JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 2nd: "It's a personal bonus for me to come out of here with a second-place finish. I felt like I was as good as the No. 9 (Bill Elliott, winner) on the short runs, but on the long run...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 2nd:
"It's a personal bonus for me to come out of here with a second-place finish. I felt like I was as good as the No. 9 (Bill Elliott, winner) on the short runs, but on the long run I didn't have enough forward bite. If I could get by him I could maybe hold him off for a little bit. But, Bill was on the wheel and today we finished second with the Lowe's Chevrolet team."
YOU'VE BEEN REFERRED TO AS AN EVERNHAM SANDWICH. ON THE LATE RESTART, DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU COULD TAKE BILL ELLIOTT?
"I thought that I could based on the first restart that we had on new tires after we all pitted. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made some pretty aggressive moves with the air pressure in the tires and I was a little bit better than Bill. I thought maybe I could have gotten by him but the caution came out immediately. Under the yellow, his tires had enough time then to come up to pressure and I didn't have an advantage anymore. But I could stay with Bill for 30 laps. After that, I would start to lose forward bite and he would march away from me.
"My philosophy today was to try to get him as quick as I could - to try and get as far away from him as I could and hope for a caution and then stay up there. But it was a great effort for the Lowe's team to finish second. We've had a lot of seconds here lately and I wish we could move it up one more notch and take home one more trophy. In the big picture, we are second in points as we go into Homestead and we are happy.
"Today when we started off, I noticed the No. 12 (Ryan Newman) was the first one to have trouble. And then the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) had troubles and the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) was down a lap. And then we ended up getting by the No. 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and lapping him. He was pretty strong, but a pitting deal hurt him. We were just fortunate to not get caught in the pits like Junior did. We were a lap away from pitting. Luckily we didn't pit. Chad almost called me to pit the lap when the caution came out and just let me go one more and luckily he did that.
"We're trying to get to second place in the points and Junior has been extremely consistent. I know he's going to be tough at Homestead. Ryan will be tough. It's going to be a good battle at the end. I'm not sure how it's all shaking out here but I think we've probably got a top five (season finish) guaranteed with a little breathing room right now over third. We're just going to go down there and put in another solid day and try to be second in points."
ON MATT KENSETH CLINCHING THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Nobody knows what it's like until you're in that position to win a championship. Last year we were fortunate enough to battle for it. It's easy to say that they're points racing or they're worried about this or that. Well in the scheme of things, that's what we're all working for so of course he's worried about it and of course he's being careful. I'm happy for him that this is all behind him. He doesn't have to read any more articles or hear any more about it or answer any more questions. He can just go race.
"I know next year is going to be a good year for us. And as much as I'm looking forward to being a championship contender, I am not looking forward to the misery that vying for the championship can bring you throughout the year. It's going to be a tough year. You'd better be mentally ready for it. It takes everything to come into play and Matt withstood the mental challenge. His whole team did. And I think he'll be a great champion."
WILL YOU RACE DIFFERENTLY NOW THAT YOU'RE RACING FOR A TOP FIVE RATHER THAN THE ULTIMATE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Really, I've felt like the championship has been decided for eight to 10 weeks. So from the No. 48 standpoint, we're just going to do the same thing."
YOU HAVEN'T GONE THROUGH THE 'SOPHOMORE SLUMP' THAT MANY DRIVERS DO. COMING INTO THIS YEAR, WAS THAT SOMETHING YOU WORRIED ABOUT?
"I didn't worry about it until I read so much about it. And then I started to worry a little bit about it and all the questions that come with it.
"One thing for me is I've always moved into a new division after two years. So maybe my junior year will be the problem. I don't know. But it's always been two years for me in any series and in any car. So I knew my second year would be better. That's the way the pattern has been. Next year is a whole new year. It's the third year in the same car and the same class."
WITH SIX OR SEVEN DRIVERS HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO WIN NEXT YEAR, WHO DO YOU THINK WILL BE YOUR TOUGHEST COMPETITOR?
"Consistency is the name of the game. The last half of the year, from second through sixth in points has been littered through the top five every week in the finishing results. So I think those will probably be the favorites. It'll be interesting to see what the No. 17 has at Homestead and whether or not they've been playing defense and taking care of things to see where they really fall into play for next year. I don't think you can count out the No. 18 (Bobby Labonte) and the No. 20 (Tony Stewart). Those guys haven't had the best year this year but they're going to be tough too. I think if you look inside the top six or seven in points, that's going to be where the battle is."