Phoenix II: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Jimmie, there's always this talk about this being like '98. You're turning into the new Jeff Gordon. Now, he's still your team owner. He was instrumental in you getting into cup. And you've learned a lot, I guess, by ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Jimmie, there's always this talk about this being like '98. You're turning into the new Jeff Gordon. Now, he's still your team owner. He was instrumental in you getting into cup. And you've learned a lot, I guess, by racing in the same shop. What would be the keys that he's instilled in you that you're using at this level?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, first of all, he would say it, too, and I don't want to be called the next Jeff Gordon. I'm Jimmie Johnson. I've always done it my way. You talk to him, you look at our driving styles and anything we do, we're on opposite ends.

So we do have some common interests. We've been close friends, but I'm not Jeff Gordon. So get that part out of the way. He has, I think when business men or yourself maybe with your career, you look at the guy that gave you that first chance.

It wasn't really my first chance, but it was my chance, it was my shot, it was Jeff. And Jeff was put in a position by Rick to say I want this guy to drive our race cars. They were talking about the fourth team and what was going on. And Rick came to Jeff and said you believe him that much, put some skin in the game. Let's start up this team, and put some partners in it and get Jimmie Johnson and put him in the car.

So I look at that and he gave me my shot. For him to be as open and honest about what things take place on track, and what to expect off the track and business and fans and sponsorship side, he has been a big part of my success. And I'd say, keeping me between the lines.

I've still got to get in the car and do my things. I still have to bond with my team and do all the things that take place. But he's got to understand the parameters of the sport so I didn't get off track to make any mistakes.

Q: Earlier you said that every point is valuable. Did you learn that lesson more than anything in 2004, that final race? Because at one point in that race you would have had the championship if you split by eight points. If you lose next week, or win next week, a lot of people are going to say this is a dynasty in the making.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Every point matters. Being so close at the end of 2004 or whatever, 5. I certainly do remember that. The other side of it and what we're becoming, we're not focused on that. We're just trying to get victories and trophies. We think trophies look cool in our office. We keep it simple. The rest will fall into place.

Q: You were probably four races into the Chase, a lot of people thought it was going to be a crime if he didn't win. But since that time you've stepped to the plate, and now it looks like it would be a crime if you didn't win the championship. Talk about how late in the year you've kind of taken over the role as a driver who has had the best season?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not sure what it is, why, or how it works out. But it's been what the 4eight team has had through the 6, 7 years, whatever it's been that we've been around. We've had an amazing year, and regardless of how this shakes out, the 24 and 4eight could not have done more this season.

All the victories we've had, and Jeff's been leading the points, I've been leading the points. I'm not sure if the 07 mathematically has a chance. So it's going to be a Hendrick car (laughing). With that funny comment, I lost where I was at.

CHAD KNAUS: I think that 50% of the victories that are possible for this year have been won by a Hendrick Motorsports car. So I think that's a pretty phenomenal stat. So that is a pretty cool stat for Hendrick Motorsports

Q: What is the history of the car you're using next week?

CHAD KNAUS: We go with the same mentality. We'd love to win at Homestead. We've never won there. So we've got to go there and try to win the race. The car that we're taking is the same car we won with in Atlanta. Same car we won with in Texas. It's one of Lowe's. It's a pretty phenomenal race car. We took the cobalt paint off of it, and put the Lowe's paint on it, and we'll take it to Homestead.

Q: One thing Brian (Whitesell) talked about is when they looked at hiring you; you didn't think you were doing differently things in cars that they wanted to. When you came into the sport, you seemed that you raised the bar going out on a faster pace. Now into the Chase everybody figures you have to be top eight, top nine type of finish. And you guys just got a top 5, and he's still not winning it. How challenging is it to raising the bar and staying ahead of game? Because it seems that you guys have kind of changed the sport in a lot of ways?

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I'm really glad that ?? I don't know, it's kind of cool that Brian would say that, and I'd like to be that guy. I'd like be the guy that's pushing obviously. But we always try something.

We unloaded here on Friday, and we had some stuff that was a little bit different, and we tried it. Showed some promise. Didn't quite think it fit the situation we were needing right now, so we changed it before we started racing. This morning we did some stuff that was a little bit different that we hadn't done in the past for the car.

So we're always trying to push and make our race cars faster. I don't know if it was Texas or wherever we were. And Jimmie came on the radio and said you must be pretty good, you're happy. I want to be the best race car, and I know we have the fastest driver out there, and I want to do my best to give him the best race car.

Q: What did you not like on Friday (Indiscernible)

CHAD KNAUS: I'm not going to tell you what I did, but?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We got scared.

CHAD KNAUS: No, it was good. We maybe pulled the plug earlier than what we should have. We talked about that. But there is a proper time and a proper place for everything. And it wasn't the proper time and the proper place. If we had been a half second faster in the field, it would have been like I guess we got him this week, but we try to be smart about everything.

Q: Before last season you guys got so close so many times. You won the championship last year. And now this. What you're going through, Chad, for you. I know you're in the office, in the shop every day working. What's it like for you to see all this come together and see how much success you're having week in and week out?

CHAD KNAUS: It's great. I love it. I've said it many times, I love my job. I do. I love every aspect of it. The thing I'm proudest of if you look over our history as a team is we've been able to battle for the championship every year. The thing that is the coolest about it is we haven't battled the same team.

We've battled, the 17, the nine7 the 24. Everybody's had their turn out there, and we've been the team that's been the most consistent over there and been able to battle for the championship every year. I love that. I love that we've got staying power. We can continue to do that.

That's got a lot to do with guys back at the shop. They continuously work. And evolve with what we've got. They talk about how I like to learn new things, but we have 560 people all trying to figure out the next new thing. So it's a pretty cool thing?

Q: How do you explain four in a row?

CHAD KNAUS: Very fortunate?

Q: What will this coming week be like? Will it be easier to get your guys to concentrate on the job or tougher? How will you approach the week?

CHAD KNAUS: Our guys do a pretty solid job. When the chips are down and the pressures on, our guys step up. It's been a trademark of our team. Whenever something bad happens or if we get behind in a race, they rally and want to do well. They want to prove their worth.

I think going into Homestead, it's going to be a business as usual weekend. It is a great racetrack for us. It's a track that we could potentially win at if everything pans out properly.

Q: To win this you're going to have to score ?? if Jeff leads the most laps you'll have to score 1620 points in the Chase to win it. The highest before this is 14eight3. It's just been that kind of a year. Everybody in the world has their own point system. Anyway you add it up, except the old way was to come out with you guys in any Chase you would win it. Do you feel like this system, that you've mastered something about this system? Or does it just reflect sort of the way ?? you don't have any secret here, it just seems to add up in your favor because of your pattern? And by the way, next we're bugging you about having that lull; just tell us to go to hell.

CHAD KNAUS: We know we've been in this championship hunt for a long time for a lot of years. We've learned, we've observed. We've paid attention. We've watched what other people do. If I could say that we had set in plan in motion at the beginning of the year and we knew we would come into the Chase and win four races in a row, there is no way.

I had a meeting with guy guys before we went to loud on, and I said we need to have an average finish of 9.0, to have a championship, and that was way flipping off base, obviously. But this team responds to pressure.

Jimmie responds to pressure. He's a great race car pressure, and the best out there. And we've got the best equipment out there. We're just peaking at the right time with everything we've got, and it's our job to make sure we continue.

Q: Not a lot of crew chiefs have one championship, very few have two. I think Zippy is the only current crew chief that jumps out at me real quick. Where does that put you? Where do you rate yourself? And maybe, Jimmie, you've got some thoughts on that?

CHAD KNAUS: I can't rate myself. I don't know where I stand. I think there are a lot of guys that are a lot smarter than I am. There are engineers out there, chemical engineers, flow dynamists, and a lot of people that know a lot.

I've been fortunate to work with Rick Hendrick and learn the most valuable thing you can learn, and that is simply use the people you've got. Use the people you've got to the best of your ability, and the success will come. As long as the people have something at stake, you'll end up with a better product.

And since 2005, I tried to live by that and work by that daily. And it's obviously working.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's always tough to talk about yourself; it's easy for me to talk about him. It's early in our career, and we have a lot of years ahead of us. But when Chad hangs up his hat. He'll be considered one of the best.

In six or seven years that we've been racing, only the worst we'll ever have been will be fifth in points. In all the racing that's gone on he's going to go down as one of the best

Q: This year NASCAR changed the Chase to try to include more guys. Try to make it a little more dramatic. Imagine what your lead would be if they were giving bonus points for wing races now. But the question is are you kind of afraid they may go make another knee?jerk reaction and change the Chase yet again? Because this year is probably been, of the four Chases, the one we're going into the last race is about the most dominant the guy's been ahead of the other?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think from what I've heard going on, I don't feel that we have any changes ahead. But I feel with performances like we've had in the Chase over the last few years, that regardless of the format, we'll be in contention.

And if there are any changes, we'll look at those things and try to prepare in any way possible to maximize that situation and those opportunities and just take it as it comes.

I think with race wins and things that we've been doing here lately, I don't think it would really matter.

Q: Out in the garage the last thing Jeff Gordon said after he got out of the car and did his interview was maybe he'll have to change his style. He can't drive the way you have the car set up and he's thinking about it. Is that him thinking about having to drive with the car set?up that you have? Is that an advantage for you? Should they go the direction you are going?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It might be. And what's funny is here in Martinsville, I think he's one of the best. I've changed my driving style to go more his direction. So maybe it's somewhere in the middle where we need to be. He's a very smart driver.

And if you look at the different generations of body styles from big front springs now to coil bind, you look through all the different generations of cars, Jeff Gordon has been completing for championships and race wins for all of that.

I don't think you can look at any driver that's been it for 16 years like he has, and been as competitive, Jeff is a smart race driver, and we'll change his style if need be to do a better job on the car.

Q: (Indiscernible)?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: As Chad said, 9.0 was the number we needed to have, and we've gone on a terror here lately.

Q: We've been told that you do not like to be compared to Ray Evernham. And if so, you're going to be pissed off for a really long time. Ray used to say years ago, he used to talk about football coaches and football with leadership styles. How important is leadership to being crew chief, and do you try to make yourself a leader in any kind of a formal academic sense?

CHAD KNAUS: No, I'll be honest, I do. I do read, I pay attention. I don't follow a whole lot of sports people. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time. I'll be quite honest with you. I don't have a lot of time to read a lot of books, I'll throw an audio book on my iPod and listen to it now and then.

But the person I try to model myself after is Rick Hendrick. Ray's a great guy. Ray's a good friend. I've got all respect in the world for Ray. He's somebody that's accomplished a lot. We were walking through the garage earlier today.

And I was signing an autograph and somebody yelled out cheater, and I looked over at him and said was she talking to you? So we've got a great relationship. But Rick is the guy that I really want to be like. If I could somehow develop the family value and the sincerity that that man lives by on a daily basis, I'd own it in a moment.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Ray Evernham
Teams Hendrick Motorsports