Q: Were you surprised near the end as you started taking that inside line up through there – we kept waiting for somebody, Biffle, Danica, people running second, third or fourth, to drop down in front and let you push them along – were you surprised nobody jumped down in front of you and made you push?
: Yeah, everybody was just playing the odds. The majority of the competitors wanted to run the top. The draft really works in numbers. There's more there than the bottom. With the side drafting being as effective right now, you could really choke down the bottom lane and pin a guy against the line and slow him down and then get away and have that long line of cars to surge you past.
The game's changed a little bit. It used to be defend the bottom, now it's defend the top.
In the closing laps, we were all single file, I was leading, I wanted to see what would go on with the middle or bottom and not allow guys to set me up based on my lines. I ran the bottom and no one had a run or did anything. It was an interesting race.
Learned a lot through the course of the race with the new Gen-6 car. At the end when it was time to go, I knew we had a straight racecar with no scratches on it. We worked real hard, we had a game plan down here every time. Even though we were in single-car drafts, we had an agenda and things we worked on and made the car a little bit better each day, kept perfecting it. I had one heck of a racecar today.
Q: Danica Patrick made history being the first woman to ever lead a lap in the Daytona 500. What impressed you most about the way she ran this race and what do you think this does for the sport?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, she's really comfortable in the car. Being close to other competitors, door to door, whatever environment takes place on the racetrack, at these speeds, she was very comfortable. Held a great wheel. Was smooth and predictable. Took advantage of runs when she had them. She did a really good job.
It was just another car on the track. I didn't think about it being Danica in the car. It was just another car on the track that was fast. That's a credit to her and the job she's doing.
I think the style of racetrack really suits her. When we get to the other tracks, she has a tall learning curve ahead of her. She continues to show her ability to drive racecars. She made history today, and in fine fashion, too.
Q: With Danica and with Harvick dominating early, do you feel maybe you flew under the radar well into it than you have in some years? If so, did you like that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't really think too much about it. In other years I've been down here so focused on the pole, caught up in the media, the buzz that surrounds that, being in the top five. As time goes on, it's a nice week to enjoy after you win the pole, but it just doesn't mean much for the race.
In my mind, I didn't feel like I was under the radar. I felt like we were working hard to put the best product on the track. I had a good run in the Unlimited until we crashed. The Duel, I thought we were very competitive there. It was a sign of things to come.
I guess I was quiet in the overall spectrum of things from the media side. I think people in the garage, people knew we were sitting on a lot of speed and had a very good racecar.
Q: Motorsports has been known for streaks, dominance. I know you're hoping to repeating the five years of championships. After two years of struggling here, I was wondering, any little bit of a doubt saying, Can we regain that? Aiming at a championship, any doubts creep in?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Doubts on the championship or plate racing?
Q: The championship.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Plate racing, no. Man, it's like playing the lottery. Everybody's got a ticket. When the 83 car is up there running fifth or sixth in the closing laps, it just shows you how equal the cars are and what the draft does. I've struck out a lot at these tracks, left with torn-up racecars. Today we had a clean day.
I didn't doubt our ability to win, I was just frustrated with circumstances and plate racing. This will buy me a smile for I'm sure the rest of the year on the plate tracks.
Q: How do you look at this now looking ahead to the rest of the season?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely a great start for the team. When we were sitting discussing things before the season started, we felt good about the 500, but we're really excited for everything after the 500.
So very hopeful and excited that our 48 car will be really fast in Phoenix, Vegas, moving forward. I think it's going to be a very strong year for us.
Q: You said on the last lap you backed up to the people behind you, Junior said he backed up, Greg said he backed up. I thought the whole idea was to try to go forward...
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, the way our cars work, there's more help from someone pushing you than somebody towing you along. Been mentioned and talked a little bit about this week – the spring, some guys call it the beach ball effect. When the front bumper gets close to the rear bumper, there's a bubble effect that shoots the car ahead. We learned over the years, if you ride the brake and help the car catching you break through that little bubble and make contact with you, there's more energy in that than the bubble effect.
Usually why we wreck is drag the brake, wait for contact, sometimes it's not in the right spot, maybe it's too hard, starts a wreck. But that's the game everybody plays.
I didn't pull back on the 16 at all. It seemed to me that everybody that's won down here, the leader was in pretty good shape. I was looking closely at the 16, waiting for him to come with a run. Then Earl said the 88 had the run. Last I looked, he was fourth or fifth. I thought that was great because he's probably going to stall out next to the 16, I was going to be up there all by myself in the lead and make it back.
He did have a big enough run to get by the 16, but I knew he didn't have enough closing rate to get by my side and do anything. I felt kind of good about things coming off of Four.