Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo - a top finish in only two starts at Atlanta Did you think you might have had more there at the end? "We were stronger in different segments. We ran second for a while there and were running...
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo - a top finish in only two starts at Atlanta
Did you think you might have had more there at the end?
"We were stronger in different segments. We ran second for a while there and were running down Kurt Busch. I was a little bit more patient than I needed to be at the start of a run, but it seemed to pay off at the end of a run when I could work my way up through there. But all in all, it was a solid effort. This is my second time here in a Winston Cup car. To have this rookie team that we have, and come out of here with a third place finish is great. We ran in the top five the majority of the day. That says a lot about this young race team. We finished sixth in Vegas and we're going on to Darlington. Hopefully we'll keep our momentum and continue to run up front."
Did you expect to become an asset or make a difference to the No. 24 team this quickly?
"One key thing for me was our test in Las Vegas. I was able to look at the No. 24 team's data and understand why and what he (Jeff Gordon) was doing on the race runs. I've applied that to the races - especially these mile and a half tracks. And it's really helped me to not wear the tires out. I've been overdriving the entry to the corner. After looking at his data and trying what he does, it instantly increased my speed and kept the tire life under the car and the car stayed faster longer. So now that I'm driving like his driving style, from Vegas the set-ups will be closer. Now from Atlanta, this is more concrete evidence that he can use my set-ups and I can use his.
I still need to be a little more aggressive with qualifying, but we've met our goal there and we'll just probably keep improving every week."
You've been running well, and the No. 24 team seems to be struggling. Any theories?
"I don't think they're struggling. I know track position is very important and Jeff was disappointed with his starting position. He knew he was going to be fighting a battle all day long. And with these double-file re-starts, you really get shuffled out of the mix. It's hard to get the track position that you need to keep your car turning. Those guys are a championship threat. Don't let the fact that they've not been dominating these first few races. They'll be back and be strong and be contending for their fifth Winston Cup title."
How were your pit stops today and do you follow in the training tracks of Jeff Gordon's crew?
"At Hendrick Motorsports, we have a training coach that trains all the teams. So all four teams have the same training. But something that we did with the over-the-wall crew we brought the jackman over from the No.24 team to bring us some experience. It seems to be working real well."
Are you relieved to have qualified for the first four races without any problems?
"Definitely. We felt we would be able to qualify on our own right and make the fields, but we were really praying that there wasn't going to be any weather (rain). Luckily, nothing has affected us. It can hurt your season. We're driving great equipment so I knew that as long as I didn't make mistakes, we'd make the fields. That's been our philosophy for both the qualifying and the racing and we'll continue to grow every week."