Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet (Qualified 3rd) "The lap was good. No complaints with that. Obviously I wish we could have been fast enough to get the pole. My car was a little looser through the center than what I needed. The car drove...
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet (Qualified 3rd)
"The lap was good. No complaints with that. Obviously I wish we could have been fast enough to get the pole. My car was a little looser through the center than what I needed. The car drove well. I knew both laps were strong laps especially the second one. We were just a little slow getting back to the gas and sliding the car above the turn a little bit too much. It's a great effort for this Lowe's team. Hendrick Motorsports is on a roll when you looking at scoring pylon and you see those three Hendrick cars up there in the top four - that's pretty amazing. It's a great day for us and hopefully we'll have everything right on Sunday afternoon for this Lowe's Monte Carlo."
(ON HIS FIRST BUSCH SERIES WIN HERE IN CHICAGO) "I have fond memories of this race track. I was able to win with my close friends Stan and Randy Herzog in their Busch car, the 92 car. It was a special day and this track has been very good to be. Hopefully I can come back here on Sunday afternoon and take another trophy home. I had a great time celebrating then and I look forward to doing it again."
(ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP) "The car was a little looser than what we expected so I had to run a second lap. The car usually tightens up for the second one for us. Not a bad effort. We definitely had our hearts set on winning the pole. I'm glad to see a Henrick car was able to win the pole. To have three Hendrick cars in the top four is pretty impressive. I know Rick (Hendrick) is smiling in Charlotte right now. We were a little bit off but still to be a little off and only a tenth of a second off of the pole in the third spot is something we are very happy with and should be awesome come Sunday."
(HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS RACE FOR YOUR TEAM?) "It's kind of a weird scenario. Leading the points in years past meant a lot more. Right now it does mean a lot. It still does. We still need to win races and be competitive. You can't get too excited from race to race where you are at in points right now because in nine races that points lead will disappear. I think there's an advantage to being the leader and showing the rest of the garage area that your team has what it takes to lead over a long period of time. You also get used to that pressure of being the points leader. We're learning a lot of lessons right now. Hopefully we can hang on to the points lead for the rest of the year. That's what we are shooting for. Life has been good. We've been able to win three races this year and hopefully another one on Sunday. This track has been great to me. I think I've had two top fives in a Cup car and also a win in a Busch car. It's been a very good track for me. I hope to improve on my Cup races and win on Sunday."
(DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAMMATE JEFF GORDON IS THE GUY EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT?) "I think so. I think Jeff is hitting a peak in this season for himself and the whole 24 team. If you look at different drivers at different periods of the year, I think the 9 came out of the box. He didn't get a win out of it but was the dominant car for a few week stretch. We had our reign at having that title. Now it looks like the 24 is having that stretch. That's what makes the final 10 so unpredictable. Whoever is peaking in those final 10 will be the champion. It may not be the guy who has lead the points all year long or who has had the best cumulative points for the season. My goal and perspective on everything is try to pace ourselves, still be competitive, win races, lead the points, but make sure we peak again when that final ten really counts."
(DO YOU EVER WISH YOU WEREN'T RUNNING HARD AGAINST YOUR TEAMMATE? "I couldn't pick anybody better, maybe (Brian) Vickers or Terry Labonte. When you're able to be behind closed doors and see all the hard work and dedication that Hendrick Motorsports put into a race, that's the only guys I want to be racing against. It's not that you like the fact that you're going to lose or that you ever do lose but if you lose to a teammate that's a little different. I'm very proud of what my teammates have been able to accomplish. Brian has been really fast. I think he is a race or two away from getting his first win. Hopefully there are three or four Hendrick cars battling it out every week."
(ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH YOUR CONSISTENCY?) "I'm really surprised. We've been able to ride the rollercoaster up and down through different seasons and different phases of the season. We've been able to have a bad day and turn it around and have a top five. That's something that really surprised me and something I'm very proud of. In California we crashed one in practice and were able to finish second. There's been a lot of stories like that that have taken place throughout the year. It's nice to rally back and turn bad days into top fives. I think that's what you need to do to be a champion in our sport and hopefully we're able to prove that this year."
(ON HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS' SUCCESS) "I think with 24 putting the 48 in their shop and in a sense having us use their equipment, their cars, their engine combinations, it's shown the whole complex at Hendrick that if we all have the same baseline to work from we can help each other. There is a proven package there that the 24 has been able to use and win a lot of races and championships with. I think you're seeing all the cars develop more of that direction and more of a company standard car - engine package, downforce package. We're a lot closer than what we've been in the past. When we talk to each other about our driving styles or the crew chiefs talk about changes we're making to the cars, it's something that my crew chief and all our crew chiefs can use. We're a lot closer so we can all communicate better. Rick has done a really good job of pushing all of his teams to work closer together. It's raising all of Hendrick Motorsports to a whole new level not only with the 24 and the 48, 25 is knocking on a win, Terry has been very strong and can win at any moment as well. I think it has been working very well."
(WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE TODAY WITH YOU AND JEFF GORDON?) "He's definitely not better. I'm better. (laughs) When Brian comes up and makes comments to me and I walk away from a conversation with Brian and I say 'he's young, he doesn't know any better yet, I know what I'm hanging on to and when it counts I'm going to put it out there.' I know Jeff is still doing that to me. It's funny when I see Brian at times and he comes up to me and talks to me about things, I turn away and see Jeff and say 'now I know how you felt when I was a rookie and came in with these bright eyes and great ideas and all this excitement.' I do understand that he did save some at all times and turned that loose when he needed it. I know in practice he was happy with his car but didn't feel like he got exactly what he needed to. I know Chad and Robbie were talking about things and I think they made some adjustments to help their car out."
(COULD THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP BE OVER QUICKER WITH DRIVERS HAVING THESE WINNING STREAKS?) "I don't think it will be over sooner because it's ten races. I don't think it will be a run away situation. I think that maybe somebody that comes into the Chase eighth, ninth or tenth in points, like Ryan Newman, if his streak is in the final ten and comes in and lays out ten great races and hits a stretch like he did last year and wins, then now he's the champion. That's what I would see as the wildcard that exists out there right now. We're trying to make sure we peak again when it counts."
(ARE THERE RISKS ON WORKING TOGETHER?) "The biggest risk that we run is that our teammates like the package that we're developing and you're beat by your own equipment at times. That's a good problem to have. Peter Sospenzo (Brian Vickers crew chief) is really thinking hard and working on new ideas. He's a lot like Chad (Knaus). You have Robbie Loomis (Jeff Gordon's crew chief) that uses his proven equipment. You have a good balance. Chad and Peter are real aggressive and you have Robbie who doesn't let them get too far out there. I feel comfortable especially with Chad. He's always looking for the next thing to apply to our race cars so we won't be caught behind. Brian can go test somewhere and bring back the data. Chad can look at it and it looks like something we would run and we would learn from that. It's all a big snowball effect. Once you get the momentum of the teams working together, it just keeps feeding on itself."