JIMMIE JOHNSON, CHAD KNAUS, AND RICK HENDRICK - NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS: (ABOUT THE MOMENTUM COMING OFF A STRONG '04 SEASON) JOHNSON: "I certainly think so, but you have to look at past...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, CHAD KNAUS, AND RICK HENDRICK - NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS:
(ABOUT THE MOMENTUM COMING OFF A STRONG '04 SEASON)
JOHNSON: "I certainly think so, but you have to look at past history of the entire season and our team has been strong through all types of racing and all sizes of tracks. This is a great shot in the arm. There has been a lot of hard work that's gone into these race cars over the off-season. All the guys in the shop are going to be working with smiles on their faces during those extra hours because we got a car to Victory Lane today. There is a little bit we learned carrying over to the 500. The track is going to change a lot between now and then."
KNAUS: "If anything, what it did is elevate the new players on the NO. 48 team and made them feel like more a part of the team. Whenever you get new players on your team, they always feel like a little bit of an outsider until you get out there and do something substantial - whether it be a top five or a victory or something along those lines. For those guys coming on board early this year, it makes them feel at home and will help us next week in the 500."
(DO YOU LIKE GETTING DIRECTIONS TO VICTORY LANE?)
JOHNSON: "That's my first trip to Victory Lane and I wanted to save the motor. That's our back-up car. I didn't want to tear it up doing any burnouts or anything. Who knows what's going to happen in the Duals. I waved to the fans on the way by and I wanted to see my guys in the pit stall. But after that, I didn't know where to go. I could see some lights burning behind some grandstands here but it took several officials to get me pointed in the right direction?"
(DO YOU ACCEPT THAT PRE-SEASON LABEL THAT EVERYBODY IS GIVING YOU?)
JOHNSON: "We accept it. Being the pre-season favorite is a result of what happens the year leading into this one. We hate that we weren't the champions.
"We worked real hard but came up short. There's a lot of racing between now and Homestead. It gives us all confidence on the race team. We're proud that everyone feels we are a treat for the championship. But we've got to go out and do it. Until you have that trophy sitting at your house, it doesn't mean much."
HENDRICK: "I'd much rather be the pre-season favorite than to come here and have you guys ask me what's wrong."
(HOW DO YOU SELECT YOUR CAR FOR THIS RACE?)
KNAUS: "We had this car planned to run in the Bud Shootout before we ever got to the race track. It's basically based on the wind tunnel numbers and previous history of this car. We haven't raced it a whole lot. We raced it in the Bud Shootout last year and we tore it up a little bit and didn't get the finish we wanted. We raced it at the first Talladega race last year, but didn't get the end result we wanted. So it's kind of been a back-up superspeedway car. We cut it up last year and changed almost the complete body. But it just didn't have the drag number I was looking for compared to the car we're going to use next Sunday in the 500 and that's why it became the Shootout car."
(ON THE ADDITION OF DOUG DUCHARDT TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS)
HENDRICK: "I have to give Mike Mulhern credit. Doug and I hadn't even talked until Mike said I'd hired him or tried to hire him. So Mike, if you're listening, thank you a lot. You got it started and Doug called me and we started talking and thought it might be a good idea since Mulhern said it. So, he's the one who got it cranked. Randy Dorton was an unbelievable talent and visionary person who could see the future and really look toward the future. Doug is a lot out of that same mold. Doug brings youth. With his experience worldwide in the racing community, I think he's going to be a great addition to support our organization. We're thrilled to have him."
(DO YOU SEE ANY WEAKNESS IN THE NO. 8 CAR?)
JOHNSON: "To be honest, I wasn't really around him tonight. I expected to see him up in the front. The No 16 and the No. 97 were pretty strong - especially the No. 16. I thought the race was between our car and the No. 16. I didn't see the No. 8 too much, so I really don't have a good idea of what they're capable of. I expect to see him up in the front in the 500."
(HAS PIT STRATEGY GONE TO A NEW LEVEL NOW?)
KNAUS: "I guess. I've always played the pit strategy game and tried to put ourselves in a position to where we could do something a little different. That's a combination effort between what we've got on the team and what Jimmie does on the race track that enables us to force other people to do their hands at certain times. We try to be just a little bit different. That keeps everybody else on their toes and maybe guessing a little bit. If you always do what the Jones' do, you're only going to be what the Jones' are. So we want to be what the Johnson's are, I guess."
(HOW DO YOU FEEL HAVING CHAD KNAUS AS YOUR CREW CHIEF?)
JOHNSON: "Without a doubt, I feel I have an advantage with Chad Knaus as a crew chief and driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Chad takes advantage of all the resources we have to give us the best strategy. Chad takes advantage of them. He's shown that since the first time we were on the race track back in '02. We're honest with each other and we're honest with the team. It's been a great ride and hopefully we are able to keep it going."
(ON HAVING AN UP AND DOWN RACE WITH THE BLAKE FEESE RUNNING IN THE ARCA RACE AND THE PROBLEMS HE HAD TODAY)
HENDRICK: "He had a great car and that's why we ran him in that race to get him some experience. He didn't see the pit sign. We had a similar situation a year or two ago. But anytime you can get a guy on a superspeedway and give him some lap times you learn and benefit. It was disappointing because the guys had worked hard. But we're not in a points race and it's a good series for that. If I had to have a problem, I'd rather have it in that race than tonight. Bobby Gerhart is a great guy and we have a great relationship. If you don't win but you're competitive, I can live with that. Tonight was a great lift."
(WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE ON THURSDAY?)
KNAUS: "I don't think Thursday is going to be quite as aggressive as what you saw tonight because everybody knows that the car they're racing in the 150 is the car they're going to race in the 500. There's not a lot of time to get the car fixed or repaired, but it'll be rough and tumble, but I don't think it'll be near as bad as it was tonight.
(ON HIS FIRST VICTORY AT DAYTONA)
"JOHNSON: We've been building on a plate win with the #48 team. Jeff (Gordon) obviously has had a lot of success on this track and at Talladega. It's not a points race, but still, victory lane is victory lane and Gatorade puts a lot of money up for this. I was very proud and honored to be the winner of the race. We had a great race car. We started 17th and worked our way up to 2nd. We tried to get a couple runs on Biffle but our cars were really equal. I knew we had a pit stop coming and we were just kind of waiting for it to cycle out after that. And I came to pit road and my guys put in an incredible pit stop and it put me out in front of him and from there, the Hendrick car and Hendrick power did its job and off we went. We kept the guys bottled up behind me and I just kind of did my job and had an uneventful finish."
HENDRICK: "Our guys put a lot of effort into Daytona and our guys worked hard on the restrictor plate. I think that the momentum stays there. I think all the cars are pretty equal but I give Jimmie a lot of credit for his ability to work the draft, coming from the back. And Chad always seems to give him a good car. The guys try to work together and you can see how equal the cars are. When Jeff and Jimmie got together I thought we could breath a little easier and then you just get rooted out of the way. I think it was a tremendous amount of effort at Daytona."
(WHAT WAS YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE FINAL LAPS?)
KNAUS: "The car was really good. We were really pleased with it when we were down here testing earlier last month. Tonight was the pit call that we wanted to try to be in the top 2 and force everybody else's hand when it was time to pit.
"That's what Jimmie and I talked about earlier and we wanted to pit early in the pit window. Four tires was going to be the way to go as far as we were concerned. Once Newman took two and he kind out got out there in front of everyone else, he was kind of a sitting duck. He was going to get passed, it was a matter of whether or not he was going to get back up there.
"I'm really happy with the car. The crew did a great job with their pit stop. Jimmie did a really good job considering that he hasn't had a race under his belt in a while. He's been working in the off-season really well."
JOHNSON: "In a test it's really tough to get enough cars out there to really understand the draft and what it's going to do. I think (with) rules changes, there is some experience there that we know with a smaller (restrictor) plate, it's harder to close up. With a smaller plate it's slowed down the closure rate on everybody. It honestly made the bump draft more important and I think that's why you saw so many guys out of shape. Because once you had a run, you just had to take advantage of it and hit the guy in front of you just to get your lane moving and get some energy built up in that lane and try to get that lane cycling around.
"I think you play the game with the plates and the sizes. The smaller the plate, the less close-up you're going to have. The bigger the plate, the more passing opportunities you're going to have."
(DID YOU SEE THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN BIFFLE AND GORDON?)
JOHNSON: "I saw a lot behind me. I wasn't paying attention to colors. I did notice the #16 one time out of the tri-oval. It was completely sideways and the reason I noticed him because I could read the #16 in my mirror. I saw a lot of tire smoke. You saw a lot of guys bouncing around. There were a few things playing into that: 1) when you had a run you had to hit the guy in front of you to shake up your lane and 2) I just wanted to keep everybody bottled up. If I kept them side-by-side, two and three wide."