JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 10th: "Yeah I was just trying to mind my own business. I had the speed to run in the top five. There was a big group of us that kind of ran the same lap times and then the No. 60 (Boris...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 10th:
"Yeah I was just trying to mind my own business. I had the speed to run in the top five. There was a big group of us that kind of ran the same lap times and then the No. 60 (Boris Said) came in there and turned me around. It's unfortunate. I enjoy racing those guys coming out. I've known Boris for a long time but you get in those situations and those guys are so greedy and don't have anything to lose and put people racing for points in a bad position. Fortunately I didn't get hit. I was able to spin around and get back going. It's just unfortunate for us."
On the frustration: "Yeah, I made some mistakes on restarts where I'd give up one or two spots because I was so worried about racing the guys in front of me and playing offense, that I[d put myself in a bad position in the braking zones and then the No. 99 or the No. 31 got by me and I thought darn, here I worked my way all the way up there and I've got the speed to outrun these guys and I made some bad choices. So, I'm looking forward to Daytona. We've got a great car we're taking there."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF:
"We ran in the top five most of the day and then we got spun out and that hurt us. The car was okay but it wasn't good enough to pass when we needed to. And the lap times were pretty inconsistent. But we got a top 10 and that's pretty good. That's what we needed to do."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 7th:
"It was a good day for us. I'm just real glad to get through it without any incidents. We ran well. I got off track one time leaving the pits. That hurt us a little bit but nonetheless we fought back and got all but one of those spots back. I'm real proud of my guys. We got good fuel mileage; good brakes and everything was good."
Are you relieved to get out of here? "Oh, yeah. I came in here wanting a top 10 just because my track record here is terrible. We run decent but we finish bad. But we were able to get a finish today so I'm proud of that."
BRIAN VICKERS, DRIVER OF THE NO. 25 GMAC CHEVROLET: Finished 14TH
"Our GMAC Chevy ran well today. Starting 42nd, we knew if we could avoid the first lap mess that has caught me the past two years-- we'd have a good day. We just tried to be patient, picking them off one at a time. I think if we would have had just a few more green flag laps at the end, we could have gained a few more sports, but to start 42nd and finish 14th is still a good day."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 28th
GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF
Was there any warning that the engine was getting ready to let go?
"A few laps before it let go it started slowing down. We didn't really know what happened. Knock on wood, we don't have very many motor problems. Mark Cronquist and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing really do a good job there. That's really been one of our strong suits in the past. It's our second one this year. We'll just go back and look at it and see why and what broke to see if we can fix it for the second half of the season, if there is a problem. It might've just been a part that was bad and it was our day."
How tough was it keeping Tony focused when the engine started to go and he started falling back?
"He did a good job of staying out of everybody's way. We were just trying to stay on the lead lap there and be as easy on it as we could to try and salvage something. In all honesty, we probably would've been a whole lot better if we didn't have all those cautions because we had ourselves a pretty big cushion built up on a lot of those guys. But that's just the way it is."
The pit road speeding penalty wasn't that big of a setback, was it?
"Oh really? You come in second and you're back out 14th and you give up all of that under green. We were with the '24' and those guys and we had to race a lot harder to get ourselves back up there. We still did it. Tony did a great job. We had a pretty decent car today. We were best on the long runs and I think we picked up a lot of speed up in the last 15 laps or so of a run. When everybody else was falling off, we could really maintain. So I really felt like we would be good at the end. For sure, we were probably a second-place car, but we might've had a shot at him (Jeff Gordon) with all those restarts. You don't know."
How tough was it keeping him focused when he was battling Boris Said?
"It's just road course racing, short track racing. If they're not intense about it and getting upset about it then those are the guys you really don't want driving your car. That's what makes Tony who he is. He's fiery. He lost it for a minute but he did a really good job of getting it right back and getting back in his rhythm and passing all those cars to get back up toward the front."
It's been awhile since you've been to victory lane. Is it getting a little frustrating?
"I think it's frustrating that we haven't finished better than we have. We've had really good race cars.
From Charlotte to Michigan to the All-Star race, we've never wrecked this many race cars or had this much adversity. But it's one of those deals you look back at the year after you win a championship and it seems like you get all the stupid things that happen to you that didn't happen to you the year before. You know, we're still in it. Right now, it's survival mode, trying to stay in the top-10 and hopefully we'll get rid of all this stuff and have a shot at it at the end of the year."
Is there a tendency to punish the car when you're trying to come through the field like that?
"You may punish your tires or your brakes, but as long as you don't miss a shift, you don't really hurt the motor. With the gearing that they have and the gear rules they have, we never even hit the chip this year. And in the past when we've been here we've just been banging it off the chip. If anything, I'd say what we had and the way we raced, we probably were easier on it than we had been. We had the mechanical fan on and it never got hot. So you know, it's just one of those things. I'm sure it was just a part that broke."
Are you feeling good about going back to Daytona?
"I was feeling good about coming here because we won but we're leaving here 28th. So, there are no guarantees. The only thing it means is that we can win there again. We've won a Duel, a couple Shootouts and we won the 400, so I think our speedway program is strong enough to put us in victory lane if we can go and do our job and stay out of trouble and have no more bad luck."
Do you have any idea what happened to the engine?
"We know a lifter was broken, but we don't know exactly how it happened. We just know it lost a cylinder."
It seemed to be a pretty rough race. A lot of people were banging into you.
"Normally, we're up front and we don't have that problem on a road course. But you look at some of the good cars that were beat up - I got a chance to see all of them as they were passing me at the end - and it seemed like it was an awful rough day to me. The ones that I was a little disappointed in were some of the ones I have the most respect for on a road course. You got some guys who should be the best quality guys out here and they're the ones blocking and chopping people's noses off and this and that. It's disappointing we've got to have a race like that.
Boris Said claimed that you're still his favorite driver ever, but he wasn't going to give you anything.
"I'm not asking him to give me anything. But if a guy gets a run, don't drive him across the race track. Yeah, this is a road course race, but it's also a NASCAR race. This isn't European road racing where you block and run guys all over the race track. We're not going to do that. They're not going to do that to me. I don't care if they do it to the rest of the field, but the one thing I think we established today was that they're not going to race me that way. When Boris got a run on me, I didn't change my line or anything. He got under me and got the spot. But both times I got underneath him it was squeeze, squeeze and run me across the race track and tear up the nose of my race car and it ends up hurting the way the car drives all day."
Greg (Zipadelli, crew chief) says that you're having all the bad luck you didn't have last year.
"Seems that way. For sure, it's been a rough road this month-and-a-half. The good thing is that I'm hoping we get it out of our system now. We get it out of the way now and we get back on that run like we're used to. Today was just a freak deal. There's nothing you can say but bad luck to that. We were running well even with a beat up race car. We were almost matching Jeff (Gordon) lap for lap and I'm sure he was taking it easy and I was taking it easy a little bit. Jeff was the class of the field today and it was exactly what I said it was going to be. It was going to be between him and me. But as good as he was today, you weren't going to catch him with a beat up race car. You just aren't going to do it. He was just too good today. Getting into those altercations with those guys who were blocking all day hurts you. And that all was a result of me speeding on pit lane. I think we figured out what happened. I think I was in second gear versus first gear and the gears are so close together that it was five mph difference. It was a mistake on my part being in second gear, because I knew I was below what my tach reading was supposed to be. But still being in second gear was too fast, obviously. It was just a mistake on my part. Everywhere else we go we're always in second gear on pit lane. Coming in on that first stop I just didn't get down to first gear, I guess. The second time I came through I was down to first gear and they said the speed was fine. That's about the only thing I can attribute it to."
You usually don't get caught speeding.
"Hardly ever. That's probably the first or second time I've been caught speeding. Normally, I'm pretty good about it. Normally, I'm the one griping because guys are pushing the envelope and I'm getting passed running what I know is supposed to be the speed limit. It was just a mistake on my part today and I got us behind and got us in the scenarios we were in. But with the motor deal, I never missed a shift and never wheel-hopped the thing all day. From a driving standpoint, other than the altercations on the track, I was having a perfect day.
I've never had a race where I haven't wheel-hopped or missed a shift or something and had trouble shifting at some point during the race."
How was it inside the car with the engine smoking?
"I'm sure if you look at the chemical makeup of smoke that it's not probably not healthy for you. I've got to believe it's as bad as a tobacco leaf. We couldn't shut it off (during the red flag) for fear that it wouldn't start back up. We were sitting there idling the whole time, and the way the exhaust was on the right hand side and where the inlet for the helmet blower was, it was pumping it out and sucking it in and I was breathing it. It wasn't a very good situation. I can feel the veins in my head because that's how bad the headache is. I felt bad for Michael Waltrip because he was sitting in front of me and its blowing right over the top of his car. Poor Elliott Sadler on the caution before that was behind me and dropping way back trying to get away from it."