Jimmie Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team claimed their second consecutive NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) championship at the conclusion of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished seventh in the Ford ...
Jimmie Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet team claimed their second consecutive NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) championship at the conclusion of the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished seventh in the Ford 400 to secure his position at the head table at the awards banquet in New York City.
Johnson's remarkable season that included 10 victories led Team Chevy to a record-setting season in the Series. With a season-ending total of 26 victories in 36 races, 13 in the Monte Carlo SS and 13 in the Impala SS, Chevrolet won its unprecedented 31st Manufacturers' Cup and 24th driver's championship.
"On behalf of Chevrolet, congratulations to Jimmie Johnson on winning his second consecutive NASCAR Nextel Cup Series championship," said Ed Peper, general manager, Chevrolet. "With 10 wins, 20 top-five and 24top-10 finishes he and his Hendrick Motorsports team had a dream season on their way to the ultimate prize -- another championship.
"Chevrolet is very proud of the contributions made by all of our Team Chevy drivers who contributed to our record 26 wins. We had 10 drivers take their Monte Carlo SS and Impala SS race cars to victory lane. It has been a banner year for the Bowtie Brigade and we are thrilled to share in the success of all of our teams."
Team owner Rick Hendrick collected his seventh NNCS owner's championship and Knaus picked up his second consecutive championship crew chief award.
Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, finished fourth in the Homestead race and second in the final Chase standings, after waging a great season-long battle with Johnson in an effort to win a fifth NNCS title to come up only 77 points short. Gordon recorded six victories, 21 top-five and 30 top-10 finishes in the 36-race season.
Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet, finished third in the final standings, the highest of the three Richard Childress Racing (RCR) teams, all in the Chase. Bowyer scored one win, five top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in just his second full-time season in NNCS competition.
Kyle Busch, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet, landed fifth in the season-ending points. Two-time NNCS Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, captured the sixth position in the final standings.
RCR teamates Jeff Burton, No. 31 AT&T Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet locked up seventh and 10th respectively in the Chase standings.
Post race interview with championship-winning driver, crew
chief and owner of No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet:
JIMMIE JOHNSON, 2007 Champion
CHAD KNAUS, Championship winning crew chief
RICK HENDRICK, Team Owner
THE MODERATOR: We've got our Championship Crew Chief in here for the second year in a row, that is Chad Knaus, Crew Chief of the No. 48 of the Lowe's Chevrolet. How does it feel to be Crew Chief of the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion?
CHAD KNAUS: It's absolutely phenomenal. I'm very proud and very pleased of what we were able to accomplish. And the 24 and 48 shop this year, it's amazing what can happen when you have a group of 92 guys that are going out there and not so much racing against once another, but racing against the competition. That is really what this team did this year.
We have a lot of guys at Hendrick Motorsports and guys and gals that contribute a lot and go in the same direction. But the heart and soul of the 24 and 48 shop is back in Charlotte right now celebrating.
I wish they all could be here, because if it wasn't for those people, we wouldn't be where we are today. It's been a phenomenal ride. Sad it's over, but I can't wait for Daytona now
Q: Can you talk about I don't know if difficulty is the right word or not, but to go through that stretch where you're obviously going for everything you can get, and then you come in here, and you have to basically detune the team?
CHAD KNAUS: It was really a lot of fun. We're pretty fierce competitors and what we want to do is win races. When we knew that was our only way to get back into the championship hunt was to win races, it was nice.
It was good that everything worked out for us. The cars were very fast. Jimmie did a phenomenal job. The pit crew really stepped up above and beyond the call of duty the last five races. They really did a good job.
Coming in here, you may not believe it, but we really wanted to win the race. That was the mindset coming in here. Obviously, by sitting on the pole, I thought that was a good show of faith that that's what our plans were.
We wanted to go and win the race. With the race trim, with a car that Jimmie was really comfortable with and he could do what he wanted, our plan was to go 200 laps and wait for that last pit stop. If we were in position to go for the win, that's what we wanted to do.
So that was the mentality when we came in. But the reality of it was once we got into the race and realized what a good car we had, he could just find a spot and ride, and ride safely in the Top 10, that's kind of how it all switched.
But it would have been fun, I would have liked to race with Matt and Robbie there. Congratulations to Robbie, by the way, his last race as crew chief with Matt, and to be able to win it. That's phenomenal. That's cool.
Q: Earlier tonight Jack Roush talked about this becoming a momentum sport. Earlier in the chase, Jeff Gordon had the momentum, and then Steve and you guys took it over. When did you feel that momentum hit you?
CHAD KNAUS: Obviously, I think a lot of it began at Lowe's motor speedway. Our car was so phenomenally fast. We were crushed a little bit by not getting that victory.
Unfortunately, we had some issues and didn't get what we wanted out of that race. But we were so strong and so dominant in that race that we felt really good going into the next week.
Obviously, winning Martinsville was a phenomenal kick-start after that. So once we got into that, and we knew that the race that we had coming up were going to be great races for us, it, you know, it just kind of builds.
It's one of those things that momentum and confidence can be a good thing or a bad thing. It's easy once you get confidence to go out there and miss something and not do what you're supposed to do. Make a mistake whether it's mechanic or driver, overly confident. So we had to temper it a little bit, but it was big.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the Championship Owner, and our Championship Driver for the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.
We've got Mr. Hendrick, who is the Championship Owner. And we have Jimmie Johnson, who is our Championship Driver.
Okay. We've got a Championship Team owner Rick Hendrick. Mr. Hendrick, this is your 7th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Championship. For Jimmie Johnson, it is back-to-back champion, that's outstanding. Outstanding job, Mr. Hendrick, how does it feel?
RICK HENDRICK: It's unbelievable. You dream about winning one of those, and doing it back-to-back, it's really special. Do have the two cars run like this all year it's great. I think the most gratifying thing to me was during the race and after the race the way the 24 team handled it.
I told them before the race that I was going to the guy that finished second first, and I did. And everybody just, they're happy for each other, and it's been a great night.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, for the second straight year, you're up here. How does it feel to be 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Champion?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm so proud of this moment. I'm so proud of Chad, my crew guys. When I think of the year, and coming off the championship last year going through the off-season, staying focused on the right things. Working through the year, and just to be fighting for a championship let alone win the second one this year. I was going to be so proud of my guys before the Chase started. Then we got on the terror and won all the races.
We've had an amazing run. A great time together. Friendships and relationships from inside the 48 team have grown, and the respect we have for one another. Including Chad and I. It's incredible.
We look at the 24 team, and the way things have gone there. Everybody wanted to see a little -- we thought Jeff and I were joking before the race started we thought we'd fight with Lennox Lewis standing at the top, give everybody something to talk about.
But the dynamic between the 24 and 48 team has been phenomenal. With all the sport we've had, it's very, very special for me. I don't want to leave anyone out. I want to thank everybody for making this happen.
Thank Mr. Hendrick for believing in me and giving me a chance, Jeff as well. It's just a very, very special day.
THE MODERATOR: Questions now for our 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Championship Team.
Q: Jimmie, you're sitting there, basically you can put yourself in this situation but like last year when you had the hole in your car and all that stuff. It was as you said last week at Phoenix, 400 miles, that was unusual considering you had been spectacular for four weeks. Talk about the difference of sort of coming in here and trying to nail down a solid day after just being off the charts great the last four weeks?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I think in the last four weeks, and anyone to win four races in a row especially with what's on the line is pretty amazing. We knew that streak would come to an end. I feel like we had a Top 3 car today.
I felt like the 17, especially late in the race was the best car, and the best car did win the race. We were being smart. Played our car smart during the race. Raced when I needed to do, and ran in comfortable air when I needed to.
But what I'm more proud of is the way we attacked this race weekend. Friday winning the pole, Saturday being strong in practice sessions. We made sure that we came in and had our bases covered.
We came in prepared, we came in ready to race for this thing. I don't think I could have won the race tonight, but I feel like we could have been in the top three if we needed to. And really, we just needed to be less than 18 positions behind the 24.
So the racer in me, I was trying to pass the 1 car on the last lap, and then I'm like what are you trying to do? Just stop. It's tough to not go. But it was a balance of putting up a strong performance tonight and finishing the season up right.
We would have loved to have won our fifth in a row, but the big prize was the Championship.
Q: The other day at the press conference on Thursday, it seemed like that you smiled and almost kind of blushed when someone asked Jeff if this is becoming the Jimmie Johnson era. I know you've talked about kind of the awkward feeling of the competitors praising your abilities and talents and success. Certainly two championships now with what you've done since you came into the sport as a rookie. Can you start to feel comfortable? What is it like now that that moniker's going to be placed with you now more and more often?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'd personally like to go out and earn those things. And hearing Jeff talk about me in that way is flattering. I did end up blushing of sorts. It just caught me off guard to hear those things. It caught me off guard to see Jeff come into Victory Lane at Phoenix and wave the white flag and go through what he did there.
I think our team, and Chad and I, we like to go out and let our stats speak for ourselves. That's been my style and the way we've done things all along. We'll leave the opinions to everyone else, and hope that our record speaks for itself. We'll work hard, and do everything we can to win races and championships.
We're very proud of that. We're in elite company winning two championships, winning back-to-back championships is something I'm very, very proud of.
The good thing, I feel, is we're just really hitting our stride. I think we have a lot of good years ahead of us, and we'll be fighting for more championships and certainly winning more races as years go by. Hopefully we can be a three-time champion in the near future.
Continued in part 2