Continued from part 1 LOOKING AT EACH OTHER, WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT EACH GUYS BRINGS TO THIS TEAM? Johnson: Go ahead, Chad. I want to hear this. Knaus: I've got a great race car driver. He's a great driver. That's what we've got there.
Continued from part 1
LOOKING AT EACH OTHER, WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT EACH GUYS BRINGS TO THIS TEAM?
Johnson: Go ahead, Chad. I want to hear this.
Knaus: I've got a great race car driver. He's a great driver. That's what we've got there. He's a guy who can get out there and drive. If you've ever seen Jimmie drive-and I mean truly seen Jimmie drive-not just against the competition. When he's out there and he's practicing and what he can and how he feels the car and what he can do, he's able to communicate that back to myself and the other team members at Hendrick Motorsports. I think that he's truly above every other driver out there. He can truly feel the car better than anybody else out there.
Johnson: To follow up, he can understand what I'm saying. That's the hardest thing and I think it applies in any sport or profession. Communication is everything. He understands what I say, and how I say and what I'm feeling and can fix it. That's the amazing thing. I thought I had all these crazy feelings in me and what the car was doing based on past experiences, but Chad can fix it. He can really visualize and see what the car is doing, based on what I tell him. And, address it and fix it. It's amazing.
FOR DARLINGTON UNDER THE LIGHTS, ARE SHADOWS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM? DIFFERENT PROBLEMS?
Johnson: I know that when Jeff practiced there-I think he did an exhibition of some sort-I think he was concerned with the lighting. And I have to admit and back and raced and finished under the lights, I didn't recall there being any issues with the lighting. So, I don't know if they addressed something based on Jeff's comments then. But, after our finish under the lights there last year, I thought everything was fine. I thought you could see the track well, shadowing didn't seem to be a problem. The hardes thing was the twilight hours racing into the sun. Racing into turn 3 was tough, but when the sun went down everything seemed fine.
WE WERE HEARING THAT THIS YEAR IS THE CLOSEST COMPETITION WE'VE EVER SEEN
Johnson: I think that the reason the points may not be closer to reflect the competition is some bad racing luck for some guys. Getting caught up in some things. For the most part, we've been pretty clean. We crashed out of a race last week and still finished 20th. I know some guys have crashed out and finished in the 30s and 40s. The points don't really resemble what we're seeing as far as the competition. I definitely believe the competition is stronger this year than what I have seen in my Cup career.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THIS MONTH MEANS FOR YOU WITH RACES COMING UP AT DARLINGTON, RICHMOND AND CHARLOTTE, BASED ON YOUR RESULTS THERE
Johnson: I'm really looking forward to it. There are some new things coming up at Lowe's Motor Speedway. I'm looking forward to our test session there in our Busch car to see what's going on at that track. When I look at the calendar and I see the race tracks that are laid out, I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to things and I think we can win some races that are coming up.
CHAD, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON DARLINGTON?
Knaus: I'm looking forward to it. I love Darlington. I think that it's a very unique race track. I wish it was still on the schedule twice. I think that it's one of the coolest you go to. I wish we could work on everything around the race track and inside the race track to make it a little bit nice. The garage area isn't real good for the guys to work on and I know some of the seating arrangements and stuff like that for the fans are a little difficult. I think that if we could make some improvements to the race track as far as getting in and out and the accommodations, it would be one of the top venues out there. Because the track has so much history and the racing is just so awesome.
YOU SAID YOU WANT TO CREW A 24-HOUR SPORTS CAR RACE. DO YOU STILL WANT TO DO THAT?
Knaus: Yeah, I'd love to do that. I think it would be a lot of fun. It's unfortunate that our NEXTEL Cup series kind of crosses into that and it's not a real good idea to get away from that. But maybe one day when I'm old and gray I'll be able to give it a shot.
OLD AND GRAY? JIMMIE DOES IT NOW Jimmie's got a lot more free time than I do.
JIMMIE, DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO GET BACK TO RACING WITH ELLIOTT FORBES-ROBINSON AND BUTCH LEITZINGER AGAIN THIS YEAR?
Johnson: I hope so. I would like to race the Fourth of July race-the Paul Revere race at Daytona. It would work well. I know Tony ran the Watkins Glen race. I've got mixed emotions about doing that but I'd definitely like to do the Paul Revere race if it all works out. I put my feelers out there with the Crawfords and we'll see if we can get something pulled together.
IS THERE ANY POSSIBLE WAY THAT STEROIDS CAN BENEFIT SOMEBODY IN THE PIT CREW?
Knaus: Oh, yeah, definitely. Whether it's being practiced or not, I have no idea. You know, when you're using steroids, if I remember back to my wresting and football days in high school, what that would do is just kind of increase your burst of energy and short term impact. Obviously, that's what you're going in a 12-second pit stop. But, honestly, I don't think there's any of that out there. If there was, I'd be surprised. Yeah, it could be a small gain.
HOW MUCH DID THE #48 SORT OF LEAN ON THE #24 THOSE FIRST COUPLE OF YEARS AND WHEN DID THE TEAM BECOME AN EQUAL PEER?
Knaus: You know, honestly, we started to contribute right out of the box at our first text at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We really tried some things that were a little bit different from the norm for the #24 car and for Hendrick Motorsports. We went to the race track-I believe it was the first seven weeks of 2002 season with the identical setup as the #24 car-and reason being, if we knew Jeff rolled off the truck and he was fast, we needed to be just as fast as he did. So that basically that put the blame on Jimmie and not on me. But beyond that point, after our first couple of runs, we'd see where we stacked up on the board and started going our own direction. We felt what Jimmie was more comfortable with and what I felt the car needed to be faster with. So, about seven weeks into it, that's really when we gained our legs and started running strong.
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN JIMMIE COME INTO HIS OWN?
Knaus: You know, as a driver I think he's developed into one of the best drivers that I've seen in the sport. I've been in the sport for quite some time. As an individual and a race winner and a spokesperson and stuff, as far as I'm concerned, he's probably the best out there. I don't think you're going to meet a nicer, truer guy. And he does his job right. It's very untypical of him to fly off and shoot somebody the bird or jump up and down or scream or act like a child or anything like that. So, I think he's got a good package.
ARE YOU GUYS SO CLOSE THAT YOU KNOW WHAT THE OTHER GUY IS THINKING BEFORE HE SAYS IT? DO YOU FINISH SENTENCES FOR EACH OTHER?
Johnson: I wouldn't use those terms. We're close enough to know how each other really works, lean on each other and get the most out of each other. That's more the dynamic more than anything. It's something that I truly respect in Chad that if he doesn't think we're headed in the right direction or if something's wrong, it's not that I complete a sentence or he completes mine, but we'll figure out how we really feel and figure out how to make it better. I think that's a key part to communicating, standing up to what you believe in. And having people understand it and see it with you, and that's a hard thing to do.
Knaus: I agree. I think Phoenix is probably a good example that ended up that way. You know, Jimmie could feel something in the car in Phoenix a couple of years ago that he really, really liked, but it's away from what would make the car work. I really believe that the direction in the race car was going to be the way to go, as opposed to what we had a couple of years ago. Instead of him continuing to pester, he just said, okay if that's what you really believe, let's go down that road. And we've had to do that a few times. And there's been times Jimmie's said, look I really think we're going the wrong way. And you know, we take and pay attention to that and go a different direction. It's not so much completing sentences for each other, it's more looking into each other's eyes and knowing what they're truly feeling. I think I know when he's pretty upset and I know when he's upset and happy, mad or whatever. I think that's what we've got more than other people.
YOU GUYS READ EACH OTHER PRETTY WELL, EVEN WITHOUT WORDS BEING SPOKEN
Knaus: I think so. I think he can look at me and tell if I'm pissed. Or mad I should say-mad.
THREE OF THE LAST FOUR YEARS AT TALLADEGA THERE HAVE BEEN CRASHES THAT INVOLVED MORE THAN 20 CARS
Johnson: I personally don't know what they can do, what NASCAR can do. When you're out there in the cars and you're drafting, bump drafting three wide and four wide, the cars are being moved around. If you imagine being on a boat and the wake coming off of a boat. When you try to cross that wake in another boat, it's difficult. It throws you all over the place. If you want to think of being out there with 42 other boats, and you stay an inch or two apart from each other, stuff happens. And it's very tough. NASCAR's in a corner where they can't allow us to run any faster to separate us because of safety issues of the cars taking off and we just kind of concede. We know that we're going to Daytona or Talladega and there will be a 20-car wreck and we just hope we're not in it. It's what we have to do there, unfortunately, and I don't think it's anybody's fault. We're racing hard. NASCAR, for safety reasons, has to keep the rules like they are. And we just hope we're not in the big wreck.
YOU GUYS WERE EXPECTED TO COME OUT WITH MOMENTUM, BUT THE #24 TEAM HAS COME OUT WITH EVEN MORE MOMENTUM. WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THE TEAMS SIDE BY SIDE NOW?
Johnson: I don't think that anybody plans, necessarily, to come out with a certain style. It's more of how the rules are playing into your setups. There's so many variables that move around that give a team or an organization an advantange. I think you're dealing with Jeff Gordon and the man's capable of winning a lot of races. He has and he always will and he's very aggressive. I think that one of the bigger stories is how Roush has been so competitive. There whole team has been more of a surprise, I would say, than Jeff coming out strong. Jeff's always going to be strong. Things are working right for those guys right now and for us as well. First five races we were in contention to win each of them. Last few weeks, it's been a little harder on us. But we're still up there fighting for wins and running really strong.
Knaus: I think that obviously the communication level between the #24 and #48 is as high as it's ever been. A lot of the sport is based on whether you want to call it momentum or confidence and right now both of our teams have a lot of confidence and momentum on their side. It's playing a big role into it. When a driver goes to a race track and he feels he's capable of winning an event, that carries a lot of weight. And Jeff and Jimmie both right now feel like when they go to a race track, they're capable of winning. Either they've won at that track or they've come close to winning at that track and the same with Robbie and his pit crew and the same with myself and my pit crew on the Lowe's team. I think that's probably the biggest thing you're seeing-a pretty severe level of confidence every time you go to the race track and that's really starting to play into it.