NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Ford 400
Topics: Ford 400, Hendrick Motorsports
November 19, 2006
THE MODERATOR: How does it feel?
CHAD KNAUS: Has not set in just yet. It was a great weekend for us, a phenomenal season and I could not be prouder of this team, after the Daytona controversy there and bouncing back, leading the points for the majority of the summer stretch, winning Indianapolis and the 500, I just could not be prouder. I'm more happy for my guys than I am for myself because those guys have really worked very, very hard to get where it is that they are today and I'm proud of them.
Q. Jimmie credited you obviously, after the title, and you know, he said you kept to a game plan after the tough start, what kept you together and the team together, and yet also the team did bounce back to a second and a win, in those next races.
CHAD KNAUS: You know, we were in a very fortunate situation obviously leading up to the Chase because we were so high up in points. So we were able to start our developmental work for the final ten races very early in the season. A lot of wind tunnel testing, a lot of testing and a lot of things of that nature and we were able to get our bullets lined up the last ten races. We were prepared and more prepared than what we had ever been. We were rested and fresh and we were really looking forward to it.
It got kind of to the point where it was a bit of a lull in the season as you go through those first 26 races just because -- we were leading the points. So everybody was really jazzed up and ready to go racing and I was myself and Jimmie was. It was unfortunate we had an issue there but we went to the next race and said, okay, this is how we're going to approach it, and we had some issues there, and I think we went to Kansas, had a phenomenal race car there and had some issues. Went to Talladega, had a phenomenal race car there.
Every racetrack that we had a plan for and stuck by our guns on, we had great race cars and that's something I'm proud of that we were able to plan ahead and that worked out well and we would not have been in that situation if we were not leading the points in the summer stretch.
Q. When things went wrong -- inaudible -- and you didn't bounce back, what was the difference this year?
CHAD KNAUS: I don't agree with that completely. We won four races in the final ten races a couple years ago when Kurt Busch won the championship, we were hitting on all cylinders. The big difference between this year and that year is nobody had any major issues in that Chase and we went through our typical fall Talladega race or crashed out or blew an engine or whatever it was and had some issues and had to overcome that.
Last year I think we pushed maybe harder than what we needed to through the summer to try to get some things going and I made a huge transition personally with the help of Mr. Hendrick, as to how I needed to approach this year as a leader instead of just being a crew chief. I think that was a big thing.
Q. Did that transition go easier than you imagined it would be when you and Rick talked about it during the off-season?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, it did, because, you know, I think it would be hard for somebody that did not want to get better; that did not want this. And this is the only thing that I've ever dreamed of my whole life. I remember laying in bed when I was a teenager watching Dale Earnhardt winning the championship thinking one day I want to be crew chief of what was then the Winston Cup, the champion crew chief of Winston Cup. I wanted it so bad that I knew that I needed to make some adjustments to make the feel like they were more a part of it.
If we had won a championship in the first four years the team would not have felt as large of a part of it as what they do this career and I'm happy for that because those guys have worked hard for it and they have done a good job. They all bought into it and there's blood, sweat and tears by every party, not just as an individual, Jimmie and myself.
THE MODERATOR: Right now we are joined by our team owner, championship team owner, and that's Rick Hendrick. It's his sixth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship as a team owner, and Rick, talk about how this one feels.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, they all are really special, and I think this one feels especially good because how close Chad and Jimmie have been the last couple of years and to be able to get this one to Jimmie and then our sixth overall is great, a great feeling here to night.
THE MODERATOR: Opening comments now from our 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, congratulations goes out to Jimmie Johnson driver of the 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Jimmie, how does it feel?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's unbelievable. I've been working my whole life to get in this position to be a champion, it's what I've always wanted to be, and to now be a champion means the world to me. I've got to thank Chad, Rick, Lowe's, everybody for their support, and really growing this team.
Chad and I have been through this, this is our fifth season together and Chad really has steered this team and developed the crew guys and developed what we have as a core race team and I can't think him enough for being not only a great leader but a great friend. I thank Mr. Hendrick, I guess it goes back to Ricky Hendrick, and Ricky talking to Rick about he has a potential driver many years back and I just can't thank Rick and Jeff enough for giving me this opportunity and I'm so happy to be here.
Q. Six titles now ties with you Richard Childers, he did it with one driver and you have yours with three; talk about that accomplishment?
RICK HENDRICK: It feels good. All of them are special and I've been very fortunate to have great talent in the cars and I think it's a credit to the organization for trying to put good cars together. But the way that the organization has worked together, all of the teams working together I think has proved this year with everybody winning the race, everybody winning a pole, and Jimmie has driven at track meetings with the drivers, crew chiefs, and even made the whole deal stronger.
So it's really etch exciting to be able to do that with three different guys, and hopefully we're going to have a lot more to come.
Q. Matt Kenseth said after the race that based on the way you have run the last four years, you guys are deserving of winning this title and that's a sentiment echoed by many of your peers, how does it feel having that burden removed of being the best team not to have won the championship?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't see it as a burden and I don't think anyone on our race team does. It's our fifth season together. We look at it as a compliment to hear that response. People thought and expected a lot out of us as a race team from the beginning. We never felt a burden. Don't get me wrong, we didn't want to miss an opportunity when we were in the position to become a champion. We've just been happy to win races and have the season we had. We're very proud of what we did, and I'm not saying we wouldn't have been happy if we didn't win the championship but after a couple days went by we would be able to look back and be proud of what we've done. Now that we've won that, title can't linger around any longer.
Q. In November 1996, Rick, you were diagnosed with leukemia and you beat it. You got through the plane crash. In your quiet moments over the next few weeks, how is this title going to be put into perspective?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, yesterday the 18th was the ten-year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with leukemia, and I talked to Jimmie and Chad that night. I said, you know, one of the things we say, I say a lot is, "it's not life-threatening." If we don't win this, we want to be in a position to come back and compete next year and keep your chins up if we don't, if something happens out of our control and we don't win.
I think this one is really special. Everything was very emotional after the crash and in 2004 and losing my son and my family members and brother and Randy who was such a big part, Jeff Turner, everyone on that plane and organization; to give Jimmie and Chad, just give the whole organization credit for pulling together and stronger and more determined to honor those that are not here by working hard and giving me the strength to keep doing it.
And Linda is here, my wife, and we went to (Hendrick) Motorsports I think a week after the accident and when you walked in, you knew that we had to go on. It's been a rough couple of years, but I appreciate all the support from the whole racing community and tonight is a special day for the organization to show that the strength of the ones that are here that can carry on and carry the torch. And I'm real proud of them and I appreciate what they have done.
Q. Chad, a technical detail about what appeared to be a near miss in the pits for y'all, can you just talk about the way things unfolded when Jimmie nearly pulled out that signal when apparently one lug nut was still loose; could you talk about how you sensed it or spotted it and whether if he had gotten out of there, if it could have been extremely costly?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, that would.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we would have lost even more track position than what we had but that's something that happens probably 50 times during the event with various teams, and it was just our front tire changer missed a lug nut and the jack was dropped. Jimmie was about to take off. As he was taking off, I was watching the guy trying to get the lug nut on before the car pulled off and he had "go, go, go, stop, stop, stop," so he had to stop real quick.
We try to be aware of what's going on during the pit stops to make sure we don't have issues. A lot of things can happen during the pit stops that can cost you whether the car is outside of the pit box or a loose lug nut or something along those lines. Those guys very rarely make a mistake and they are a phenomenal pit crew. It was just a little slip up and we overcame it very well.
Q. After the Talladega race, what did you think really your chances were of winning the championship this year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It was bleak, obviously, but the thing that I can remember walking to the shop the next day, guys were all bummed up and you could see heads hung pretty low and I just went around to all of the guys on the shop and slapped them on the back and picked them up and said, that's a lot going on right now. The competition is so strong in the NEXTEL Cup right now that it's easy for somebody to have to go out there and either drive over their head or have an engine problem, and I knew we had a lot of opportunities and there was a lot of opportunities left. We had overcome a deficit like that before and I knew we could do it and I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. We had the road laid ahead of us and we were very fortunate to be able to go out there and win and get us a couple of seconds and that was nice.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, your thoughts about that? And also I'll ask Rick to comment on that, too.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was more disappointed in the opportunity to gain some points on the 31 at the time. He seemed to be in control of the Chase and he had a bad day. I just didn't feel like there would be a lot of opportunities. We can all look back to this Chase and see, it's tough for anyone to be consistent at the beginning. I knew at some point someone was going to be consistent and I felt like that an opportunity existed to gain on the 31.
But we ended up putting the consistency see together and going on a tear after that and took care of the problem ourselves. I was nervous. I just knew somebody sooner or later somebody was going to be on that consistent tear and I was just hoping it was us.
THE MODERATOR: Rick, could you comment on that, too, please?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I can't say much to what these guys said. Talladega as they recall was a nightmare, that you have a guy in the Chase and one of your other cars takes them out intentionally or unintentionally; in that case it was unintentionally. What I was concerned about, if we could put it behind us immediately and give Jimmie credit, he went to the 25 shop two days later and congratulated the crews and we got that behind us in a hurry. You know, several times during this Chase, we've said, hey, let's just go out there and win races and let it take care of itself because it looked like we were down for the count a couple of times. Just credit to these two guys, just never give up. I think that that attitude and not getting rattled is just maybe the two years that we came close and didn't get it. I think that was our whole attitude.
Q. Mr. Hendrick, over the last decade a lot of things have happened in NASCAR that have tightened up competition, made the cars run closer and sort of taken things out of the teams' hands a little bit. Is it more frustrating as a team owner or tougher to know that you simply -- that there's less in control than there used to be in?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, definitely, I think in the past, if you had an advantage, you could probably keep that advantage through the year or maybe at least four or five, six races. Today the competition is so, so fierce. If you take a car to the track that you just won the race and dominated with four, five, six, eight weeks ago, even back to the same track, you may be a couple of tenths off. I mean, everybody in that garage area, there's 25 teams that they are capable of winning a race. And when you see guys like Tony that didn't make the Chase or the 12 and the 2 and Greg Biffle, the 16, look how he ran today; it's just, you've got to be on your game every single week, and you can't be -- as good as you were is not good enough. And NASCAR is going to make sure that box stays tight and the Chase just even adds to it even more.
So you just can't count anything until it's over.
Q. A couple of years ago, you talked about that when you were a boy dreaming of a racing career, you really didn't think about NASCAR. You said even your dreams were based a little bit in reality and that seemed to be way out there. Could I get you just to comment a little bit on this path that you've come from, so far away from a NASCAR background to where you are today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I look back and I remember as a kid, I was racing dirt bikes and I wanted to be like Rick Johnson and Bob Hannah was big at the time and Jeff Ward and those guys, and that was my goal, to race motorcycles. I did that for awhile and through all the broken bones, got off the bikes and found my way into the off-road buggies through a lot of work for my dad, he gave me that initial start. Once that got going, I really had to reform to get my next break and keep things moving on. It just seemed like such a long road ahead of me.
NASCAR was not on the network television stations like it is now. I went to Riverside once when I was young, actually watched Mr. Hendrick drive, walked all the way around the track, hung out around the fence and eight hot dogs as kids do. It seems so far away, in southern California, I watched Rick Mears, Bobby Gordon with Indy cars. With Chevrolet's guidance my career started to develop and they were pulling out of IndyCar, and at that point, I thought, wow, I'm going to go into stock car racing but I still didn't realize I had eight years ahead of me still, maybe nine years, before I found my way to where we are today.
So it's just been a long road, and I'm a realist and I have high hopes, but I just didn't really think that I could get this car from where I came from. It's just such a long, long road, and it's been a lot of people that believed in me. Just looking back on this, celebrating and moving forward, I'm going to continue to thank and remembering names, it's been a long, long road and a lot of people have believed in me and given me this chance.
Q. At one point you said something, you knew this was never going to go smoothly for you guys, you had the hole in the radiator, and you and Chad, I heard you guys on the radio back and forth with each other but the process of trying to stay calm?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I just casually mentioned it, I wanted somebody to look at the balance and make sure we didn't knock the balance off the car, I'm not sure if it was a spring rubber or what it was, but it was something dense. That was the start of it and we had the little error on pit road with the lug nut and then the two tire stuff that was going on made life tough as well and finally again, whatever the 17 does, we're going to do the same. Because it was so tough and draining to try to figure out what to really do at that point.
I think our pit pick was a very smart decision on Chad's behalf, the guys could come in and start making their stops and we had a little bit of time to react to what was going on. He changed the call a couple of times and keeping that track position was very important and we didn't have it early but as the race went on we did a good job.
Q. What did you say to these two at the end of last year to keep the ship sailing, because it's no secret that the relationship had soured and obviously, it was for good reason; that they stayed together?
RICK HENDRICK: Why did you ask me that question? (Laughter) No, seriously, any time you try hard and you come up a little short, and it was kind of the first time for both of them, and it was a decision we had to make, they really had to make it; did they want to be together. And if we were going to come back and compete, Chad had to pace himself, and I'll say this about Chad, he is the hardest-working guy I've ever seen. He works night and day. When he's in that couch, he's studying shock charts, he's working, working, working, and I was afraid that Chad was going to burn himself out.
So Jimmie, you know, wanted to get along, the pressure was getting to both of them and it wasn't any sense in starting the year if they were not committed to making it work.
So we sat down and tried to look at what had happened to us and how we can be better and giving more guys responsibility and trying to take a deep breath and I just applaud both of them. They made that decision, and they have just -- when things got tough this year, they cinched it up between the two of them. I've seen Chad tell Jimmie, "Hey, man, things are going to be great." And I've heard Jimmie tell the same to Chad. I think it's just one wanting to make it work and making that decision at the end of the year last year, and I'm real proud of them because we went through some pretty tough times and some times where you could point fingers or get just -- let the pressure get to you and they never did this year. I think that's why they rebounded so tough in the case, and that's as good of a combination as I've ever had in racing.
Q. Jimmie, the last two winners of the Chase have struggled to defend their title. This year you managed to win the sport's three biggest prizes; The Championship, Daytona and Indianapolis. What do you guys do for an encore, how do you keep that fire burning, and not let what happened to the last two champions happen to you and not defend your title?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Better answer that that question in Daytona. Right now I'm just worried about getting a cold beverage and celebrating. I'm not even considering next year. We are going to enjoy this and just focus on what we've done tonight and this season.
Q. From the very beginning, actually before the very beginning, you have repeatedly said, this was your year, and even when you fell down in the Chase, you didn't concede as so many people did wrongly. Is this the way you feel every year, is it a matter of if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, or is it something beyond that in this conquest that this is your year that you've expressed all season long?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm not sure I necessarily called it as my year, but I can say that our fifth season being together, and maturing together, Chad and I, last year at the end of the season, we just pushed so hard that there was no question that we were going to come back and work together. Just we needed to figure out a new format to do it. He has the utmost trust and faith in me and I have the same in him. This year we needed to have a different approach.
As the year went on, Chad did a phenomenal job of pacing himself, building a crew of guys around him that he trusts and believes in that could take some pressure off of him and let him focus on right areas and when he got to the Chase we had the speed that we hoped for and that's really where my confidence came from, that we had our cars lined up, our patch figured out, we were not on our heels, we were applying pressure and racing for the championship instead of just trying to hang on. That was just -- it's been five years preparation to get to that point, maturing as a team, maturing as driver, crew chief, pit crew, all of the details that it takes. That's really where my confidence came from was we did things right.
We got a slow start to the Chase but we still fell back on the fact that we were fast in all of those races and we were not on our heels. We were putting pressure like we needed to and we were racing like we needed to. That's what kept us motivated and kept us going because we knew we were playing everything out right.
Q. Did you set the car up specifically to run best on the bottom of the track, and at what point did you decide that that would be to your advantage?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: In the test I found the bottom was a little bit -- a little bit more comfortable for me for whatever reason and I'm not typically a bottom-chaser or bottom-feeder or whatever it's called. At times today when I moved up, I didn't feel like I have made up a lot of time or picked up a lot of speed so I just went back down to the bottom and -- and I wasn't losing a lot in front down there. I think some guys were making, were a little faster than us around the top but for what I needed to do today, the bottom was where I wanted to be. A lot of guys could not run down there, so I had a lane where I could keep air on the nose and keep the car turning like I needed to.
Q. There's always the risk of the wrong guy winning but the last two years, the best team and the best driver have won the championship. What does that say about the Chase and what they should look into doing going forward?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, it's worked out, I believe in my personal opinion, the Chase needs to pay more points for wins. That's my opinion. And I would like to see a bigger spread between tenth and first, the guy that gets in tenth, versus the guys first; more points there.
But it's hard to argue with the success that we've had with the Chase, but I do think it's all about winning races, and I think both in the regular season and in the Chase, I think that there should be more points for wins.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it's tough to really evaluate. I mean, you look back to Kurt Busch's season, he didn't have the best getting started but in the Chase he was rock solid. I really think that if you have ten cars and you rerack, and you give all ten an opportunity, or next year it opens up to 15 or whatever it may be, there are a lot of great race teams in this sport and when you start it over after 26 races and such a small spread, anybody is dangerous, anybody has potential to win.
Q. In 2004 and 2005, you had led most of the season in the points, like 26 weeks atop the points, it was always during the month of February, March, April, May, June, July; to have not been able to close it out those years, how hollow did it feel at the end of those and can you compare it with this year where you led and this time you were able to get it done?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: 2004 was tougher on me because I felt we were very competitive had some bad luck but we were racing our way back into it and I felt like 2004 was the year for us. Last year we got a decent start and we kept pace with Tony and those guys were just out performing us and we were -- it wasn't a big hollow empty feeling and it felt terrible not having a chance to fight for it. But 2004, there were periods in the race out here, where I thought, this is it, it's going to happen, I have a tingling feeling and I look up in my mirror with the closing laps and the 97, I couldn't get rid of him. That year was more painful than last year.
Again, I just want to say it again, we have been building a team to be a championship team, and take the expectations as a compliment. 2004 we were close, and last year we felt we should be there; and that's three of four of our existence. We've done an awesome job in a short period of time.
Q. Being a champion, what does that mean to you not only on the track but now you become the face of NEXTEL Cup next year, doing all of the interviews and stuff, how do you feel about?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's a huge honor to represent our sport and to be the champion. It's going to sink in and I'm really, really going to enjoy this experience. I've been jealous the last four years watching the different champions go through banquet week and the things that go on, and I've just wanted to be in that position.
Now I'm in that position and it's just going to be a huge honor and a lot of fun and I'm going to make the most of it, have a great time and represent our sport to the best of my ability. It would be a huge honor because this is the biggest form of motorsports in our country and the biggest sport here. So it's a huge honor and we have to do a great job representing our sport.
Q. You said something pretty unbelievable, this is as good of a combination as I've had in racing when you look at Mr. Evernham and Jeff Gordon's success. Now when you look at them, as you say that, what do you expect of them, what do you think they are capable of, and in this day and age, can you really not expect what happened before?
RICK HENDRICK: I think Ray and Jeff are a great combination. But the sport is tougher right now. It's more competitive. With the Chase format, you know, putting the ten guys back together and reshuffling the deck, it's going to be harder to win championships. I'm not saying it was easy back when Jeff and Terry won and Ray and Jeff had that run. But to be as competitive as these guys are week-in and week-out with the garage area as tough as it is today and the points system like it is, I think they are as good as I've ever seen.
Q. You came back from the pre-Daytona stuff to win the Daytona 500, you came back from Kansas to win; you remember back in Daytona when you said this -- I dedicate this win to the 48 team haters; if you haven't turned them into lovers, do you think you've at least earned their respect?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's all that you can hope for and that's all I can hope for. I look forward to next year just in the garage area, just the respect the champion gets. I know as I've looked at the 20 and the other guys, and just the way the garage interacts, that they have a lot of respect for the champion, and I can't wait to experience that.
It was a tough time in Daytona. This one is for all of the 48 lovers for fans. I've had a lot of support and it was a tough time for us, we learned a lot as a race team, a lot of boos, but as the season has gone on, it's really changed and I think people have noticed the hard effort I've put in, myself, Chad, Rick and there's a lot of respect there that I appreciate.
Q. You talked about how Chad things set up this year. After the talks you had with him and Rick during the off-season, are you surprised at the way Chad was able to evolve and take a little of the load off himself?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: In some ways, yeah, because Chad is so dedicated to the sport that it's almost hurtsome at times because he wants to win so bad and he's focused -- he has not had the easiest road in his career either, working his way up the ranks and being a crew chief with some of the smaller teams with the sport. He's had to do it all through every step of the way and I commend Chad more than anybody could ever imagine for the decisions that he made at the start of the season, finding the right guys to build confidence in and put around him that he could rely on so that way he could have a little time to himself and a little extra space to think about the more important things.
So he's made an amazing, amazing adjustment this year.
Q. Chad, as painful as it was, did those four races, watching on TV, did they help as the season went on?
CHAD KNAUS: What I really think it did is it helped the guys on the team obviously and helped them realize they were capable of doing what was needed to be done. It was tough when we won Daytona it was real tough, but it was probably the proudest moment of my life leading up to that point, above and beyond winning Fontana for our first event, 600s, whatever it was. Because I was so proud of the group of guys that we were able to assemble that they were able to go out there and carry out their jobs and win an event without me. That was really neat. That was very, very cool for those guys to be able to do that, because they took it upon themselves and they all had to buy stock in that deal. It was a total team effort. For those guys to win those races, it was not Jimmie winning the race; it was the whole team winning the race and I think that was pretty cool.
Q. I know your dad has been an important part of your life; what was it like that moment when you were able to finally embrace him in victory lane, that stage there?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's great. I have a lot of friends, family here, and interesting on the friends side of this, knowing people were planning a trip down here to hopefully celebrate so I was trying to put it out of my head. It was very special.
I have to point out that a lot of credit has to go to Chandra for tolerating me the last couple of weeks. I've done my best to put up a nice, calm front in all of you, and it's been difficult and she's done an amazing job supporting me through it's very special to have my family here, my friends here and obviously all of the support and love I have from her for all of this, very special.
Q. You looked like you were about to come out of your skin the last 20 laps when the race would not get over, how difficult was it?
CHAD KNAUS: I wasn't that bad, was I?
Q. You looked bad on TV.
CHAD KNAUS: That's because I could not even blink when there's a TV camera in my face.
It was bad. You know, I didn't think it was that bad, it was painful but I tried to keep my composure. Obviously I didn't do a very good job.
The thing was, we were in a position that we wanted the race to be over with because we were solidly in the Top-10 and that was the big thing I wanted to do. I didn't want to back into this championship at all, and I wanted to go out there and race for it. And that's what this team does best is it races week-in and week-out and for us to be able to go out there and run solidly in the Top-10 all day long disregarding minor mishaps that we had, that's how I wanted the race to end and I didn't want us to get into a situation with a bunch of laps down track or something like that to where Jimmie was going to have to back out of it and fall back to 15th or 20th and kind of ride. I wanted to make sure that we ran it to the end. That was my frustration more than anything, because at that point we had identified with the fact that basically all we had to do was be last car on the lead lap and Matt not finish any better than third and we would have been able to win the championship, I think is what it was. So I just wanted to get it done.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: He never told me that; "you can lose a couple spots here in the restart but don't worry too much." When it was over, I didn't know that we had won. I had a feeling that we won but I was real nervous.
Q. Your dad talked here a little bit not too long ago, he saw you yesterday and said he was doing well until he saw you and then he got nervous and he said he thought you were nervous with looking at the lap track. What was it like the last 24 hours like yesterday, today, just the feelings, the unnerveness and how did you combat it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't really know how I dealt with it. At times I didn't think I was doing too good of a job. You get so caught up in worrying about things you can't control and I'm sitting here telling myself, don't worry about those things, just focus on your job, focus on what you need to do in the race car.
And I had -- I knew that we had a great race car and I knew that Matt was not going to go down easily and they had a great practice session yesterday and they had a great race today. So I knew we were going to have our hands full and we really needed to run well. So my fears were racing that hard, getting caught up in something. We had all the different small issues that took place today and ask those were the things I was really scared about.
I slept well knowing that I had a great car and I felt good when I got in the race car, and it was calm and at peace and even under the red flag, I was just chilling out knowing I would have a green and white checkered and just needed to get my laps in.
The pressure is really, really tough and it started building up over the last couple of weeks. Best thing I could do is just stay moving, stay active, try to -- just try to keep my mind off it. It was tough and when I saw my parents, they walked up and everybody's remark, even my friends that are here, "Don't worry about it. It's all going to be good." And I'm telling myself that and they are telling me, but it just doesn't hit that feeling that's in your mind. And I'm like, thank you, thank you, I appreciate it and just walk out, I'm still nervous, still stressing out.
Looking back, it was a fun experience, I really was challenged through all of it mentally. Not only myself, I think the team as well. We did a great job dealing with all of the pressures.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Today, all of the things I told myself in the week and all of the things my friends tried to help me with I should say, those things are all true in the car. And outside of the car, I could not accept them and could not get rid of that feeling. As soon as I fired the car off and got on the racetrack I was in a different place. I was calm and kept telling myself, it's just another race. I just was really trying to focus on running 400 miles, running smart, running like I would at any other time. I really just ran a smart race and tried to not think about what was going on; opposite of that 2004 season, I could not shake the nerves and excitement at times when I knew we were in position to win. My stomach was knotted up.
Today I was calm and relaxed. During the red flag, set my head against the headrests, closed my eyes for a little bit, took some deep breaths and got back to it and tried not to focus on what was going to take place.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, to y'all, you're a championship team and happy holidays.
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