JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO WERE YOU AWARE OF WHERE YOU WERE IN THE POINTS DURING THE LAST FEW LAPS? "No. It was a pretty easy scenario. I needed to beat the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) and have quite a bit of distance between...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
WERE YOU AWARE OF WHERE YOU WERE IN THE POINTS DURING THE LAST FEW LAPS?
"No. It was a pretty easy scenario. I needed to beat the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) and have quite a bit of distance between myself and the No. 97 (Kurt Busch). With the No. 97 on my bumper, I knew the championship was out of the question. I just needed to get by the No. 24."
HOW HARD WAS IT TO COME FROM THE BACK OF THE PACK TO THE FRONT?
"It wasn't too bad. We had some close calls. We drove our way to within the top 10 in two pit stops. It wasn't too bad. It was just those first lap scares."
ON THE LAST RESTART
"I just got a good start and the No. 16 (Greg Biffle) and the No. 20 (Tony Stewart) bumped each other and had everybody checking up. I saw that there was some room to the top and I stayed committed to the outside and I got on the outside of the No. 24 and was able to get by him and by the time we got off of Turn 2, I had a good run on the No. 20 and was able to get alongside of him and then eventually clear him. I knew there was quite a bit of money and a lot of pride in the No. 24 and No. 48 shop based on the two lap dash and I was able to get a good restart."
ON THE EMOTIONS OF THE RESTART
"What took place is amazing. But the reality of the championship and knowing where the No. 97 was, that weight was on my shoulders. It felt good that I could do all that I could do. But I'm not going to think about that pass too much.
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ON THE POINTS SYSTEM NOW THAT'S OVER?
"I think it's turned out to be a good battle. You have the 97 who was relatively consistent the whole stretch and not have an engine problem. Then you have us with a couple bad races and a bunch of wins and we were able to get back in the middle of it. I think it's going to add some longevity to the drivers' careers especially if you don't get off to a good start in the season. The top five guys at least don't have to worry about points like they did in the past. That's something that Jeff (Gordon) has brought to my attention. This year has been one of the better years for competing for a championship. You didn't have that year-long stress to worry about. I look at that and I think that that is going to be good for the years to come. I think with all the excitement we had built around this race there are more positives than negatives that I spoke about earlier in the year this with this points system. I think that in the end it will be better for everybody."
HOW DRAINGING WAS TODAY AND HOW DRAINING HAS THE CHASE BEEN?
"The first part of the Chase when we were slipping and sliding and making some mistakes, that was pretty draining. Once we left Kansas City and just said the heck with it, things turned around for us and it was actually a lot of fun. Obviously when you're winning that many races you're having a lot fun. Today was draining especially the final third when I knew the 97 was in the position to be the champion. I didn't have anything for the 24 in the short run and with all the cautions we had I couldn't really hang with the 24. Then there at the end we finally got by him. It was just a long day and that reality of seeing that Sharpie in my rear view mirror, I didn't like that so much. That's how it is."
WHAT KIND OF CHAMPION WILL KURT BUSCH BE?
"When you win the championship as the first few months start to set in, I think after watching some other guys after they've won it, it seems that their mentality changes a little bit and they take on a different mindset for the championship role that those guys should be. Kurt is going to do good. He's a young guy. He's not afraid to be in front of the camera. He's not afraid to speak his mind so I think the media will appreciate that. I'm disappointed after knowing we came up short today but that's one thing. I want to congratulate him. I think he did a great job. Over this ten race stretch he didn't buckle. Those guys were strong."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
"I don't think we could have done much more. We put such a great effort out today and got good results, but that No. 97 (Kurt Busch) was strong. The No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) was strong. I knew they would be like that all throughout the day. You've got to look back at those last 10 races and ask what we could have done. But we did everything that we knew what to do. I'm so proud of everybody on this DuPont team. It was a great year for us. I wish we could have won the championship, but we gave it everything. I was real proud of those guys for coming back from our problem with the tire and getting back up there and having a good finish."
DID YOU TAKE MORE RISKS ON THE RACE TRACK TODAY?
"Yeah, when we got behind, we had to take some risks. And then there at the end on those restarts, we were taking some risks. I had a great run on that second to the last restart. The No. 01 got real loose on the bottom and held me up and we weren't able to get up there where we needed to. But on that last one, I took another shot at him and got inside the No. 16 and the No. 48 was inside of me. It was pretty wild out there. And then Tony (Stewart) had some kind of problems going into Turn 1 and bottled us all up and we came out of there three wide off of Turn 2 and Jimmie (Johnson) got to the outside of me. We just did whatever we could to get back in one piece and we ended up in third."
ON THE GREEN WHITE CHECKERED FINISH AND THE LAST SIX OR SEVEN LAPS OF THE RACE
"We (Jimmie) and I were just talking about how crazy the last re-start as. It was a good day for us. We weren't quite as good as we wanted to be. We were a little bit tight but we had good track position. We were maintaining that. Everything kind of went downhill for us a little bit when we had the flat left rear but it was really a blessing that we were able to come in and get a change when we did because we would have never gotten back into it. Again it's an opportunity to work on the car and free the car up. It was real tight all day. We were pretty good. I got real, real tight there at the very end. We had some opportunities there. I don't know if those would have won us the championship but I'm going down the inside on the second to last re-start and had a heck of a run and the 01 was down in the bottom and in the way. I had to check up and we about wrecked. We lost all the momentum. Other than that, that was about our only opportunity. We would have had to won it. I don't think that would have done it because we really have the car to win but we had a lot of fun trying. We gave it a heck of an effort and I'm really proud of the guys for what they did not only this weekend but throughout these last 10 races to keep us in the Chase."
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING GOING ON OUT THERE?
"In the beginning of the race, I knew not to pay attention to where everybody was at and just worry about making my race car as good as I could and working through traffic we were able to really do that. Then at the end it was pretty obvious what the situation was. Until then I didn't want to worry myself. I just kind of waited until the end. With the 97 behind me I knew that the championship was out of question. Jeff and I were racing for second."
"I could see the 97 in front of me at the beginning of the race. I had no idea where was. He'd be coming and he did. At the end it was the same thing. I knew Jimmie was behind me and he and I were racing for second regardless of where Kurt was. I knew that Kurt was just a position or two behind him."
WERE YOU AWARE OF THE FUEL PROBLEMS PEOPLE MIGHT BE HAVING AFTER THE GREEN AND WHITE CHECKERED RE-START?
"There were some guys that we knew that were stretching it. We were a little concerned ourselves. I was hoping that the 16 would run out because in second was us. Out of that cycle, I don't think the 16 was a part of it. I think the 88 was. Once I saw him pull down I knew that was why."
HOW DISAPPOINTED ARE YOU THAT YOU WEREN'T ABLE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP TO HONOR THE FRIENDS YOU LOST?
"I'm very disappointed. I think that it put a whole different meaning on the championship for us. We wanted it for Hendrick Motorsports. We knew Rick (Hendrick) was here. We knew it was an emotional weekend for him coming back. We knew how much it would mean for us to stand up on that stage in New York and honor those guys as champions, Jimmie or myself, which ever one could get it done. It's a disappointment no matter what, knowing that we had an opportunity to do something really special like that. It made it that much more meaningful but it also makes it that much more disappointing."
"I totally agree. The one thing that Jeff and I can both look back and say at our teams and Rick in his heart feels this way too, we did everything we could possibly. When you go to bed at night knowing that you sleep a lot easier. The other thing is it's meant to be. It wasn't in the cards for us this year."
WERE YOU AWARE OF THE 97's PROBLEM AND DID YOU SEE THAT AS A MAJOR OPPORTUNITY?
"I was just a few cars behind him so certainly saw it. I looked at is a golden opportunity and then the caution came out. That's just the way it's been. They've done a great job preparing cars - good pit stops, good race cars, everything - and Kurt did a good job driving and then they had good fortune. When they needed things to happen, whether it be a caution, whether he spun and didn't hit anything, it happened. That's what makes up a championship year for you. It's when you either run into problems and they really aren't problems or you don't have problems at all. I think they would have gotten a lap back even though there so many cautions and he was running good enough to get his lap or laps back, whatever would have happened on that situation. It said a lot to me when the caution came out right after I saw him having his problems. Of course I got a little vocal because I didn't think the caution came out but then I saw his tire rolling down the track (laughs)."
DO YOU ALLOW YOUR EMOTIONS TO GO UP AND DOWN THROUGOUT THE RACE?
"You try not to pay attention because as soon as you look at that you start to feel like things are moving your way and nine times out of ten you end up having a problem. I saw him hit pit road and I just looked the other way and went by him and tried not to pay attention."
ON HIS EIGHT WINS BUT NOT WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP
"It was an incredible season for this whole Lowe's team. We won a lot of races. That's something I'm very proud of. I set a personal goal to try to win five races this year and then to have eight and four in the Chase is pretty amazing. We were eight points away from the championship. I'm definitely disappointed in that but we did all that we could. If we look back on the season and try to pick apart should-of would-ofs, it wouldn't be right to do that. We showed up at Loudon and gave a 100 percent. It is what is."
HOW DID IT FEEL TO BE IN CONTENTION FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP DURING THE LAST LAP?
"Yes it was that if Kurt had gotten caught up in something. I wasn't really thinking about that at that time. I was thinking about trying to win a race. I knew Jimmie was behind me and he was going to make a run at us and he did. It's exciting to know how close the points were and exciting to know that in the closing laps that we had a shot at the championship but it didn't really feel that way on the last lap. It would have been different if we were battling with Kurt like I was with Jimmie for that position in the points. That would have made it extremely exciting if that had been for the championship."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO RICK SINCE THE END OF THE RACE? WOULD THIS HAVE BEEN THE SWEETEST OF FIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS?
"I haven't talked to him since to him since the race is over. I talked to him before the race. I talked to him a little bit during the race. He came on our radio. With everything that's happened and I mentioned earlier, that just put that much more meaning on this championship. For me every one that I've won has gotten that much sweeter - the second one after the first one and so on. I think it's because I appreciate them that much more. I know how hard they are to win. This one with the new points system is so much harder to win so it's more meaningful in itself. Then you put on top of that everything that happened Martinsville weekend. It would have been an emotional championship celebration for us. We didn't do it. I haven't talked to Rick. I think like Jimmie also said that he's so proud of the effort that we put in to try to get it for either one of us. He's not disappointed in how the organization pulled together through all that happened and that's something to be very proud of."
REGARDING SPEEDING ON PIT ROAD, WOULD YOU LOBBY FOR AN ELECTRONIC SYSTEM?
"I think something needs to be addressed there, definitely. But I can't look back on that and say it would have changed the outcome of the championship. I look more at Kansas City. But again, you can't look back on it. I was doing the best that I could in every case and so was everybody on the race team. It just turned out the way it did."
ON THE POINTS SYSTEM
"This points system only makes careers shorten up, it doesn't lengthen them out. The intensity of this points system has increased. It's greater than it's ever been. The pressure is unreal. And the sport's not getting any cheaper. We're asking more of our sponsors and they're asking more of us. Our sport is growing so there are new race tracks coming along. The schedule is not going to be any less. As far as I'm concerned, crew members and drivers are going to have a shorter career span, but reap the benefits more because the sport is as healthy as it is. If it continues like that, guys can build a career but it'll be shorter. I don't know how many years I have left but I know right now I can't wait to get out of this race track and not see a race track for a couple of months - other than that one in Paris."
SHOULD JIMMIE HAVE BEATED YOU WITH YOUR TIRE STRATEGY?
"We were on equal tires there at the end. I should have beat him anyway. We had an intense re-start there. I know I spun the tires. I thought the 16 spun the tires there also. I actually ended up getting a pretty good run. I knew Jimmie was right there. He kind of got the inside of me. I was able to get to the quarter-panel of the 16. I don't know if the 16 and 20 hit. Something happened to the 20 car and he checked up and went to the inside. I had seen him coming and was underneath the 16 at the time. When I had to go up to go around the 20, Jimmie was able to keep it wide up and stay outside of me and we were three wide. I felt like we were on pretty equal terms as far as cars were concerned. The re-start before that we kind of battled but then we kind of doubled down. I thought the tires were pretty even."
"I was really loose on new tires. We took two of them only a couple of times. The tires would come back for us. We just needed to be out on at least 10 or 15 lap tires so I could go on the short run."
ENTERING THE CHASE A LOT OF PEOPLE THOUGHT THAT IF YOU HAD ONE BAD RACE YOU'RE DONE. YOU HAD TWO. ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH WHERE YOU FINISHED?
"Definitely. I didn't expect that to be the case. I thought somebody would make it clean through the ten. I feel that there will be a lot of championships won that way by somebody having a good solid top five stretch in those ten. This year kept it exciting the way that it was."