NASCAR Champion Post-Race Press Conference

Jimmie Johnson celebrates his fifth title at Homestead
HHP/Alan Marler for GM

THE MODERATOR: We'll start our media availability with the winning crew chief Chad Knaus. His seventh championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Chad, similar result than you've had in the past, but quite a unique race. Can you break it down for us a little bit from your perspective?

CHAD KNAUS: Holy smokes, I don't know if I can even begin.

It was obviously a challenge from the onset, but it's not that — it's definitely not the race that we anticipated having. We thought we had a little bit more speed in our car yesterday. We didn't qualify well on Friday, so we didn't have the best track position throughout the course of the race, so we didn't really show the strength of our car until I think the very end.

But to be able to get up there, get clean air at the end of the end, Jimmie was actually able to do a fantastic job. I haven't had a chance to talk to him, if it was just him or if he thought the car was pretty good in clean air. So we'll have to find out what that was about.

We ran well, but we just couldn't broach into that top 5 the way we needed to throughout the course of the day, and the guys worked hard, and it was awesome. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to be here today doing this.

THE MODERATOR: Unique feature of the elimination format and how that impacted this race.

CHAD KNAUS: It's definitely different. You know, in years past, as we've been here battling for this, because this was our first time in this format, you kind of had your bogey and you knew or had a feeling about what it was you had to do throughout the course of the race, and you could almost strategize or kind of conduct your race around that. With what's going on now in this format, man, it is a challenge, and we came in here with a mindset of really kind of what we do every single week of going out there to try to put ourselves in position to win the race and capitalize on situation when they arise.

Man, the opportunity arose, and we capitalized.

It was really the same way we approach every single week for 39 events throughout the course of the year, and it ended up paying off for us. We could have very easily thrown in the towel and said, look, we're out of this thing. But this 48 team is very, very tenacious, and I think Jimmie and the guys proved that again tonight.

Q. We asked you the other day about what you want your legacy to be. Jimmie says you don't really think about it, except maybe after a couple drinks. Is this something you think about on your own?

CHAD KNAUS: It's really not. And again, I don't mean to be weird or disrespectful or anything like that, but that's — I haven't approached it throughout the course of our career. I really just think about the next event. The next event could be qualifying, the next event could be practice, the next event could be the race. It could be whatever it may be, and I feel like for me, that's the safest environment for me to operate, knowing that there's always that next goal that needs to be achieved, that next goal that needs to be accomplished, and keeping our guys in that mindset.

Not that I don't want them to enjoy and bask in the opportunity to go out there and battle for championships, or myself, I do enjoy it. That's why we do it. But looking at the numbers right now isn't really what I'm about.

Q. You were up against a lot of great racers tonight, guys who had won in the round, defending champion in the series. There were three guys that had won four races each who didn't even make it to the final, yet you guys are the champions, as you have been seven times now. What's the difference or what's different about how you guys do your business, conduct your business around the races, that's allowed you to win seven times and a lot of these guys don't have one yet and they are great racers?

CHAD KNAUS: Certainly. I hate to be this blunt, but it's Jimmie Johnson. You know, he is probably the most underrated champion in this sport, to be honest with you. He is a fantastic, fantastic individual, an amazing race car driver. Most people in the situation we were just in would crumble, and he didn't even waver. He knew what he needed to do. He knew what the demands were on him at that point in time, and he made it happen.

You know, and that's the difference in the whole thing from my standpoint. We've got a great team. We've got a great owner. We've got a great everything at Hendrick Motorsports is fantastic, but the fact of the matter is the real spark in this whole thing is Jimmie.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] Q. About 95 laps left you said you were going to throw a lot of s— at it —

CHAD KNAUS: You can't say that (laughter). Did I really say that?

Q. Yeah, you used that word. Did any of that stuff work, and was a horseshoe at all involved by any means?

CHAD KNAUS: I mean, clearly it damn worked. I don't know, man. I mean, you come up with some good ones.

Yeah, I think we made the car better for sure. We were able to keep pace with those guys a little bit better. Jimmie was definitely able to run the bottom of the racetrack better. We just — in traffic we just couldn't get from that fifth to eighth — you know, in that area. Like it's just kind of like a black hole. It's very difficult to progress through that area, and we just couldn't get through there, so we needed to make some significant adjustments. We pulled some packer from the front. That helped the body attitude. He was able to get some good restarts, which put us in that position.

You know, yeah. Was there some luck involved or bad luck? I don't even know. I don't know what the conversations were about Joey and Carl and all that stuff, so however all that, did that open up the door for us? Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is we lined up out there and Jimmie drove that thing past those guys and won the race.

Q. Much like tonight, earlier this year the 48 team seemed to hit some headwinds. I was wondering, what do you say to your guys to get over it, and what do those of us watching you don't know?

CHAD KNAUS: It depends on the conversations that go on. It depends what the situation is for certain. I think the strength of this team is being able to look adversity in the eye and just deal with it. If you look at us throughout the course of our career, we've had crashes, we've had engine failures. We've had poor qualifying efforts. We've had things happen throughout the course of the race that we've been able to come back and win through.

This team is solid from the standpoint that — just we might get wavered, we might get shaken, we might get knocked back on our heels, but then we bounce back and we start jabbing right back, and that's the way that we've rolled, and we're going to continue to work that way until we're done.

Q. Chad, before the restart that had the big crash, it seemed you kind of had to will Jimmie a little bit to talk to you about the car. What did you sense from him at that point, and how have you learned to pull that out of Jimmie over time?

CHAD KNAUS: I don't even remember what you're talking about, I'm sorry.

Q. Talking about the changes a little bit.

CHAD KNAUS: Gotcha. Look, there's not one of us in here that can say we have any idea what guys through these guys' minds as they're out there racing these cars at 200 miles per hour. We can act like we do, we can pretend that we do, we could pretend that we understand, but nobody in here does, nobody. When they're in that situation and they start to clam up, the best thing you can do is try to be their friend and try to make their realize that, hey, we're going to make it better, we're going to go forward.

Sometimes I do that well, other times I don't. But maybe tonight I did it right.

Q. You kind of alluded to this a little bit, but you guys really had a lot of adversity to overcome this weekend between kind of the crazy way qualifying was with the time there and all the things that happened before the race and then him really not leading until the very end of this race. Could you speak to how you're able to do that? What is it that makes you guys able to overcome that?

CHAD KNAUS: I think the — here's — it's a great question, and honestly, we probably are better at it now than what we once were. I think a lot of it comes from security and comfort. I know that he believes in me, he knows that I believe in him. We know that we're not in fear of our jobs. We know that we've been able to win championships and win races. We've made a mark. We've made our mark.

What happens from this point is — you know, is the toppings on the ice cream, right. So there's a lot of comfort in that, and there's a lot of guys out there right now, they don't have that comfort. They don't — if they'd won a championship, yeah, they'd have been heroes. They didn't win the championship, okay, well, maybe not so much now. Guys that win races, guys that don't win races. Guys' jobs on the line, not on the line. There's a lot of things that go through that as you go through sports, in any sport.

I think that's the one thing that helps us the most is the fact that we know that we're committed to one another, we're committed to this team, we're committed to this organization, and we're going to trudge through no matter what the situation is.

Jimmie Johnson

Q. You guys overcame a lot of adversity today, and it started actually before the race. I understand if you don't want to get into technical details, but what did NASCAR take umbrage with prior to the race? How did you fix it? And just kind of give us a little insight as to what happened because we could kind of see what was going on but never really got any real info. If you don't want to explain it, I understand.

CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I don't want to.

We started last, we finished first. We'll take that one. How's that?

Q. Fair enough.

CHAD KNAUS: No, man, it's just one of those deals, dude. You work. That's what we do. We work. Everybody works out there. Everybody. Every single team. It's just a matter of whether or not you get yourself into a situation that's crippling or not. Unfortunately today we did, and we were able to go through and make it happen, and that's really the facts. The facts are everybody is out there, everybody is doing everything they possibly can to try to get every ounce of speed out of their race cars, and we're going to do the exact same thing, just like everybody else.

Q. Is the satisfaction level any different in this one, sort of winning it in an unforgiving tournament style format almost, and in the middle of the year when it seemed like Toyotas were winning everything, did this seem at all plausible for you?

CHAD KNAUS: It was pretty bleak at that point, wasn't it. It wasn't looking good. I still don't think that we necessarily had the speed that we need week in and week out. We've got to get our cars better, for sure. I mean, it was evident tonight, right. I don't know that — the 24 didn't run that great, the 5 didn't run great, the 88. So we've got some work to do to continue to be able to compete with those guys.

The one thing that we have in our corner is we have Jimmie Johnson. He is the one that makes things happen when we don't necessarily have the race cars. When we do have the race cars that we need, he does phenomenal things.

This format is unique. It's different. It did give us an opportunity to breathe and rest and relax a little bit after Charlotte, after Martinsville, which was honestly nice. It really was. Not that we took any of those other races lightly in the least little bit. We didn't for sure. Man, we put ourselves in position to win a lot of those races, which was great.

But it's a unique format, man. It's a challenge. You guys came up with a good one on this. That's for sure. I look forward to hopefully being here again next year.

Q. Rick was in here the other day, and he said that the two of you will pretty much ride off into the sunset together —

CHAD KNAUS: That's really cute.

Q. No, but I'm just saying, would you have it any other way, given what the two of you have accomplished? The two of you are like brothers. Would you have that any other way?

CHAD KNAUS: Gosh. That's going to be hard on me, man. Damn. Probably the way it's going to roll out for sure. It really is. I love him like a brother. He's a fantastic individual.

Jimmie has taught me more about life than life itself has taught me. He's taught me about family. He's taught me about relationships. He's taught me about being a champion. You know, when we started this thing, all I was just a racer guy, and he was a cool California kid, and we kind of grew up together. To be in this situation to where we know he's got a handful of years left, whatever they may be, and for Jimmie and Mr. Hendrick to want me to stick with the 48 car and be at the helm of this ship, man, it's flattering. It really is flattering, because let's be honest, I'm getting older just like everybody else is. None of us is as young as we once were, and I look forward to the future with these guys.

Q. It was a very exciting championship celebration out there; Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Tony Stewart, seemed like everybody was coming out. What was the emotions like there? It seemed very special.

CHAD KNAUS: I'll tell you, Jeff is a nervous ninny. I'll tell you something. Golly, him on top of the pit box? Man, you guys don't even know. He is stressful.

But nonetheless, it's awesome having him there. As you guys all know, I started — my real Cup career wasn't necessarily with the 24 car, but the first real serious phase was with the 24 car, so knowing Jeff from a young man to where he is now is awesome having him there.

Dale Jr., I've known him for a long time, as well. You know, man, just having him come up and showing that respect to Jimmie and the team and myself, I don't think you guys realize how much that matters to a guy like Jimmie.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] To have him there and just kind of like, hey, man, that's cool. That emotion was really, really spectacular, and Tony on his last race hopping up there, he's a good dude. Tony, he's fantastic. He understands his role in the industry. He understands the role that he played. He was the typical bad guy, per se, which was great. He accepted that role. He loved that role.

Tony was one of our biggest adversaries, one of our biggest competitors. He was a nemesis, an enemy throughout a lot of our careers, but he was also the same guy that when things were down with Jimmie and I, he would call me on the phone and say, "Hey, man don't give up on this thing. You guys got it." It meant a lot having them up there.

Q. Jimmie Johnson, 2013 champion versus Jimmie Johnson, 2016 champion.

CHAD KNAUS: He is definitely a lot more mature. He's always been great. He's always been California cool. But he is in a spot right now to where he is so comfortable and willing to go out there and make things happen that most should be pretty scared, honestly. He's too comfortable in his shoes, man. He's pretty spectacular.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by the owner champion, Rick Hendrick, from Hendrick Motorsports. Congratulations, champ.

Q. Chad, looking at this Chase, looking at the mid-season struggles you guys had, it looked like you were going to have — it didn't look like a championship-winning team during portions of this year. Is this the sweetest? How does this compare to the other ones?

CHAD KNAUS: It's definitely the sweetest today. Yeah, of course. I mean, how is it not the sweetest? The first was awesome. How much more can I use these words, awesome, terrific, fantastic. But this is really, really special. To go through a bit of a lull, not make the Chase, not be able to come down here and compete for two years straight, that is so difficult, I don't think you guys can even understand because it's not like we just only decided to work hard once in a while. We as a group work so hard for 38 events to lead up to this race.

So this one is pretty sweet, to be able to put Jimmie's name in that same header as Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty, it's an honor to be a part of it. I swear to you, it is. I'm just glad to be his buddy and be by his side.

Q. Chad, y'all won two races early in the year. You had a long — not a dry spell but weren't very good for a long time, then you sort of won near the end. Was there a moment during that drought where y'all sat down and said, we need to do this, this and this to get back on track?

CHAD KNAUS: The thing is as you're going through those moments in time, you don't know what this, this and this are. When you're not running as competitive as what you need to be, because everybody is doing everything they can all of the time, that it's very difficult to pinpoint what the situation is or where the lack of speed is.

But yeah, as a group it's been documented. We've talked about it. Mr. Hendrick sat us down. He said, "Look, guys, we're gonna get together. We're gonna work together. We're gonna build better cars. We're going to build more downforce. We're going to have more horsepower. We're going to make this thing better." And everybody buckled in.

We're very fortunate we've got right at 600 people at Hendrick Motorsports, 630-something I think maybe, and everybody raised their hand and wanted to help. And when you get that many smart people together and that many people with the same goal, it's hard to be beat.

Now, again, we didn't come here and we didn't necessarily have the fastest car clearly, but we definitely put ourselves in position to execute, and that's all we can ask.

Q. What time of year did y'all have that little get-together?

CHAD KNAUS: I guess it was shortly after probably Indianapolis, which we performed well at Indy. We had a very fast race car. I think we ended up finishing third. We had a pit road penalty. We were able to pass back up through that and get ourselves into the top 10. But it was in that time frame. We were working really, really hard, and words from this man right here, boy, he can motivate just about anybody. I can say the same thing to somebody, and it just doesn't have the same effect as if he says it. I don't understand that. But he does a good job.

Q. Rick, you've had many highs and lows in your life. Where do you place today, and do you steel yourself from thinking — you always credit your team, which is correct. Do you steel your way away from thinking about an eighth title for Jimmie?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, when you think about what it would mean to see Jimmie get eight, and especially when you do it under several different formats, I think that we've all talked and you guys have asked me about, do I think he gets the credit he deserves.

I think the five in a row was pretty phenomenal, and I think winning seven and tying seven is pretty special. I'm excited to see him, he and Chad, try to break the record now because we're tied, and you can't go to eight until you get seven. That's been pretty special.

Jimmie Johnson

Yeah, just being a part of it and seeing the organization, we were talking earlier, it just seems like yesterday we didn't think we'd even make it through the first year, and now we've won 12 of these things, and they're hard to do. I mean, tonight my wife is back there in the back, and with 10 laps to go, I said, we're not going to — we're not going to do anything. She said, "You're going to win the race." I said, "Well, that's pretty funny." (Laughter).

But anyway, when we had that last caution and he came out and took the lead, I thought — I couldn't believe it. I was actually stunned because we had so many ups and downs in that race, and I'm not a big fan of restarts because I usually come out on the wrong end.

But anyway, it's special to see him tie those guys. I think it's good for the sport, and I think it draws a lot of attention to our sport. We had Gatorade had a lot of guys like Peyton Manning telling him how neat it was, and Serena Williams and people like that. I thought it was pretty cool. I think it's going to be a big shot in the arm for not only Jimmie but our sport.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. You're now free to go.

THE MODERATOR: We now welcome the champion of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series, Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie, tell us how you feel coming in here after what was obviously a very, very eventful evening.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Wow. Just overwhelmed. I mean, I had this crazy weird calmness through the last couple of weeks and then even through the race amongst all the chaos we dealt with, and the fact that we ran like behind those guys all night long, fifth, sixth, wherever we ran, there was just some calmness that was in me, and then we restart and the 22 and the 19 wreck, and I'm like, oh, okay, we've got a shot at this thing. I don't know why I've been so calm, but maybe it's in the cards.

The next restart works out well, we get the second, and I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. There's really a shot at this thing. Then I get the restart of my life at the end and I get clear off of Turn 2, and it just all like — I got the goosebumps down backstretch. I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. I looked in the mirror and the 22 is fading, and I don't know where that calmness came from. I mean, I want to say that the dedication of the #se7en to Little Ricky, there's something in all of that. But there was just something really interesting and different about my calmness and the relaxed nature that I had in the car. I didn't know what the outcome would be, but I was very content and peaceful with whatever was coming my way, and then it ended up being the greatest thing in the world. So it's just wild.

So yeah, I don't know if I answered your question. I went off on a tangent, but there you go.

Q. When do you get number eight?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: (Laughing) I knew that was coming.

Q. On the restart, you've seen Joey make great restarts all year, and you saw what he did with Carl. Were you concerned there, or did you just get, like you said, the restart of your life, you just moved away quickly and there was never a threat?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Oh, the last one? The last one he actually got to me before the stripe and didn't have a choice but to push me, which was interesting. I was ready for him to bail out, but the way his run timed out with me, he didn't have a choice but to push me. I could see the 42 kind of fading by, and his run was kind of over at that point. I was just hopeful the 42 wouldn't run me tight through 1 and 2, and he was very aware of the championship situation and left me space and room.

I heard the magic word, clear, and couldn't believe that it was unfolding as it did.

Q. Jeff Gordon said that you and Chad are the best he's ever seen in his NASCAR career; what does a remark like that mean for you going into the future?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, it's something I take a lot of pride in. Loyalty is a huge thing with me. To have — we've had our bumps in the road, but he's a brother, and I'm so proud of him and so thankful that whatever drew us to one another and created this opportunity for us to start the 48 team and work together happened.

It's amazing. I would not be here today as a seven-time champion without Chad Knaus. He deserves so much praise and so much credit for my success, for this team's success, for the success of Hendrick Motorsports and where it is and what's going on with it right now. Over the last 15 years, my gosh, it's crazy to say that. I guess I'm getting old. But he's something special.

Q. With the 2013 championship, is there any way we can see the return of those trophy hats for this one?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't know — yeah, that was a pretty cool hat. I don't know where it is. I think we missed our chance.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] Q. Just being in this format, what was it like going into today's race being under this current format, the first time that you've been in the Final Four race since NASCAR started this?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's different for sure, to come in with equal points and know that you've got to beat the competitors. I don't know, in some ways it took a little stress off because it's pretty simple what you had to do. Although I looked at their rear ends most of the night and wasn't able to mix it up with them. I think this format creates a lot of stress, a lot of drama, and we certainly felt like — I'm sure the world felt like anybody but Jimmie Johnson was going to win the championship with 20 to go, and then it changed so quick with a green-white-checker at the end.

It's a pretty crazy format to say the least.

Q. You had the helmet, the photographer, you ran seven miles, right, last night?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know what, I skipped it. I'm lazy. I did. I had the best of intentions, and then the sun started to set, and I'm like, you know what, I'm going to eat some pasta (laughter).

Q. You changed the whole story.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Sorry. I'll buy you all a beer. Let's bring the beer in. I'm a failure, sorry (laughter). I've got seven trophies now. I mean, s—.

No, I had the best of intentions, and then I got really lazy. And Chad is wearing me out, "Don't wear yourself out. Hydrate, hydrate, eat!" Like he tells me every stop on the radio to hydrate, so I just — I didn't. It was tough.

Q. You had the commemorative helmet, you had the photographer. Did you feel it? Did you know that this was the year way back when the Chase started?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. No. I mean, this summer —

Q. You felt —

JIMMIE JOHNSON: This summer, no chance. Chase started to build some hope, but the helmet was out of respect to Dale and Richard, and then some calm, peaceful confidence showed up after Martinsville, and that calm, peaceful confidence has stuck with me through an okay race in Texas, a race we should have won in Phoenix, and then 395 miles here, and then uncorked itself. I don't know, just a wild scenario.

Q. Have you ever had a race that meant so much where things looked so bleak? And there's always been the joke about the horseshoe. If there was a place for it, where would it have been tonight?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess the horseshoe goes in one spot, but there's no room. What's wild is I never thought it was a bleak night. There was this weird, comfortable confidence I had all night long. Maybe weird is the wrong word to use, but I was just — I felt like something was going to happen, and I was going to be okay with it. For a while I came to grips with the reality of it being third, fourth, somewhere in there and shaking somebody else's hand and being happy for them, and then it changed so quick at the end.

Q. Your dad said that you sent him a text last night, and he talked a little bit about it was thanking him for being there, doing things through the years. Can you talk about that? He was surprised to get something like that. He says, "He's never done that for me before." And were you aware that it brought him to tears?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I sent my dad, my mom, my brothers and Rick Johnson a text last night, just thanking them for their love and support, and I'd make them proud today. I didn't know what that exactly meant as I was sending it, and all the texts were a little bit different. But I don't know why, and as he mentions, it's the first time I've done that. It was funny getting a response back from him because I think he still has a flip phone, so no telling how hard it was for him to punch back what he did.

Yeah, I took the time to do that last night. I just wanted those five to know that I was thankful for the love and support that they've given me over the years.

Q. What did you tell your dad in your text, and what was his response?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He's always had this yell, this "Yooow!" And I think somebody else typed it for him because it actually said that, and there's no chance he did it. But as a kid going off a jump on a dirt bike, I could always tell where he was on the racetrack because I could hear him scream that. That's what he texted back.

Jimmie Johnson takes the checkered flag at Homestead

Q. Winning races and winning championships is not easy. Everybody knows that. But some years you've seemed to have been on a roll and you were the man and you were the one to beat and you were the favorite, and the fans — there was like a polarizing kind of effect. Tonight when you were introduced, today when you were introduced, there was more cheering than anything, and of course it was kind of because it seems like you were really fighting for this one. You weren't on top all the time. You weren't always the favorite. You weren't always out there, much like this race tonight, "Well, maybe next year for Jimmie," but yet there you are, so you really fought hard for this one. Does this one feel any different than some of the ones in years past in terms of maybe a little tougher than some of the other ones that you got in the past?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I guess, first of all, to speak to the point of the fan reaction, honestly, when I jumped in the back of the pickup truck after driver intros and they had the four of us and we were going around the track, I usually get flipped off a lot. They shoot me the bird everywhere we are, every state, everywhere we go. I kept looking up and seeing hands in the air thinking they're shooting me the bird again. It was actually seven. All they way around the racetrack everyone was holding up seven, and it just gave me goosebumps, like wow, what an interesting shift in things.

So I think the fact that we were in the position we were today to tie history, you know, even people wearing other hats and other tee shirts that normally shoot me the bird were holding up seven. It was really cool.

Q. Recalling an earlier victory celebration at the Brickyard, little Evie didn't want to kiss the bricks, but tonight even Lydia seemed to hold up seven. What did that mean to you to have your daughters there, and Evie obviously didn't appreciate 2013. What did it mean to you to have them there and realize you've done something if not seven championships?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it's — they're so young, it's hard to know exactly what's going on, but it means the world to me to have them there, and honestly, the reaction that Chandie had on her face was a lot like the reaction what I had and what I was experiencing. I've seen — we've been through some emotional stuff over the years, two children and all these great professional things that have gone on. I've never seen my wife with that expression on her face, and it said the world to me.

She said she was in the fetal position in the motor home as the laps were winding down. Kids were going nuts. They could see the race, what was going on TV but didn't know why mom was in the fetal position, so I guess it was pretty chaotic in the motor home.

But they make such sacrifice to let me go out and do my thing, so I'm very thankful, and in those moments — sharing these moments with them mean everything.

Q. This question has been asked a little bit, but does this feel like the most dramatic way that you've clinched a title? Certainly it's a different format than you've had before, but does it feel as dramatic to you as it appeared to us?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Without a doubt. I mean, when I was coming to the checkered flag I had to really look closely at it going by to make sure it was. Like is this really happening? I don't know what I screamed on the radio, but I know it didn't sound like my voice. I was thinking, you'd better take your finger off the button. That didn't sound like you. Yes, that was as dramatic and as crazy as I've ever experienced in my racing career.

Q. Getting back, you talked about the celebratory thing with your family that was very special. What about having Jeff there, Dale Jr., Tony; can you kind of go back and relive those moments and what you were feeling during that time?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, the respect from peers is truly one of the things that has always motivated me and has always hit me the deepest through my racing career, even back when you're a young kid at a local track and one of the local stars of the track, like hey, good job, I saw what you did. I can remember feelings then, and it's the same feeling today.

Before my car — before I even came off of Turn 4, Aric Almirola was running off of pit road, like running out there to congratulate me. I was like, holy cow, this is awesome. But all of my teammates, Jeff, Jr., Richard Childress, you know, the nod from your peers, that really hits deep, and it means the world.

Q. Back in January you told me that you weren't in favor of the title format, the points, because of your early exit the past two years. What about now?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I still have six the other way, so I think I'm fond of the previous Chase. This track hasn't been our best, but somehow we won tonight. I think we definitely stepped up our game running here and could run in the top 5, but for a 400-mile race, so 395ish miles we were on the ropes. Fifth wasn't going to cut it.

So I think the old format still does benefit me. I think on paper, this format is good for me to make the Championship Four, but I guess we've won here now, so we can scratch that off the list.

But I would love for this thing to end at Dover. I should start politicking for the final race at Dover.

Q. You were speaking of the calm I think was the term you used that you were experiencing in the latter parts of the race. Does any of that derive from — you have a lot of championships in the bank, your place in history is only going to be argued up. If everything went wrong there, okay, maybe you come back next year and try, everything was kind of gravy there; does that all contribute to a sense of ease of, let's just see what happens here?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think so, and that was the thing I was trying to come to grips with during the red flag, and at different points of the race even, is the calmness, because I'm comfortable with where I am in the sport, and there's nothing wrong with six, or am I comfortable because there's something else that's going to happen. I really couldn't sort that all out, and honestly, as those final three restarts unfolded, it started coming together in my head, and I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. This is where it's going. I didn't see that. I thought I was going to go shake someone else's hand, and I was content with that, and then it kept changing, and I'm like, no way, this is really going down. It was pretty wild.

Q. I just need to know more about the greatest restart of your life. How did you pull it off with a car that was fifth fastest all night?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think there were a few things. I didn't spin the tires. The 22 got to me before he had a chance to pull out and take us three wide, and the 42 gave me room. The 42 could have been very difficult and hung on my quarter panel and made life tough for me, but he gave me the space to get through 1 and 2, and those three pieces were key for it taking place, me getting the restart of my life.

Q. Take me through the cool-down lap. Once you had crossed the start-finish line, everything was sealed, you took your finger off the button, when you had those moments to yourself in that cool-down lap. What was that like?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just incredible because I'm trying to get the window net down, and I noticed that Kyle and Joey both quickly came up alongside the car and gave me a thumbs-up. My teammates, and again, that nod from the peers, it was just such a cool moment that hits deep, and to see everybody's arms coming out the window, guys revving engines, that was a pretty awesome cool-down lap.

Q. I would like to ask about number eight. Rick said you can't get to number eight until you get to number seven, so now you have that and you're tied, and he's looking forward to seeing you and Chad get number eight. What do you think the chances of that happening are?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know what the chances are, but let's go. I'm so excited to put that in front of myself and the team has a hurdle to get over and an accomplishment to achieve.

I had a lot of fun racing for the sixth. This one and the calm nature and the way we went about business and got it done only gives me more confidence for the future. I honestly feel like I'm playing with house money. I never aspired to be famous. I never aspired to be a champion. I just wanted to race.

I've found a way to put it in that simple mindset here the last couple attempts, in '13 and now in '16. I think it makes us really dangerous, and I look forward to the challenge of trying to get number eight.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Jimmie, for coming in.

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