JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: CAN YOU SUM UP THE SEASON AND THE RACE TODAY AT THE NEW HOMESTEAD MIAMI SPEEDWAY? "It was just a great year for the entire Lowe's team. I never in my wildest dreams expected to have six...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
CAN YOU SUM UP THE SEASON AND THE RACE TODAY AT THE NEW HOMESTEAD MIAMI SPEEDWAY?
"It was just a great year for the entire Lowe's team. I never in my wildest dreams expected to have six wins, The Winston, all the poles, and a fifth place finish last year and a second place finish this year. But we're here and it's been a reality to be this competitive through the midway point of last year. I'm just getting all I can every day every lap and so are Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and the entire team. We have a great relationship, great equipment, and great sponsors. You hear everybody saying that stuff. But it really is the truth. Our sport is about people. The top teams all have the same equipment. It's all about people. I'm so fortunate to have the crew that I do. They've made a sophomore finish 2nd this year."
CONSIDERING THE POINTS CHASE FOR THE TITLE AND TODAY'S RACE RESULTS, WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT THE NEW BREED OF DRIVERS?
"Maybe in the last few years, the speed has been with these younger drivers but maybe not the consistency. Everybody out there is very smart race car drivers in learning the do's and don'ts and how to be consistent and not get into wrecks and have problems. I think the young faces you see will continue to be there. But at the same time it's not about look at Bill Elliott. He's been strong for the last three months. It's about communication and it's about people. It's going to be exciting for NASCAR next year with the new sponsorship with Nextel and what they're going to be able to do with regard to marketing and advertising of the sport and the young faces and even veterans of the sport. It's going to be even more competitive next year."
FINISHING SECOND, HOW FAR OFF WAS THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Being the first loser doesn't bother me too much. I didn't expect to be in this position. Of course I wanted to win the championship this year. I wanted to win it last year and do something that no one's ever done. It doesn't mean that we're not putting in everything that we can. But we're in a position where we don't need to put any additional pressure on ourselves. If you look at history, it usually takes three, four, or five years to get the driver and the team into championship form. Maybe next year will be that special year for us. It takes a lot of luck. If you look at Matt Kenseth's year, he's been fast and done all the great things but he's had flat tires at the right point in time and only been caught up in one or two wrecks and blown one engine. That's hard to do. We'll give it one hundred percent next year and see what happens."
HOW BAD WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE TALLADEGA BACK?
"Oh, there are a few of them. Talladega, Michigan - where we ran out of gas, Dover - where I was doing just fine but got greedy and tore my car up. So you look across the board and there are a lot of those out there. At the end of the year, the guy with the shortest list of 'what ifs' will be the champion. The competition is too close. Everybody is going to win. Everybody is going to win poles. Everybody is going to be up front. It's that 'what if' category at the end of the year."
DID YOU EXPERIENCE ANY TIRE PROBLEMS AND DID GOODYEAR WARN YOU AHEAD OF TIME?
"Based on yesterday's race, the left fronts were blistering on the Busch cars. I was trying to take care of that while I was on the track today. But the only problem we had was one right rear started to chunk up on the longest run that we had. I didn't pick up a vibration or have any problems from it. I noticed that we needed to scuff to sort out which tires were tighter and which set was looser so we'd know how to put them on the car and not tune ourselves out of the race. But this race track is so fast, you're in the gas 70 percent of the time around here in race trim, if not more, in race trim. That's just pushing the race cars into the track and tearing the tires up and building a ton of heat and you're going to see things happen from that. Fortunately we didn't have any problems and I knew when I was making the tires mad and I laid off them a little bit to save my stuff at times."
HOW WAS THE RACING ON THE NEW HOMESTEAD MIAMI TRACK?
"For a first race with the new asphalt to have as many grooves as we did out there, this is going to be a very exciting track for years to come. When it gets a summer or two on it, it's going to start to lose grip on the bottom and you're going to see that top groove with the extra banking coming into play. Typically, new tracks are single-file racing around the bottom. It's a parade. I don't think that was today's case. I went to the back three or four times and worked my way through there. I think they've done a great job. The only thing I would like to see happen is for us to use the race track to come into the pits and not the access road. Unfortunately we didn't have to pit under green because we would have had cars spinning and sliding up the race track."
CAN YOU ADDRESS WINSTON'S CONTRIBUTION TO THIS SPORT?
"With only having two years in the Winston Cup Series, I've gotten to know the faces but I haven't really been able to see what they've done. When they entered into the sport, I was just a twinkle in my mom and dad's eyes. I wasn't even here (laughs). But I can say that I've wanted to race in Winston Cup all my life. Good or bad, I didn't realize that it was a cigarette brand. I thought it was just what NASCAR called it. That's all that I've ever known. That's what I've wanted to do and it's more popular than ever now. But they've done a lot for the sport and some of the veterans can speak better to that than I can. I'm thankful for everything that they've done."