Johnson, Hendrick, Knaus - champions press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: You won four in a row in the '90s. Is it harder now, much harder in today's era of parody? Can you either make a fair comparison to what Jimmie has done relative to Cale's three-peat? RICK HENDRICK: I think in ...

Continued from part 2

Q: You won four in a row in the '90s. Is it harder now, much harder in today's era of parody? Can you either make a fair comparison to what Jimmie has done relative to Cale's three-peat?

RICK HENDRICK: I think in NASCAR, Chad mentioned it, I think it kind of narrowed the box. And they have so many well funded teams out there, so many guys that are capable of winning. As Chad says, they've taken every bit of it, they're trying to take all the creativity away.

I was hoping we'd go somewhere this year and get a little more downforce on this car and make the racing a little bit better. But now we've got new rules coming and with no testing. If they change any rules this winter, then we'll be everybody will show up the same way.

But, you know, it's just definitely harder now. I'm not taking anything away from the four in a row, because Jeff, 3 out of 4 years, and Terry won one. Everybody working together, it was really good back then.

But we had a lot more flexibility. The teams could flex more of their talent to try to get an edge on the competition today. It's just so much harder and so many more, you know, quality guys driving. Again, not taking anything away from those years, but this is a tougher deal.

Q: Over the years you've been compared to the Yankees. I was wondering how Hendrick Motorsports had been compared to the Yankees. I was wondering how comfortable are you with that? How do you feel when your name comes up in search engines along with George Steinbrenner?

RICK HENDRICK: I'm not a Yankee fan (smiling). It's like a lot of other things. I'm flattered that the Yankees are compared I guess that's winning and a team that's always supposed to be there.

I think the difference in our organization than the Yankees is we've grown our guys. And Chad's a guy that worked on the 24. He told Ray one day that I want your job. And he had to leave for a bit and come back. Jimmie just like Jeff came in kind of unknown soldier and he really proved his worth. He and Chad together, and Jeff and Ray together.

I'm flattered that any time we're compared to any football team, baseball team, anyone that's won multiple championships. I do think when you win one and win two, it breeds a lot of competition inside the company, and everybody wants to win. But I think having everybody on the same page really helps. It motivates us.

I know that Jimmie winning is going to motivate the other three. But it's also motivated Carl Edwards because I shook his hand tonight, and he said, "It's going to be different next year" or something like that. So nothing motivates you anymore going to New York and sitting in the audience.

But, hopefully, we can do this a lot of times, you know, more times.  Love
to see us get over 10 and win over 200 races.  Hopefully we can get that
done.  But I still don't like the Yankees that much (smiling).

Q: What means more to you guys? Does it mean more to win the Championship or write your name in the record books?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess it's similar. Rick mentioned it. I think it feels kind of the same, the same thing. I don't know. I can say from my standpoint I have wanted to be the champion, and what a champion's about. Always have raced and watched other guys be that guy and have been close, and won a few along the way. But that's what I've grown up and aspired to be. I didn't aspire to be in the record books.

I think I'll appreciate that much more as my career slows down or I retire. But right now it's really about the act of winning a championship. Right now we've been fortunate to win three. So over the off season I'm going to be drooling about a fourth. It's not really where I fall into the books, it's more about what I want to be as a champion.

Q: You were very vocal about the driving out there tonight. There have been times in NASCAR history where the sanctioning body has listened and made changes when its champions have been so outspoken. Particularly those with seven championships. Are you hoping to gain a bigger voice in the sport and maybe get some of the accompanying clout that might go with being one of only eight guys to win three championships?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's not a role I'm eager to take on, to be honest with you. I do know that in the right setting if I talked to Mike or talked to Brian Darby, as you win championships and more than anything that you're around the sport long enough and people know that you're coming to them about a non bias or from a non bias position, that your voice will be heard.

I look more at that than I do of championship rankings and having more clout from that point. Frankly, I say a lot of stuff on the radio that I probably shouldn't. And in the scheme of things, I think my stuff's pretty mild compared to a lot of the guys that are out there.

I get animated from time to time. Lot of times I don't push the button and I'm thankful for that. But a lot of times I do push it and want to share my feelings.

Q: Because of the historic significance of this evening, are there mementos or things that you're going to keep and store away? Personal items or are there certain particular memories from this journey or even from tonight that will stand out?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I haven't thought about that yet. I don't know. But typically, yes. Like we hang on to different things. He's keeping the car, he said (laughing). I haven't put any thought to that.

Q: What did you keep from other championships?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Suits, helmets, gloves, shoes, things like that that I've had. Great photos. The experience in New York. You know, a lot of my as I think back to proud moments that I've had as a champion, a lot of those moments were the pre season testing when I'd seen a lot of the crew members and drivers that I didn't see when the season was over.

Typically it's a low key event, and everybody's testing, hanging out. The respect that you feel and shaking hands with guys that some you know, some you don't. But just that respect there was really probably in my head more than anything. But any memento that Rick doesn't claim, I'll try to claim.

Q: Rick says you're always looking ahead. So I'm going to ask you a forward looking question. Last year you guys skipped the Atlanta test to concentrate on the Chase. You came out and you were behind in Las Vegas and you said I believe it was to the first Texas race before you felt you were up to speed on the mile and a halves. With testing now taken out of the equation, on track testing out of the equation, what will you guys do differently strategically or tactically to make sure that doesn't happen?

CHAD KNAUS: Well, obviously, we've got to wait to see how it all shakes out. There is nothing down in print yet. We've got to see exactly what the restrictions are 100 percent. See what that is. Once we see that, we can identify it, see what we can and cannot do.

Obviously, our simulation programs are going to have to get a lot more efficient. Our wind tunnel testing will have to get a lot more efficient. Our seven post facility will probably have to be not that it doesn't run all the time now. But it's probably going to have to have some modifications to correlate more to what we see at the actual racetrack.

It's going to be tough. We all understand why this has been done. We really do. I hope that the economy takes a turn, and we can get back to testing at some point next year, because I really feel like it's going to hurt the smaller teams.

You know, there is nothing that helps a small team when I worked at Melling, we only had 20 something guys. So I know what it's like to have a small team to compete against the Hendrick Motorsports guys, and the Roush guys. The only way you can get better is to be on the racetrack.

You know, just because you don't have the other resources to use. So I'm hoping the economy takes a turn, and we can get these guys back on the racetrack where they need to be.

Q: After the first five races this year, you guys were 13th in points. Lot of people were asking what's wrong with Hendrick Motorsports. At that point how confident were you that you could be sitting here tonight? What steps did you guys take individually and as a team to rebound from that and be where you are right now?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think we felt like we wouldn't have a shot at the Championship. But we knew we needed to get things together. It just took a team effort of testing, of R & D from the engine shop, from chassis, body, all the departments. Just everybody had to buckle down and find out where the speed was. Just keep it simple. We had to really find out where to work and what to work on.

It takes a while. When you're off base, it takes a while to one, recognize when you're off base, two, find out what the problem is, and three, start working in new areas to find speed. It just took us a little time. We got things turned around and got into a comfortable position to transfer into the Chase. As the season went on, we just kept getting stronger and stronger and understanding the car better and better. From my standpoint of driving it to setting it up. The power and the engine, all the things we needed, it was just a group effort.

Q: Jimmie, you're talking about wanting to win another championship and that drive already. It's just the night of winning your third back to back championship. How do you bring yourself down and ramp yourself back up? You can't possibly go into the off season that hungry already. How do you mentally do that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think for a driver it's definitely easier than for the crew chief and the crew guys. I get to get away from Monday to Wednesday. I have some responsibilities. But I don't have to get back into the pressure cooker until Friday morning. Whereas these guys are the most important. At the track extremely important. But a lot of the stuff is Monday through Thursday.

From a driver's standpoint, you know, yeah, I'd like some time off.  But if
Daytona was here tomorrow, I'd be ready.  These guys, the teams need a
break.  We've worked very, very hard all year long.

I'll take some needed time off as well, but, you know, when things are going well, you just want to keep going. Maybe if we didn't finish like we did, we'd want some time off. But we're on a high. I would be eager to go, but these guys need some time.

THE MODERATOR: We are clear. Congratulations to the No. 48 team.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you, everybody.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Carl Edwards
Teams Hendrick Motorsports