JOHNSON ON RELATING TO DENVER BRONCOS QUARTERBACK PEYTON MANNING – “The one thing Peyton has working against him is that injury is far more of an issue than we have in this sport. We can clearly race deep into our careers. That’s one reason why I’m focused on my fitness and making sure that I can race as long as Mark Martin has, if I choose. Experience is everything. He (Manning) understands the game; almost a coach from standing there in the pocket and seeing what needs to happen. He wasn’t that … he was always amazing, but to have that vision and that experience. Every five years you learn so much in that period of time that. You can trade experience for age, especially coming in, when I first; I would trade my youth for just five years of experience for just what we’re doing out there. I’m really coming onto my sweet spot as a driver, team member and a team leader."
JOHNSON ON HOW HE THINKS ABOUT A SEVENTH CHAMPIONSHIP – “It is out there, and I do internally smile, get anxious and excited, and really hope that I have that opportunity. To be this close is amazing. I would love to just be in that elite company with those drivers (Richard Petty & Dale Earnhardt); and to tie them, and while we’re dreaming here, maybe winning one more than them and be the winningest driver in the sport when it comes to championships. But, I’m trying to be more mature, look at things a little differently, and having a family – especially with our two little ones – has changed this a lot; having a perspective and a bigger view. Certainly, professional goals are very important to me. But a personal life, a balanced life, being truly happy and enjoying life; giving back to our community through our foundational outlets, there’s a lot to it. I’m trying to find time to be more broad, and a lot more about what’s going on. I really felt like I enjoyed this championship and the process, far more than any of the others – and didn’t lose anything. The fear in us, that we all have, is that you live this regimented, structured life and sacrifice everything in its path to win a championship – or you won’t get there. I lightened up in some areas and still had the success. My goal is to be balanced in life. If I’m balanced, I will show up to the race track with a clear mind to do the best job, and hopefully have a chance at a seventh championship."
GORDON ON BEING MORE ENERGIZED TO START THE SEASON – “I love being competitive; being a part of this sport. I love driving the car and giving good feedback. I’ve got the best crew chief and team. This 24 team and Alan Gustafson, the resources at Hendrick; so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be walking around without a smile on my face, being competitive and going out there, challenging for wins. The first half of last year, we didn’t. You learn from those mistakes that you made; those experiences, the good ones and the bad ones. If anything we’ve learned in the last couple of years, it’s the fight that we have and how deep we can dig to pull ourselves out of some tough times. I know if we can get the season off to a better start; that we’re a team that can really thrive throughout the rest of the season."
GORDON ON THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE – “There are certainly some things that are going to be new to all of us. I follow Formula 1, and love the knock-out qualifying. I’m so excited about this year. I think the fans are absolutely going to love this. There’s going to be some fine tuning; and things that will need to be done. That first segment, when there are 45 or 50 cars possibly going out on the track, do we keeps from getting in the way of one another. What are the penalties that come along with that? Whether it’s intentional or not intentional, and I think the tire strategy. Right now, you run one set of tires throughout all three segments. At the bigger tracks, I don’t know if that’s enough – we might need one more set of tires. I think it’s going to be a huge, steep learning curve for all of us, but it’s certainly going to be very, very exciting – and that could also play into some of the new things are a possibly coming in The Chase, and in points for the Championship."
EARNHARDT, JR. ON CREW CHIEF STEVE LETARTE’S FINAL SEASON – “Not concerned at all, we’re all just going to work harder. Me and Steve work real well together, and we want to get the most out of this season. I think, if anything, we’ll overdo it. We’ll probably find ourselves trying too hard at times, but I think we’ll have lots of success."
EARNHARDT, JR. ON NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE – “We have to get used to change in this sport; things are going to change whether you like it or not. I look at it as an opportunity for the fans to see something more exciting. For the drivers, we’ll be involved in something quite a bit more exciting than what we were doing before. Qualifying has always been by the seat of your pants, for the driver’s at least. But I think now, it will be for the fans as well. So I’m looking forward to this."
KAHNE ON HIS PERSONAL IMPROVEMENTS – “When things are right, it’s somewhat easy. The speed’s there, you do the right things, make the right decisions. It’s when things aren’t going as well; you make a mistake here, you get taken out, whatever it may be, kind of recovering from those things – and recover quick. That was some of the things we didn’t do – I didn’t do. Just trying to have a little better understanding of that, be more prepared, and understand when it’s happening, and make the right decisions quicker."