MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion -- DOES JIMMIE JOHNSON HAVE ANY EDGE OF THE OTHER CHASE GUYS OR IS HE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE? "I think every year is a little bit different. If I had to give odds on anybody, I'd say the 24. They've been...
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion -- DOES JIMMIE
JOHNSON HAVE ANY EDGE OF THE OTHER CHASE GUYS OR IS HE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE? "I think every year is a little bit different. If I had to give odds on anybody, I'd say the 24. They've been overall the strongest all year and haven't really made any mistakes. They've collected a ton of points and have a ton of wins, but any of those guys. I think there are maybe four or five -- maybe six -- that are the favorites right now and any of those guys could get on a tear. Any of the top 12 could, but if you look at the 24, 48, 20, 11 and 99 and even the 2, I think that group probably has the most momentum and right now, as of today, probably the best shop."
DID YOU HAVE ANY EXTRA CONFIDENCE IN '04, THE YEAR AFTER YOU WON IT ALL? "Not really. I think you just have to do it every week, you've got to do your job every week and have a car that's competitive and capable of winning pretty much each and every week. You've only got 10 weeks to get it done and you can't really have a little off time of a week or two, you've got to have the stuff capable of doing it every week."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE CLOSED THE GAP ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW? "I think as a group we've closed the gap a lot. Carl has run really good in the COT races. He won Bristol and ran really good at New Hampshire. I think he ran third or something at Dover, so Carl has been running really good. We need to look more at what he's doing on the COT stuff. We tried some different stuff and just ran terrible at Bristol, so hopefully, we can implement some of that and when we go to Loudon and Dover be stronger."
DO YOU AND CARL HAVE SIMILAR DRIVING STYLES TO WHERE THAT STUFF WOULD WORK? "These days I think if the car will work and is capable of winning that anybody can drive it, especially those cars. There aren't a lot of things on those cars you can tailor to your own driving style. The bodies are all set. They're all way too tight aero-wise, they all push, so it's just whoever can get the front end to turn best in the middle and still have traction up off is the guy that's running good. I don't think there's enough things you can build different. On the standard cars, you could build the body aero-wise with quite a bit different balance for somebody's preferred driving style, but you can't really do that with the COT."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GIBBS RACING GOING TO TOYOTA? "I don't care what kind of cars they race. The rules are all close enough to the same. I just really worry about our own team and what we're doing. I don't really care what anybody else runs for cars."
DO YOU THINK 10 POINTS IS ENOUGH OF A BONUS FOR WINNING RACES? "There's another I don't care answer I guess. I don't really care what they do for the points. You say more people are going for wins, but I don't think that's right. Everybody is going for wins every week. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've never got in a race car and been out there and said, 'Man, I could win today, but I think I'll run fifth.' That just doesn't make any sense. We go out and try to win races. We put forth our best effort each and every week. We bring our fastest car. We do the best job we can. We race as hard as we can for 500 miles or 400 miles or however long the race is gonna be that weekend and wherever it ends up, it ends up. I can't think of a time where I have ever not gone for a win. To me, it seems like the points still have a little bit of a balance between winning and consistency. It still has to reward consistency when you're racing against 42 other teams. Finishing 40th isn't the same as finishing 15th. The guy who finished 15th did a better job than the team that finished 40th, so you still have to reward a little bit of consistency in there."
DO YOU THINK IT PLAYS INTO FUEL STRATEGY? "There are very rare instances where you can take a chance and say, 'We're either gonna make it on fuel and we're gonna have a shot at winning, or I'm gonna run out and we're gonna finish 30th.' That comes up and there are those very, very rare instances where that can happen, but the times you have that chance aren't very much. I can only think of three times in my career where we've had that chance, so it doesn't happen very often like that. Usually, whoever has the best track position and the fastest car at the end of the race is usually gonna be the guy to beat."
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO RUN WELL IN THE COUPLE OF RACES BEFORE THE CHASE TO GAIN SOME MOMENTUM? "Everybody says, 'Yes, I'd like to think so,' but last year we won two races in a row right before the chase -- two of the last four races before the chase -- and we went into the chase and ran absolutely horrible. We were really consistent, but we ran terrible. I don't know that I really buy into it. You've got to prove yourself every single week. I don't think it matters what happened last week, you've got to be able to do it this week."
IS IT A CASE OF PUTTING SO MUCH EFFORT INTO MAKING IT THAT YOU'RE SHOT WHEN YOU GET THERE? "No, absolutely not. We put 100 percent effort in every single race. That's how we've always raced and that's how we always will race. If we didn't put 100 percent effort into every race, we would move things around and find people that would. If you're not trying your hardest, then you're not gonna keep those people around. Everybody tries as hard as they can every week."
-credit: ford racing