Daytona 500: Johnson qualifying press conference

JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - QUALIFIED 2ND PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: "I knew that we could run an .80 again. We felt really comfortable with the time we ran yesterday and felt that was realistic time that we ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - QUALIFIED 2ND
PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS:

"I knew that we could run an .80 again. We felt really comfortable with the time we ran yesterday and felt that was realistic time that we could back up. Then I was watching the TV broadcast and noticed the speeds started to slow down quite a bit. My first reaction was, 'wow, we've got a shot at this deal' and then the next reaction was that if the conditions change that much, I'm going to slow down as well. So, I had mixed emotions going into it. And, I always know that Chad and the crew guys are going to give me everything they've got. So, I went in with an open mind and was hopeful to get the pole. And to come out second was a little bit of a surprise in a sense because we're not focusing on qualifying. We want to make sure we've got a good race car and one that's going to draft well. We proved that last night, so to be second, we're very excited about that. We look forward to that. We feel that we've got a better car for the 500 than we had last night."

HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM RUNNING WITH OTHER CARS OUT THERE?

"When you're by yourself and you don't have cars around you, the air is really stable and you can change things aerodynamically on the car to make it fast down the straightaways. You can pull the fenders in and do different things like that. In the draft, you have the aero push that always comes up and we deal with that at every race track. We're going to deal with that as long as we're racing cars. It's like gravity in my opinion; we will always have the aero push. We even have it here. It's not talked about as much because the corners are really forgiving and there is a lot of banking. But, in order to run in dirty air, you've got to have a more aggressive body that grabs the air and pushes the car onto the track. So, the changes from last night to today, I know that we can get the car that we qualified today further in that direction than what we had last night. That's why we decided to bring it down. That's what we realized in the test session, when we were down here for the three days. We feel that everything is looking in the right direction for us and it's going to drive as good, if not better, than what it did last night. A lot of it just comes down to the aerodynamics of the cars. On the superspeedway tracks, the slicker the body, the less drag you have, the faster you go. But, in the race, when you don't have air to keep the car balanced, you have your hands full.

DO YOU HAVE MOMENTUM FROM LAST NIGHT?

"I'm definitely feeling a lot of momentum. I don't feel that I'm very responsible for today's effort. I feel good about my performance last night. And the guys got it done today, so I feel very good about our whole team. I'm in second, Jeff's in third and then you've got the 10, 01 and 36 there as well. So, everything to do with Hendrick Motorsports is rocking. They've worked so hard over the winter and we've really felt we've made some good personnel changes and we have everybody pulling in the same direction. We have four teams working harder than ever together, which is an important thing. I think it's showing up and I'm very proud of everybody. I think last night was my best plate race. I felt that every move I made was calculated. I didn't lose a position or wasn't left out at any point. Everything I did worked out for me. I'm very proud of that. It was a short race and I'm sure in the 500 I'll make some moves that don't work out. But, it's just part of the territory.

ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOW AND YEARS PAST

"It's a night and day difference. Experience is everything in our sport, especially on the plate tracks. And my first year, from coming here for the 500 versus the Pepsi 400, it was a huge difference. And now to be here on the start of my fourth season, I'm so much more comfortable. I feel like I was racing ARCA back in 2002 when I won the pole."

HAS HENDRICK CLOSED THE GAP AT SUPERSPEEDWAYS?

"I think our team really stepped up and we were able to close that gap. Jeff won 50% of the plate races and we finished in the top 5 a few times, so I really felt that we closed the gap. Jeff was able to get it done and it's up to me to learn a few more tricks. The DEI cars are a little off as a whole; they are all mid pack but there is so much that falls into the drivers' hands during the race that I would expect to see the #8 and #15 back up during the race. They might not have the straight line speed that they want but those guys are too smart in the draft to at least be able to get a top 5 in the race."

IS RICK HENDRICK HAPPY WITH THE WAY THE WEEK HAS GONE?

"Well, he hired me to do this. I don't know if he intended for me to do it. All four teams are working better than ever. The 24 and 48 situation has been that way and that will continue to always be that way and now we've got the 25 and the 5 under the same building. We took Brian Weitzel, who managed the 24 car forever. We took him out of there and placed him with the 5 and 25 to make all four teams virtually identical. So, we're all going to pull off of one another. If we're going to be beat we'd rather it be by one of our teammates. So, I know (Jeff Gordon's) happy for the team and happy that we're having the success we are but he's a competitor and I know he'd rather be up top. I think he's better about me beating him than the 88 beating both of us."

IT'S BEEN A GREAT START TO SPEEDWEEKS FOR YOU

"It's been an awesome week. The Daytona 24-hour race was such a different routine for me. I can't tell you how much fun I had running the cars and at the end of the race I earned the right to finish the car which is a pretty big moment in the sports car world. I put in a good two or three stints in the middle of the night and they asked me to come back and finish the car. I was a little nervous doing that because it's when everyone puts their lead driver in the car. We had a problem with the reserve tank, and I had to run that entire last segment on a full lean mixture and I knew that the #20 car chasing me with Jan Lammers was running on a full rich. To be able to hold him off in those conditions, I was so happy with that. It was a blast. And then last night, to win my first plate race--it wasn't a points race but there was a lot of money out there and a trophy that we all wanted. I'm very proud of what we've been able to do and coming into today. The only scary thing with this is that there's only one place to go from here and that's down. So hopefully we finish up the Duels strong and carry it into the 500."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jan Lammers , Jeff Gordon
Teams Hendrick Motorsports