Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet will start from the pole during the Sirius at the Glen race on Sunday. Johnson is currently the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points leader and was awarded the top qualifying spot after today's qualifying session...
Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet will start from the pole during the Sirius at the Glen race on Sunday. Johnson is currently the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points leader and was awarded the top qualifying spot after today's qualifying session was cancelled due to rain.
Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet
ON QUALIFYING BEING RAINED OUT
"As a team and a driver you need to be ready to take whatever is thrown at you. If it's missing a practice session and having less time on the track, you have to be prepared for that. Fortunately I have enough experience at this race track with the two years of Busch experience and the last two years in Cup. I'm not sweating it too bad not having qualifying and practice for it. It'd be nice. We're definitely trying some things that we wish we could get on the track and play with and see what's going to happen. Obviously we'll have race practice at some point before we race. We'll get some stuff sorted out there. Having qualifying rained out, it's unfortunate. Here the skies are half way cooperating with us. The track and ground are so saturated that it's caused some problems. It's important to have track position here. You can't ask for anything better than the position we're in now. We'll have great track position and pit stall pick. We'll take it from there. We're in good shape."
AFTER WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BRICKYARD, THIS MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU AND THE TEAM TO START FROM THE POLE
"It doesn't hurt. Our race team knows what our agenda is and what we're doing from week to week. We were disappointed that the stuff that we tried last weekend didn't work out. We were surprised that we had an engine failure. We learned that is was just a freak deal, something odd that took place, something that we're not used to seeing at Hendrick Motorsports. We'll let that roll off our back. You have to at this point. We're just trying to roll along and get our package tuned in and have it exactly what we need for the final ten. We hate to not perform like we wanted to at one of the biggest races of the year. Fortunately for Hendrick Motorsports the 24 was on the money and was able to bring that trophy home for Rick. As a whole we're excited for that and happy for our shop. Once again, nine out of 21 wins out of that 24/48 shop is pretty impressive and something that our guys are proud of. It's cool. If we don't have the right day, the 24 is and we're carrying the Hendrick banner high and proud."
ON THE NEW CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND HOW IT MAY BENEFIT DRIVERS RANKED SIX THROUGH TEN
"We all know from watching different champions that you just have one of those years where everything goes the right way for you. As a whole you're able to capitalize and get a nice separation and bring home a championship. Obviously this year it's not that way. Where we're at with that cushion, we've been able to work on new things, new set ups, new engine packages, and just try some stuff so we're where we need to be in the final ten. We knew coming into the points race this year what it was going to be. I've been vocal at different times about not necessarily agreeing with it. It doesn't do me any good to gripe about it any longer. I've made my points. It's how it is. I think it's probably going to stick around with the way it's been received by the fans and the media. It seems to be creating a lot of energy. I've made my points. It's time to move on. I think we're doing everything we can as a race team to be as strong as possible for the final ten. At the end of the year we've got to be the best in the final ten. That's all there is to it and we're doing everything we can to be there."
DOES YOUR APPROACH ON THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHANGE BASED ON THE POSITION YOU'RE IN?
"That's what we were just talking about. We've been taking chances. It didn't work in New Hampshire, it worked in Pocono, didn't work at Indy. We're definitely trying to develop the best package possible for the final ten and take some sacrifices at this point to be better when the money is on the line."
HOW DID YOU SPEND YOUR DAY TODAY WAITING OUT THE RAIN?
"I spent my day watching my crew chief leave the NEXTEL Cup hauler and say 'five minutes, five minutes.' I jump in, get buckled in, get ready to fire it up and he says 'thirty minutes.' I climb back out and wait my thirty minutes. He'll come running over again saying 'it's time to go, it's time to go.' I strap in and get back out. I strapped myself in three times today. I have a lot of practice getting in and out of the car. Besides that just giving each other a hard time and visiting with some other friends throughout the garage area with other teams."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH BEING ON THE POLE? WILL YOU BE COMMUNICATING WITH JEFF GORDON ON THINGS?
"Definitely. I think last we learned a lot with the 48 team about our set ups for road courses. Jeff has a tried and true package that works at Sonoma and here. He's been very successful with it. Coming into the Cup Series, it didn't really work for me. We went off on our own direction and tried some stuff and didn't really have a lot of success with that. This year in Sonoma we came to the race track, very similar to the 24, and let me try to figure some stuff out now that I have more experience. I went to Bondurant and spent some time out there and learned a few things and became more comfortable at Sonoma. I've always been comfortable here and have run well. To make a long story short, we decided to come back and be just like the 24. Those guys were the fastest car here last year. They had some pit strategy that didn't work out for them and a crash coming to the checkered. At different points in the race they had a second advantage over the competition."
"It would have been interesting to see the two Gordons (Jeff and Robby) duke it out. It would have been quite a race. I know Robby was probably holding back a little too. Watching Jeff's performance and knowing that we were at different ends of the set up spectrum, we decided to come back and be like Jeff's car and let me go out and search and find what I need to. Since this is a familiar track for me and I know how to get around it, I can try to adapt the set up and go from there. That's what we were going to try today. With the rain being like it is, we'll have to wait until race practice, whenever that is. To further answer your question, track position is awfully important here. Pit stall pick is. Starting on the pole because of the rain out is only going to help us out in that respect. We were hoping for a top five or top ten qualifying effort, which I think we could have done pretty easily, but we'll take the front row any day."
HOW WILL YOU APPROACH JEFF GORDON ON THE FIRST LAP, FIRST CORNER?
"We may joke with each other about it. Between the two of us and the respect we have for one another and our desire to finish the race, I don't think there would be an issue there between teammates. I think you get different people around you that are very hungry for a win or to lead a lap. That creates some different situations. Last year Jeff got turned around because I think Greg (Biffle) was being real aggressive at the beginning which is Greg's style. Greg is an aggressive driver. It cost Jeff. I'll probably leave him some extra room. He'll leave me some extra room. We'll get it sorted out and go from there. We try to leave each other a little room especially in the opening laps. It wouldn't matter if it were Jeff or anyone outside of me. I definitely need to make it past the first corner before I race too hard."
ON IF NOT HAVING QUALIFYING WILL AFFECT HIM
"It doesn't affect your nerves. Practice wise you're excited to get out there. I really enjoy this race track. I'm a little disappointed. I wanted to get out on the track and grab some gears and have some fun. It definitely gave me an opportunity to harass my crew chief for being wrong three or four time s in a row so I had some fun with it."
HAS NASCAR TOLD YOU WHAT YOU CAN OR CAN'T DO ON VICTORY LANE?
"Not over that. Obviously with what happened at Pocono, there was some conversations had based on that. I've got a much clearer understanding of NASCAR's position. They understand the team's positions. I think there's definitely a way for everyone to work through this and for it to work out. As far as after Indy, I don't think there's been anything put in place. I think I heard someone talking about a procedure to take place for Victory Lane. If that does come about, I assume we'll all hear it in the drivers meeting Sunday morning. NASCAR has not approached the teams or the drivers or myself about a procedure that exists for that, so no."
BORIS SAID AND SCOTT PRUETT WILL NOT COMPETE DUE TO POINTS. WILL THIS DIMINISH THE RACE IN YOUR MIND?
"I really don't think so. If the road course guys had come in and had dominated the last two or three years and now they weren't going to be in it, that would make a difference. You look at Sonoma. Jeff was the class of the field. Jamie McMurray was all over Scott's bumper covers. I raced all day long with Boris. I hate that they're not going to be in it. I think it brings in some new viewers and does add some more respect for all of us non-road race guys to be road racing and racing against them. If you look at the stats, it's nice to see our oval track guys go door to door with these road course guys."