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USCC Point Standings
2014 After Long Beach
Prototype Drivers
1 Joao Barbosa 98
1 Christian Fittipaldi 98
2 Scott Pruett 93
2 Memo Rojas 93
3 Jordan Taylor 91
3 Ricky Taylor 91
4 Olivier Pla 84
4 Gustavo Yacaman 84
5 Michael Valiante 78
5 Richard Westbrook 78
6 Ed Brown 77
6 Johannes van Overbeek 77
7 Ryan Dalziel 76
7 Scott Sharp 76
8 Sebastien Bourdais 67
9 Oswaldo Negri Jr. 66
9 John Pew 66
10 Boris Said 64
11 Marino Franchitti 60
12 Joel Miller 59
13 Max Angelelli 58
14 Alex Brundle 56
15 Brian Frisselle 55
15 Burt Frisselle 55
16 Simon Pagenaud 52
17 Mike Rockenfeller 51
18 David Brabham 50
18 Scott Dixon 50
18 Tony Kanaan 50
19 Sage Karam 47
20 Klaus Graf 46
20 Lucas Luhr 46
21 Tristan Nunez 44
22 Eric Curran 43
22 Justin Wilson 43
23 Byron DeFoor 41
23 David Hinton 41
23 Jim Pace 41
24 Tom Long 40
24 Sylvain Tremblay 40
25 Tristan Vautier 35
26 Gabby Chaves 33
26 Katherine Legge 33
26 Andy Meyrick 33
26 Wayne Taylor 33
27 Fabien Giroix 31
27 John Martin 31
28 Alex Popow 30
29 Roman Rusinov 26
29 Oliver Webb 26
30 Jon Fogarty 25
30 Anthony Lazzaro 25
31 Kyle Larson 24
32 Frank Beck 23
33 Max Papis 22
33 Bradley Smith 22
34 Ben Devlin 21
34 Jamie McMurray 21
35 AJ Allmendinger 20
35 Guy Cosmo 20
36 Jann Mardenborough 19
37 James Hinchcliffe 18
38 Alexander Rossi 16
38 Sebastian Saavedra 16
39 Brendon Hartley 15
39 E.J. Viso 15
40 Memo Gidley 14
40 Alex Gurney 14
41 Scott Mayer 2
42 Pierre Kaffer 1
42 Darren Law 1
An interview with Hornish, Shank, Gordon & Johnson

At Rolex 24 pre-season test
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

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MODERATOR: We're joined by Mike Shank, owner and president of Michael Shank Racing, as well as Sam Hornish Jr., who needs no introduction. He's won races here in Homestead, is the Indy 500 reigning champion, and a three-time champion in the IndyCar Series.

Sam is one of the many "name" drivers who will be racing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. He's no stranger to that race, but this will be his first experience in a Daytona Prototype, in the No. 60 Lexus Riley that really was in the hunt the entire race last year and finished second. They're looking to improve one position.

Mike, we met Helio Castroneves, Sam's teammate in IndyCars, who joined us at Daytona where he tested. Talk a little bit about how this happened, how two IndyCar drivers came to join your team.


Mike Shank and Sam Hornish Jr.
Grand-Am

MIKE SHANK: It's something that (Penske Racing President) Tim Cindric and I had worked on for two years. Sam and I have a lot of history, which has been written about a little bit. He drove for me in 1999 in the Toyota Atlantic series when he was coming up the ladder. We always stayed in touch since then, gone out for dinner, that type of thing.

As it happens, Oswaldo Negri, my primary driver in the No. 60, is also good friends with Helio. For two years we tried to make this happen, but things didn't quite work out. Fortunately this year it did. Sam signed up, which I'm extremely grateful for.

I'm looking forward to it. The team is doing a heck of the job. Helio came out of the box, at the Daytona test and went exceptionally well. Sam today on his fourth lap was good as most of the field. We're going to give him about an hour and a half, two hours in the car at the end of the day today.

MODERATOR: Sam, this is your first time behind the wheel of a Daytona Prototype. Talk about the traffic, and how it's kind of a different experience in total.

SAM HORNISH JR.: It is kind of totally different. If I hadn't had the little bit of Busch practice, I wouldn't have had nearly as much confidence not seeing my front wheels, being inside of a car, definitely with the heat. There are obviously some things that are quite a bit different.

One of the good things about coming here, doing my first test in the car is I've been on this track with the IndyCar before and had a good feeling of what to expect out of it. The car handles actually exceptionally well. I was pleasantly surprised to get in there. People have said it's not going to brake very good, it's not going to turn very good.

I've had a lot of fun driving it so far. Hopefully things will go well and I'll keep it out of the sand trap, all that good stuff.

MODERATOR: You've raced in the Rolex 24 at least once before, in 1999, and one of your co-drivers was Mike Shank. Talk about that. Is he quick?

SAM HORNISH JR.: We drove most of the night. That was a lesson that helped me out a long time down the road and in the rest of my racing, which was, some days it's not going to be there. Just go out there and try to get as much time as you can. Through no fault of Mike's or my own, it was a problem with the car that forced us to drive around for 16 hours on seven cylinders. We knew we couldn't win, but we just went out there and drove around.

I had a lot of fun. At that time that was the biggest car I'd ever driven on the biggest track. It was the first time I'd been at Daytona. I think it was a good experience. We're hopefully going back with a little bit different mindset at this time.

MODERATOR: In that same year, you first got on the map with Mike when you won in Chicago in the Atlantic race. It was a great win there, and that was when we realized that this was a team and driver we need to keep an eye on. That was back in 1999. How important is it to maintain the Ohio connection you guys have had, and the familiarity of racing with the same group of guys?

SAM HORNISH JR.: I had a great experience with Mike through the end of '98, through 1999. Obviously, this team started to blossom as far as doing the Daytona Prototype. That was definitely something that was in my mind, how do we at some point in time get together to be able to go and do this, to run at Daytona, and especially in the last couple years where I knew that would be something I'd want to do, and had the ability to do it but how you get there?

There are so many things that you want to do, and sometimes things just don't work out, but this was a great opportunity that Mike presented to us to come out here and race. Especially with Helio, he usually beats up on me a little bit on the road courses, but hopefully it'll give me the opportunity to run a little bit longer with him as well. Definitely with Oswaldo and Mark doing this all the time and helping me, it's going to provide me with the opportunity to learn quickly. One of the best things is, all of these extra-curricular things I've been doing right now, like driving these cars and the Busch Series is definitely going to help me be a better driver. I'm happy to have the opportunity.

MODERATOR: The Rolex 24 is the last weekend in January in 2007, and kicks off the international racing calendar. There will be drivers from all walks of the sport coming to race. Sam's got some experience on the track, he finished fifth in the IROC race on the Daytona road course in June. What's next? Will you be there for the test session in early January, or is there anything else happening in December? Any additional testing?

SAM HORNISH JR.: For me, this is the first of three weeks of the year will be running about every kind of car that I run. Obviously, I'm going to try to be there for the test in Daytona. That's my plan anyhow.

MIKE SHANK: This series has really helped our business overall. We just finished and completed, and you'll be able to see pictures of our new shop we just built in Columbus, Ohio, east of Columbus, a new 20,000 square foot shop. We're super proud of it. It's as nice as anything in the world, but it might be a little smaller maybe. We plan on just rebuilding the cars and going to the three-day with the cars here.

MODERATOR: Questions for Mike or Sam.

Q. Sam, where does this fit in? You've accomplished so much from IndyCar championships and the Indy 500. Where does winning a Rolex 24 At Daytona rank on your list right now?

SAM HORNISH JR.: It's right up there. I mean, I wouldn't be here doing this if I didn't think it was something that was going to be difficult, first of all. It's going to be a challenge for me, and it's also something that's very prestigious to be able to add your name to that list of champions.

I'm definitely going into it thinking that it's like winning the Indianapolis 500, it's like winning the Daytona 500. There are so many things that are involved, that being able to go in there and even be competitive let alone win it. You have to have so many things go right for you.

I think it's an awesome challenge for us. Hopefully it will be one that we're excited about at the end of it.

Q. What does it say about the state of the series that you've got everyone from Jeff Gordon to Jimmie Johnson to Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves, all competing in the 24 Hours?

SAM HORNISH JR.: Definitely, if you look at NASCAR championships, Daytona 500s, IndyCar championships, Indy 500s, you look at the depth there, the amount of champions, whatever way you look at it, it's pretty unbelievable.

I'm glad to see that there's that many people out there because when you go and win something, you want to beat the best people. You don't want everybody to try to take it away from you and say, 'If this guy would have been there, you wouldn't have won.'

I think it's great that they have that many talented drivers in it. I think it's really going to be a great show for everybody.

Q. What are your Busch plans for next year?

SAM HORNISH JR.: We're not going to run every off weekend, but we're going to run a lot of them. It's going to be a pretty full schedule for me running the full IndyCar Series. That adds basically a month of being at Indianapolis. There's probably 21 to 22 weekends there. Then however many we run in the Busch Series, could be anywhere from 6 to 10. It's going to be a full year.

Q. Probably 6 to 10?

SAM HORNISH JR.: There's a lot going on. In my opinion, I need as much road course experience as I can get. If Mike can get me in the car a little bit more, that will probably help out the IndyCar program.

I feel like I've got a lot on my plate next year. I think it's something that is going to be exciting to go through. The first two Busch races didn't turn out quite like we expected them to. We wanted to go, we wanted to learn as much as we could. We didn't expect to win either. We just wanted to go and get some laps.

We'll go back and we'll keep trying with that. We've had some things that look like we're going to do. We're going to have some kind of a good come out of it at the end of the whole thing. We're just going to keep working at it.

MODERATOR: Additional questions?

Q. Mike, have you finalized anything with the No. 6 driver plans?

MIKE SHANK: We have. We're going to announce that at the three-day test at Daytona in January. I think between the two driver lineups, we're not playing, we're here to win this race. If we don't win it, we're going to go down swinging hard. There will be no conservative to it. We're going to go out and run hard. These guys are going to be instructed not to hold back at all. This race has come to that. Back in the day, you used to be able to cruise around at 70 or 80 percent. Those days are gone, long gone. We're here to win.

The two drivers, Helio and Sam, I put in for a reason. The two additional drivers that we'll announce for the No. 6 car at the three-day, they're here for a reason. They're here to do well.

MODERATOR: The test Mike referenced again is at Daytona. It's the first couple days of the year. It's the fourth, fifth and sixth of January. We'll have a full slate of press conferences as well as transcripts available.

Jeff Gordon joins us. We hear that he's been pretty happy unofficially, and now we'll get it from him directly. Jeff, I hear it's going great for you. Talk about it.


Jeff Gordon
Grand-Am

JEFF GORDON: It's been a blast. Yesterday I was pretty excited just to be able to drive a car that performs like this on a road course. It's a lot of fun. Obviously, with our track record in the (NEXTEL) Cup Series on the road courses, I like the road courses. I think Wayne Taylor's team and Max (Angelelli), they've just been fantastic to work with. They taught me a lot and I'm having fun.

You know, today I'm just getting even more comfortable than yesterday.

MODERATOR: We made this announcement during the Pepsi 400/Brumos Porsche 250 weekend at Daytona in June. I think this is the first time you've been able to get behind the wheel since then. Talk about how much time you've had in the car.

JEFF GORDON: We were trying to calculate it yesterday. I think I got about 25 laps in yesterday. They gave me a pretty good amount of laps, I felt like. Wayne got in the car for maybe seven, eight laps at the beginning of the day, and then they put me in for maybe 15. Max got in the car for a good while, then I got maybe another 10, 15 at the end of the day. Today I've been in there probably another 10 laps or 12 laps, something like that.

It feels good. Each time I'm in the car, I get a better feel for things and find some speed. Today I felt like I was getting more consistent. The next step is going to be really the fine-tuning. Also the thing that's going to be the toughest I think to accomplish is working through traffic. That's something that is important at Daytona, the 24-hour race. There's a lot of traffic. There's a lot of time that can be gained or lost there. Right now I'm not comfortable enough to just dive in there on guys. But the speed seems to be there, so I'm happy about that.

MODERATOR: The traffic is something, as you said, you're going to have to get used to. What is the biggest single difference in the race car from your Cup car? What is the biggest difference between the Cup car and Prototype car?

JEFF GORDON: You feel most of it in the braking zones. (In the Daytona Prototype) you can drive in so deep and just push the brake pedal down so hard. Of course, the sequential shifting as well really makes a big difference in the braking zones. The car has a lot of downforce. Through the high-speed corners, like they call it NASCAR (Turn) 3 and 4, you're just flat through there, wide open. It's fun. It's great. The braking zones, you can just really attack, attack, attack.

The car actually has quite a bit of torque and power under throttle in the slower sections, so you get a lot of wheel spin. Car control is important. There are some aspects that are more impressive than I thought and other aspects that are more challenging than I thought.

MODERATOR: You've raced and won in everything you've done. Let's talk about sports cars in particular. What has been your experience in sports cars? We understand you were at the Rolex 24 in 2001 to see the Earnhardts race. Talk about your sports car experience in total.

JEFF GORDON: You're looking at it (laughter).

I raced on some road courses as a kid in go-karts. Since I got into NASCAR, I did some Busch races on the road courses, and in the Cup Series. I did go to the start of the 24-hour race in 2002. That's it.

Over the years, as the Daytona Prototypes have started running with the Cup Series more often at some of the tracks we go to, Daytona and Watkins Glen, I've had a chance to see them and watch them, but not really get up close and personal or get involved with what goes on until I got here yesterday.

MODERATOR: We were talking to Tony Stewart, who races quite a bit in the Rolex Series. He says some of the guys he runs with he considers the best drivers in the world. Have you had a chance to gauge the talent of some of the other competitors here, like Andy Wallace or Max Angelelli? How do these guys compare to the more well-known drivers like you, Jimmie and Tony?

JEFF GORDON: So far I can speak on behalf of Max. I'm extremely impressed. He's very, very fast, and has great knowledge of the car. He's taught me a tremendous amount to gain speed, so I feel like I've got a great mentor, teacher there, and a teammate.

I've known Scott Pruett for years and years and years. Even back when I was racing go-karts and road courses, Scott Pruett was the man. Everybody looked up to him, including myself. So to see him progress throughout his career over all of those years has been something that I've followed, and I think he's one of the best out there. I think his stats prove that.

I certainly know of Andy Wallace's track record. Everybody speaks very highly of him that's raced with him. I can't say that I've raced with him or been around him on the track here, because I have no idea who is in the other cars. I'm not really sure how to judge it till we get out there and race with him.

MODERATOR: We'll start with some questions.

Q. Jeff, you've accomplished a lot. Where does winning a 24 Hours At Daytona fit in your 'to-do' list?

JEFF GORDON: It would be huge. Obviously when I got into NASCAR, it was a steep learning curve, to learn the history of this sport. I'll be honest, the first Daytona 500 that I won, I don't think I fully appreciated it enough just because I was still in the learning process.

I think that's the thing here, is that I don't really--I'll admit that I don't know a lot about the history of the 24-hour race. I've always admired it. I've always thought it would be something that would be a lot of fun.

Actually, Rob Dyson is somebody that I met here recently. He actually flew down with me from New York. Just listening to him talk about how great this race is, the history of it, it really made me appreciate it to a whole 'nother level.

I think until I actually go through it once or twice or who knows how many times we get a chance to run this race, I think that will certainly build. The more I'm in it, the more I talk to other competitors, owners, people in the sport, the more I realize just how big this race really is. Obviously, I know it's the biggest race for the guys in the Daytona Prototypes, the Grand-Am series.

I'm very excited to be a part of it. It means a lot to me. I'm here to win. But, you know, I also know that there's a lot of guys out there that are going to make that very difficult.

Q. What does it say about this race that guys like yourself, Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya, are all competing in it?

JEFF GORDON: We always complain about not having a lot of down time and then we come and do this. I think that tells you a lot right there. We don't have a lot of time. We race a lot. To get the opportunity to drive a car that's unique and different like this and have fun with it, it's just an opportunity that we see that you just don't know when that opportunity could come along, and you want to take advantage of it.

That's what I'm doing. I built a relationship with some folks at Riley, which turned into a relationship with Wayne Taylor and his group. You know, now it's just building. We'll see where it goes from there.

Q. When are you going to take a break?

JEFF GORDON: No kidding! You know, by not winning the championship, I certainly got to have a little bit more of a break than, say, Jimmie did, you know, before New York. I had a great time with my family for Thanksgiving. My wife cooked dinner for my family. She's a great cook.

But really we won't get a break until Christmas and New Year's. That's what I do every year, take advantage of those two, two and a half weeks, then we'll be at Daytona testing for the 24 hours.

MODERATOR: Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli, along with Emmanuel Collard, did win the Rolex 24 in 2005, went on to win the championship. They've also won right here at Homestead. We will race for the Rolex Series here on March 24th, co-headlining with the IndyCar Series. We run during the day, and the IndyCar Series running under the lights that night. It will be a good doubleheader.

Jeff, you can come and run in that race, too.

JEFF GORDON: As much fun as I'm having right now, anything is possible.

This car is fairly demanding. My biggest thing is I've always never wanted to disrupt my focus on the Cup Series. My goal is to win championships there, win races. As long as this doesn't distract from that, after I've gotten a chance to be in the car, we'll see what happens after Daytona, but I think I would like to run some more.

MODERATOR: Any time, the door is open.

Q. How comfortable are you with the setups that Wayne and Max like to run in the car?

JEFF GORDON: So far, you know, at first when I got out there, I mean, the car was all over the place, wheels spinning up off the corner. I just thought this is natural. But without the traction control, that's something they're getting used to. I certainly thought the car was really loose. I was happy to hear when Max got in it that he thought it was really loose, too.

We're using his expertise and knowledge to really set the car up. I'm just glad to know that especially today I feel like towards the end of yesterday and today, I feel like we're starting to be on the same page as what we're feeling, what we like.

But I feel pretty comfortable with what Max has out there. I mean, he's fast. He knows how to really push the car, get the most out of it. He's been extremely helpful to me, showing me telemetry, things that I can do. One of them is tire management, just trying to maybe just learn how to be a little bit smoother with that wheel. I'm really not used to some of the quickness of this steering wheel. I've got that big, gigantic steering wheel. It doesn't do much when you turn it. This one really does. I'm getting smoother with the steering wheel and the throttle. It's a short throttle compared to my throttle, as well. We've got a lot more power, but we've got a way to manage it and have more control of it than what I've found in these cars.

So far I'm pretty happy with what they've got.

Q. Are you going to need a Post-It note to remind yourself to get out of the car when you make a pit stop?

JEFF GORDON: I doubt it. As physical and hot as these cars are, I'll be ready to get out whenever they tell me to.

We've done a couple mock driver changes already here yesterday. We did one. Today we did another one. The good thing is that Max and I are almost identical in size. I just have one small insert for my back, shoulders actually, just to move my shoulders a little bit. I think my arms are shorter than his. Other than that, we fit in the same seat. So that's great. That makes a driver change go a whole lot easier.

MODERATOR: Jeff, thank you very much

We are joined by Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie, talk a little bit about how this deal came together, and how much you're looking forward to racing in the Rolex 24 with the Riley team.


Jimmie Johnson
Grand-Am

JIMMIE JOHNSON: First of all, I'm glad and honored and proud to be driving for Bill (Riley), to come down and race once again in the 24 Hours At Daytona, and also at the Paul Revere race that we have with our Cup race in July. I'm just looking forward to it. It's been a great opportunity.

I've had a chance to test with the guys at Kershaw (South Carolina). It's a great race team, great people. We're focused on winning. I finished second at this event a couple years ago, in the 24 Hours At Daytona. I really look forward to coming back and being with a team that's definitely able to win the race.

I've got great teammates. I've had a great experience. I met a few people at the first test, then today I've been able to meet everyone else. It's just a pleasure to be here working with these guys.

MODERATOR: Jimmie, in addition to our friends in the media here at Homestead, we're going out on a webcast throughout hopefully the world via the worldwide web.

Because you're familiar with the Daytona Prototype, you raced a Pontiac Crawford before, now you have a different chassis, a Riley. Talk about the immediate differences between the Riley and the Crawford.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Unfortunately it was maybe a two-year period of time from when I raced the Crawford to when I drove the Riley car. So for me to remember all the things, it's tough.

But I was extremely impressed with the car under braking and the low-speed corners, how much grip the car had in it. I didn't recall that or remember that from my experience beforehand. The car is very comfortable. The team has worked with me, done everything they can to show me data traces compared to the teammates, how to drive the car, where to find speed, how to also take care of the gearbox and the engine and the different things that are needed. It's just a little different discipline than what we're used to. I'm just going through all the paces of learning everything.

MODERATOR: We asked Jeff earlier before you came out, what's your sports car experience. He said, 'You're looking at.' Obviously Jeff is an accomplished road racer, he gets it done in Cup cars. Does your off-road racing experience help you in your sports car racing?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it does a little bit. Fortunately we've been on road courses with the Cup cars, so I've been able to keep that going. I try to get as much seat time in a road course car as I can. I really enjoy racing in the Grand-Am series, enjoy racing on road courses in general. Hopefully down the road when I can slow down at some point from the Cup schedule, I'd like to get more involved and do more road racing.

I don't want to all of a sudden show up one day and say, 'Wow, I want to be an accomplished road course driver.' I want to start working on that now, addressing those things. I don't feel like I do as good a job as I need to in our Cup cars. I get in other vehicles and run well, but our Cup cars, they're their own animal. Jeff is the master, between he and Tony Stewart are the masters at that. That's something I'm going to focus hard on this year with our Cup car, how I can be up there racing with the 24 and 20 at Sears Point and Watkins Glen.

MODERATOR: You've raced in the Rolex 24 as we mentioned. It's really kind of respect among peers, champions from all walks of the sport coming together. As a driver, now a champion, how does it feel to know you're taking a place alongside the other greats in motorsports? As Jeff said, it's a race you want to participate in. What is the feeling knowing the car next to you might have a driver with Formula One experience and the guy behind you might have won the Indy 500?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's really what keeps me coming back. My first experience with that was three or four years ago, and I was so amazed at how many world class drivers, champions, all the names that I've watched as a kid growing up, racing all types of vehicles, they were all there. When I came back my second year, things took another direction. Sadly I missed the 24 hours. I'm going to be able to do it this season.

It's really what keeps me coming back, to be able to do something so unique, so special with all the best drivers in the world. It's a great opportunity.

MODERATOR: Did you go over to Europe and do the Race of Champions, after the banquet?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's coming up. Luckily they moved it back. I leave next Tuesday evening to fly over to Paris and get ready for that. I'm looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: When do you rest before you get back to NASCAR? Do you not need that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm excited I'm going to be testing the Grand-Am cars so much. I love driving a race car. I want to do it every day, every week. The other parts that go with it, especially on the Cup side, there's so much work needed on the Cup side. It's nice just to show up the day of the test, come down, hang out with the Riley team, all my new teammates, and just have fun and get in the car.

I'm excited for it. I consider this an off day, a down day for me, kind of a therapeutic way to stay sharp and have fun in a race car. I will take some time over Christmas and New Year's. I have a lot going on with commercial shoots for sponsors that eat up a lot of December, then January with the race that we have, the test session for the Rolex Series, test session for the Cup cars, we have two of them. January is booked solid already. I'll get a couple weeks through Christmas and New Year's.

MODERATOR: Questions for Jimmie.

Q. This is really an off day for you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. This is fun for me. I don't have to worry about saying the right thing. I don't have to shave today. I don't have to worry about much except going out and having fun with Bill and the guys.

Q. Now that you won a Cup championship, where does winning the 24 hours rank on your list of things to do?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: That is very, very high on my list of things to do. Finishing second in the race a few years ago really, really piqued my interest. I want to come back, I want to win the 24 Hours of Daytona someday. My great friend Casey Mears won it last year. Just to see the pride he had on his face, celebrating with him and sharing that, it's special. Being the Daytona 500 winner, Brickyard 400, if I was able to win the 24 Hours of Daytona would be phenomenal.

The only thing I'd want to do then, there's two other races I want to compete in, which would be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indy 500. I don't think I can do either one of those while I'm racing Cup. I don't see how the scheduling is going to work out.

Q. What does it say about this race that guys like yourself, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, a whole slew of really renowned drivers are competing in this race?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think the Cup movement has been a little predictable with Grand-Am and its ties to the NASCAR world, Felix Sabates and Chip Ganassi have their organizations, so it was easy to help Casey Mears and some Cup guys get in. Tony Stewart has had a great experience with the Crawfords over the years. I think that's been predictable.

To a certain degree the thing I'm excited to see is the F1 involvement, the Champ Car involvement. Stock car racing to me is just stock car racing. It's what I do. I'm excited to see all these other guys come in, world class drivers from other disciplines.

Q. What have you enjoyed most so far about being Cup champion?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Probably everything that leads into the lack of sleep that I've had. We've done a lot of celebrating. We've been honored beyond my wildest dreams in New York, what we had last week up there for the banquet. All that has been a lot of fun. We had great photo opportunities, and a lot of good times with my crew guys. It's really the highlight. I had a party for them last Wednesday night. There was nobody around, no pressure, nothing. It was just my crew guys and their wives, a good time. That was probably the highlight.

Q. Where did you have your party?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: A little Irish bar in Manhattan, down the street from the Waldorf. We just invaded it, chased everybody out, locked the door, and had a good time.

Q. Is it still weird when people call you a Cup champion after going four seasons of wanting that so much?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. It's rewarding to hear 'champion'. It's an honor to hear it. Those types of things come to mind. I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing it. It took so much to get to this point. It does for any champion. To be the best over the course of a year is something we all strive for. We all know how hard it is when we're racing each week.

To put in four tough seasons like I did, and then to get it done, I'm enjoying every minute of it.

MODERATOR: How important would it be to Lowe's to win the Rolex 24? Maybe they'd stay open 24 hours in celebration. How important would it be for your sponsor?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It would be important for my sponsor. I have to say Lowe's, they just want to do what I do. Going to the race in Paris, they want to be a part of it. Robert Niblock, the CEO of Lowe's, considered going, but unfortunately he has to work, and can't make the trip.

We're also going to produce a show that is going to be on ESPN. I'm going to have an hour time block. I'm going to videotape everything that goes on. We're producing a show, bringing it back. Lowe's is going to be the title sponsor on that. There's numerous things I do that Lowe's wants to be involved with. They love the ride, love the journey. They're huge fans of motorsports, huge fans of Jimmie Johnson. It's great to have them involved.

They really don't pressure me. They don't need the sponsor mentions. They like the association and like that people associate Jimmie Johnson to Lowe's. It's really a great relationship with no pressure.

MODERATOR: Great to have Jimmie Johnson in here. We want to thank Bill and Ken from Riley Technologies for helping make this happen. Thanks for joining us.

--Grand-Am--

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