JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (after running second fast in both practice sessions) (DO YOU FEEL MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT SUNDAY'S RACE?) "I definitely feel good. We had a problem yesterday with the race car that we found ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (after running second fast in both practice sessions)
(DO YOU FEEL MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT SUNDAY'S RACE?)
"I definitely feel good. We had a problem yesterday with the race car that we found overnight. It's nice to know we found what the problem was and why the car was so loose. We're starting in the back, but we've blown engines and crashed cars and done a lot of crazy things and have had to start in the back. But we've always been able to come back. So I think the first half of the race we're just going to be doing things to get track position and try to get toward the front and be in a safe area if there is an accident or something - not to be in the middle of the pack. But we'll be in good shape. This track has a lot of room to race on and a lot of room to pass. The Lowe's Chevy is driving great and I was very happy with it at the end of both practice sessions. So we'll be good. I guess this will make it interesting."
(IS THERE A TENDANCY TO WANT TO GET UP TO THE FRONT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE?)
"That's the whole goal when I've got 38 guys in front of me. The best place I can be is up front. We've got to do what we can to make up that track position, but at the same time if we do something stupid on lap 10 while trying to pass for 28th and take ourselves out of it, that's not a good thing. So I've just got to be patient tomorrow and take my time. I've got to count on great pit stops, which I know I'll have and just take it as it comes. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I know the No. 97 (Kurt Busch) is going to be able to lead a lap right away and I would expect the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) is going to. With how tight the points are, every point counts right now. I've just got to count on putting in a good day's work and if it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
(KNOWING YOU'RE ONLY ONE DAY AWAY FROM POSSIBLY THE BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR CAREER, WHAT ARE YOUR EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW?)
"Having a good day today after yesterday is refreshing to feel that competitive nature again and to know that we're going to be able to go down fighting - regardless of what happens. So, I'm excited. I don't know what to expect. I'm sure tomorrow morning when I wake up, I'm going to go through quite a few emotions, which I'm sure the other four guys in the points battle are going through as well. Tomorrow is the biggest day of one of our lives. Jeff (Gordon) is trying for five championships. The rest of us are trying for our first.
"We all have a lot of desire and a lot of drive and I think we all feel we deserve it for our own reasons. Tomorrow when we wake up, we'll just get to work and hopefully at the end of the day, I'll be spraying champagne everywhere."
(ON RICK HENDRICK COMING TO THE RACE TRACK FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE PLANE CRASH IN OCTOBER)
"I'm excited for him to be at the track, but I also know how difficult it's going to be for him. When we first came back to the track it was not an easy thing. As excited as I am to see him here, I know today and tomorrow are going to be very tough for him. Maybe by the beginning of next year, it'll be a little easier to come back to the track. He's been sitting at home wanting to see his friends and everyone in the racing community. He's wanted to speak to everybody. So today's a big day for him and a big step in the direction of trying to find some normalcy back at the race track."
(HOW FRUSTRATING WAS IT FOR YOU YESTERDAY TO HAVE TO TAKE A PROVISIONAL?)
"Yesterday was very frustrating. We found some things overnight that had the car off. We've been able to prove that was the problem, so we're back on track for tomorrow's race and feeling more confident."
(WILL YOU HAVE TO GAMBLE AND STAY OUT TO LEAD A LAP EARLY WHEN OTHERS ARE PITTING?)
"Tires aren't falling off that much so I think you can get creative. I saw some guys doing that in the truck race yesterday. You can be creative the way the track is playing out. It may be something we have to do. Taking two tires or fuel only if the right opportunity presents itself might be something we have to do. I would expect a lot of the guys - especially the guys in the championship - to be opting for track position and clean air. That's what you're going to have to have to stay up front and lead laps."
(AFTER YESTERDAY, HOW DO YOU PICK YOURSELF UP EMOTIONALLY?)
"Once we sorted out the problem we had, it was pretty easy to shrug it off and get to work. There's not much we can do about it. We hate that we're starting where we are but we found the problem and we're in good shape."
(WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM?)
"We had an issue with the left front shock. We didn't realize it until we had it off the car and on the dyno."
(IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP KURT BUSCH'S TO WIN OR LOSE TOMORROW?)
"Well, I'm going to say it's his to lose because I want to put pressure on him and I want him to think about it all night long (laughs). But it is such a small margin, truthfully, it's anybody's championship to win. The way you're going to win the championship is by being up front and leading laps and maybe leading the most laps. This is going to be a race tomorrow - a race for the championship. I don't think it's anyone's to lose."
JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
(WAS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR CAR TODAY IN HAPPY HOUR?)
"I don't think it's anything major. I just felt a little bit of a vibration there at the end. We should be alright."
(BECAUSE OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP, IS EVERYTHING WITH THE CAR MAGNIFIED MORE?)
"Definitely. I'm much more concerned with getting the right balance on the car and getting the car to handle the way we need it to to win the race more so than that. Every weekend you get a little something in there and it takes a little tuning on. My guys are the best there are. They'll go through it and replace anything that needs to be replaced and we'll have a car that will run 400 miles here tomorrow."
(WHAT KIND OF RACE CAR DO YOU HAVE?)
"We have a good race car. We were really good this morning. I think temperature went up and grip level went away and we struggled a little bit in that second practice. We definitely have to make some adjustments and get better. Robbie (Loomis - crew chief) and all the guys are going to do their homework tonight. They've been doing a phenomenal job all weekend. It's been a fun weekend for us so far. I'm enjoying driving the car. I think we're going to have a good car tomorrow."
(DESCRIBE YOUR EMOTIONS GOING INTO THE LAST RACE?)
"It's just focusing on getting the car the best we can and going out there and doing our jobs. It's not about anything else. It's intense because you want to do everything right. It's not about just thinking about the championship, it's thinking about the race. If we do our best in the race then hopefully the results will come along with that and maybe even a championship."
(ON THE NBA INCIDENT LAST NIGHT AND GETTING THINGS THROWN AT HIM IN TALLADEGA)
"It's a little bit different than when you're on a basketball court. When you have a helmet on and a loud engine underneath the hood, you don't really hear much or see too much especially when you're going 200 miles per hour. I've always said that I'm fortunate because of the comments or the reaction of some of the fans towards me. I don't really get to see it one-on-one because I'm not close enough to them because I am inside that race car. The guys on a basketball court or a hockey rink, that's a totally different deal."
(WHEN PEOPLE THROW THINGS AT YOU DOES THAT STIR UP ANY KIND OF ANGER?) "It's a lot different for me. I love it. I know that if they're throwing stuff at me, we did something good."
(ARE YOU SURPRISED AT THE SUCCESS OF KURT BUSCH?)
"No. He came in with a good team. He's a talented driver. There's a lot of young guys that have come into the sport that have done very well over the last several years. It's all about taking a talent and putting it with a good organization and good equipment. You're going to see good results and they have."
(ON THE SUCCESS OF NASCAR IN THE U.S.)
"I think it's a combination of things. Obviously race tracks are spread out throughout the country, the accessibility, the brand loyalty of the fans with the sponsors and the marketing that NASCAR and the sponsors have done. We put great racing out there on the race track. I think the network television groups have done a great job presenting the sport to the fans bringing them in closer to the sport and educating them and making it fun for them."
(ON WHY FORMULA ONE OR CHAMP CAR FANS WOULD FIND A NASCAR RACE EXCITING)
"In NASCAR it's about the competition. It's about a car that can start at the back of the field and pass cars and finish up front. It's about pit stops. It's about very close, tight racing of a more average and normal car that you can find on the street that is souped-up and makes a lot of horsepower and is very fast. It's really more about the side-by-side racing for us. The Busch Series goes to a road course in Mexico and I don't know that they're necessarily going to see that. We'd love to see a nice oval like we have here in Homestead down in Mexico or even up north into Canada. Those would be good moves for NASCAR and I think the fans would enjoy it."