JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONE CARLO: "We're lucky being a Lowe's team driving at Lowe's Motor Speedway that the driver likes the track and that the team likes the track and brings a good car. If you look at the Hendrick...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONE CARLO:
"We're lucky being a Lowe's team driving at Lowe's Motor Speedway that the driver likes the track and that the team likes the track and brings a good car. If you look at the Hendrick Motorsports track record here, there has been a lot of success for Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte. It's just a good track for Hendrick Motorsports."
DOES IT HELP TO BE AT HOME HERE IN CHARLOTTE AND TO HAVE THE SHOP RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER? "Yeah, it's nice to sleep in your own bed at night. Everybody really enjoys that. For me, at Lowe's Motor Speedway, there's a lot more work because I'm the Lowe's driver. So of the three times we race here, this is by far the three busiest weeks I have compared to any other track. As much as I like to be at home, the workload seems to go up quite a bit. I seem to be working harder than I do at other tracks."
WHEN YOU WON THE $1 MILLION LAST YEAR, DID YOU INVEST THE MONEY WISELY OR GO OUT AND BUY YOURSELF A GIFT OR TWO? "I know I had a great off-season and I enjoyed it but I was trying to be smart. This time, if I'm able to win, I'm going to spoil myself a little bit and get myself something cool."
ON THE NASCAR DIVERSITY AFFILIATION WITH MAGIC JOHNSON "It sounds like great news. The guy has a great last name. It goes with mine. He's been very successful. He's an icon. I think it's great news. It's great to see the mainstream world - it doesn't matter if it's movie stars, politicians, or sports figures - involved in NASCAR. It's great that they like our sport. That's just another example of how big our sport is and the caliber of people that are involved. I'm glad to see that."
IS THERE A COLLECTIVE GROAN IN THE GARAGE WHEN YOU HEAR TALK OF NASCAR MOVING THIS RACE TO ANOTHER TRACK? "Without a doubt. If you walk through and just mention it among the crew members, you'll get a negative response. We all travel so much and that's all been well documented too. It's nice to be home. The family members can come to the race. It's more laid back so your crew guys can see their children and wives. It's really important to stay in Charlotte and I really hope it does."
ON ALL DRIVERS BEING ELIGIBLE NOW INSTEAD OF HAVING THE ELIMINATIONS "The new rules are going to change things a little bit. If you have a mistake, you can't choose to take new tires and try to work your way through because you've got 25 cars on the track now instead of the few that you had at the end last time. With the inversion happening earlier in the race, I think that's going to promote more racing and you won't really have anybody sandbagging because you have enough laps to get back to the front. So I think there have been some good changes made. You're going to have to be a little bit more on your game and not somewhere back in the pack during the segments. And with the inversion sooner, it's going to make us all run harder all night long.
DURING THESE COUPLE OF WEEKS, HOW MUCH MORE INTENSE IS YOUR APPEARANCE SCHEDULE? "It's definitely more intense with the home track and all the opportunities that we have to reach out to the fans and thank everybody for coming to Lowe's Motor Speedway. Also, it's a really big race for my other sponsors like Chevrolet. A lot of them use this opportunity at home to entertain people as well. So it's not just on the Lowe's side, it's really throughout all of our sponsors that make it a real busy week for us. The three weeks in Charlotte are busier for me than any other place we go to."
ON HIS RECENT FURNITURE SHOPPING EXCURSION "We found a place where you could pay for your furniture and the would deliver it that same afternoon. That is rare. Every time I've been shopping, it's six to eight weeks before you can get anything, so I never end up with anything. It's nice to have instant
gratification with my furniture. It's a house I've been in for quite some time. My fiance and I have wanted to go furniture shopping. Our basement is totally empty. It's been that way for years. There wasn't a thing in it. We just haven't had time to go shopping. But finally we did."
JOE NEMECHEK, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Brushed the wall between Turns 1 and 2 near the end of Friday's final NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge practice session and goes to a back-up. "The car got real loose and it slid into the wall. Unfortunately, we're going into tonight's qualifying session without any practice time in the backup car."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
DOES THE INTENSITY AND THE STYLE OF THIS RACE CHANGE AT ALL?
"No, not at all. It's an All Star event. That name fits this race. It's every thing that your team can throw together and put together the most awesome car, engine and package out there. I love this race, it's a lot of fun."
HOW DOES THIS ALL-STAR EVENT COMPARE TO ALL-STAR EVENTS IN OTHER SPORTS? "Our sport is so unique in itself that it's hard to have the same type of event. As far as I'm concerned there's not a race that we run all year that's more exciting than this one. I would say it ranks up there with the best All Star events of any sport."
IS IT EASY TO GET CAUGHT UP IN THE HYPE OF THE EVENT? "Today I'm just focused on getting the car running as best we can. I'm a little disappointed. We had a day practice and we're not practicing at night since it's a night race. There is a lot of build up and there should be, but from the competitor side it's just all about getting the car dialed in and going out there and racing hard. The intensity is there from the start of the race and builds as the night goes on. You get in to that last 20 lapper and that's when things really get intense."
ON THE MEMORIES OF DRIVING WITH THE OLD PAINT SCHEME "I can't really see what it looks like from where I'm sitting. You're certainly not going to miss that car. It's bright and always has been. I'm having a lot of fun being in it again. It's cool to bring it back and it symbolizes a lot of success for our race team and Hendrick Motorsports with the 20th anniversary celebration. It's been ten years since I won my first race. I think it's awesome to have it back out. I just wish I had the mustache and mullet to go with it."
ON THE $1 MILLION AND AFFECTING A DRIVER'S MINDSET "I think it makes this race that much more important. That's why things are more intense around here than it normally is. All Star event, no points, you think it'd be more relaxed but it's really not. This race is a big one. It's very prestigious. It pays a tremendous amount of money to win. Pretty much all the money is on top. You don't want to come out of here second or anywhere else. You want to be number one. We're working hard on that right now. Tomorrow the butterflies will definitely be there. There's not many races where you have the nervousness and the butterflies but this is definitely one of them."
ON MOVING THE ALL-STAR RACE AWAY FROM CHARLOTTE "I don't know how everybody feels. I think it depends on where we put it. I like it here. I love Charlotte. It's nice to be home for a couple of weeks. My preference would be to have this is an off-weekend and for us to do All Star race during the week leading up to the (Coke) 600. Other than that, I think it should always stay in Charlotte."
ON DARLINGTON "No matter what the schedule is, I'm going to focus a couple of weeks ahead and that's it. It's a much bigger deal for our teams, our truck drivers, preparation of race cars and trying to get cars to events. That's where it becomes a big deal. Where we go and when we go, I don't put as much emphasis on it. As far as I'm concerned all the races are important. I just want to keep Darlington on the schedule. I'm a big fan of Darlington. I wish it was a Southern 500. As long as we have one event I'll be happy."
ON DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY AT THE ALL-STAR RACE "I definitely think you're going to take some risks. When it comes down to the closing laps of any event you're willing to take risks to get that victory. Knowing the points aren't on the line, you might step that up a little. I'm not the type that wants to win anything by knocking a guy out of the way and putting him in the wall. I'm going to do everything I can to race hard and race clean and hope that I get into victory lane that way. You race people the way they race you, if you race a guy hard and clean and you don't feel like you're not getting the same courtesy back, you have to take things to a different level."
IS TONY STEWART RACING CLEAN? "He's been making some mistakes out there. I don't know if it's from aggressive driving or frustration. You have to ask him that. As far as I'm concerned I haven't seen anything that's like dirty driving."
ON WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK "He got loose and got up into me. I wasn't happy about it and I'm still not happy about it. I can't necessarily say that was from him being overly aggressive. I think it's a mistake he made. I think it's in his best interest not to make too many mistakes."
ARE DRIVERS CONCERNED ABOUT RACING NEAR HIM ON THE TRACK? "I think he's one of the best drivers out there. I think we're all concerned about guys making mistakes when you are around them. Some you can trust some you can't. I think he has dropped stuff down a notch in terms of the comfort level some of us have. I have all the confidence in the world he'll step that back up."
WHAT DO YOU THINKG ABOUT TWO RACE DATES AT TEXAS? "It doesn't have as much to do with the race track as it does the race car. I'm looking forward to going there twice. It's a big event. The fans in that area or the people that like to travel to that race track to watch NASCAR racing is big and they deserve a second date. I think that's been a case for a few years now. I'd like to see more side- by- side racing there. The only thing they could do to the race track is do what Homestead did and put some variable banking in there."
ON THE INDY 500 "I watched a little bit of pole day before we raced the past weekend. I'll keep my ears open to what's going on. On Sunday we'll watch up to the last minute until we have to go to the driver's meeting."
ON THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN RAY EVERNHAM AND CHAD KNAUS "They're still two different people. I think Chad learned a lot from Ray. I'm sure some of the qualities that he learned from Ray he still carries with him now. I think its more personality than anything else. Chad does have some personality traits that are similar to Ray. What I like about Chad is that the guy had to really work hard to work his way up through the ranks. The guy was a fabricator in our body shop and now a crew chief. He was obviously paying a lot more attention than we gave him credit for."
ON MAKING THE BEST OF HIS TIME REGARDING BEING ON TV LAST NIGHT "I rely on Jon (Edwards) to research a lot of that information and background. We get a lot of requests by newspaper, radio and television. We try to get our biggest bang for our buck. It's not importance, its impact for our sponsors. We know every year we're going to do something Totally NASCAR and we try to fit in our
schedule what's going to be best. We love to do things like the Regis & Kelly show and certain interviews with magazines. You know you want to put it in on the schedule and you try to figure the best way to do it that doesn't take away from racing."
IS IT EASY FOR YOU TO BE IN FRONT OF THE TV CAMERA? "I've had experience reading Teleprompters through commercials. We do a lot of videos for sponsors and different people. You have to have a comfort level on the other side of the camera. I do and I enjoy that. It wasn't always like that. Ask my parents about the first time I had cameras around, I was the shyest guy that there was. I've come a long way from that. I do enjoy it. I think over the years I've been able to get comfortable in front of it and have fun with it."