JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S POWER OF PRIDE CHEVROLET: "We learned a lot last year winning those first two segments. It kept us in clean air and we didn't really work on the race car for traffic. The first segment we fell in behind Tony...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S POWER OF PRIDE CHEVROLET:
"We learned a lot last year winning those first two segments. It kept us in clean air and we didn't really work on the race car for traffic. The first segment we fell in behind Tony (Stewart) and was racing real hard and trying to understand what or car needed for traffic. We made some adjustments after the second one, and then actually had to come back off of it, we overadjusted the car a little. We made sure that we would be caught up in the inversion in some way that would benefit us, unlike last year. A little bit of track position worked out for us, and the top was working so good for us. I couldn't even believe how good the top was working through Turns one and two. Usually if you're up there you're going to lose at least two spots. You could hang with them up there and carry a lot of speed down the backstretch and make three and four work really well. Great race car, great effort, from the engine shop, to the chassis shop, all of Hendrick Motorsports. Chad Knaus and this entire race team. And not to mention being at our home track at Lowe's Motor Speedway with the Lowe's Power of Pride Chevrolet, so just an incredible night for us.
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF:
YOU HAD SOME PRESSURE ON YOU WITH HUMPY (WHEELER) PICKING YOU TO WIN TONIGHT.
"We didn't really know what to expect. Humpy, he puts a lot of pressure on you. He even came down and talked to Jimmie and me before the start of the race to make sure we that understood how we were supposed to win this thing. It was a great, great thing. We came down here and tested. We had two cars, and the cars were virtually identical. This car was more the 'sprint' car as opposed to our '600' car which we're bringing back next week. The car wasn't the way it needed to be last night. Jimmie and I talked about it, I think about three o'clock this morning we were on the phone discussing the setup on the car. We made a bunch of changes to it. The team stepped up and really made some aggressive moves during the pit stops to try and tighten the car up after the car was free in the first segment. And then like Jimmie said, we wanted to make sure that we were able to play with the car behind some other cars for the setup for the third segment. We found out what the car was doing, made some more adjustments to it, and here we are."
RICK HENDRICK, TEAM OWNER:
"Charlotte's been a good track for us. We've had a lot of success here. This race it takes a lot of luck at being in the right place, and good cars. Tonight a lot of breaks went our way, but Jimmie drove his butt off, had a great car, and Chad made some great calls. The last one's always the best one."
WERE YOU SURPISED THAT ONCE YOU GOT OUT IN CLEAN AIR, NO ONE CHALLENGED YOU THE REST OF THE NIGHT?
"During the pit stops, Chad and I talked. I knew I was moving forward through traffic, but I didn't know who else was running well. I knew the '20' was strong, and I figured the '8' was playing his game to just keep transferring and hanging around for the inversion. Knowing that those guys were caught up in the wreck, I knew that we were probably the best car on the racetrack and it was about using our head from that point on. We worked hard to make sure the car was going to work well in traffic. I was behind Jeff (Gordon) for a little bit, and I had to pack a bunch of air under the back of him to get him off the bottom a couple of times. The second time I got a little bit more aggressive and made it work. I' glad he's as good of a driver as he is to save it. It's just neat to race with my boss and teammate like that, somebody I respect so much and to be battling for a million dollars there. Once I got in the lead, I've lost races before ASA Series by just dominating and taking off, and then abusing my stuff. I wanted to find a distance where I could manage and hold on to a distance where nobody could get to me and turn me around coming to the checkered flag. Once I got that I started moving up the racetrack and started taking care of the right front tire because I was starting to get tight - just in case a late-race caution came out. Because leading the race there was no way we'd pit, and I wanted to save some stuff and not make the same mistakes I had made in the past in other series. Fortunately it went green and we were able to cruise on home." (WHEN YOU GOT BEHIND JEFF, DID YOU HAVE TO USE THE BUMPER?) "No, I didn't use it, and I don't think I would've used it until the end, especially with my teammate. I've learned a lot about traffic and how you can position yourself behind somebody and change the handling on their car. It's been done to me many times. Jeff was already extremely loose, and once I tucked up behind him it really loosened him up. I thought I was going to clear him the first time I got underneath him, but he rallied back on the outside through three and four, and then I was able to put another charge on him and clear him going into three. That way I had all the room off of four to carry my momentum, and then we were able to go from there."
DOES THIS HELP ERASE THE FRUSTRATION FROM LAST YEAR WHEN YOU
DOMINATED THIS RACE AND THE '600', BUT DIDN'T WIN EITHER ONE?
"Yea, I think it definitely does. The win that we may have had last year in The Winston or that we may have had last year in the '600', they would've been great to add to our rookie season, but to be able to come in here our sophomore year, to win The Winston in the 'Power of Pride' Chevrolet and the U.S.O. is just tremendous. Jimmie drove the heck out of that car today. There's nothing you can say about it. He did a tremendous job. To be able to come here with a car that was pretty good, and then him take it a little step further to win the race, it's really gratifying."
DOES THIS HELP ERASE IT FOR YOU?
"I wouldn't say that it necessarily erases it, especially the '600' where it was all me that made the mistake and cost us the win. I try to hang on to the mistakes that I make and learn something. You just learn from mistakes. You have to play strategy in this race, and we were able to do it this time. I'm just very happy that it all turned out."
DOES IT MAKE YOU EDGY WHEN YOU HAVE TEAMMATES RACING A LITTLE HARDER TONIGHT THAN TEAMMATES MIGHT NORMALLY RACE?
"When a guy gets out on the track in this caliber of racing, you have to let them race. You hope you won't have one guy take the other one out, and I've had it happen a lot of times. Martinsville was one we talked after the race and said we don't need to be doing that. The toughest thing you have is when you have two cars and one of them takes the other one out. Richard (Childress) went through that at Richmond, and it rips your team up. You count on the guys to make sure that that doesn't happen. Hopefully they don't do it. But every now and then when you run at Talladega and places like that, and you get here and you're running for a million dollars - I really wasn't worried about the two of them, I was worried about Sterling (Marlin) and a couple of the other guys in there just being a big pile up there at the end." (IS THIS THE STRONGEST YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN TOP TO BOTTOM?) "I think so. When you look at the level of competition that's out there today, if you're a little bit off it makes you look bad. It reminds me of going to the fair where you try and hit the gopher. You know, you knock him down and they keep bouncing up. And soon as you think you've got one fixed, something happens. I give the credit to the crew chiefs. These guys really work together. You saw Joe Nemechek and Jeff and all of them come to Victory Lane. Jimmy went over to Joe in Richmond. We try and preach the chemistry, that if we work together and try to learn from each other, we'll be better off. I just think the chemistry and everybody working together has helped us. Based on the level of competition, this is the best that all four have been. We're real proud of them, and I give these guys credit because they have worked hard to get all of the cars up there.
DO YOU THINK THIS EVENT HAS OUTGROWN THE INVERSION ON THE LAST SEGMENT AND IT'S TIME TO RACE STRAIGHT UP?
"My personal opinion on that is that I think the inversion adds something to it and it's just something that's been in The Winston. Have it be something that's done on the frontstretch at the start/finish line, and it's a Keno-ball thing and a fan wins an opportunity to pull the winning ball. Just something where we don't have to sandbag for a certain spot. Make us race for it. I think it would be better for the fans, better for everyone. It could be from no inversion to a full inversion. Now you see a group of guys hanging around the transfer area where you think it is and playing your cards safe, and that's where all of the wrecks have been because everybody wants to be right there to start on the pole.
CAN YOU SEE A DIFFERENCE IN JIMMIE'S MATURITY AS A DRIVER FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR?
"Experience and being there like he was in the '600' and The Winston last year to find out that no matter how good your car is, if you have to start at the back of a 20-lap race, you're not going to get to the front. Jimmie's been extremely smart. I think everyone was amazed, myself included, last year with what he was able to do. This year he's just added on to the experience from last year. I've always been amazed at him to be able to talk around the track when the car is actually sideways coming off of four, saying we might do something to the right front shock, or we might do this or that. I've heard drivers where you can't see the car wiggle and they're screaming. You see Jimmie out there with it absolutely sideways at these speeds just having a casual conversation with Chad. I've never seen anyone with less experience do the job that he's done and handle the pressure he's handled. They were even in the van coming over here to the Media Center talking about how to make the '600' car better with shocks and springs. These guys right here are an awesome combination. You mentioned it a moment ago, it's all about chemistry, and these two right here are two of the best I've ever had."
DID YOU HAVE ANY DOUBT THAT THE INVERSION WOULD BE TEN?
"I thought it would be around six or eight, that was the gut feeling that I had. I don't know, I just had a feeling that the fans were going to try and pull something sneaky so we couldn't, in a sense, sandbag to where we needed to be. But I have to say, the front group of cars between Stewart, Harvick, myself, the '8' car, there was a group of guys that wanted to win every segment. I was getting sucked into that at a certain point in time. Luckily we pitted in that second segment late and put tires on, and I had to come back through there and I got my satisfaction of having to pass some guys and got us up to seventh, and that's where we needed to be."