JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS: ON PRACTICE "Things are really good. We don't want to put too many miles on the engine. Yesterday we elected to make just a couple of quick planned runs and then stood on it overnight. We came in and...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS:
ON PRACTICE "Things are really good. We don't want to put too many miles on the engine. Yesterday we elected to make just a couple of quick planned runs and then stood on it overnight. We came in and made some decisions about the changes we wanted to make and the guys did an awesome job coming up with some new ideas -- stuff we really haven't run here before. It really showed a lot of promise. I'm excited because we have a fail-safe package that always works well here. But we're going to race something a little bit different. The handling of the car was incredible. It really sucked up really well, so I definitely think we're going to have a better product for the Daytona 500 than we've ever had here with the Lowe's team."
ARE YOU AND (SUBSTITUTE CREW CHIEF) DARIAN GRUBB COMMUNICATING WELL? "Yeah, it's going really good. It was a very wise decision to put Darian in the position. He's been a No. 48 guy since the beginning. The crew members know him and I know him. When we can talk to Chad (Knaus) at night on the telephone, we're all talking the same language. We're not bringing someone new in and having him learn the personalities and learn how we communicate. It's been as seamless as we could expect. I know the big challenge is going to be the races following -- once we figure out how many races Chad is suspended for. We definitely anticipate Fontana being that way and that's when it's really going to be a challenge on the team. Things are going really well right now but we don't have the adjustability in the car that we do in a 1.5-mile or two-mile track. But everything is going well and we'll just keep going along."
ARE YOU IN TOUCH WITH CHAD KNAUS MANY TIMES DURING THE DAY OR ONLY AT NIGHT TO TELL HIM HOW THE DAY WENT? "We really just have a change to catch up with him at night and download the information and what the guys figure out through the runs. We talk at night and work on a game plan for the next day and work on that test matrix, if you will, and come back and have a conference call the next evening and talk about what worked and what didn't. It's definitely a different way of working on a race car. I've never been through it and certainly hope we're never in this position again."
WHO ARE YOU GOING TO WORK WELL WITH TOMORROW? WHICH CARS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR TO DRAFT WITH EARLY ON? "It's hard to not look at the normal guys -- Jeff (Gordon) and Tony (Stewart) and Junior (Earnhardt). I think that Michael Waltrip is going to do a great job. With his knowledge of the draft, he's going to be somebody to contend with all day long. Carl Edwards showed a lot of ability in the 150's. And another guy, Elliott Sadler, really understands the draft and is doing a good job. I'm hopeful just to get out and ride and stay toward the front. It'll be easier on the front tires and easier on the handling of the car -- and just kind of go from there. The funny thing is, you have different friends at different points during the race. At the beginning of the race you might work well with someone and that partnership dissolves and then you find a new one. It's all about those last three laps and who you have that's going to work with you. We'll just try to make some friend during the 500 and see what we have in the end."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO GET INTO POSITION TO FOLLOW SOMEBODY TO THE FRONT? "Getting in position is tough, but it's not the hardest part. The hardest part is when you're in second or third, where do you make your move and will they follow you? That's the hardest thing. If you're to the bottom, I'd say nine times out of 10 you're in good position. But everybody knows to block the bottom. So if you make the move to the top, are they going to follow you? That's the hardest thing. Past history shows that say you're in third, whoever is in second and fourth is content. Fourth will move up that spot to third, and the guy in second doesn't want to take a chance of blowing it as well, so if you make a move to the outside, you're usually hung out. And I've had that happen too many times here. I hope it doesn't happen again."
THIS IS ABOUT WINNING, BUT WHAT'S THE MOTIVATION TO PULL OUT AND TRY SOMETHING? "That's the tough thing. I've been aggressive in the closing laps and have pulled out and it hasn't worked out for me. My goal is after the last pit stop, to somehow end up in the lead -- if it's on pit road and getting it done or if it's getting position before that pit stop and coming out with the lead -- from the last pit stop on, if you're in the lead you're in the preferred position. It doesn't mean that you can't be passed, but that's the position I think everybody is fighting for."
JEFF GORDON HAS SKIPPED THE PRACTICE SESSION. WAS IT A CONSIDERATION FOR YOU NOT TO PRACTICE TODAY? "Well, for those guys they felt like they worked through everything yesterday and got enough miles on the engine. For us, we knew we had an extra day and that we could take our time and work through some things through the night and come in with a plan. So we took our time yesterday and just put in half the amount of laps we were allowed to put on this race engine. We went to bed last night and thought about some thing. We came in and made some really good changes to the car."
DOES THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING CAUTIOUS AND KNOWING THAT YOU'RE CLEAR TO PASS RIDE ON THE FRONT OF YOUR MIND THROUGHOUT THE RACE? "It's something that you know and expect when you come to the plate races. It's really one of the more thoughtless races we have. You just kind of get out in advance. But when you're on the track, it's one of the most mentally challenging races that we have. But before that, there's really not a lot that you can do to prepare yourself. You talk with your spotter and make sure everything is good there. You have a talk with yourself to be smooth and calm and try to take it from there. I'm not coming into it nervous or concerned. I think we all have it in the back of our minds that wrecks happen on these tracks. You don't want to be a part of it but you can never control it."
JEFF GORDON HAS POSITIONED HIMSELF TO START ON THE FRONT ROW OF THE DAYTONA 500, AND HE WON A QUALIFYING RACE. IS THAT A GOOD POSITION TO BE IN, OR WOULD YOU RATHER NOT HAVE ALL THAT ATTENTION? "I think it's a great position to be in. To come off of an off-season with new guys -- especially in Jeff's case with a new crew chief -- there are a lot of new things going on and you build that confidence in the team. For the guys to do a pit stop and get him back out in the lead -- all those things that took place -- I think it's very important and a very positive thing for Elliott (Sadler) and for Jeff."
JEFF GORDON DOESN'T WANT TO CALL HIMSELF A FAVORITE, BUT HE SURE LIKES A FAVORITE: "He's a very humble man as we all know. He's definitely one of the favorites. He has experience and knows when to make a move and why he should make a move. I think some of these younger guys, being so caught up in racing, really don't play the game as good as Jeff does. And you really never see a lot of excitement out of Jeff except for when he's decided to make a move, and it usually works out for him."
DO YOU EVER GET A FEELING ABOUT A RACE -- WHETHER IT'S GOING TO BE A GOOD DAY OR NOT A GOOD DAY? LIKE GETTING A PREMONITION? "Well there are some things that pop up in your mind the evening before a race and you have a good feeling about things. But what really drives that, in my opinion, is how your practices went and how qualifying went. Everything has been strong for us and we had a great practice just now and I feel very good about everything."
WHAT'S THE KEY TO WINNING? "The rules package is so tight that you really can't find an advantage anymore. I think handling is going to be a big key. I think the No. 38 and No. 24 have showed that. We're handling good. The No. 20 is handling good. That will be the only thing that separates the field once we get 15 to 20 laps on the tires."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
ON SKIPPING HAPPY HOUR PRACTICE: "We didn't practice because we had a strong practice yesterday. Today is the hottest day of Speedweeks and it's supposed to be about 10 degrees cooler tomorrow. We ran 25 laps yesterday and things are good. My teammates can tell me everything they changed. From here on out, it's just race adjustments."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN BY WATCHING PRACTICE? "It's hairy out there."
IS YOUR CREW CHIEF, STEVE LETARTE, READY FOR HIS FIRST DAYTONA 500? "I think so. If he's nervous, he certainly doesn't show it. His confidence level is tremendous."
WHO IS YOUR TOP COMPETITION? "I don't know how to pick 'em. There are just too many. All the usual contenders, I certainly think will be there (like) the No. 20, the No. 8, the No. 48 and the No. 38."
HAVE YOU EVER DONE THIS BEFORE..SKIPPED A FINAL PRACTICE BEFORE A DAYTONA 500? "I think we have before. I don't look at it as a final practice. It's really just more of another practice. To me, yesterday was our final practice. With having a whole race on Thursday, all we're doing is making laps. We're not really learning -- especially if it's going to be 10 degrees cooler tomorrow. The conditions are going to be different."
DO YOU THINK EVERYBODY ELSE IS GOING TO SAY YOU ARE MESSING WITH THEIR MINDS? "It had nothing to do with that other than I felt happy yesterday. The car drove good. The motor felt great. We had hot conditions to be able to see how slick thing could get. We ran 25 laps."
DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE AN EARNHARDT EDGE ON SOME OF THESE GUYS AND YOU'RE COVERING IT UP AND THEY'RE WONDERING WHAT YOU HAVE THAT THEY DON'T AT THIS POINT? "Well, we won the 150 and we're on the front row and we won the Daytona 500 last year and the Talladega race. I think that's enough for guys to know we're on the radar screen. I would hope that people would think that we're one of the guys to beat whether we run final practice or not."
IF YOU WIN TOMORROW, WILL YOU SKIP PRACTICE MORE OFTEN?' "You can't do it anywhere else but Daytona. This is the only place you can do that. At restrictor plate tracks, a lot of times we do end early on final practice day just because you learn what you need to learn; and from that point on, you're not learning anything. You're just making laps."
WHAT'S YOUR GUT FEELING FOR TOMORROW? "We've got a great car and I've got a great feeling about it. If I didn't, we wouldn't have that car sitting over there in the garage stall all day. We're just getting it ready to go and I'm definitely ready to go and I feel like this team is as well. You can't predict anything of how this race is going to unfold. You've just got to go with it and hope you're in position at the end of the race to make the moves. And if you make the moves, you hope it'll work out."
IS IT A GOOD THING TO BE COUNTED AS ONE OF THE TOP FIVE GUYS TO WIN THIS RACE? "Probably not. It's probably not because there is nobody who is going to work with me. We're not going to get any help tomorrow, I can guarantee you. Other than from our teammates, I don't think we're going to have anybody who is going to be willing to push us through because they know that we're one of the threats. It's not a lot different for me whether I'm riding behind the No. 20 or the No. 8. There will be times when I know that's going to help me out to work with them, and there's other times that I'll want to get one of those guys shuffled back because I don't want to have to race him at the end."
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK THE RACE COULD GET CRAZY? "Everybody has his own agenda. You're going to have the middle of the pack on back getting crazy throughout the whole race trying to get into position. And then you've got everybody getting crazy at the end of the race. The thing is, without this bump drafting now, it takes the craziness down at least a couple of notches, which is nice. Because typically, with the bump drafting, every lap was crazy no matter where you were in the field. And now we've knocked that down a notch."
WILL PEOPLE BUMP DRAFT LIKE CRAZY THE LAST 10 LAPS? "Oh, you're going to see it on the straighaways, but you're not going to see it in the corners. I think guys know what lessons are learned. And you know what? It might happen early on and somebody does it and NASCAR makes a call and gets people's attention. Nobody has said you can't bump draft. You just have to do it in a respectful way down the straightaways. Don't be excessive with it and don't be aggressive with it and don't do it in the corners."
STEVE LETARTE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
ON SKIPPING PRACTICE: "We've spent the last three months getting ready for this race. If one more hour makes that much of a difference, then shame on us."
DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX MONTE CARLO SS:
HOW'S YOUR CAR? "The FedEx Chevrolet is pretty good. We got it a lot better from where we were yesterday. If we can improve upon that just a little bit, I feel like we've got something to work with anyway. We've got about a Top 10 car right there. We need to fine-tune maybe a little bit to get a top five car. It really comes down to help, but I feel like we've got a little bit more than we did before."
WHO CAN YOU RUN WITH? "Obviously, the Gibbs teammates. It looks like Jeff Green and Greg Biffle are two other guys I'll be looking to because they've helped me in the past, so I'll be looking for them."
ON BUMP DRAFTING: "I don't think it's going to be any different racing than it would normally. I think if we get some long green flag runs, it's going to be pretty spread out so I don't think you'll see too much of it anyway. Right now, everybody is being calm. But that'll end on Sunday."
STERLING MARLIN, NO. 14 WASTE MANAGEMENT MONTE CARLO SS
HOW WAS PRATICE? "It was good. The car is really good. It was off yesterday, but we got it fixed and now I think it's better than the other car we had in to qualify in the race. It really drives good and really sucks up good and I think we've got a really good shot at it if we can get up front."
DID YOU LEARN A FEW THINGS TODAY? "Yeah, we had to go out today because this is the back-up car. Like I said, we had a lot of things wrong and we weren't very happy yesterday. The guys worked really hard on it and they found some things that have helped it a lot."
ON THE COOLER TEMPERATURES PREDICTED FOR SUNDAY: "Oh, it will make everybody a little braver. The track's going to have a little more grip. So you'll probably see a little bit more three-deep stuff than you normally would if it's hot and slick. You've just got to use your head on this bump-drafting and just do it where you're supposed to do it and we won't have any trouble."