Team Lowe's Racing
Thursday Press Conference
December 16, 2010
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Impala spoke with the media about the Lowe's Toolbox for Education grants, winning the Driver of the Year award, Daytona testing and other topics.
KRISTINE CURLEY, TEAM LOWE'S PUBLIC RELATIONS:
Good morning everyone. I've got Jimmie (Johnson) here with me and we are calling from Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina where we just announced more than $688,000 worth of education grants for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Toolbox for Education Champion's grant. The grants will go to schools in Jimmie and Chandra's hometown in the San Diego area and the Tulsa area as well as here in Charlotte where they currently reside. With that being said, we would like to open it up for questions for the participants on the call.
Q&A's WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON:
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THIS CHARITY EVENT THAT IS TAKING PLACE?:
"As Christine has mentioned, through the course of this year we have been able to raise a lot of money through various functions and events and fundraisers -- our focus last year and again this year was on the Lowe's Toolbox for Education program and just happy to have it all come together. We had an amazing year on the track and then off with the fundraising was spectacular too and today was really the best part of it all where we were able to pass out the grants and announce the schools that won the grants. I guess the next best thing is actually to see it in action and here at the Collinswood School, we have been able to make a grant and I'm sitting in the room where one of the Smart Boards was installed from last year's program so that might be the best part is to see it in action. Today is a really special day for us and Chandra and I are both very proud of what our foundation has done and can't thank Lowe's enough for their support and then the fans and everyone that has participated and donated."
DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD AT THIS TIME OF YEAR?:
"Yeah, absolutely. The year has wound down. We're here to give these grants out and the schools need this money desperately and we wish that we had the 60 million dollars that were sent in requests to pass out to all the schools, but clearly it would be impossible to do that. There's a huge, huge need out there and I'm just thankful that people have understood the demand and supported us and have been able to support us and get involved and help our education program."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET THE 'DRIVER OF THE YEAR AWARD' FOR THE FOURTH STRAIGHT YEAR?:
"I'm just way excited about it. When you look at all the drivers that were nominated for Driver of the Year, I don't know how you even pick it. I'm extremely honored to be the Driver of the Year and very proud of what we've done. I feel that we had an amazing year and accomplished a lot with five in a row. I look at the competition for Driver of the Year and I don't know how they made the decision, it had to be tough."
DID YOU SEE YOURSELF GIVING BACK SO MUCH WHEN YOU WERE TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE TOP LEVELS OF MOTORSPORTS?:
"No, I mean I was always involved in small programs and a lot of it involved race weekends -- we would go into children's hospitals. Every series I have driven for there has always been something and I always participated in the events that they went to or held or whatever was going on. I was doing that again at the Cup level when I got started and Kyle and Pattie Petty sat my wife and I down and said, 'Hey, what you're doing is amazing, but if you want to do more and we think you can do a lot more then this is how you go about it.' Chandra and I are just thankful for them in taking the time and showing us the ropes and inspiring us and encouraging us to take the step and start the foundation. No, I didn't think we would be giving back this much and are extremely proud of what we're doing."
WHAT HAS BEEN DIFFERENT FOR YOU WITH THIS CHAMPIONSHIP AND THE AFTERMATH?:
"Definitely things that are different. The year that we had, the inconsistency that we had, but still the result being the same speaks a lot to my ability, the ability of Chad (Knaus, crew chief), the team and our team atmosphere was tested this year at the Texas race and then those final two races. Just to have such a tough year, we won six races and there were some shining spots in the year, but it was a tough year for us. To still end up with the championship makes me really proud. To have my daughter here and to enjoy the off season with her, the success on the track, coming into the holiday season and all the excitement around that -- it's been a great off season."
WHY WERE YOU LATER COMING IN TODAY?:
"We're just working with our announcement that started around 9:30 with the grants program. I guess it is the off season so we have a little extra time. We're looking out for you actually."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THE TEST SESSION THAT YOUR TEAM RAN THE MONDAY AND TUESDAY AFTER THE BANQUET?:
"I saw the car, it was out in the derby area and the thing was sand-blasted. I don't know to be honest with you. I don't know what was picked up there. I know they requested a lot of data and usually what happens is until you get into a real situation, it's hard to know if it worked or not. With the tire test going on and the 5 (Mark Martin) car, I'm getting confused now with everything back at our shop, but with Mark down at the test, a lot of that will work the processes out. I don't know what went on out there. The drivers have the great fortune of disconnecting. Chad has been at the shop six days a week, sun-up to sundown, grinding it out. I know he is one of many that is working that hard. I don't know what the stuff is yet, but I will know in January by the time I get back in the car at Daytona, they will make me well aware then and I will know what we got."
WILL YOU GO BACK TO THE SAME PIT CREW FROM LAST SEASON OR WILL THERE BE MORE CHANGES THERE?:
"They are trying to work through that now and obviously there is a lot of focus on our crew after what happened last year, but really every year the guys have to come back and earn their position. There are always new tire changers, carriers, jack man to look at and this year with the change on catch can man, the responsibilities of the fuel man is going to be far greater so that is a point of interest and concern. We've had combines, we've had tryouts, had a lot of stuff going on through the off-season trying to find our seven best guys to go over the wall. I'm not sure that we have everything in place just yet. I do know that we have a large crop of guys that we're looking at. We've had great fortune with a lot of options. We're working hard on narrowing it down to six guys."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON HOW CLOSE THE FINAL DRIVER OF THE YEAR VOTE WAS?:
"I would have hated to be a part of that with all the competitive racing there was throughout the course of the year in all motorsports. The variety of come back championship situations and everything here in our boat and how it turned out that way. I'm glad that I didn't have to vote and it makes this honor all that more special. I would assume that (John) Force would be a shoe-in. That old fart going as fast as he does and standing on the gas as hard as he does, I was shocked to beat him. When I look through the list of guys that were all up for it, it is a great honor to be Driver of the Year."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE RACING FOR YOUR 15TH CHAMPIONSHIP WHEN YOU ARE 61 LIKE JOHN FORCE?:
"I can say no on that. We look at Mark (Martin) at 51 and think, 'how does he do it?' I don't know how Force does it at 61. I guess it's because his work is done in four seconds or whatever it is, elapsed time wise might take different form. I hope to be competing, but I know for a fact that I won't be in Cup at 61."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU WON DRIVER OF THE YEAR AND WERE YOU SURPRISED?:
"Very surprised and again, honored. To know the list of drivers that I was up against, if you look at the story and the way that the championships were won and how people performed in clutch situations, it was a very, very competitive battle for the award. I was hopeful that I was the winner, I felt like five in a row should maybe lean in my direction, but it's Driver of the Year, not driver of the decade or driver of the last five years so I didn't know how that was all going to weigh in."
WHERE ARE YOU KEEPING YOUR FIVE TROPHIES FOR THE HOLIDAYS?:
"Four are still at the Hall of Fame on display there and the fifth is at the office. I need to get them all together. There are a couple cool photos of all five together and it's one heck of a sight."
WHY ARE YOU NOT DOWN IN DAYTONA RIGHT NOW?:
"It's really more to do with the tire test, there's an open test and I'm sure things will change from tire test to open test at the plate track where the rules are set for the most part. Things will even change as we go back down. When we're there, we can capture data and what the track surface is like so sending a car down with data on it is all we needed at this point. It makes sense, I know we have the 5 car down there and I'm not sure if any of the other teams have gone. It makes sense for Mark (Martin) to go down there and work with Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and get that relationship established. For us, we'll be back down and have three full days in January so we've got that to fall on."