JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - BUD POLE WINNER Note: This is Johnson's 4th pole of the 2002 season - Daytona 500, Talladega, and Lowe's Motor Speedway - The last time a rookie won a pole position at RIR was Bobby Labonte...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - BUD POLE WINNER
Note: This is Johnson's 4th pole of the 2002 season - Daytona 500, Talladega, and Lowe's Motor Speedway - The last time a rookie won a pole position at RIR was Bobby Labonte in '93. "This is incredible. This place has haunted me in the past. We unloaded off the truck and were really strong. Chad Knaus (crew chief) and the guys gave me a really good car. I don't know if Sylvester being on the side chasing Tweety helped me out, or what. But we're going to take everything we can. This is just an incredible accomplishment for this Lowe's team.
ON THE LAP
"It was a good lap. I was faster on the first lap, which was surprising to me. I thought the second lap was going to be a little better. I got real loose off of (turn) four and thought I left some on the table. But it doesn't matter. It's just a credit to these guys and the Chevy Monte Carlo. These guys have just worked their butts off at the shop and at the track.
"I think it's neat that we have an all-rookie first row (Ryan Newman was 2nd fast). Hopefully we'll scare everybody behind us and they'll let us go for the first few laps to get sorted out. Our Friday's have been real tough on the Lowe's team. From crashing in practice to qualifying poorly, we've had a hard day on Friday's. But we're always able to rally back on Sunday's and have a solid finish. I'm really excited to turn around our qualifying program and get a pole here. We've got four poles now. Two of them were at speedway races where I didn't have anything to do with it. It was the team. To get a pole at Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is one of the hardest tracks to qualify at, and on a short track here at Richmond means a lot to me and this whole team."
ON THE TRACK AND THE TEST IN JULY WITH DIFFERENT TIRES
"When we were here in the spring and racing at night, I think the track was fine and we didn't have any issues. But when we were going to restart the race the next day with the heat of the cars and the heat of the day, it started to roll up the sealer. With our entire race and then with all the other races and traffic on the race track, it's worn down the sealer and we're going to have a Richmond race like everyone is used to seeing."
HOW IMPORTANT IS TRACK POSITION?
"It's real important everywhere - and also for your pit stall pick. I don't think there is a track where you can say we'll be okay if we start at the back. It's just so important to have track position. And it's just so important to have a great race team, which I do. And we made the most of it today."
WITH 4 POLES AND 2 WINS THIS SEASON, IS YOUR TEAM STARTING TO EXPECT A LITTLE MORE?
"At the beginning of the season, we probably were expecting it a little more than we needed to. We had a flat middle part of the season and this is a great way to start out the last stretch running for the championship. Hopefully we can run strong Saturday night."
ON RACING FOR THE RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR HONOR
"I think it's extremely important - especially when you're in such a tight and competitive battle. Ryan (Newman) is racing every week for the win. We've been up there racing for wins and have gotten a couple of wins. To win the rookie of the year battle, you're going to have to be in the top 10 - maybe even top five in points - to win. That's an incredible feat in itself. Ryan and I have a friendship off the race track and respect each other on the race track. And it's been a very competitive year. I'm sure it's going to go right down to the last race."
DID YOUR QUALIFYING RUN FEEL GOOD ENOUGH TO YOU TO WIN THE POLE?
"I was going to take my time on the first lap and let the tires get up to temp and than really get after it on the second lap. So the first lap, I took it easy. The second lap, I tried. The first lap got me the pole and the second lap I was a tenth and a half slower. So, that let's you know how slow is fast."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO JEFF GORDON FALLING OUT OF THE GOLF CART THIS MORNING?
"My reaction was that I was going to kill my car owner with a golf cart. He got a little loose in turn one down there and his body personally got loose from the seat. I didn't think he was going to come off of it. Sure enough, he came off the cart and started rolling toward me. I tried to avoid him and miss him and I still ran over the top of his arms. What a way to start off the day - running over your boss and teammate. I'm just glad he's okay."
ON BEING IN THE HUNT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP
"We're still in it. At the beginning of the season, we did a really good job of not letting the championship race enter into our heads as a team. It just creeps in. We just kept telling ourselves and telling the media that we weren't paying attention to it, but you do pay attention to it because there's so much prestige to winning a championship and being a rookie team and all. But here, the last month or so, we've really tried to forget about the points race and just get all we can when we're on the track and let the points fall where they may.
"I had a bad incident at Bristol that cost us a lot of points. Last week at Darlington, we were able to come back and run up front and lead some laps and get the momentum back. We ended up 9th because of a flat tire. I think our momentum is coming back. Whichever way it's going is the way it's going to carry you. There in the middle of the season, it carried us down a little bit. I'm hoping now it's pulling us back up and we can put together 10 solid races and be in the middle of it at the end of the year."
"It's all about how the points work out. Ryan (Newman) has been so consistent and he's knocking on the door to win a race. I'm surprised that he hasn't won a race yet. He's doing an incredible job and deserves some form of recognition for that. If we were to win the championship and not the rookie of the year, he's well deserving of it."
-team monte carlo-