Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Pole-sitter for the Daytona 500: As a rookie, are you having trouble finding drivers that will work with you? And if not, how do you expect to get any experience? "I'm learning a lot of ...
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Pole-sitter for the Daytona 500:
As a rookie, are you having trouble finding drivers that will work with you? And if not, how do you expect to get any experience?
"I'm learning a lot of things not to do. During practice, I was trying to see what my car could do and what passes I could complete and put myself in a variety of situations. Jeff (Gordon) has assured me that everyone will be a lot smarter and work a lot better in the race. Even he thought is was pretty crazy and out of control out there with everything that everybody was trying. I was having a blast, but it was hard to get somebody to work with me.
"I need to position myself so that they have to use me by creating a spot for them to run up in the draft and take advantage of me. I've really got to watch my mirrors, ride the brake, and not get too far out in front of them. As soon as I do that, they'll get a run on me. It's something that I've not been used to. You spend more time looking in the mirror than you do out the windshield. I'm learning the game a little bit."
With five laps to go in the Daytona 500, where do you want to be running?) "From watching the Shootout, it looks like leading is the right place to be if you know how to work it right. That's what I'm trying to learn real fast. I think leading or third is probably a good place to be. Second place can get a good enough run, but you're in a spot where drivers have to make a choice of who they're going to follow."
Does it strike you as unusual or difficult that your teammate is also a competitor and owner?
"I think the reason this situation will work is because Jeff Gordon is very secure with who he is and what he has accomplished. He's using this team to make the No. 24 better. If things go right and I learn what I need to, I can be beating on his doors every week. He's very comfortable with that and thinks it will elevate the level of his team. If he is going to lose to somebody - not that he wants to my any means - he would like it to be one of his teammates. So there are a couple things working there together."
How has the attention you've gotten by winning the Daytona 500 pole been different than what you imagined?
"Well, this morning, driving to the track, I had four or five cars of people honk and wave at me. We've sold out of diecast cars and hats. It's just amazing to me how involved these fans have become overnight. There are reporters calling to interview my grandmother (in California) and she's never been on TV before. Just standing here with all these microphones is like an out of body experience. It doesn't seem like it's all happening."
After the race, what will you have considered to be a success at the Daytona 500?
"Just finishing the race. That's what we're here for. We need to get points. Our goals, first and foremost, are to qualify for every race and then finish on the lead lap. As a rookie driver, a new team, and a new sponsor with Lowe's and that's where we need to start. As soon as we can do that on a regular basis, we'll look at getting top 15's and top five's. Hopefully we'll be winning races by the end of the year."