DAYTONA, Fla. (Feb. 24, 2013) – Five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson won the 55th running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. Following the win, he discussed the achievement with the press. He was joined by his team owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus.
THIS IS THE SECOND TIME YOU’VE WON THE DAYTONA 500, BUT IT’S BEEN A BIT OF A DROUGHT SINCE 2006.
“It has. Plate racing is awfully tough racing form of racing and there’s a lot of luck involved. Pack racing is a little different. You can’t ride and kind of wait for things to happen. You have to race all day long and fight for track position. And this race car, this Lowe’s Chevrolet, was so good. Chad Knaus and all of Hendrick Motorsports gave me a fast car and I could really stay up front all day long. I had a lot of confidence those final few laps leading the train because I knew just how fast this car was. It’s a big credit for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports.”
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU HAD A SPECIFIC GAME PLAN FROM THE MOMENT YOU UNPACKED HERE IN DAYTONA
“We did. We wanted to get this car to the 500. We knew it was the best car for us and I’m very happy to have it in the 500 and it certainly did its job for us. I just want to give a big shout-out to all the fans and I also want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everybody yesterday that were injured in the grandstands. Go to Lowe’s. Buy some stuff. Spring is coming. Go buy a Chevrolet. I’m very happy to win the first Gen-6 car race by racing the Gen-6 car for Chevrolet and their Chevrolet SS. It’s been an awesome day.”
TELL US WHAT YOU HAD TO DO TO KEEP IT OUT FRONT ON THOSE LAST COUPLE OF LAPS?
“I think it goes all the way back to when the caution came out and the fact that we were in the lead and gave me lane choice. The outside lane worked in most situations. The inside would rally from time to time. When I had lane choice I knew that we were set up to win the race and it was up to me to not make a mistake and blow it. This Lowe’s Chevrolet was so fast. Chad (Knaus) did an amazing job. We stuck to our plan all week long, kept the car straight through the practice sessions and the duel. We knew it was a very fast race car and it would race well. We got that done here today.”
YOU MENTIONED THE OUTSIDE LANE BEING THE STRONGEST. WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE THAT ENABLED YOU TO MAKE THAT PASS DOWN ON THE LOW LANE?
“Things just worked out well for me coming to the caution. The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) got a big push and was way out and kind of falling back to the No. 16 (Greg Biffle). My lane was bunched up tight and helped me surge by the No. 2 at the start/finish (line) when the caution came out. That was really the move that set things up for us. At the end it got exciting. I was waiting for the run and it came further back than I expected. The No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) got a big shove and was coming up the inside. I moved down to defend that and we were able to get a one-two (finish) for Hendrick Motorsports. For the 48/8 shop so very happy there are a lot of people put a lot of effort into these cars, I want to thank all them.”
WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE ON THAT LAST LAP?
“Making sure I got down to get in front of the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), but honestly once I had control of the race, I knew I was sitting on a lot of speed with this car. It was so fast. I give it to my shop and my guys. They gave me a great race car.”
YOU’VE WON THIS RACE BEFORE, BUT THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS IT JUST HASN’T SMILED ON YOU. WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE 2013 SEASON?
“There is no other way to start the season than to win the Daytona 500. I’m a very lucky man to have won it twice. I’m very honored to be on that trophy with all the greats that have ever been in our sport. Amazing day for myself, for this team, as the year goes we are excited. But next week is a whole different game. We will have to make sure we are buttoned up and ready to go there. Before I go I just want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone that was injured yesterday and I hope they are healing up and doing well.”
RICK HENDRICK – WINNING TEAM OWNER
CONGRATULATIONS JIMMIE JOHNSON DOES IT HERE FOR YOU TODAY:
“We have a hard time finishing these races, boy, to run one-two man what a day. I’m so proud of Jimmie (Johnson), Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) what a great move by Dale there at the end. (Sigh of relief) I’m glad.”
CHAD KNAUS, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – WINNING CREW CHIEF
CONGRATULATIONS YOUR DRIVER BROUGHT YOU THE TROPHY HERE TODAY AT THE 55TH RUNNING OF THE DAYTONA 500:
“Jimmie (Johnson) did a fantastic job today. It’s been a tough week and a half down here in Daytona. Everybody needed to work together, NASCAR, all the teams to get these Gen-6 cars where we needed them so they go out there and put on a good show. I think it was a heck of a show and Jimmie did a fantastic job. The guys back in the shop they had to put in a lot of extra effort to get these cars built. I just can’t say enough about them. Man, thank God for Lowe’s.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR, NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED SECOND
YOU GOT BEHIND YOUR TEAMMATE JIMMIE JOHNSON, BUT WASN’T ABLE TO GET BY. HOW WAS THE END OF THAT RACE AND THE MOVE YOU WERE TRYING TO MAKE?
“Well, we just had a lot of help from Mark Martin at the end. We were able to lay back until the last lap on the backstretch there to get enough of a run. We got by a couple of them, but I looked up in the mirror off of (turn) four and Mark (Martin) was back there racing those guys and I lost my help. So when we got to Jimmie (Johnson) we didn’t have enough steam. I want to thank Hendrick and all the guys that work there. The engine was great. The car was real fast. You had to be real patient and if you tried to pull out you would go to the back of the field. We had to really be patient on them green runs to try to hold our track position and try to do things on pit road to get us up front. But at the end I knew the racing was going to get mixed up and it sure did. It was a lot of fun, just a great package, a couple of adjustments and man this is going to be awesome.”
YOU SAID YOU HAD THE RIGHT GUY PUSHING YOU
“Yeah, me and Mark (Martin) were just kind of sitting there and I was hoping he was thinking what I was thinking. So I was going to wait and back-up pretty hard to him and then get a run off of (Turn) 2 and then see what we could do in those last three-quarters of a lap. I just kind of ran out of steam off of (Turn) 4 and Mark didn’t get back to us. It just didn’t work out just perfectly. But we made a good move; just not enough race track. It’s real hard to pass the leader. Jimmie (Johnson) did a lot of good things there early or late in the race to stay up front. I was real happy with the HMS engines and all the guys in the shop did a good job all off-season working really hard trying to get these cars ready. It was a great finish for us and we’re going to be strong this year. I’m really excited about getting the season kicked-off with such a good finish.”
Discussion about this post