Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "It was an incredible day for us. It's amazing how long these races are and how much can go on the first few pit stops. We had the car to beat and led for a while and I thought maybe this was...
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
"It was an incredible day for us. It's amazing how long these races are and how much can go on the first few pit stops. We had the car to beat and led for a while and I thought maybe this was going to be our day. Then the next set of tires we put on, we were extremely loose. It took two or three tries to get the car tightened back up. During that time, my emotions were a little low and I thought okay, we'd maybe get a top five finish. That last pit stop we tightened the car up and took a spring rubber out of the right rear and the car came to life. I ran down the pack in front of us and was racing with Kurt Busch real hard before the caution came out. We made the decision to take gas only.
It was really loose at the start of runs. A couple things leaned in our direction. We had fast pit stops plus our car would get going faster because we didn't have the sticker tires on it. Hopefully you'd get a lapper to fall in behind you and try to buy you a couple of laps to get away from those guys. It all worked out as we'd hoped and we got our first trophy."
On winning in his hometown
"I've raced in San Diego in the Mickey Thompson Stadium Series and raced in the deserts around there, but never have won in Southern California. I won once in San Francisco in an off-road buggy. To win at your own home track is great. Sometimes it seems like a jinx that you can't win at your home track, but we were able to do it."
When you heard Chad's decision to take fuel only, did you think that was the right way to go?
"The thought never crossed my mind to take gas only. I remembered a pit stop earlier in the race when a few cars had done that and it worked out great for them. They got some track position and were able to do something. So when Chad made the decision, I smiled because I knew what it was going to do for us. It was going to get us out in front. I was just hoping that Kurt (Busch) wasn't going to do the same thing.
Are you surprised how quickly your team has clicked with two poles and a win?
"I'm just blown away. Coming into this, knowing I would be driving for Rick (Hendrick) and the way the team was going to be set-up working with the No. 24 (Gordon), everybody could see the potential. I was just as curious as everybody else. Chad and I clicked instantly. The resources at Hendrick Motorsports - the chassis, the bodies, the support from Lowe's - it all let's us do what we need to do on the race track and not worry about anything else. There hasn't been any pressure or stress. We've just worked on communicating and polishing up our game each week."
Rick Hendrick, owner Hendrick Motorsports:
On being a team owner with the most drivers to win races
"I guess that means I'm the oldest owner on pit road now. I've been very blessed. We got to induct Tim Richmond in the Hall of Fame the other night in Talladega and it was really special. I've been very fortunate and you have to work hard and have good crews and good chemistry. Jimmie and Chad have proven this. You've got to have confidence and communication for these teams to work and boy, they have got it."
On first comparisons of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon
"You know, I have to give Chevrolet and Herb Fishel a lot of credit. I've worked with and been close friends with Herb for a lot of years. I got a call from Herb when Jimmie was running off-road. He said he had his guy that was really going to be a star and that he wanted to take care of him. I think we put him in a Late Model (1997).
"Then we didn't see him - we talked to him for a bit but I told him he was the only guy that hadn't driven for me that I waited three and a half hours at a race to bring him home. He and my son are good buddies and went to St. Louis a couple years ago. Ricky fell out with an alternator and said, 'We can't leave, Dad. Jimmie's going home with us.' On the way home he started asking questions and he's been like a member of the family. He called me for some advice when he had an opportunity to race for another brand a couple of years ago. I told him I thought he ought to stay with GM.
"He and Jeff (Gordon) raced each other in Michigan and he beat Jeff in a Busch car one day. And then Jeff happened to be over there helping Ricky at Darlington and Jimmie was parked right beside us. Jeff said Jimmie got around the place real well. We asked him how many times he'd been there testing and he said that was his eighth lap on the track.
"Jeff and I thought he was such a good talent. It was almost a mirror of Jeff's deal. He didn't have a sponsor - didn't know what the team was going to look like. We just knew he was a young guy with a lot of talent. When you see them, you just try to take advantage of it. I never dreamed we'd do this well this quick."
Did you put a timetable on yourself to get your first win?
"No way. The way the season has gone, we had a sense it would come soon. Chad knows what the car needs to go fast on the bigger tracks. My lack of experience is an advantage sometimes because I don't know any better. The short tracks, like Martinsville, we weren't good at all. The veterans were up front."
Were you intimidated coming into the Winston Cup Series?
"I haven't felt any pressure. If we were struggling and not making races, it would be a different situation."
Rick Hendrick: "When you have a new sponsor and a new team, there is unbelievable pressure. Home Depot has an awfully good team. To talk Lowe's into taking a rookie driver and a brand new team was a big chore. We told them we wouldn't embarrass them; we'd make them proud. And we've done a lot of things off the track working with Lowe's. It's an unbelievable amount of pressure to go to Daytona with a nationally known sponsor in this sport with no points and it is a gut-wrenching thing until you get some points. You worry a lot about it. After the first four races we could breathe a little bit.
"Jimmie has the whole package. I wasn't at Talladega, but I wished I had a radio. He's got that desire to win but he's got a lot of talent. He is a student of the sport. He sits in the hauler and studies the charts from the other cars - not just Jeff (Gordon), but Terry (Labonte) and Jerry (nNadeau). Instead of trying to make the car feel good to him, he'll go out there and drive what has been quick. I think a lot of drivers don't want to try and go through that learning curve to drive somebody else's style. But he is very attentive and aggressive and he wants to win. He didn't get here without working his butt off a lot of years to be where he is. He appreciates it. He's hungry. He's with his guys every day. When you give a guy like that decent equipment, they show you what they're capable of."
-team monte carlo-