Rookie driver Jimmie Johnson put his Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway with a new track record of 186.464 mph. This was Johnson's third Bud Pole award of the year (he sat on the pole at the ...
Rookie driver Jimmie Johnson put his Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway with a new track record of 186.464 mph. This was Johnson's third Bud Pole award of the year (he sat on the pole at the Daytona 500 and the Talladega 500) and the richest ever in NASCAR Winston Cup history with a $41,000 award.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet Monte Carlo -
"Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has worked really hard and Chad Knaus (crew chief) has given me some awesome racecars. We knew we had a good car and a good shot at the pole, but going out early made us a little worried. Another neat thing is carrying the Lowe's banner at Lowe's Motor Speedway. We're on top right now. This is awesome."
On blowing the theories that going out early is a bad thing
"Something happened in practice - right after the Goody's Dash cars. They had a Happy Hour before we went out. They had a softer rubber or something was happening there that gave us speed. Luckily it all turned out in our favor."
On being patient when he takes the green flag on Sunday
"We've got 600 miles, a long day. Fortunately we'll start out front and have clean air and a good pit stall for our pit stops. We'll just try to use our heads all day long and try to be there at the end."
Did you leave anything on the table?
"I didn't leave anything on the table. I think I was a little greedy in (turns) one and two. I didn't have to get out of the gas, but I was sliding around pretty good. We smoked it through (turns) three and four pretty good. There just wasn't anything else I could have done. Maybe I could have been a little smoother through one and two. But that old phrase that 'loose is fast' worked out okay."
On winning three poles in his rookie season - Daytona 500, Talladega 500, & Coca-Cola 600
"Each pole that we've had this year has been very special. There's not a lot of driver involvement involved in the speedway races. It's been a reflection of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus. But here, I had to carry my own weight and am equally responsible. Chad gave me another incredible racecar. I just smile every time I climb in to drive these things with how well they're handling and how good they're handling. To be the fastest at your own house here at Lowe's Motor Speedway really feels good."
Can the cars go any faster here?
"I think the conditions tonight really allowed for the fast speeds that we had. We haven't been around track record pace in the past. We're on a harder tire. We've got rules put in place to keep us from using bump stops and other suspension packages. I think tonight was one of those rare nights when there was a lot of speed in the track. It's going to be very hard to go faster than this. Ryan Newman still holds a record here with the fastest stock car (overall track record in an ARCA car) and that was way out ahead of anything else anybody had been able to run. I think with the way the rules are playing out, we'll hover around this range and probably a little slower."
On Indy Car racing?
"As a kid growing up, I always wanted to race at Indy. Growing up on the west coast, stock car racing in general wasn't that big. Rick Mears, Roger Mears, Robby Gordon - guys like that came from off-road racing and moved into Indy Cars. That's were I thought my natural step would be from off-road into open-wheel cars. When Chevrolet slowed its involvement in open-wheel racing, it opened my eyes to stock car racing. People at Chevrolet and GM started taking me around the tracks and getting me involved in stock cars. Once Riverside went away, there wasn't a lot of stock car racing in Southern California."
On running the Coca-Cola 600 the same weekend as the Indy 500
"It's real special. I've watched them from the couch many times. It's a full day of racing. I was always interested to see who was going to do the double. Of course Robby Gordon is doing it this year, so we'll see how that goes for him. Lowe's Motor Speedway under the lights is one of the best races you'll see anywhere all year long -- no matter what form of racing. We've got a good starting spot and I think we're going to be good on Sunday night."
On preparing for the Coca-Cola 600
"Physically, racing in off-road like I did, we'd run the Baja 1000 every year and that race would take anywhere from 18 to 24 hours - depending on how they (SCORE) routed the course. So, I'm not really worried about the endurance side of it. I'll just make sure that I hydrate well and keep on top of that. The biggest thing is the mental (preparation). You are on the edge all day long for 500 miles and your mind is trained for that. Now we're adding another 100 miles. So it's going to be an added twist to stay strong mentally and not overdrive the car. You can't put yourself in a position to tear your car up or go down a lap. You've got to really play your strategy out and stay on the lead lap until the last 50 laps."