Phoenix: GM - Johnson qualifying press conference

Highlights of Jimmy Johnson press conference for the third-place qualifier: JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO qualified 3rd: "Our day's been an awesome day, and I have to give a lot of credit to Brian (Vickers) and to Jeff ...

Highlights of Jimmy Johnson press conference for the third-place qualifier:


"Our day's been an awesome day, and I have to give a lot of credit to Brian (Vickers) and to Jeff (Gordon) for coming out here and testing. I know that they were both excited when they came to Atlanta last week and said we're going to have a great time here. So it's been that way since we unloaded off the truck and we've stayed in the top five the whole day, ended up third, and very close to first and second. If you look at the 24, 25 and 48, they're within a half of a tenth, which is pretty amazing to see. It's a great team effort, and I'm very thankful for the hard work these guys put into the setup."

COMMENT ON THE CHANGES TO THE TRACK IN TURN 2 - HAVE YOU SEEN ANY PROBLEMS? "I haven't seen any problems yet. It's going to be interesting to see in the race what happens. You now have a lot more room out there, obviously, to make the corner, so it's going to make the setup maybe a little easier to get right because you don't have to turn as sharp and accelerate up off the corner. I don't know if that's going to help with passing or hurt passing. I have a feeling that it might make it harder to pass because it's going to be a little bit more forgiving than in the past. The modifications they've done have been very good. Crossing over the tunnel, there aren't any bumps and it's very smooth. I think they did a lot of good work, but we'll just have to see in the race to see how it plays out."

HAVE YOU BEEN SURPISED BY THE SUCCESS YOUR TEAMMATE BRIAN VICKERS IS HAVING? "No, he's done such an awesome job in the Busch Series, and I know what it's like to come into the Hendrick family and drive their equipment. And being in a situation where you're the only rookie, and you have all of these great resources to pull from. There are drivers to get information from, setups, engineers, all of that stuff. I am surprised, but I was just walking down this road myself. I'm happy for him, glad to see it, and he's driving his butt off, so it's well deserved."

WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON QUALIFYING - IS IT A BIG DEAL OR CAN YOU JUST WRITE IT OFF? "In the past, I haven't been very good at qualifying, in my ASA days, even in the Busch Series. I guess when you're not very good at it you just write it off and worry about the race. When you're good at it, you put a lot of emphasis on it. Chad's been able to give me a setup that's been able to be fast and win a lot of poles with. There is a lot on it as the season goes on and there's an emphasis on pit road. It gets bigger and bigger. Having a pit stall where you're not going to get boxed in is so important and can save you four or five positions on the track at the end of the race that you don't have to deal with. That can put you in contention to win it. So there's a lot of things that go along with it. Obviously being in the Bud Shootout, whoever wins the most poles wins a lot of money from Budweiser, so there's a lot of things financially that go into it. But track position and pit road are so important that we really aim hard to be in the top five every week so that we can try and catch an opening. It doesn't always work out that way, but that's the way we unload. Last year we were just hoping to be in the top 15 and race from there, but this year we've raised our goals on that so that we don't get hung up on pit road."

WITH THE CHANGES IN THIS TRACK, WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE DO TO WELL HERE ON SUNDAY? "Yeah, the track has changed and I think the way we race these days has changed a little bit with the tires being so good and the fuel mileage issue coming into it. Hopefully those factors are out and it just comes down to having a fast race car. And I know we will. I know we're going to be in great shape and have great pit stops and a great day."

HOW DO YOU GUYS HANDLE RYAN NEWMAN'S QUALIFYING ABILITIES? "It seems like he's been the best at it for quite some time. It seemed like for the last few years he's really been on his game. It's a total team effort on their side. Their crew chief and engineers are just as responsible for it as the driver is. I think it's put a lot more importance on qualifying and a lot more people are taking the extra steps and doing the extra work to try to win poles more now. He's good at it."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO qualified 13th: "That was close. I knew it wasn't fast enough on the first lap so I really wet for it on the second. The car was loose getting in, so I had to wait to get back in the gas. I have to give a lot of credit to this GM Goodwrench crew. We struggled through practice this morning and finally got good on our last go at it. We kept that set-up for qualifying and it held up. These guys did a great job to get us to here. It'll be enough to get us a good starting spot. It's the best I've ever qualified in a Cup car here."

Highlights of Brian Vickers press conference as second-place qualifier: BRIAN VICKERS, NO. 25 UAW DELPHI CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO qualified 2nd: "Winning the pole would have meant a lot to me and to the UAW-Delphi Chevy team and having the Looney Tunes on board this week back in action, but we're still very happy with where we ended up. But the pole would have meant everything - especially when you've got the Bud Shootout and a lot of other things that come along with it. I've watched qualifying for the past year or two and I've seen how frustrated some of these other drivers get with Ryan Newman and I'm started to feel it too these past two weeks. I don't know what he's doing for qualifying but we need to figure it out. He did a good job. It was just so close.

"We came out here (testing) with Jeff (Gordon) and it helped me a lot and having the resources that Hendrick Motorsports has. Some of the biggest resources are teammates like Jeff and Jimmie Johnson and Terry (Labonte) to pull information from and that helps a lot."

DO YOU KEEP UP WITH THE STATS AND HOW YOUNG YOU ARE? DID YOU KNOW THAT THE LAST TIME A 20 YEAR-OLD WON A POLE WAS AT A MILE DIRT TRACK IN ATLANTA IN 1952? "No, I didn't know that. I have a lot of respect for history in general. I guess that's the way I was brought up. You can learn a lot from it. I have a lot of respect for the drivers in the past who have set those records. But I didn't really keep up with it. I'm very fortunate to have had a lot of support from friends and family along the way and opportunities that Hendrick Motorsports has given me to get here this young. But I don't really focus on that a lot. I just try to run my own race and try to go out there and try to earn the respect of the other drivers.

"Whether I'm 30 or 20, I think they look more at how you handle yourself on and off the race track and represent yourself and how you race them. To them, I'm just a rookie whether I'm 20 or 30 years old. That's how I approach it."

HOW WOULD IT BE FOR YOU TO QUALIFY FOR THE BUD SHOOTOUT AND THEN NOT BE OLD ENOUGH TO ENJOY THE FRUITS OF IT? "It would be important. When we started this deal this year, that wasn't one of our goals. If it happens, that's great. We would be very excited about it. That would give me extra practice before the Daytona 500. But, we're just trying to get as much experience as possible. Unfortunately the last race wasn't exactly the way to do that. But if it happens, okay but if not, we're not going to beat ourselves up on it because our goal is to get seat time and good solid qualifying and just be prepared for next year."

WHERE DOES YOUR CAR WORK BEST AROUND THIS TRACK? "I think the guys did a real good job and coming here with Jeff for the test really helped a lot. Actually running the Busch car really helped a lot with just getting seat time. When we went out there for that first lap of practice in the Winston Cup car, I felt like I had was already comfortable with the race track and the changes they've made here. It's made a big difference. There again, with the resources I have at Hendrick, I can go to any of them with questions like Jimmie or Jeff or Terry."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers
Teams Hendrick Motorsports