Homestead: 2007 Champions press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: How does that work when someone gets a lifetime contract at your place? I mean, truthfully you laugh, but it's been quoted. I'm wondering if you just get to a point where you offer it to a driver, and if that's what...

Continued from part 2

Q: How does that work when someone gets a lifetime contract at your place? I mean, truthfully you laugh, but it's been quoted. I'm wondering if you just get to a point where you offer it to a driver, and if that's what you want to see out of Jimmie to stay with you forever?

RICK HENDRICK: I just offered it to him. It's a commitment. Jimmie and I talked about it and Chad and I talked about it. You know, I want to do whatever I can do to keep it together.

When you've got someone that you really enjoy being with, and you see that they've got unlimited potential and he and Chad have got great chemistry. I try to look down the road as far as they feel comfortable. So we know we're going to be together for a few more years. I'm going to do everything I can to give them everything they need and whatever they look forward to in the future.

It's easy -- not easy either -- but when you see someone that has it all from the talent of how to handle the sponsors, how to represent the company, and has unbelievable talent and can make the whole organization better then you want to keep them in the fold, and that's what I've got here with these two guys.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: To add to that, to put Rick on the spot in that position, we -- I think we all know and understand that we have a good thing. With Jeff Gordon having a lifetime contract, it's just unheard of in Motorsports anywhere. And there are special things that went on there, and times are different than they are now.

This is home to me. Hendrick Motorsports is home to me. I don't need a lifetime contract to say that. I know where my home is. I know where I want to drive and who I want to work for. I have a contract through 2010. And after that we'll figure out what is in store for us for the future.

But this is home for me. It's family, it's great.

Q: Rick, as successful as your organization has been, these guys get to leave here and go celebrate and enjoy until the start of next year. Are you the guy that heads back to the shop and starts worrying about what the other guys are doing, and how much money they're spending and what you can do to maintain this level?

RICK HENDRICK: Absolutely. While they go out partying, I'm going home to go to bed.

I was thinking about it tonight. I talked about it earlier. You see a lot of the teams, you see the Roush guys getting better here in the Chase, you see the Penske guys, you know. There are so many people.

The biggest motivation in Motorsports to me is going to New York and sitting out in the audience and watching somebody get the trophy. I've done it before. Man, it fires you up to go to work.

These guys in the garage area, they have a ton of smart people. We can't come back just like we are this year. Chad and I were talking about it and Stevie (Letarte), and Jeff Gordon and I talked about it this morning, we're going to have to be better. We're going to have to look at every area of our company and all of our teams and figure out where we're a little weak, and come back better. Or we're not going to be able to compete at the level we have this year.

So absolutely, we've already started.

Q: I hate to look ahead to next year, but your good buddy Felix Sabates said your toughest challenge will be next season with Dale (Earnhardt), Jr. What can you say to that?

RICK HENDRICK: I don't see that as any more of a challenge than I had this year or we've had.

I've talked to Jimmie, and Chad, and Jeff Gordon and all of the guys in it, and they've already started to work together. Tony (Eury) Junior has been there. I don't foresee any problems at all.

Maybe that would be a good question for Jimmie or Chad. I think the pressure's on me, because of his fan base expecting him to do well. And I said it before, if he does well it's because of his talent. If he doesn't, it's going to be my fault. That's kind of the way it works when you have multiple cars.

But I don't see that as -- we've been through a test. He was there. He's contributed. These guys have welcomed this deal with open arms. We all decided this was something we should do and could do.

So I've got their support. It's not like this is something that we're going to have a bunch of hiccups on. I just don't foresee it. I think it's going to be fairly smooth. And I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Q: (Indiscernible).

RICK HENDRICK: What I said to Jeff was I was proud of him, and he should take a lot of pride in this because I was proud of him and how he handled things. That was basically what I said.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I would thank him, and I did when I saw him, thank him for the opportunity. Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for being a mentor and a great friend and teaching me a lot inside and outside of the race car.

He's a great guy. I mean, he's put a lot of faith and belief in me, and given me a great shot. He's opened up and shown me a lot of different things that I'm not sure anyone else would. He's been a great teammate and great friend.

Q: (Indiscernible). Did you think the last ten races would have got you where you are tonight?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess he would have had to do better. He's done an awesome job. He put up great numbers. We just got on a terror that is unbelievable. I'm not even sure what our end number ended up being. 5.0, wow, just a little bit. And I'm not even sure --

THE MODERATOR: Jimmie's average finish was 5.0.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Wow! Jeff's was 5.1.

He has had an amazing season, an amazing Chase. We were just for whatever reason, able to squeak out a little bit more and get the victories. The victories made the difference.

If we didn't win four in a row, this race would have been a much different race. Not saying that we wouldn't have been in position to still win t but we needed every point coming in here, and that's why I was attacking like I was.

Q: With you and Jeff Gordon era, do you see this now as becoming the Jimmie Johnson era?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, I really do. Jimmie's just when you look at being a really smart driver and a really aggressive driver, and Chad the same way, I think his talent and the way he approached racing. The fact that he goes Monday morning and works out after a race on Sunday, he's as determined as anybody I've ever seen sit down in a race car.

Chad's the same way. Chad is like always thinking. We fly home together at night, and it's 1:00 o'clock in the morning, he's got his computer out, and he's dissecting the race.

So I just don't see anything that is going to slow Jimmie down. He just gets better every time I see him get in the car

Q: Jimmie, for bringing such a disciplined approach to everything you do, I'm just curious how you got ready last night and today? Did you change your routine? Did you go to bed early? Did you get up early? Did you have butterflies while you were shaving, anything?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I at times would go through periods of being nervous. I wouldn't call Rick back is what he said. We played phone tag.

I went through periods of being nervous and other periods of being comfortable and confident because of the way Friday and Saturday went. That's what I was really trying to put my brain into. The fact that we did a great job on Friday, great job on Saturday. We had a great race car, and just focus on the things I could control.

Last year I worried myself to death about things I couldn't control. I just came to grips with that this weekend, if I can't take care of it or control it, why worry about it? Not saying that my mind wouldn't slip into it, but I really did a good job with is it in general.

I wish I could have slept in longer this morning. I was up at like 7:00 a.m. on the dot, just sitting there wide-awake like man, I've got a long time to be anywhere. I wish I could sleep until 1:00 o'clock, and roll out and get to work.

But the morning went well, just kind of relaxed. Chandra and I hung out, spent some time, just chilled out and tried to approach today like it was another race day. Trying to keep it simple, and it worked.

Q: Right after the race, I think it was Alan Bestwick trying to get a comment from you. Everybody was jumping around celebrating, and you were in the box looking at a notebook. Why was that so important at that moment?

CHAD KNAUS: Honestly, it got knocked out of my hand. And there were papers and stuff strewn about. And I wanted to make sure I had everything so none of the competitors could get them. I wanted to make sure everything was present and accounted for before I moved on.

Q: Willis says you're now the No. 2 as far as car owner champions with 7 behind Petty. So could you comment on that?

CHAD KNAUS: If you grew up like I did, idolizing the Pettys and Junior Johnson, and the Wood Brothers and that ballpark, it's just hard for me to even take it in.

I hope I'm around to see these guys right here win a bunch more, and Jeff, and I'd love to see Casey up there and love to see Junior the same way.

I'm so proud of the organization. When I see guys like Stevie and Chad and Jimmie, I remember when I was 16 years old. And Herb Fishel told me you need to look at this guy. I just hope we can keep it together and we can do some phenomenal things in the future with these guys.

But I just don't ever look at myself as being in the same category with Richard Petty and what he's done in Motorsports. I don't feel worthy, I guess is what I'm trying to say. He's done so much for the sport. I hope to ride his coattails and try to get 10. Can we get 10, guys? Okay, we're going to get 10.

Q: More for Chad than anybody else, you were talking about your notes, not losing your notes. How much concern or how much nervousness is there because you're going full-time with the new car next year? Is there any concern? Because you've been pretty powerful with it. But it was a part-time this year, next year it's full-time. This is one race that you haven't raced it at. How comfortable or nervous are you about that?

CHAD KNAUS: We're real fortunate. We've got guys that are full-time testing, working on that stuff right now. David Green's been driving a car for us. Rex Stump and Jim Long have been working on that car.

I think things are going really well. Obviously, when we broke it out this year, it was good out of the box. We needed to make improvements to it, we did and the car got better. But the thing that we've got to make sure we take note of is a lot of the competition's gotten an awful lot better.

We have some weak tracks that we need to get better at.  We're going to
have to get to work.  Bristol was probably our weakest.  The Road Course
was probably our second weakest.  I think Dover we struggled just a
little bit.  So some of the other guys were a little bit faster.

The thing we've got going for us is we have a new car that we're working on testing right now. We've got some other new things coming down the pike. So we're really excited about next season. Really, really looking forward to it. I think we're going to have a good product out there.

Q: Jimmie, you improved your performance in the second Chase. Do you have any plans to improve your golf cart acrobatics in the off-season?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, if I can make it through this off-season without a broken bone, it will be a successful year (laughing). I don't have any time to go golfing. And the Hamptons Golf Tournament was this weekend, So I won't have an opportunity to go get hurt in Florida again.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.

Q: What are you going to do in South Beach?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Watch the sun come up and smile.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , David Green , Richard Petty , Junior Johnson , Felix Sabates
Teams Hendrick Motorsports