JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Won his third race of the 2003 season and completed a sweep of races at New Hampshire International Speedway. He heads to Dover International Speedway next week, where he swept both races in...
JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
Won his third race of the 2003 season and completed a sweep of races at New Hampshire International Speedway. He heads to Dover International Speedway next week, where he swept both races in 2002. It was Johnson's sixth career victory.
Johnson's victory was his third of the 2003 season and the sixth of his career in his 66th career start. He remains fourth in the Winston Cup point standings, trailing leader Matt Kenseth by 472 points. He is the first driver to sweep both NHIS races, and the first repeat winner in the last eight races here. The victory was his third top-10 finish in four races here, his eighth top-five and 12th top-10 this season. It is Chevrolet's 13th victory in 27 races. Johnson led 12 laps, including the final seven.
SHARE YOUR DAY WITH US.
"The way it started off, it seemed like it was going to be a normal day for us and we were going to race for the win and it would be between four or five cars. When that first pit stop came along and we had that contact on pit road and the 24 and 15 slid in and struck three of our guys.fortunately, no one was injured or hurt. They were shaken up, but they were able to still perform their stops. The next stop they did, they did a 13.7 on a four-tire stop. If you look at them, they were hardly able to speak a complete sentence, but they are trained so well, they could still rattle off a 13.7 stop. Everything was great with those guys, they were able to get back on their feet and finish that stop. That put us in the back, and this track is so tough to pass on. We just worked on the setup and started getting by some guys. I got into a little trouble with Ward Burton, just racing hard for position. That added some excitement for me as the race went on. Four or five times, he tried wrecking us as I was lapping him. He felt that what I did to him was intentional. That's the last thing I would do. I think, knowing my history in racing and how I race people, I'm the last one to run into anybody. It was just a racing incident, he was turned around and hit the wall and obviously upset. Dodging the bullet on pit road with our guys getting hurt, the 22 taking shots at us, I was still able to work on the car and make it fast and we did a great job on that. At the end, we did gas only and the car was handling so well we were able to stay out on older tires and bring it home."
ON THE PIT ROAD CRASH, DO YOU THINK THE YELLOW WAS NEEDED AT THAT TIME?
"I don't even recall what brought out the caution [debris]. When that happened, I couldn't remember the first part of the race with everything that went on. I didn't even know why were under caution."
WHO WAS THE THIRD CREWMAN INJURED?
"Our jack man, Chris Anderson. Everybody is fine. The one who seems like he's not really home is Ryan McCray, and he' s the front tire carrier, but Chad [Knaus] can speak for me, there's no one ever home there [laughter]. He's probably shaken up the worst. I saw Cory and Ryan on the windshield of the 24 when it went by. I saw McCray's feet but I didn't see him hit the ground. I think he was almost between the 15 and the 24. I saw Cory come off Jeff's car and hit the ground. I saw him do the quick check on his body, stand up and look everything over and then go back to performing his job. I didn't really see what happened to McCray. He could have possibly come down on his head. Cory came down pretty much on his side. Ryan possibly came down on his head and that's why he's a little dingy. I didn't see the jack man. I just saw the two on the windshield."
CHAD KNAUS , CREW CHIEF:
"McCray's got a bruised midsection, he might have a bruised rib or something like that. Cory Quick has some beat-up shins, from going up on the hood. Chris Anderson, I think he may have just bummed his knee a little bit. I was just out there checking on them and talking to them. They're going to go in for physicals tomorrow and I think they'll be fine. It's just a testament to the training and the athleticism that these guys have. Everybody says these racers aren't athletes. The drivers go out and drive their butts off for 400, 600, 300 miles or whatever it is, in 120-, 140-degree weather and then the pit crews go out there and get hit by race cars and bounce back up and finish their jobs while some football players get beat up on the field and have to sit out for a while. I'm really impressed with the guys that we have and the excitement and enthusiasm they have to be able to complete their job. They came back from the infield care center, and we did a four-tire stop directly afterwards, and that was a 13.7-second pit stop. That's just awesome after the trauma they just went through."
WERE YOU GOING TO ASSUME ONE OF THEIR JOBS?
"I was going to go in and change tires for Cory, if I had to."
DID YOU HAVE TO? No."
YOU DON'T HAVE A BACKUP TIRE CHANGER ON THE ROSTER?
"At the track, it gets hard, because there's travel involved, especially coming all the way up here. Sometimes, at the closer races, we have a little more depth in the team, but I've been slated as the backup tire changer if something were to happen, which is fine. Typically, it something like that happens, you don't recover. The team gets stuck in the back and track position becomes an issue. It's hard to get back, so it doesn't play that big a role if you have a 14-second pit stop."
DID JEFF GORDON SAY ANYTHING TO YOU?
"He came to Victory Lane and spoke a while with the guys and gave his congratulations throughout. It was a weird ceremony for the whole team. With the close call we had, I guess we haven't really recovered from that. Just look at how close three of our teammates came to being injured. It was kind of a low-key Victory Lane. Jeff came in and you could just see the expression on his face. He was worried sick still until he actually saw the guys and they spoke for a while. He did his normal congratulations and we congratulated him for being the owner of the winning car."
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THE SITUATION DALE JARRETT WAS IN WHEN HE WAS SITTING THERE ON THE FRONTSTRETCH?
"I didn't see it, but I heard some chatter between my spotter and Chad as to it could have killed somebody and that it was a pretty scary moment. When I came around Turn 4 and I saw what was sitting there, I figured they were probably two or three wide racing to get laps back. Fortunately, I've never been in that position."
DO YOU HAVE A SOLUTION?
"Just don't race back to the yellow. Until the rule is made where you don't, where do you draw the line? If the rule is there that you can get your lap back, you're going to try to do it. Luckily, we have trained professionals and everyone has spotters who are going to tell them where everybody is. I don't think that makes it any better, but it's one of those things we have to deal with. In one situation, it's a good thing and another day, like today in that incident, it's the worst situation you could ever have. There's arguments working back and forth from both sides as to what is the right answer."
DO YOU THINK THAT RULE NEEDS TO BE REVIEWED?
"We've been talking about it for years. There's always been an incidence of a car racing through debris, oil or guys that need medical attention, or the issue of the gentlemen's agreement. There's always been some issue that relates back to racing back to the caution. It's always been there and this is just another chapter in it."
WAS IT A LAPSE OF JUDGMENT ON JEFF'S PART WHEN HE TRIED TO GET UNDER MICHAEL?
"He wasn't aware the 15 was pitted there. He had no idea. That was where the problem was. He pulled under the 15 and tried to accelerate to his pit stall. As soon as he hit the gas the 15 pulled into his stall and they made contact."
"The reason the 15 was out so far is Slugger [Labbe], his crew chief, and myself spoke before the race and he was going to stay out as wide as he could to give our guys as much room as possible. What he was going was trying to give our guys enough room so he didn't endanger them. But what happened is that Jeff didn't know that was the 15's pit right there and he was going to have to turn in real late. They [the 15] were doing what they were supposed to do and it was just a misread. It was an accident, just one of those things."
WAS THAT CAUTION NEEDED?
"We definitely didn't need it. We were rolling along pretty good at that time and felt pretty confident. Debris is debris and NASCAR's going to do whatever they can to keep these drivers safe . God forbid, somebody runs over something with the right front and barrel into the wall because they ran over a piece of debris. From their perspective it was what they needed to do at the time."
HOW MEANINGFUL IS IT TO SWEEP HERE?
"It's weird. We were able to do it at Dover last year and then again this year at New Hampshire. Coming in there's a lot of pressure on you to do this. We had the same race car, the same things, we were good in practice yesterday. We knew all the ingredients were there. You sleep on it all night long and wonder how you're going to mess it up. It's really tough to do. Today, with what happened on pit road, I thought, 'we're just going to have to salvage what we can.' Chad came on the radio and said, 'hey, bud, you're 16th now and we need a top-10. We need good points, let's just get good points.' I was under the same realization that it was going to be virtually impossible for us to get to the front, but once everybody got strung out and we started passing guys, before we knew it we were in second. So it was meant to be. It's very hard to come back and repeat and I'm glad that we've done it. We're the first ones to do it in the 18 years they've been coming here. It's a huge honor, but a huge amount of stress for the last week knowing that New Hampshire was the next one all the way through taking the checkered flag."