Daytona 500: Winning team press conference, part 1

An interview with: Jimmie Johnson Rick Hendrick Darian Grubb THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Just won NASCAR's most prestigious race. How does it feel? JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's...

An interview with:
Jimmie Johnson
Rick Hendrick
Darian Grubb

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Just won NASCAR's most prestigious race. How does it feel?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's going to take a little while to sink in. I think as tomorrow unfolds, putting the car in the museum, on the way to New York, I just found out I guess I get to go to New York, be on some great shows, be a part of everything up there. That's when it will start to sink in.

Right now I just have so much pride in my race team, what we have accomplished today with the circumstances we've been through. This is a well prepared team, a team that was very hungry and wanted to make a statement today. We stepped up and got the job done today and I'm very proud of my guys.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for our champion.

Q: Do you know how Chad enjoyed this experience, where he was?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not sure where he watched the race. I talked to him briefly in Victory Lane as I was doing the hat dance. I look forward to talking to him soon.

He was pretty emotional on the phone. Very proud of this team, very proud of what we accomplished today.

Q: Do you feel like this victory has any sort of a mark attached to it in any fashion, any sort of a black mark, given what's happened in the last week?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Not at all. This is the opposite of that. If you think about what we overcame, and the pressure that's on any team, in any sport, if they were faced with something like this, this is a huge, huge statement, something that I'm very proud of.

We play within a set of rules. Chad broke the rules. He's admitted that. He's in Charlotte watching the race today. He missed the event. We're serving our penalty. We're doing everything we can do. We stepped up today and won the biggest race in our sport, and it is something that I am so proud of.

Q: This morning when you were talking to the race fans, you had a note in your pocket. What was that note and what was your word of the day for the team?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The biggest thing today for us was patience. Chad actually faxed down something he wanted me to read to the guys in the transporter today in our meeting beforehand since he couldn't obviously be there. I read his statement to the guys.

Six time winner of the Daytona 500, guy that's batting a thousand, first race as crew chief, wins the Daytona 500.

Anyway, I really just read something that was from Chad to the crew today, just telling them to do their best job, just the normal stuff to give everybody a shot in the arm, get them excited, get them fired up for the race, something from his side saying, "I believe in you guys, I've trained you well, do your job today," and everybody did.

THE MODERATOR: Crew chief Darian Grubb and team own Rick Hendrick. Gentlemen, could each of you let us know how you're feeling.

DARIAN GRUBB: I just wanted to thank Chad for building this team the way he has. This job is very hard. I don't want to kid anybody on that. Chad always has done a great job, but he has trained me very well. I've worked with him for three years straight. I think I've learned everything I've ever learned from him.

This is unbelievable. I mean, first time out, win the Daytona 500. I think the only other person that batted a thousand was Randy Dorton. Those are some huge shoes to fill. Very honored and very happy to be given the opportunity to do this.


RICK HENDRICK: Well, every one of these things is sweet, and this one was kind of double sweet. You know, I just really don't know. You work so hard for Daytona. It's such an important race. You never know you're going to win it until the last lap and the checkered flag. A lot of things can happen. I've been disappointed down here a lot. It's been really good to us and we've been lucky enough to win six of these things.

Just proud of the organization.  Jimmie drove a smart race.  Darian did a
super job.  We're just happy to be here, happy to be in this position.


Q: Rick, you know as we go forward this week there's going to be a lot of questions about what happened last week, this happening in light of it. Jimmie already answered the question, so I'll ask it of you. Do you believe that it's fair to say this has any kind of a taint or black mark or cloud over it because of the fact that the car that was going into the Daytona USA last week was found to have some kind of rules violation on it?

RICK HENDRICK: Are you talking to me? Was that for me?

Q: Yes.

RICK HENDRICK: It had a template it didn't meet the templates. The car, the window, back glass, was changed. I think it's a non issue. As far as we're concerned, we went out there and we had to start in the back of the 150, raced our way to the front. We've been through inspection I don't know how many times. It's not the first time a template didn't fit, and I don't see that it's kind of a non issue. When NASCAR did what they did, and we came back, went through inspection with the car, then went out and ran a race, then two races, I think that was history.

That's the way I look at it.

Q: Jimmie, last year in restrictor plate races, you were often the focus of attention for maybe the wrong reasons from both your point of view and our point of view. It looked like it might start out that way again this week with what happened on Sunday. Is it vindicating that you can kind of fly under the radar in this race, sort of come up late, take a win like that, not have all the normal controversy?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You have no idea how proud I am to be sitting here as the winner of the Daytona 500. There's been a lot of hating on the 48 team over the last year with some restrictor plate issues and an that issue I caused at the second Talladega race. There was some stuff before that that I didn't think was unfair, a lot of criticism on this team, me personally for driving the car, and then what took place this week with this team.

We keep talking about someone's curious if we feel there's a black mark next to this win. I think it's the complete opposite. There's a black mark next to qualifying. But the race, with the circumstances we've been through, and the situation that we're in, we overcame everybody against us I mean, every single media person, every single crew member. We deservedly had it. We were wrong in qualifying. We came back through all of that and won the Daytona 500. That's something I am so proud of.

We looked as bad as we could ever look, and we stepped up and got the job done.

Q: Ryan Newman brought up that he felt there was some conflict in three of your last three wins or three of your last four involving rules. Any concern over just your image being associated with rules violations?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. I kind of view it as jealousy, and he doesn't have a crew chief in there working hard enough to make his cars as good. If you look at what took place last year, we had an appeal overturned, which has never been done in the sport. We were complimented for the shocks that we built and designed at Dover. So it just depends on how you look at it.

This team has worked way too hard to even have those kind of comments thrown at them, and I'm going to be very defensive over it. This team works way too hard, all the teams do in the garage area. I'm disappointed that Ryan has to come in here and make some different statements and try to tarnish what we accomplished today. I'm very proud of this team, and we've worked very hard for what we've got.

Q: Jimmie, you kind of answered my question. You mentioned twice guys hate on your team. Why are people so jealous of you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wouldn't call it jealousy in all situations. You know, some of it's deserving. Some of it there's been some mistakes I've made. Chad has made mistakes. You know, there's consequences that come with that.

I just hope that through what took place over this last week, everyone can see what my true intentions are, what this team's intentions are, and how hard we really work to be successful in this sport. You can't deny the fact we won the biggest race, we've worked our butts off to get to this point, and we're very proud to be here.

Q: You did not put a mark on your race car, and your peers seem like they hit everything but the Florida lottery out there. How difficult was it not to get caught up in all that aggression?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It was tough, believe me. Today was one of the hardest races for me mentally because the racer in me wanted to push and wanted to be aggressive out there. There were so many times I just told myself to stop, "Don't get caught up in this. Sit here on the bottom. Let these guys pass you. You have a good enough race car, you'll work your way back through here. Pit stops are coming up here, you'll have a great pit stop. Once again, come out towards the front." So I really did a lot of talking to myself, learned some lessons today.

Ultimately, I hope that I learned something today that will help me win a championship. In my eyes, I wonder if I've been trying too hard, this team's been trying too hard. If we just sit down, be calm and relaxed, do our job a hundred percent, not at 105, 110, if we do our job at 100%, that we will accomplish what we want to, and that maybe at 110% that we've been making mistakes along the way.

Q: You said that your team overcame so much this week. Can you elaborate on that? Are you talking about not having Chad here or are you just talking about people sniggering or saying things behind your back, saying things, bother you, affect you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'd say all of the above. >From the negative press that comes with it, you know, Rick and I both, Lowe's as well, we don't none of us want these things to pop up and be associated with what we're doing, what we've accomplished.

The team had a huge burden, huge amount of pressure put on them, and they've been able to step up. So really across the board, anything you could dream up, we've had as much pressure on this team for this weekend's race that we've ever had. I would say even more than the championship races that we've been in. We really needed to pull ourselves together and come out and do the best job that we could do here for the Daytona 500, and we did it.

Q: You've come close to winning a championship and perhaps you've been overshadowed by your teammate, Jeff Gordon, Tony's championship, maybe even Junior. Do you wonder what it takes to establish a Jimmie Johnson era?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I'm trying hard. You know, you're talking about the greats of the sport. In my eyes, it's not an overshadowing, it's just means that I've needed to go out and try harder and work harder and perfect my abilities, and the team as well, to work on some things. We've been able to step up and do it.

When you talk about Jeff Gordon, his accomplishments, Tony Stewart, Dale, Jr., that's great company. I'm honored to be up here as a champion of the Daytona 500 with these guys.

Q: Are you superstitious? At the start of the week, did you realize it was a good omen that it was the 48th Daytona 500?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, Chad mentioned that before we came down, thought that the numbers may bring us some luck. Then the way the week started, I completely forgot about that, didn't pay a lot of attention to it until I talked to my dad in Victory Lane, and he reminded me of that on the telephone.

I don't think there's really a lot to it, but it's pretty cool it's worked out, being the 48th running of this race, and we're the 48 car.

Q: How did it change what your input was today, how did it change your role in this? How did you have to step up in Chad's not being here?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Chad is such a leader, spends so much time really being around the guys, not only putting a setup underneath the car, but really keeping the morale up, keeping everybody focused on what they're doing.

I had a small piece of that, trying to be at practice as early as possible, around as much as I could be, to build confidence in the guys, tell them they're doing a great job. When the driver's around, the crew guys really just feed off that, take things a little more seriously.

Just being around, trying to be there for those guys, support them, talk to them, make them realize, "Hey, we're going to be okay. We've got a great team. Let's just do our jobs and do what we need to do and we'll be okay."

From there, really Darian, Ron, those guys really stepped up. Darian had a whole new set of responsibilities. Ron already had a lot of responsibilities, took on some more. It was really just a great team effort.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson