JIMMIE JOHNSON, CHAD KNAUS, RICK HENDERICK , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - WINNER: ON THE DAY AND HOW THE RACE UNFOLDED FOR HIM JOHNSON: "It really was a lot of fun. But in some cases it's almost better to be in second or third trying...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, CHAD KNAUS, RICK HENDERICK , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - WINNER:
ON THE DAY AND HOW THE RACE UNFOLDED FOR HIM
JOHNSON: "It really was a lot of fun. But in some cases it's almost better to be in second or third trying to move forward. When you're up front and you have the bullseye on you and all the other teams are trying to outdo your times. Plus there is a lot of pressure inside the car. There's a lot more pressure leading the race and leading that much of it than anything. Luckily we were able to not make any mistakes in the pits or on the car and all around and were able to win the race. In my first 600 here we had a similar situation where we led a lot of the race but I slid through my pit stall. So I'm glad we pulled it all together and had a clean day. I'm just glad we had a clean day. It was just an incredible day for this Lowe's Monte Carlo and Hendrick Motorsports as well."
WERE THERE SOME TOUGH PIT CALLS AND DECISIONS YOU HAD TO MAKE TONIGHT?
KNAUS: "Yeah. There were a lot of tough calls. On that last pit stop, I really didn't want to pit. But we needed to in order to stay up here. The No. 42 car stayed out. But we knew if we got Jimmie some fresh tires, we'd be all right. The Lowe's Chevrolet was running great tonight. I can't say enough to Mr. Hendrick for supplying us with what we've got. It's 20 years for him. We're here at Lowe's Motor Speedway and we sat on the pole and then dominated the Cup race. It's just incredible. I'm very proud of everybody on our team."
IT MUST BE VERY SATISFYING TO HAVE A RACE LIKE THAT AT YOUR HOMETOWN TRACK
HENDRICK: "The last two days have been pretty much unbelievable. This is home. We work a mile from here and all of our guys are here with their families. Charlotte is very special and we want to win here. Jimmie and Chad did a heck of a job tonight in dominating the race. We're glad we could pull it off."
DID CHAD FLASHBACK TO MARTINSVILLE AND CONSIDER STAYING OUT THIS TIME?
KNAUS: "You have no idea. Yes. I knew were kind of a sitting duck. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. But we knew if we got some tires on there and didn't lose too much track position that we'd be okay. I was really concerned about people staying out and I knew some people would do the two-tire bit. And they did. But we knew the consequences. If we had a decent pit stop, we'd roll back out there in the top five - eight. It was just time to buckle down then and get after it."
WHEN YOU DOMINATED FOR SO MUCH OF THE RACE, DID YOU FEEL YOU MIGHT BE IN TROUBLE WHEN THE RACE WAS RED-FLAGGED?
JOHNSON: "Fortunately it came late enough that there wasn't a big decision to be made as far as pitting. If there were 10 - 15 to go, we would have been in a hard decision about what to do. When the caution came out and I was worried about things, and I counted out the laps and what it would take to get back to green I figured it was three or four laps that we'd have left to go and we'd be in good shape and there wouldn't be any pit stop stuff necessary or any decisions that needed to be made."
WHAT MADE YOU SO DOMINANT?
JOHNSON: "I really think it's everything. Our engine department has been working very hard to build reliable horsepower. Today, in 600 miles, there wasn't anybody beating us down the straightaway. And then through the corners, the car handled really well. Chad has been working hard to find some advantages. We're finding some things. It's really a team effort. I'm just the lucky guy who gets to get in it and wheel this thing - especially when you can be that aggressive and be that sideways and still run a fast lap. It's a lot of fun."
HAVE YOU EVER DRIVEN A CAR THAT GOOD IN ANY RACE?
JOHNSON: "I had one here like that in the first 600 I ran and then I blew it. Usually when you have one this good, you make a mistake. Today, it's very satisfying to finish up and close the deal."
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE LAST PIT STOP WHEN THE NO. 9 BEAT YOU OUT?
KNAUS: "Our pit stop definitely wasn't as smooth as it needed to be right there, but it wasn't a bad stop at all. Where he (Kahne) definitely got the advantage on us was his pit selection. He was a little further down pit road and was able to get up to speed before we were and actually gain a little speed on pit entrance. They had a better pit selection than we had but we opted for the very first stall just for safety's sake. At Lowe's Motor Speedway, for whatever reason, there are a lot of collisions that happen on pit road throughout the event. We went with a safe bet and picked that pit."
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN JIMMIE MADE THE PASS BETWEEN THE NO. 31 AND THE NO. 9
KNAUS: "We just all looked at each other and said, 'That's sick'. It was like a keyhole and he just slid it in there."
ON THE NO. 48 TEAM'S SUCCESS
HENDRICK: "If you listened to the race yesterday, Kyle (Busch) gave Jimmie credit for helping him. He talked to him before the race. Chad just does a great job. Everybody works hard. I think we've got great motors and the guys have stepped it up. But you've got to give these guys credit. We had other guys in the field and they didn't run like that. Lowe's is a big sponsors and this is their track. It was neat to run well at both races. I think this year our whole group is working better together than ever before. They've been working harder and the competition is stiffer. But I think it's the whole package. You can't be short anywhere anymore. You can't be down on power or downforce, or pit crew, or crew chief, or driver, or anywhere on the team."
DEI SEEMS TO HAVE DAYTONA FIGURED OUT AND YOU SEEM TO HAVE CHARLOTTE FIGURED OUT. HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT?
HENDRICK: "I don't know. These guys seem to have it figured out. We run good every time we come here. It's neat because all our people are here and it's home. You want to do well at home."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME BACK FROM LAST YEAR'S CONTROVERSIAL WIN AND WIN AGAIN?
JOHNSON: "We all have big egos - all of us in these suits, crew chiefs, drivers, and everybody - and you feel you can beat people and that you're better than them. The way it worked out last year was in our favor. To come back, it is nice to go the full distance and win the race. Our team is strong enough week in and week out that the respect is there. We are considered one of the guys to beat everywhere, all the time. We took some criticism last year and this year nobody can say a thing."
IF THE RACE HAD STAYED GREEN, WOULD KASEY KAHNE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CATCH YOU?
JOHNSON: "It worked out that way the stop before that - he got to us right when it was time to pit. We cycled through a green flag stop and came back out and took off and ran away from him. We were a little better at the beginning, I'd say until about half or three-quarter way through a run. We were a lot faster than he was and then he'd make it back up. The way the runs worked out at the end, they were all short runs. But if it did stay green, it would have been interesting. We were cycling out right near one another. At the end of a tire run, he was right in my mirror. From my standpoint, I'm glad it worked out the way it did and I didn't have to worry about the No. 9."
TELL US ABOUT THE CAR
KNAUS: "It was actually the first car that was every built for Jimmy to race. It has been a good car for us. It has lead a lot of laps."
IF THIS RACE HAD BEEN 800 MILES, WOULD YOU STILL HAVE WON IT? YOU LOOKED LIKE YOUR FAR WAS ON A RAIL
JOHNSON: - "I am not going to set a precedent by answering that! There was some comment last year about how the race went so we just came back this year well prepared."
TALK ABOUT THE MOMENTUM WE ARE SEEING YOU GUYS CARRYING REALLY STARTED LAST YEAR WITH THE CONSISTENT 2ND AND 3RD PLACE FINISHES. YOU HAVE HAD A GREAT FIRST 1/3 OF THE SEASON SO FAR IN '04.
KNAUS: "Before we started the '2003 we really decided to pace ourselves throughout the whole season and make sure at the end the end of the season that we had enough strength in the team, everyone was rested enough and we had enough cars available to us that we could make a really strong, hard charge for the championship at the end of the year. So, the new points system is actually playing into our system we in place last year. We weren't able to accomplish it last year, hopefully this year it will work out for us.. The thing that is key right now is that we don't feel a whole lot of pressure. We don't have to be leading the points right now, all we have to do is be in the top 10 after the first 26 races. So that take a lot of the pressure off of us, it allows us to get aggressive when we want to get aggressive. It allows us to make calls we might normally make and then it also brings the reality that we don't need to do some things that we might do otherwise that will put us in a position to lose a lot of points. So it is really playing out pretty well for us. I am really really intense about everything. I want to qualify first, win each practice and win each race and the balance Jimmie brings to me is that he does a good job saying 'Look, right now we don't have what we need, but we will keep working on it and get what we need and be there at the end.' That is one thing we have worked on together and I think that is something that other drivers and crew chiefs don't have. Maybe they are both aggressive, both of them are too easy going. The pairing that Lowe's and Rick Hendrick did with us is pretty amazing. I think it is a good fit and that has got a lot to do with it."
HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FLEET OF CARS? YOU RACED AND WON TONIGHT WITH ONE OF THE OLDER CARS. DO YOU TO FIGURE OUT WHEN TO BUILD NEW CARS AND ADD THEM TO THE FLEET?
KNAUS: "Yes, cause we keep wrecking them. (Chuckles) Oddly enough we have finished in the top five or top ten the last few races but just about every car we have brought home, we have destroyed. So we are definitely trying to build our fleet back up a little bit. We've got a really good plan, we want to make sure when we get to the last ten races, we have a cars slated for a particular track and we don't have to use them over and over again so we will have a little bit of a cushion in case we do wreck a car".