Daytona 500: Pole winning team interview

Jimmie Johnson put Impala SS on the pole for 50th running of the famed Daytona 500 with a fast speed of 187.087 mph in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. This was Johnson's 14tg NASCAR Sprint Cup career pole and his second gor '08 Great American Race on...

Jimmie Johnson put Impala SS on the pole for 50th running of the famed Daytona 500 with a fast speed of 187.087 mph in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. This was Johnson's 14tg NASCAR Sprint Cup career pole and his second gor '08 Great American Race on Feb. 17th at Daytona International Speedway. crew chief, Chad Knaus, and Hendrick Motorsports owner, Rick Hendrick, join Johnson.

ON THOUGHTS ABOUT QUALIFYING EFFORT:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "I am just real excited to see everything from the off-season come together. We had a great test session. To come down here with a car that was in the wind tunnel and worked on and completed when we were down here testing, to see it come together with its first laps yesterday with a strong run right off the truck. To build on that, find some more speed and lock down the pole today, says a lot for the team and the preparation, I just couldn't be more proud of my crew guys and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) for not losing anything over the off-season. They have been very committed and working, from the shootout to today's qualifying effort we have been where we need to be."

ON JIMMIE SITTING ON THE POLE FOR THE 50TH RUNNING OF THE DAYTONA 500:

RICK HENDRICK: "It is always neat to get down here and get a win, but the pole is something that the guys work for all winter long. The winter testing was good. Chad (Knaus) and the guys put a lot of effort in to it and came back and backed up their test and actually picked up speed witha new car. It is a good place to be, especially running the 150s Thursday. Knowing you are going to be in the front row of the Daytona 500 is good."

ON GETTING BACK TO DAYTONA AND WINNING THE POLE:

CHAD KNAUS: "Obviously there is a lot of emphasis when you come to Daytona 500 to sit on the pole. It is a neat thing; you are guaranteed a front row starting spot. It is a week and a half that you can kind of walk around with your chest puffed up instead of just a day like a normalqualifying effort, so it is kind of cool.

"The guys at Hendrick Motorsports (HMS), everybody from the body department to the chassis department to our engine department, we came down here with really a car that we didn't have any prior track knowledge about. The car actually to right now only has a total of 12 timed laps on it on the race track, relatively unproven. We took a bit of a chance, we thought the car was going to be good. All of the data we had at back home was right. It is cool, I am really enjoying it."

ON BEING MOTIVATED MORE WHEN A TEAMMATE BEATS THEM:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "I think we have really used the rivalry between the cars in a positive way. When we are outrun by one of our teammates, we know what they had versus what we had.

"So we are able to bring our car to that spot and then try to beat them, then they know and this progression starts. I really think that we saw it in the Chase more than anything. Notebooks were open; we were all honest and true about where our cars were and what we were doing. We brought the best out in each other. I feel like we took HMS to a new level and a higher level. That is the goal with teammates is to keep ratcheting that up week after week, year after year. We have been on a good pace. I feel like the way we have all meshed together with the addition of the NO. 88 car and all the people and everybody involved. We are further ahead now than we were at the end of last year. I am very excited about the year to come for all of us."

ON COMPENSATING FOR WIND TODAY:

CHAD KNAUS: "There is not a whole lot that you can really do. We obviously look atis the weather forecast. We do a really good job of that I feel. There are things that you can do to manipulate the body attitude of a car to try to make it go through the wind on a windy day a little bit better than on a calm day. NASCAR allows us gear selection that we can choose from, but other than that, youjust kind of cross your fingers and hope.

"If we had gotten a bad gust of wind down the straight away, it wouldn't be us sitting here, it would be the No. 55."

ON IF WINNING THE POLE CHANGES APPROACH TO THE 150S:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "It definitely takes the heat off of us. We haven't had a chance to talk about strategy and what we want to do during the course of the Dual. It does put us in a great position to not have to take any risks."

ON BEING FAVORITE FOR DAYTONA 500:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "I don't think so. Maybe one of, but until we get out in the draft and see how these cars work, that is really the true test of whose car is going to be where. We know we have the fastest single car, so we will carry that over in to the draft and hopefully it sucks-up well and handles well. I think handling is going to be a premium. It is that fine balance of handling and straight-line speed. You don't get one with the other, so you have to trim it out and balance that back and forth."

ON FEELING ANY RESENTMENT FROM COMPETITORS OVER SUCCESS:

RICK HENDRICK: "I know it is there, but I don't see it. I am friends with a lot of the guys in the garage area. I have been in the position to watch other guys have success and I know that feeling, it motivates you to want to go beat them. I am sure it is there, but everybody is still speaking to me and we are getting along great. I think it is so tight, it is almost like we have just come up a little bit better, but, I am sure there is some frustration there."

ON WHAT WINNING THE POLE FOR THE DAYTONA 500 MEANS BESIDES THE MYSTIC OF THE RACE:

CHAD KNAUS: "It is definitely the most prestigious pole you can get throughout the season. I say Indianapolis is right there second. It is kind of like I said before. Whenever you can be...the thing that is neat about getting the pole for the Daytona 500 is you spend a week and a half amongst your peers at the race track and you have that and you are the fastest car. On a typical basis, you go and you qualify on Friday, Saturday you are in happy hour and Sunday you are racing. It is boom, boom, boom; it is done. But here, for a week long, everybody in the garage is going to be going up to the 48 guys and saying, hey guys good job over the winter, congratulations. I think that is why it means a little bit more. A lot of people put a lot of effort in to this."

ON HOW HARD IT IS NOT TO GET OVERLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEXT WEEK AFTER SUCCESS:

RICK HENDRICK: "I think Jimmie can answer that better than I can, but one move the wrong way last night, he would have been shuffled out. I know how good the No. 20 car was last night. I know how good the 22 car was, you didn't have the 17 in the race, you didn't have a lot of the good cars that will be there next week. If you lull yourself to sleep thinking that you were pretty good in that race, you are going to get spanked come next Sunday. Everybody is going to work hard and take a lot of racing luck. Like I said last night, it is going to be an exciting race. There will be a lot of guys out there going for broke in the 150 and so hopefully we will have these cars come Sunday. I think if you look at the competition and look at how close is the competition is and you look at how Michael's (Waltrip) team came so close to putting us on the outside after a rough start last year, you have to take your hats off to those guys and all the work that they have done and you see the competition like Toyota and the Ford cars, everybody is getting really stout. I wish I was as confident as some folks are saying we should be. We know we have a fight on our hands."

ON IF HE THOUGHT SPEED OF CARS WHO WENT EARLIER THAN HE WOULD HOLD UP:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "As qualifying went on, I was impressed with the lap the 24 ran, compared to what he ran yesterday. The winds were nothing like we had yesterday. That gave me one perspective on it. Then a couple of guys went faster. Then Nemechek went and posted a great lap. Based on the discussions we had coming down here, through the week where the Chad felt the pole pace would be, when I saw that time from the 78 car, I thought man, that is going to be tough to beat. We thought we would run a teen and then we went out and ran our 10, I was impressed by that lap. I think David Regan had a strong lap time, so I was concerned about the speed of the car. When I walked out and I saw Ron Malick, my engine tuner, I saw those guys, I said man, that .25 (48.258) the No. 78 car ran is strong and they all just smiled. The had that confident smile and look in there eye. So I thought hmm, maybe we are going to be good. I buckled in and plugged in my radio and Chad said, you have a good one, just keep it smooth and steady out there and you will be fine. The guys had a confidence in them that was contagious and very obvious when I got in the car."

ON SURPRISES IN TODAY'S QUALIFYING:

CHAD KNAUS: "You mean of the competitors? Obviously the 78 team was a surprise. The Toyotas of Michael Waltrip Racing did a good job but they have a big advantage on those guys of the 78 and the 87 team. They are based out of Colorado; they have a long way to travel. Yes, they have Hendrick horsepower, but that is only half the battle, you still have to have great race cars and a great team to get the car out there and around the race track. So, that team really impressed me today, I was very proud of those guys."

RICK HENDRICK: ON WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT A SINGLE CAR EFFORT: "It probably prevented us from slitting our wrists down in Talladega during qualifying because we were all mid-field to the back and Joe qualified third with our motor. We knew what the motors were so we were off in our cars. They have worked hard. That is a tremendous commitment as Chad said; they had to go a really good job on the chassis. I think Joe Nemechek gives them good input. We like working with Joe and Kenny (Wallace). I think it does say a lot for those guys and I think what you have seen with the Toyota support with Michael and the TRD effort and the Roush/Yates motor program, I think you are seeing a lot of that throughout the garage area. Now with the COT, you are going to see when you take a Richmond car and a Darlington car and run as good as these guys did last night, I think NASCAR has accomplished what they want. The engines are fairly close and that should be good for the sport and good for the single car teams now."

ON THEIR TEAM MAKING A STATEMENT WITH RUN LAST NIGHT AND QUALIFYING:

CHAD KNAUS: "We are just racing man."

ON THE 500 CAR NOT BEING AT TESTING:

CHAD KNAUS: "The car unloaded off the trailer yesterday fresh, I mean fresh, without a scratch. It had been lit one time at the shop and hit the race track and was the fastest car here all practice. We have about 550 teammates at HMS and when you have that many people who are true, blue racers pulling in one direction, it is pretty difficult to beat them. This pole is for those guys. It is not really to Jimmie or myself. It is too Mr. Hendrick and the team he has allowed us to build."

ON ABILITY TO NOT LOSE MOMENTUM:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "I think as far as the people are concerned, that is the culture that Mr. Hendrick has created at Hendrick Motorsports. We see people leave and before long they end up coming back for us at a different level and usually learn a lot of great street smarts and experience and come back and elevate their status inside of HMS. The culture we have is because of Rick and he gives to go out and do the best that we can and it is up to us to pull that off. I think that philosophy really keeps the people around.

"As far as the ability to continue on and not lose something over a championship year, results back to the culture in a different way maybe. Everybody there as Chad said, are racers and want to race and want to be up front. We make sure that we build a team and the team structure in a way to where we aren't running a sprint race all the time, we are just at a slow steady pace, not slow, but a steady pace and we are churning out good cars and we are churning out new information and data, just constantly trying to make our stuff better. And of lat, it has just been at the right pace and the right stuff. I am not saying it is going to last forever. We are watching a lot of guys understand what it takes and hitting on things. It boils down to a lot of hard work and a lot of time from Chad and the guys that he directs and kind of points them in the right direction at the shop. So it is really a team effort."

ON CANCELING TEST IN NASHVILLE:

CHAD KNAUS: "We were going to leave here, go to Nashville and test and come back. Maybe we will take the car we qualified with and go to Nashville and test since it is not doing anything for two days (Laughs). That is the cool thing about what we have. We have such good scheduling and everything is put in to place. When you get crashed in a practice session for an exhibition race like the Bud Shootout, you aren't always quite as prepared as you may think you should be. We had everything else lined up to go to the Phoenix test, the Fontana race, the Las Vegas race, the Atlanta race - everything else has got its slot. This car was going to be our test car. After we crashed, we had to make a decision as to whether we wanted to attempt to go in to the Daytona 500 and through the 150s without a backup car that was capable of winning the race or to bring something down from the shop. So, we opted to bring something down from the shop that we thought we could run competitive with and try to make it happen. The car was sitting there. It had data acquisition system on it, it had all the telemetry, it had all the suspension, engine - 100% ready to go to Nashville. We had about 20 guys come in to HMS, completely take that car apart and completely reassemble it and had it on the road in a matter of six hours and down here by 8:30 the next morning. Hats off the Robert Deering and all the guys, they did a phenomenal job in something that most teams could not and would not do.

"The majority of our team guys are going back to Charlotte for Monday and Tuesday. That is another thing we are very fortunate with Mr. Hendrick. He really wants us and encourages us to allow our guys to have more time off and to have more time with their families because obviously the fresher they are and the more they get to spend time at home, the more they want to come back to work. I don't know if that is because they don't want to be with their wives or what, NO, I am just kidding. (Laughs) They want to come back to work because they enjoy it and they don't feel like they are missing out on their home lives. He gives us a couple of airplanes and lets us fly everybody home and it works out great."

ON TRIPS TO THE MEDIA CENTER BEING THE EASIEST PART OF THE JOB AND HELP WITH CONFIDENCE:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "Depends on what I am in here for. I have been very uncomfortable. (Laughs) I have also crashed a few guys and had to face you after that. I think after you get more experience in the components to it become more comfortable as you go along. Being in here is an intimidating thing. I thought about this a lot when I ran the Rolex race. I came down and there was a fourth of the media here and I thought, man all the years I have raced in professional forms of motorsports, you might a handful of media members present, then you come to the Sprint Cup Series and it is at a whole new level. It can be very intimidating but today, I have had enough experience with it, it is pretty comfortable as long as I am not in hot water."

ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT SUCCESS FOR MICHAEL WALTRIP:

JIMMIE JOHNSON: "Is he in here? It changes what I am going to say. (Laughs) I have to be really nice right now. I certainly do sympathize for him and the fact that he started up three race teams in such a short period of time and the year went on, you could watch the teams progress and the strength of the team come along. You show up here at Daytona and he has two cars guaranteed in on time in this tight field. They have done an amazing job and I can only imagine the sleepless nights that he has had dealing with the top-35 issue, preparing cars, getting ready, growing. They have done an impressive job to say the least."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Joe Nemechek , Jimmie Johnson , David Ragan , Chad Knaus
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Michael Waltrip Racing