Highlights of the post-race Press Conference with Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo; Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, and Team Owner, Rick Hendrick: JIMMIE JOHNSON: ARE YOU A BIG FAN OF RAIN RIGHT NOW? "Yeah, why not? I...
Highlights of the post-race Press Conference with Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo; Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, and Team Owner, Rick Hendrick:
ARE YOU A BIG FAN OF RAIN RIGHT NOW?
"Yeah, why not? I lost one earlier in the year at Daytona due to rain. But regardless of how it turned out, it was a great night tonight. To start dead last - 43rd - and march our way to the front and have great pit stops and a great race cars and making passes and racing with these guys is just so incredible. I'm so proud of this race team and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. We had an engine problem. We fixed it. We came back. We started last and drove to the front. We had great pit stops and won the race. I just can't express how proud I am of this whole race team."
BY WINNING BOTH THE WINSTON AND THE 600, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE IN
GREAT COMPANY WITH GUYS LIKE DAVEY ALLISON, JEFF GORDON, AND DALE EARNHARDT?
"I didn't realize those stats. It's amazing to hear those stats because all those guys are my heroes. When I was a kid in California, that's who I was rooting for. So to be able to do this is amazing. You just don't know what's going to happen. You just don't know what's in store for you in your career and when the good days or bad days are going to happen. But this month, we've been on fire. We've been close to winning all year long. But whatever that momentum is that we needed, we've got it back and we're on track."
ON WINNING BOTH RACES
"To do it with two different race cars really says a lot for our race team. One car was built for sprint runs for The Winston and this car did its job for this race. The credit goes to Chad Knaus and Robbie Loomis, and Brian Whitsell and those guys at the shop to think this stuff through and designing it and they've done a great job."
DID THE DECISION TO CALL THE RACE COME AS A SURPRISE TO YOU?
"I hadn't see the radar and I was on my way to the Winston Cup trailer to look at the radar. As soon as I stepped into the trailer, they congratulated me and were shaking my hand. That surprised me.
"But to start 43rd and end up leading this race shows the capabilities of our race car and our race team. I don't even know how much more of the race was left. But we were going to be a contender. I don't want to step out there and say we would have won it, but we would have been a contender. Matt Kenseth and I were talking out there in the rain and we said it was going to come down to track position. The no. 18 (Bobby Labonte) and the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth) and my car were all so equal that it boiled down to track position. The No. 97 (Kurt Busch) was in there for a while, but something happened to him. But this is how it is. We got the trophy."
WITH SUCH A GOOD ROOKIE SEASON, DID YOU BECOME SKEPTICAL ABOUT THIS YEAR
WHEN YOU WERE HAVING SOME BAD LUCK EARLY ON?
"No, we were never skeptical of our abilities. Maybe if we'd been running 30th each week and had some problems, that would be one thing. But we were up front each week running well, leading laps, and having problems then. So it never sunk into our heads that we had lost something or we're not going to have a good year or we're not going to be able to win. It was more about the bad luck we needed to get rid of. Luckily, we've been able to do that."
ABOUT HIS PIT CREW AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LAST STOP
"The guys got the job done, that's all there is to it. We had some great stops that. We were holding our own. And then at the end, the last two stops, they got me the lead and we were able to hold the lead on the last stop. This is a team sport. The over-the-wall guys did their jobs on that last stop. And we got a sweep."
LAST WEEK YOU JOKED ABOUT YOUR UNIFORM. NOW THAT YOU WON AGAIN, ARE YOU
GOING TO KEEP IT?
"If we go to Dover and don't run well, I will be wearing this suit the rest of the year, I guess (laughs). I've not one to be real superstitious over different things. I hope this suit isn't the reason why (I won). If it is, I'm going to get a cape and some cool glasses to fit the part a little better."
WHEN YOU GOT CAUGHT IN THE PITS WITH THE WEATHER, HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU?
"That was a huge concern. At that point in time, we had so much green flag racing that I didn't know if we were going to go green the rest of the way or what was going to happen. Luckily, Chad kept telling me that the rain was out there and to get was I could. I was able to get the No. 17 and the No. 97. I was in third at that point. We did what we could to get by those guys."
ARE YOU GOING TO GET TO EAT THAT PIECE OF CAKE THAT FELL OFF YOUR FORK?
"I was speaking about things not happening for us here last year - for The Winston or the 600. This year, we're a smarter team. We didn't get sucked into worrying about different things and having to lead every lap and being up front and all those different issues. Last year, starting 43rd put us into a different mindset than this year. Knowing that it's a long race, we just sucked it up and went after it. I think experience played into that. We learned from our experience in both these races last year. We try to not make the same mistake twice. This cake tastes awfully good."
ON THE RAIN PLAYING AGAINST THEM IN DAYTONA AND FOR THEM IN CHARLOTTE
"At Daytona, we definitely thought we had a pretty good shot at winning that race. On the tire stop call that we made, we were leading that thing and praying for a little bit of rain. Unfortunately, it went back green and we finished third. But by being able to come here and have a good enough race car, I felt like if we had run the last 135 laps I believe it was, we could have won the race. Jimmie did a great job driving all day and the crew did a great job."
WHAT WENT INTO THE THINKING OF BULDING DIFFERENT CARS FOR BOTH RACES - A
SPRINT TYPE CAR AND AN ENDURANCE-TYPE CAR?
"When we tested here, we had one car that we had run at Darlington and we crashed it. We rebuilt that car to bring back for The Winston. We built it with maybe a little more front downforce than the cars typically have to run a long intermediate race like this. It really played out. That car was kind of a point and shoot type of car. If you pointed it in the direction you wanted it to go, the car really went that way. The car was real free, real darty, real edgy. But that's what you need for short runs like The Winston.
"The car for the 600, we tried to build a car that's real comfortable for him so he'd be able to go out there and run 600 miles and still have a little bit left at the end of the race without being on the edge the whole time. That's what we did and it really played into our favor."
WHY ARE YOUR TEAMS SO GOOD AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY?
"One of the reasons we put a lot of effort into Charlotte is because it's home. By living here, everybody works in the shop that doesn't get a chance to go to the track. They get to come here with their families. We've won the 600 several times. This track fits Jimmie's style and Jeff Gordon's style. This 600 race takes a lot of preparation. I think the Roush cars had been pretty much taking it every year that we put the extra effort in it. Jimmie was so good over here. We were disappointed with the qualifying deal, but to come back with a new engine was pretty exciting."
ON THE GREAT MONTH OF MAY WITH NEMECHEK'S WIN IN RICHMOND, JOHNSON'S DOUBLE
WINS AT CHARLOTTE, AND KYLE BUSCH'S RUN IN THE BUSCH RACE
"We had a good run at Richmond with Joe Nemechek. Jimmie had a great test here. I was really disappointed yesterday with Kyle and then it hit me that you can't be disappointed with an 18 year old that's never run a Busch race before to finish 2nd in that race. It's been a great month. We've been building some steam with all the teams and I look forward to going to Dover where Jimmie had such a good run with two wins last year. I just hope the month of June is as good as the month of May."
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO KEEP JIMMIE JOHNSON MOTIVATED?
"I talked to him in the truck today and said we had a great car. I said we didn't need to go out and run the wheels off of it early. If we could just go out there and stay competitive, the cautions would give us a chance to move up. We talked to him early on in the race. I love to watch the guy drive. I love to watch him come off of (turn) 4 and watch the car so free. But this was going to be a long race and we needed to stay out of trouble. I told him he had a great car and he was so good here that he needed to it come to him. Chad and I talked to him several times when we had the opportunity. He just did a great job."