JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 3rd: Johnson's third-place finish was his third top-five finish in the last four races. He is now 70 points behind Harvick in fourth place in the driver points. TALK ABOUT WHAT...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 3rd:
Johnson's third-place finish was his third top-five finish in the last four races. He is now 70 points behind Harvick in fourth place in the driver points.
TALK ABOUT WHAT TERRY'S VICTORY TODAY MEANS TO YOU AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS.
"It's very exciting to be on the same team with him and to work with such a nice, good guy. The entire team works their butt off and they've been really making big strides. I think everyone has been able to see it. The communication between Jim Long and Terry and the whole team, it's been neat to see their spirits come up just in the short time I've been at Hendrick Motorsports. Last year and this year, you can just see the competitive fire in their eyes. Today showed that. At one of the longest races we run, on the hardest track to get ahold of, Terry kicked all of us young guys' butts today and did it in good fashion. I'm very proud of those guys and also proud of the effort the Lowe's team put up today. It was a great day for all of Hendrick Motorsports."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO FINISH IN THE TOP THREE IN THE FINAL SOUTHERN 500 ON LABOR DAY WEEKEND?
"I have to be honest, just moving back to the East Coast not too long ago and being fairly new to the sport, I probably don't understand the heritage of the Southern 500. Before the year started, Chad [Knaus] asked me what races I wanted to win. I said, 'the Southern 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and a race at Martinsville,' In my eyes, those are the hardest tracks to get around, so to be able to finish third here in the last race--I wish I would have been the last one to hold up the trophy here for the Southern 500, but I'm very glad that Terry did it."
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR CONTACT WITH THE LAPPED CAR OF MICHAEL WALTRIP.
"The caution was out, so I let off going down the backstretch. There was a lot of debris across the race track and the 15 just locked up the brakes because there wasno clear spot to go through. By the time I realized what was going on and saw I didn't have an option to go around--there was a big bumper bar lying in the way and that would have damaged my car if not put me in the wall. I had no other choice but to try and follow him through. He kept slowing down more and more, and at the last minute, I thought, 'I need to go up and around this,' but by that time, Dale Jr. was trying to get a lap back and was on the outside of me. I was pinned behind the 15 and slid into the back of him. I hope I didn't look like a total idiot doing that today. There's all kinds of race track and I ran into the back of him."
WAS THAT THE TURNING POINT AS FAR AS YOU WINNING THE RACE?
"No. It was too early in the race and it didn't do any damage to the car, It just scared everybody and looked kind of funny. It gave the fans something to check out on TV. It really didn't affect us. At the end, the last two pit stops really set the tone for the finish of the race. The second to last stop was OK for us. We lost one spot but held our own for the most part. The last stop, I think we picked up five spots and that's where we finished. At the end, I really think the stops played a key in it. Terry was running strong, but came out with the lead and then checked out and ran away from everybody."
THERE WERE A LOT OF EQUAL CARS OUT THERE TODAY. TALK ABOUT THE PIT ROAD SHUFFLE ALL DAY LONG AND HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS.
"There were a lot of really good cars out there today. I'd say probably eight or 10 cars all day long could have won the race. I think that's good to see, especially here, because it seems like there's a couple of guys that run away with it. It was a very competitive race. The pit road played a huge part in it. It's nice to be at a track where you have so many chances to pit and there's no second-guessing if you're going to stay out on tires or if you're going to come in for fuel or not. I think it's fun. It breaks the race up for me as well as everyone else. It's nice to come down pit road and get the fresh tires and a fresh drink of water and be on your way. The thing I thought was more impressive on the track was how the top 10 cars really worked with each other and played the give-and-take game. It was probably the best example I've seen of it all year long. I had a lot of fun racing with these guys and once you got inside them, they let you have the spot and it really made for an easy day."
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO GET TO KNOW TERRY LABONTE WHEN YOU WENT TO HENDRICK?
"You all know Terry is a pretty soft-spoken guy, so I can't really say I truly know him today. Just at different functions we have, that Rick puts on, interaction at the track. There is a bond because we are all teammates and we all interact and explain what our cars are doing and talk about setups and the crew chiefs as well. I don't have a lot of time to see Terry, but my first reaction when I first came in was, 'here's a champion who has seen the sport and knows what's going on and can really give me an overview of what's going on in Winston Cup. He has a little different look at it than Jeff Gordon does, so it's good to help paint that overall picture for a young guy coming in to understand how things used to be and how to apply it today."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO START UP FRONT HERE?
"It's real important. I had some motor changes this year. At Chicago, I started last and came to the front and finished in the top three or four. At the Coca-Cola 600, we won that. It's not impossible to do, but on those days I had a lot of close calls. Here, it's even harder. You really only have one opportunity to make pass a lap, which is coming off Turn 4 and getting position on somebody going into Turn 1. Your options are limited and you can really abuse your car trying to make those passes and you're out of tires and going backward. It was at a premium today. I don't know where Jeff Burton started, but before long he was up there. There's guys that made their way through and they did a good job with it, but it's still very tough and you have to have a good car to do it."