Darlington II: Winning team press conference

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet FOR JIMMIE: ON HIS ROCKET RIDE TO THE TOP IN THESE PAST FEW RACES "It's been a great ride. It's hard to think too much on emotion with what happened with the airplane at the...

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet

FOR JIMMIE: ON HIS ROCKET RIDE TO THE TOP IN THESE PAST FEW RACES

"It's been a great ride. It's hard to think too much on emotion with what happened with the airplane at the Martinsville event. I look back to Lowe's Motor Speedway and I enjoyed that one but it doesn't come up in my memory. Martinsville doesn't even seem like we were at the race track. There was a ton on Atlanta. But that void and hole inside of me just isn't filled. Winning helps. It's put us back in the points championship. This is the first time I've thought clearly in the last three or four weeks where we're back at the track and we've found some sort of normalcy. When I look back on this year and look at 8 eight - hopefully 9 after next week - I'll smile really big. But there will always be that emptiness with what happened on the airplane."

FOR JIMMIE: AFTER THE FIRST COUPLE OF RACES WITH THE CRASH AND THE ENGINE, DID YOU THINK YOU WERE OUT OF IT OR DID YOU BELIEVE YOU COULD RALLY LIKE THIS?

"I have full faith in our race team and it's amazing how you can be so close to winning and not win. And then you get into a year where you can. Last year, our worst finish was a third in the final six races.

"We knocked on the door to win a lot of races. This year, late in the going, we've been able to pick it up that spot or two to have it work out for us and get it done. I can't explain it. I don't know how or why it happens. But I'm glad to see it. Before this run of races, I thought we were out of the championship. I didn't think that three guys would have problems. I figured one guy would go clean. But all three had problems and it brought us into it."

FOR JIMMIE: AT THE END, WAS IT HARD TO BE PATIENT IN GETTING BY KASEY KAHNE AND JAMIE MCMURRAY?

"I really thought I would get by both of them quicker and I expected some pressure from behind from Carl Edwards and Mark Martin. It took me a while to get by the No. 9 because it's hard to have two lanes here. I should have set him up cleaner and I could have made quicker work of him than I did. I thought I'd rail by him on the bottom. When I got to the No. 42, I set him up and tried to find one of his weaknesses, I knew if I got trapped on the inside of him that I would have trouble with him like I did with the No. 9. And then if the No. 6 and the No. 99 were close, I'd have to fight one of them. I just waited and waited. I just set them up and got them and brought it home from there."

FOR CHAD: ON THE PIT MISTAKE WITH THE AIR HOSE FOR THE NO. 24 TEAM

"I changed tires for a long time. Stuff like that happens and it's very difficult to prevent that. Stuff like an air hose getting caught under a tire can happen very easily. I think our fifth pit stop of the night we had a lug nut get caught. Stuff like that you can't foresee and you can't prevent. There is a bit of luck right there. Maybe that tire changer on the No. 24 had his hose just a little bit too long and it got caught up underneath the tire. It may not ever happen to him again for another 20 years or however long the guy changes tires. But it's something that does happen on occasion. It just really bit them today."

FOR CHAD: WHAT WAS YOUR STRATEGY IN YOUR NEXT TO THE LAST PIT STOP

"To go like hell. We did what we could to address the problems we had in the car at that time. We were a little bit too tight in the center and a little free off at that point so we made some air pressure adjustments and it definitely helped the car. The biggest thing that helped us there was just track position.

"We were able to get out ahead of those guys. And it worked out. On that last pit stop actually, I told Jimmie to stay out. He took it upon himself to come down pit road because he saw those guys lined up behind him. So that was all Jimmie, otherwise we would have ended up probably fourth or something. That shows he was on his toes all night long watching those guys behind him."

FOR JIMMIE: YOU DIDN'T WANT TO HAVE THE LEAD UNTIL THE LAST RACE AND NOW YOU'VE GOT YOUR CHANCE

"That's my perspective. I know it's easy to say and tough to follow through with it. But that's something I've felt in my heart that I knew. I need to be a leader and show the guys that's what our attitude needs to be. The reason I'm taking this upon myself is that our team works the best in those situations. When we've got to play defense, we have trouble. If we show up and you stack the odds against us, things happen for us. I don't know what it is, but we always do better. We don't have anything to lose at this point. They're letting us back into this and we're going to do all we can to win another race in Homestead."

FOR JIMMIE: ON THE SUN IN TURN 3

"It was a huge problem. It was a good two-thirds of the race that we had trouble. The first 50 laps of the race were okay. At first, I thought the sun was going to set behind the grandstands and it would be fine. But it kept moving around. It was really tough. It was like Fontana to a point where I was thinking they need to throw a caution just to let the sun go down so we could see."

FOR JIMMIE: ON OTHER DRIVERS HAVING PROBLEMS DURING THE CHASE

"I don't think if those guys had made it clean, with all the winning that we've been able to do, that we would still have a chance at the championship. We had two really bad races and it seemed like those guys would need two really bad races. I just didn't think it would happen. We're doing our part and I'm proud of that. But it they hadn't had problems we would have had a shot."

FOR JIMMIE: AFTER BEING CONCERNED WITH THE CHASE FORMAT, DO YOU THINK IT HAS WORKED OUT THAT YOU ARE WHERE YOU HAD EARNED BACK IN THE REGULAR SEASON?

"I don't really say there's any justice coming back to us. In our sport you have to earn everything that you get. I'm just happy to see us on the role we're capable of. We had a down spot in the season. Every team is going to have it every single year. I think as time goes on and the system gets perfected on the team side and the competition side, people are going to work harder to do their experimenting before the final 10 and really favor the 26-race side of the season. We were in a great position where we could do that and we still had some difficulties. We're just doing our jobs and that's awesome."

FOR CHAD: HOW DO YOU KEEP BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR YOUR TEAM THIS WEEK?) "It's actually going to be pretty easy because we're going to take the same race car that we raced tonight to Homestead next weekend. There's not going to be a whole lot of time to sit back and think about it or even enjoy this victory because we're going to have to get that car turned around and prepared to go to Miami. It's not going to be real hard. The thing everybody needs to understand is that this isn't really new for us. We've been chasing the championship in these final races for the last two years. This year is the third. We've always been in positions where we've had to chase at the end of the season. The guys go back and put their heads down and work and we get riled up and ready to go down to Homestead."

FOR CHAD: WHAT ADJUSTMENTS WILL YOU MAKE ON THE CAR FOR HOMESTEAD?

"I haven't gotten past Darlington yet. I haven't put it on paper yet. We left Homestead (test session) with a good baseline. We have a great idea of where we need to be but this car also won at Charlotte and Atlanta. Obviously it's a very good race car. We'll take it home and work on it. We've got a good package. Our engine shop has stepped it up lately. We've got a great engine going to Homestead and this is one of my favorite cars."

FOR CHAD: DOES THE CAR HAVE A NAME?

"This is actually Jimmie Johnson's very first race car that was ever built for him specifically at the No. 24 shop. Jimmie ran this car at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2001. I'll qualify Jeff Gordon.

"He ran very competitively and unfortunately spun out and crashed even before I was associated with the team. Since we've been together and worked on this car, it's been a solid and stable car. It's just 4859. And that's the number and that's the name. It's a great race car."

FOR JIMMIE: WHAT WENT WRONG AT THE END OF THE SEASON?

"It's hard to say. We had some failures. I made mistakes. We lost some momentum. Something happened. I don't know why or what. I guess it's a good thing in some respects when you start to have that bad luck. The failures show up and you make more mistakes. It's kind of hard to right the ship."

FOR CHAD: YOU WORK WITH THE NO. 24 TEAM ALL THE TIME. THIS IS CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK, BASICALLY, SO AT WHAT POINT DO YOU STOP WORKING TOGETHER?

"As far as I'm concerned, it'll get separated after the last pit stop at Homestead. If there is a caution with 30 laps to go, everybody comes down pit road and we make our adjustments and then its up to the drivers at that point. Prior to that, it's going to be business as usual. We're going to give them everything that we do. They're going to give us everything they do. We'll continue to race each other like gentlemen on the race track and it'll never stop."

FOR JIMMIE: RICK HENDRICK NOW HOLDS THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF OWNER WINS AT THIS TRACK WITH 11. CAN YOU COMMENT ON THAT?

"That's huge. I had no idea this win did that. Rick is doing well and he's trying to find some normalcy and to get things back at his dealerships and at the race track as well. We were testing last week and I spoke to him briefly on the phone. I haven't seen him but I think he's doing as well as can be expected. He sounded very happy on the phone in victory lane. I know he's smiling. With this race track and how long he's been in this sport, I know that what we did today and him taking that lead will mean a lot to him."

FOR JIMMIE: THIS IS THE 5TH TRACK YOU HAVE SWEPT

"I don't know what it takes to do that, but I'm pretty happy we've been able to come back and do that. I think our challenge next year is to try to come back and win again.

"We seem to be able to do it in one season, but the next calendar year has been tough on the repeat. I guess that means our set-ups were good the first time and it wasn't luck."

FOR JIMMIE: PLEASE EXPLAIN THE SITUATION WITH KEVIN HARVICK ON THE TRACK TODAY

"I have no idea and I look forward to finding out myself soon. Going down pit road before the race started, he was barking something at me and I couldn't understand what he was saying but I knew he wasn't wishing me good luck. And then throughout the race, he was trying to crowd me and race me and try to run me into the fence. I have no idea what his problem is. We'll find out soon. I'm confused."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Chad Knaus