps we needed to run that we needed the tires on that car. Now the last pit stop was a little bit more of a gamble, but I still felt like we could make one more adjustment with air pressure - we were leading the race at that point - that we would have something for the No. 6 car at the end of the race if they did get back up there to us."
"I just want to add something here, I know I am not supposed to jump in here but the thing that is the biggest triumph for Hendrick Motorsports this week was the simple fact that were just able to get to the racetrack. There are so many people that work at Hendrick Motorsports it is absolutely incredible. I don't know if you can understand the emotion, the love and the friendship that goes on there but when we lost a whole bunch of our leaders there, a whole bunch, the people that those leaders hired stepped us and got us here. When I say got us here, I don't mean victory lane. I mean just got us here to the racetrack, emotionally, physically, everything. Somebody had to step up and make the plane list, somebody had to make sure the hotels were right. Everybody had to step up and make sure the engines were getting built for next week and make sure every other little thing was getting done. All the things we absolutely take for granted, somebody had to step up and make those things happen this week. It's a testimony to Hendrick Motorsports, and the people that were hired to do their jobs, just did them. That let us concentrate and focus on what we were supposed to do, which was to come here and try to win the race. So this victory not only comes for Team Lowe's and the guys here at the race track but it goes all the way back to the people that work in the administration side, the engine shop and everywhere else."
TALK ABOUT GOING FLAT FOOT FOR THE LEAD:
"If you had a chance to scan up before we took the green that last time, my spotter told me down the back stretch, big picture, points and it really registered and really made a lot of sense. Then they dropped the flag and I think I forgot about everything I just agreed with. I knew I had a run on the 01 and I knew he was strong and I thought he had two tires from what I remembered so I thought if I could clear him and get going I would be fine. So I was just happy with getting by the 01 and then the 9 was up a lane or two in the corner and I couldn't lift at that point, I couldn't break my momentum and I think I forgot about everything else - championship, all of it, and I think all I could see was that big trophy with two eagles trying to carry a fish off."
DID YOU AND JEFF TALK THIS WEEK AT ALL ABOUT HOW HE AND OTHERS DEALT WITH ADVERSITY AT HENDRICK BACK IN SEVERAL YEARS:
"I don't recall that between Jeff and I that subject came up at all. I think that there are circumstances that exist that none of us can control and it was help from the Good Lord that helped us win that race at Martinsville and then come back here and win again. There is something bigger that is going on that we all can't explain and I am just happy to be a part of it."
DOES THIS FEEL LIKE A STEP FORWARD FOR YOUR TEAM?
"I definitely feel like this is some type of medication. In a weird way and will help the healing process. First and foremost, it will put a smile on everyone's faces. All 450 employees of Hendrick Motorsports, all the family members of everyone at Hendrick and of those who were lost to us and Tony Stewart's helicopter pilot, there is a lot of people who were affected by this and I think today no matter if you were a fan of the 48, the 8, the 20, the 12 whoever it was, people respected what happened today and it put a smile on the face of all the families involved. That is start for all of us"
TALK ABOUT THE TRIBUTE YOU PAID AT THE END.
"I did want to celebrate to the fans somehow but doing burnouts and such really didn't feel appropriate this weekend. I know grabbing the checkered flag and taking it back to Rick Hendrick would be some type of healing and medication for the situation. And they dropped the flag and watched it hit the ground so at that point I had to get out and get it. So I started taking everything off, an official came up and handed me the flag. I was worried that I wasn't getting to victory lane in a timely fashion and he said to me, 'Take your time, take your time.' So I held the flag up, looked upwards, said hello and drove the flag around the track with me. There were different colors that were cheering for me when I went by and typically all of those in a lot of red wouldn't like the blue car but the fans were with us. The fans that just seemed happy to see what took place and were hanging on the fence was cool and pretty special."
ON HIS CELL PHONE CONVERSATION WITH RICK HENDRICK IN VICTORY LANE
"It was pretty brief and I will be talking to him again very soon. Ken Howes handed me the phone and was very emotional and at the same time very happy. From a man who always yelled at his son for wearing his hat backwards, he told me to turn my hat around and to tell everyone in victory lane to do the same, which I thought was pretty funny. There were a lot of times I can remember Rick turning to Ricky and saying, 'Man, what are you doing? That isn't professional. You are a professional. Turn your hat around the right way. What are you thinking?' For Rick to say that to me, put a smile on my face, it was pretty cool.
IS THIS WHAT NASCAR ENVISIONED FOR THE CHASE?
"Man, it is playing out, there is defiantly drama and excitement all the way to the end. I like our situation, I like where we sitting and personally I hope we are fortunate enough to lead another points championship in another season, I hope it isn't until the very end. There is a huge burden that comes with being number one. There is a pressure. There is something that comes with that. The 97 still have the lead, they have been very strong and tough but next week is going to be tough for them and I would expect them to be able to stand up to the pressure. They have had an incredible team this year. But there is some type of burden and for any of you who have seen Lord of the Rings, it is like that ring that kid carries the whole way. I don't know what it is but it makes weird things happened."
ON COMING DOWN TO THE TWO ROUSH CARS VS THE TWO HENDRICK CARS
"It had never been a 24 versus the 48 as far as we are concerned. Once again, the 24 and 48 are in the same shop and the 48 is basically spawned from the 24 car. So there is no rivalry, there is no animosity; nothing there other than brotherly competition and that is what we are. I will go over there and tell Robbie (Loomis) exactly what we have in the race car and he will tell me I am nuts and I will look at what he has and tell him that he is old. That is the way it goes. We work together, we look at the setups, we know what the other is doing during pit stops for adjustments. We look at air pressures, wedge, pannard bar, everything. We will never go against one another.
"If it gets to the point where we are racing the 24 car for the championship, it will be the second happiest day of my life. Second to today. That, will be us being able to say we were able to do what we are supposed to do. Once again doing what Rick Hendrick did - that is what he wanted to have happen. He wanted two teams out of that shop competing for the championship. WE are going to do everything in our power to beat the 97 and the 6, 17, 12, 8. and who ever else it out there but we will never go against one another anywhere else except the race track.
JIMMIE JOHNSON , SAME QUESTION
"A little insight is that Rick started this with his own son in the Truck shop with Ricky and Jack Sprague. That was Rick's original idea to do that-two teams, one shop. And if you look where Hendrick Motorsports is going that is what we are doing. Next year the 25 and the 5 will be in the same shop."