JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, 2009 CHAMPION: YOU MADE HISTORY TONIGHT WITH YOUR FOURTH CHAMPIONSHIP, YOUR THOUGHTS: "Just amazed. I mean I've been trying to chase this out of my head and what this might mean to me after the ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, 2009 CHAMPION:
YOU MADE HISTORY TONIGHT WITH YOUR FOURTH CHAMPIONSHIP, YOUR THOUGHTS: "Just amazed. I mean I've been trying to chase this out of my head and what this might mean to me after the disappointment at Texas. So it is going to take a little while for those things to jump start in my mind and get going again. Just so proud of the effort. Really think of how much I love this sport, how much I respect this sport. The greats before, how they have carried this sport on their backs and made it what it is and then to do something none of them have done, it is unbelievable man. I grew up on two wheels in the dirt. I had no clue I was going to end up here racing stock cars and doing something that had never been done before."
YOU HAD A CLOSE CALL EARLY IN THE RACE, WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND THEN? "Well, Juan (Pablo Montoya) a couple of times came when his spotter told him he was clear to the wall and there were two times we almost got pinched in the wall. Then when Juan and No. 14 spun, I could see it coming. I heard they got into each other earlier and I could see them looking for each other and messing with each other."
YOU'VE NOW WON CHAMPIONSHIPS IN HALF OF YOUR SPRINT CUP CAREER, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THAT? "It is unbelievable. Four championships in eight years. 47 wins. Everything this team has done is truly amazing. I know that the fans and everybody respects what this race team has done. I can't wait where this race team ends up. We've got a lot of racing ahead of us. I know that we are solidly in the record books. But I know we have a lot more to accomplish."
NOW YOU ARE IN A GROUP OF ONLY FOUR DRIVERS WITH MULTIPLE CHAMPIONSHIPS, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHERE THIS PUTS YOU IN HISTORY? "No, I haven't yet. When you look at the stats, it is definitely towards the top and that is something I am very proud of. I have a lot of racing ahead of me so it is tough to really say at this point. We've have covered some territory in a short period of time and I feel the years ahead of us we can even get higher in the record books.
"A big thank you to all of the fans of this sport of NASCAR and of our racing."
CHAD KNAUS, CHAMPIONSHIP-WINNING CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS:
"Man, what a great race, wasn't it? I mean it really was! Fantastic race. I just couldn't be happier. We got back there a little bit, but we wanted to make sure at every opportunity we kept fueling the car. We didn't want to get ourselves in a position at the end of the race we didn't have enough fuel to make it. So, we pitted that one time and fell back a little bit, but, man just motored right up to the front. The car was so fast. We had a really good race car so I am really excited about coming back next year because I think we'll have a shot to win this thing. I think we could have done it tonight if we had just a little bit better opportunity. Man, what a fantastic job. I have to thank Mr. Hendrick. I wish he was down here with us tonight but he had a family emergency and wasn't able to make it. We hope everything is good there Boss. I've got to thank all the Lowe's employees and the managers and everybody that is here from Lowe's. All the fans. What a great crowd here tonight. All the fans watching at home. Man, what a great season. I don't even know what to say. It is fantastic."
TALK ABOUT YOUR EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW: "Man I don't know. That is awesome. That is just absolutely incredible. I think that has got to say how impressive this Lowe's team is and what a great, fantastic driver Jimmie Johnson is. Jimmie is an incredible talent. He is the most underrated driver in this garage from a perspective media recognition. I mean that guy can do things with a race car that I've never seen done before. I hope this proves this to everybody."
ARE YOU GOING TO GO FOR A FIFTH AND KEEP THE RECORD BOOKS GOING? "Right now I am going to celebrate our fourth and work on going to Daytona. How's that?"
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS, FINISHED 2ND IN RACE, 17TH IN FINAL STANDINGS:
TALK ABOUT YOUR RUNNER-UP FINISH:"just real proud of everyone at Richard Childress Racing. Obviously, it has been a really good four weeks. We're real proud of everybody's effort. That is one thing, even though we haven't been running like we need to, everybody has been working really hard and putting a lot of effort out there and that is all I can ask for. Even early in the year when we weren't running well everybody was still working hard. That is why you never heard me get down on that group of people and their efforts there. Todd (Berrier, crew chief) has done an incredible job putting the team together very quickly and we put ourselves in position. We just got a little bit off on that last run and I think that is me just not knowing what to tell Todd just yet. He gave me a car fast enough to win the race. I needed to be screaming a little bit more about what I thought I needed. That will come. You know what I mean, with communication. Everybody did their part and I came up a little short.
"Two second-places in our (with Todd Berrier as crew chief) first four outings and a fifth and a ninth, that is pretty good. We're not where we need to be or we would be where Denny is, but we'll keep working. We have a good baseline."
IT SEEMED LIKE A GREAT RACE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "I really thought after last night's race, you would see a really good race here. Denny (Hamlin, race winner) got away from us a little bit there at the end. There was a lot of good racing. When they changed this race track, I thought they were crazy, I thought they would kill it, but they've made this race track so much better. It is a great race track, put on great events. It is a cool place to come to finish the year."
DOES THAT GIVE YOU MOMENTUM GOING IN TO NEXT SEASON? "It is always better to run well, there is no question about that. What we have to do is keep working hard and spend this winter improving. I can assure that all of our competitors are going to improve and we will have to do the same thing. Just real proud of everybody. We'll keep digging."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS, FINISHED 3RD IN RACE, 19TH IN FINAL STANDINGS:
GREAT MOVE COMING OFF OF TURN FOUR TO TAKE THIRD, DESCRIBE TONIGHT'S RACE: "At the end our Shell-Pennzoil Chevy was loose just like everybody else's. It was fun. Everybody was kind of bouncing off the walls there and sideways and having a good time there at the end. It is a great way the Shell-Pennzoil team to end the season on a high note. We've had the speed in the cars over the last few weeks, few months really. We just have to get that consistency back that we've always had. So, the speed is there and tonight showed it."
HOW MUCH DID THE TRACK CHANGE? "Well, we had a right front tire go down there in the middle of the race so we kind of got off. We got really loose on that particular run and over-adjusted the car. So we had to kind of waste two runs and then we got it back there at the end. The guys did a great job and it is always fun when you run good."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS -- FINISHED 6TH IN RACE, 3RD IN FINAL STANDINGS:
A DIFFICULT NIGHT, BUT A GOOD ONE JUST THE SAME FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS "No, it was. Our thoughts certainly are going out to Rick (Hendrick) and his family right now. I know how much he'd like to be here. I know how much family means to him. So we just want to let him know, congratulations, and that we're certainly thinking of him. I know how proud he is to be one-two-three. I know how much it meant to him. He kept sending me texts and calling me and everything all week long going, 'We really need that one-two-three!' (laughs). So he put a little pressure on me and this team that I don't think we were really thinking about other than just trying to come here and win. And so that did put a little extra pressure on us. And then what can you say about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus and all the guys at the Lowe's Chevrolet team.
"I never thought I'd see anybody win four in a row. And who's to say they won't go win five in a row next season? We're really proud of them. I know as a member of Hendrick Motorsports it's an honor to see our organization excel like that. And it takes all the people; everybody out there to make it happen. And I've got to say thanks to the fans. It's been a great year. We really appreciate everything that the fans have done for the sport this year."
HOW SPECIAL IS THE FEAT THE NO. 48 TEAM PULLED OFF? "Man, you know, they're just good. As a group, as a total group, they're just good. And that's what you see when you see championship caliber teams. You see them come together as one and all working in the same direction with a lot of confidence in each other. And you can say oh, well, things went their way. Well things go your way when you've got a good race car and when you have good pit stops and when the driver and the crew chief are communicating and doing their jobs well. It just trickles on down. And those guys have done it better than anybody else. I think more than four years, to be honest with you, because I think they've been the best team probably the last six years. It just took them a couple of years to figure out how to win that championship. Once they figured that out, whew, man, watch out.
"And as a competitor it's a little bit frustrating as well as inspiring for us to try to figure out how we could go out there and win a championship for ourselves. But right now we're just going to enjoy this moment being one-two-three and those guys winning four in a row and go into the off-season with something to smile about and a lot of work left ahead of us."
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON WINNING FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A ROW "I never ever thought I'd see it done, to be honest with you. I think it's absolutely incredible and I think it's something that I don't know if I'll see in my lifetime ever happening again. But they've shown that it's possible and they've also shown just how good they are and that's why they're where they're at. It's quite a feat."
YOU AND RICK HENDRICK ARE NOW CAR OWNERS WITH FOUR IN A ROW, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? "Yeah, I just don't look at it that way because I'm still so focused on driving. And I'm still biased to the No. 24 team as a driver. But I'm very fortunate that Rick (Hendrick) has made me a part of the organization the way he has and I'm thankful for that. And I'm happy to share in that success."
AS A CAR OWNER, HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON MIGHT BE TAKEN OUT WHEN JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AND TONY STEWART WERE MESSING IT UP? "I had no idea what was going on around those guys or how close it was. I was so focused on our own race."
YOU'VE MESSED IT UP WITH JUAN YOURSELF A LITTLE BIT. WAS HE JUST AGGRESSIVE? "Juan is aggressive. He's a great driver and I think that sometimes he tries to show a little bit too much to people that he's not going to get pushed around or taken advantage of. In this series, sometimes you've got to know when to back off and when to push somebody's buttons and when not to; and who. I think he found out tonight."
TONY STEWART IS OBVIOUSLY THE SAME WAY "That's my point. You've got to recognize who you can get into those battles with. And sometimes some guys are going to surprise you and other times it's just guys you don't do that with. If you want to get the best finish you can possibly get, not getting into it with somebody is the way to do it. Sometimes you might look a little nonaggressive by doing it that way, but in the long run, that's what gets you to the end of the race and get's you maximum points by the end of the day. I think Mark Martin is a perfect example of it. You don't see him pushing and shoving and causing controversy and he's one of the best drivers out there. And I think that Mark is the kind of guy when somebody runs him down and is better than him, he lets them go. But when his car is good, he expects the same from you."
YOUR CAR WAS GOOD EARLY ON AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED? "When the sun went down we just really struggled. We were really loose. And we tried to fix it but all we did was make the middle tight. We finished sixth. We finished third in the points. We did what we had to so, but it wasn't real pretty."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THIRD IN THE POINTS OR ARE YOU HAPPY THAT HENDRICK WAS ONE-TWO-THREE? "I'm happy that we're one-two-three, but I want to be No. 1. My team wants to be number one. We've got to try to figure out how to get that."
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, FINISHED 12TH IN THE RACE AND 2ND IN THE FINAL STANDINGS:
"This might have been the hardest one to win that we picked but I am so proud of this team and so glad I got to drive this car. And I don't know what next year will bring but we will dig deep and whether we do better, or worse, or the same - we are going to be looking for more and we will see if we can try and find enough to pull it off. It was enough this year to beat a couple of guys that held me off before -- Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. So it was really, really, really a special year.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE ONE-TWO-THREE FINISH BY HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "Congratulations to Hendrick Motorsports, but I know we all have heavy hearts right now."
THIS WASN'T THE WHOLE ENCHILADA BUT I KNOW YOU HAVE SAID THAT IT'S BEEN A DREAM ALL YEAR AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AT THE END OF THE SEASON? "I finally picked the hardest one ever to try to win. But my race team was so awesome.....the five car. I just want to thank the fans and the competitors. Their support means more to me than that trophy. I swear.
"I almost get emotional about it because it was such an incredible achievement to even have a chance and to be a part of history here, but I know all of us have heavy hearts right now and praying for our Hendrick tragedy that we are dealing with."
MARK, IT WAS A TOUGH FIGHT BUT YOU HAD A GREAT YEAR: "It was a great fight and it was a sure tough night and actually the car was pretty good that last run and we changed stuff on it, went to the back, and wrestled and actually the last run was decent. If we could have been there the whole race we could have got a top ten out of it. We are lacking something here and you know, as a group I think just a little bit and we will work on it for next year. But it was really a privilege to even have a crack at it."
I KNOW YOU HAVE A LOT OF TIME TO REFLECT OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS, BUT A HECK OF A BATTLE? "Yes, it was awesome. I am proud of these guys and I am proud of everything that took place this year for Hendrick Motorsports and thankful that they gave me a chance."
DID YOU EVER THINK AT A SEASON FINALE THAT YOU WOULD BE LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT SEASON AS MUCH AS YOU ARE NOW? "No, I did not. This has been great and has been the best year I could ever dream of and it was an honor and a privilege to have a shot at it and we didn't do it but we gave them a run for it anyway and we tried hard."
MARK IS THE 5 AS GOOD OF THE 48 THIS YEAR? "My equipment is just as good, but I am not as good as Jimmie Johnson."
TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 39 US ARMY ALL AMERICAN BOWL IMPALA SS, FINISHED 23RD IN RACE, 9TH IN FINAL STANDINGS:
"We started off strong then got into the fence and never could get the handle back on the car. We tried to make adjustments -- we took a big swing and missed. But we finally got the car a lot better at the end which resulted in Ryan picking up seven positions and saving us a spot in the points. We had a top-10 car in the beginning and a top-10 car in the end. The rest of the race is where we struggled. Overall we had a good year, but we also know that we need to get better."
-credit: gm racing