Chevy Drivers Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo, and Bobby Labonte, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Monte Carlo joined other drivers to discuss press conference setting the field for the Chase For The Championship: JIMMIE JOHNSON - Current...
Chevy Drivers Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo, and Bobby Labonte, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Monte Carlo joined other drivers to discuss press conference setting the field for the Chase For The Championship:
JIMMIE JOHNSON - Current points leader:
SINCE YOU'RE ALREADY LOCKED INTO THE CHASE, WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH FOR SATURDAY NIGHT'S RACE?
"We definitely want to go out and have a good night. We need to get into the points racing mindset. We've been very fortunate to be in the top five in points throughout the later part of the Chase and have been able to just focus on winning races. We've experimented with things that really haven't worked out at times, but we're back to the basics. It's time to points race. I think you've got a lot more to lose in a 10-race format that you have to gain. We're just going to do what we can to perform every week and take it from there."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE'S A BOUNTY ON YOUR HEAD AND ON JEFF GORDON'S HEAD THIS WEEKEND?
"What do you guys want the answer to be? Do you want me to say yes (laughs)? I think our sport polices itself. And if somebody takes it into their own hands to guarantee themselves a spot in the championship, not only will NASCAR address it but I think our sport has a funny way of working itself out. It's not like we're not going to be around each other for the next five or ten years. I certainly hope nothing happens. I think everybody feels the same. But if you put somebody into a situation where they have to fight and kick their way out, you never know what's going to happen. That's why you guys are asking the question and that's what makes our sport so interesting. I certainly hope it doesn't happen and we'll all find out at the same time."
SINCE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAS HAD SOME TROUBLE IN THE ENGINE DEPARTMENT, HAS THAT ALLOWED THE 400-POINT RULE TO COME BACK INTO PLAY?
"We do everything we can every week to perform. I think at times we haven't had the performance mechanically underneath the car. We've also had some troubles here with the engines and that's nothing that anybody can control. It's definitely allowed the gap to close. But we're in a sport where you have to be on the aggressive side.
"You have to be pushing forward to try to advance your race cars. And you can't sit still. We've been trying to make our cars better. The Evernham cars have been extremely strong. Mark Martin has been on a terror. If we sit still, we will be a 10th or 15th place car. We had the magic at the beginning of the year and through the middle. Right now, we're strong but we're not a dominant car. We're trying to advance our program. You stub your toes along the way. That's just part of it. Hopefully we'll have everything in line for these final 10 races."
DO YOU HAVE ANY LINGERING CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR ENGINE PROBLEMS?
"I think everybody is concerned - not only myself, but all the drivers. Everybody is pushing hard. The problems we've had have been different each time. At first I thought that was comforting because it was a freak deal and then now we've had some troubles for the last four or five weeks and it's been something different in the cars. You're always nervous and you're always concerned - especially when you're sitting next to something that's spinning 10,000 rpm at times. You're waiting for stuff to fly through the floorboard and you're worried about a lot of stuff. At this race and at Loudon, it's different than what you'd have at California. I don't think we'll really lean on the engines until Atlanta. Hopefully everything will be sorted out by then."
HAS YOUR RACE TEAM ISOLATED THE PROBLEMS OR HAVE THEY ALL BEEN DIFFERENT?
"The failures have all been something different. We've been strong performance-wise and have probably been a fifth-place car for the last month or so and we've had some troubles with the engines. But it's been something different each time."
BOBBY LABONTE - Currently in 12th place in the standings
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THIS RACE? IS IT BUSINESS AS USUAL OR DO YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT?
"I kind of hope it's not business as usual because we haven't run that good lately. That would not be the business that we need to be in. Our goal right now is, actually after last weekend, we don't have to worry about staying in the top ten. We have to get to the top ten. In order to do that, we have to finish good.
"Last weekend or weekends prior to that, if we could of run good last weekend for instance we could of stayed in the top ten possibly. Well we didn't. Before that, we were still working the top ten and if we had a bad race we could overcome that. Right now our business is we have to go out there and obviously win, finish in the top five to maybe have a chance at it. If we don't do that, then we don't deserve to do business there. Our business right now is different than it was last weekend. It's just the fact that we've been sliding down a slippery pole for a long time and we need to get back up there."
BRISTOL WAS SURPISINGLY LOW KEY. WILL IT BE THAT KIND OF RACE TOMORROW NIGHT?
"I heard before we got down there (Bristol) that this is going to be exciting and could be a record number of cautions and all that stuff. It wasn't. It was a clean race. How'd that happen? I don't know. It just happened that way. I don't think there's any rhyme or reason that it turned out that way as much as what possibly could be. We've talked about a good race before. How does a good race happen? It just happens. How does a bad race happen? It just happens too. There's no rhyme or reason to any of that. Why does Talladega sometimes go green all the way and sometimes you have ten cars left with full bodies on them at the end? It just happens that way. Bristol was just one of those races. I can't explain why it turned out to be that way. It just did. I don't know if it was because of the points or not. It just turned out that way. If we started earlier again tomorrow it might be just the opposite. It just turned out that way. I don't have a good answer for it other than that's just the way it turned out."
HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING HERE?
"I think it's just like every other week. I think it's important. It's going to be more important today than maybe it was than the first race here because you weren't thinking about it as much. For us up here, it's going to be real important. That doesn't mean that it's the end of the world if you don't qualify good. I think I was 28th here in the spring and finished third. You take what you get and then you go out there after qualifying. You make the car as good as you can and finish the race and see what you got. It'd be a lot more fun to start up front than it would be to be at the back."
WILL NASCAR SCRUTINIZE THIS RACE MORE CLOSELY THAN ANOTHER RACE?
"Let's just say, no but yes. We can kind of sit back and say they've been over-officiating for years to a certain extent. That's just the way it goes. Whether it's 25 points at Bristol (Jamie McMurray), whether he's (Mark Martin) been rocked with something before here years ago. Just going down the line, there's things that you wish wouldn't happen that happened. Tomorrow night could be business as usual. Sometimes it doesn't look that way but it's probably going to be business as usual. It's not going to be anything different. It's just going to be, go out there and race. I guarantee by the time it's over with, it's going to be nonchalant probably when it's all said and done. If something happens it's going to be no different than it was a few weeks ago with something that happened and a few weeks from now when something else happens and you're wondering what happened."
IF A NON-CONTENDER FOR THE CHASE CAUSES SOMETHING ON THE TRACK, WILL THERE BE ANIMOSITY?
"It could happen but it might not happen."