JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the plans for when his new baby daughter will be born in 5 weeks, how the team is doing at this point in the season, his participating in the Grand-Am race and plans for that,...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the plans for when his new baby daughter will be born in 5 weeks, how the team is doing at this point in the season, his participating in the Grand-Am race and plans for that, and more.
ON PRACTICING THE GRAND-AM DAYTONA PROTOTYPE CAR AT WATKINS GLEN THIS WEEKEND "We are trying to sort out, if I qualify well, which we hope to because we were fast in practice, what happens with the Grand-Am practice. I was up at the Glen this morning and the practice session goes to start. Well on the last lap (of practice) for the GT cars, some guys got together and put oil down on the track. The session was delayed. So I got four laps of practice in the Prototype and then had to get here for our practice. We're trying to sort out how quickly I can get out of Pocono and back up to the Glen so I can be in the last practice session this afternoon."
YOU'RE ALSO RUNNING AT ELDORA UNDER 'TEAM KYLE BUSCH' PLUS A BIG WEEKEND HERE, HOW ARE YOU MANAGING IT ALL? "It's an exciting time. One other thing to add to the mix is getting ready to be a parent here in five weeks or so. We've got things burning in all areas. In fact we've been able to secure Aric Armirola to be our back-up driver and fill-in. I think he'll do a great job in the car and it's just a matter of time before he ends up in a full-time Cup ride. The other thing that's good for us is our body size and type of geometry is similar, so he'll be an easy fit to get in the car if we need that to happen.
"DP (Daytona Prototype) race this weekend. I guess our guys were fastest today in practice up there, which is great. And I'll get a lot of time in this final practice session today. The Eldora race; I'm really excited. Clint (Bowyer) is bringing me back again and building me a new race car. I don't know why he builds me new race cars when I only race them once a year and this is going to be my third time ever racing one, but he's generous enough to do that and we'll have a good time. It'll be weird having Kyle (Busch) as the team captain. When he worked for Hendrick Motorsports he was so young. He was like a little grade school kid. It's going to be crazy having him as the captain of the team. But we'll have fun. It's been busy and that's what we do."
WHAT IS YOUR PLAN OVER THE NEXT 5 WEEKS? WILL YOU BE THERE FOR THE BIRTH OF YOUR CHILD? "Yeah, that's our goal. And again, we're going off of averages and what the doctors can tell us; how long labor typically takes and all that stuff. But still each individual's body and the way the birth goes, it can be fast it can be long. But looking on averages, we feel now with the due date being right after Chicago on that off-week, we won't have a problem. If the baby does decide to come earlier, Aric will be there. The first goal for me would be to drive a lap and get some points. But it just depends on the situation. There could be a situation where I've got to make a tough decision. Do I wait and drive that one lap and potentially miss the birth of our daughter, or do I stick around? That exists. There is no way around that. It just depends on how things shake out. Hopefully she's on time or long as it traditionally goes and if that's the case we'll be into the off-weekend and everything will be fine."
QUESTION INAUDIBLE "I guess it could if we had a monster lead. It would be an easy decision at that point. But in my mind, I'd need to make a lap in that car. The one tough one we have would be Sonoma because it's so far away. I believe Chicago or Daytona are not far away in the grand scheme of things when labor takes 20-some hours. If she starts into labor and I have some time, a 10-hour window or something to get there, we can work with all that."
ON THE WING VERSUS THE SPOILER, WILL THAT BE A FACTOR HERE? "I know that there is a lot made up about performance and the fact that it could be a change between the spoiler and the wing. I guess it is different so there is an opportunity for that to be part of it. I just, in my heart, cannot believe that. It just does not feel different when I'm in the car. I can't tell if there is a wing or a spoiler on the back of the car. I've always said though, in traffic, the characteristic of a wing versus a spoiler is going to be different. Maybe there is a window of opportunity there where the cars are a little bit more edgy in traffic and a little more affected by other cars. I just feel that from my own experience here the last few weeks (that) I've been trying too hard. I've been trying to have the car on the loose side and pushing hard to make sure that the car didn't get tight on me. I do not like a tight race car. And I've probably compromised the comfort of the car and how to drive a car for 600 miles by pushing that envelope and by attacking really hard from my standpoint as a driver. So I think I'm in a place where I need to slow down to go fast. We've been competitive. We won early. We haven't been maybe the dominant car or the fastest car week in and week out, but we've been a top five car. And I think I've been trying to bridge that gap and trying to make the difference up on my own and I need to stop doing that. I need to just focus on getting what I can on that given day. Take that finish and build on that performance so that Chad (Knaus) and our engineers can continue to make the cars better and better and better instead of me stepping over the line and making a mistake and costing us."
HOW ARE YOU DEALING AND YOUR TEAM WITH YOUR PERFORMANCES FOR THE PAST FEW WEEKS? "We're doing fine. You read the headlines and it's like the No. 48 team is shutting down. But in our world yeah, it hasn't been the best for us but we look at Dover and accelerated faster than we thought we would, based on our calculations. So people still think I sped up when I got next to the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) and it wasn't the segment I got busted in, it was me leaving the pit box harder than I had any other time. So, I'll take the one for that one. The All-Star race, where I was pinned down next to Denny (Hamlin) coming to the white at the All-Star race, I said the hell with it and just stayed in the gas and spun around. I knew if I didn't clear him there I had no shot at catching the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) and there weren't points on the line so I said the hell with it I'll hold it wide open and hope it sticks and it didn't. I was a lawnmower off through the grass. But last week, I made some mistakes. The first one, the car was edgy and I got loose off of (Turn) 4 and got into the outside wall. The next problem I had, we fixed the car and got it back in some type of competitive order. I had the No. 2 car on my tail coming to pit road for that sequence of pit stops and when I left pit road it was about getting it done and going. Kurt had been so fast, I was just legging the car really, really hard and spun out off of (Turn) 2. I lost him in traffic a little bit so I think back and say okay maybe I could have conserved a little bit more and waited a few more laps before I pushed the car that hard, but man I'd just go. I've always had that good rhythm of talking that tightrope, and you step over it from time to time. Lately I've been stepping on the wrong side of that line and I need to bring it back to touch and make sure that we finish where we should and if we don't have a car that can win the race, fine. We'll just take what we can get."
CAN YOU RUN US THROUGH THE LOGISTICS OF YOUR DAY TRYING TO DO ALL THIS? "This morning I left from New York. We lifted off at 7:45 a.m. to Watkins Glen. We landed in a field outside of the track. Came in in a car. Had a brief meeting with their series director because I missed the driver's meeting. I went to my team. They handed me a map and the two drivers were there and they discussed what I needed to do on track. Dale Jr. helped me out and actually came to my warehouse that I have and set up an I-racing simulator with the Watkins Glen long track in it in the DP car. I had some ideas of what needed to go on. I looked at the track map and I was asking them if I was in the right gear here and kind of what I saw in the game and confirmed that. And then we went to driver changes, which is something we clearly don't do. So we worked on four or five driver changes. The car went to the grid. I went up to the grid and got in the car and sat in line and waited for practice to open and then they had a problem with the GT car and practice got started 10 minutes late. We pushed it 10 minutes back and had 20 minutes of fudge time between when I was supposed to lane here (Pocono) and get in the car. I made my four or five laps and got out of the car and had a quick debrief with the team and things seemed well. I was taking big chunks of speed of in lap after lap doing well. Golf cart to a car, a car to the helicopter, a helicopter up to the pad over here and then took another golf cart in and walked over and climbed right in the car and was the second car on the line. So my biggest thing was obviously to not take away from my Cup effort. If we didn't think there was potential for weather tomorrow, I could have pushed that time much further, but we really wanted to be in the first wave of cars out for race practice today. If we were going to be in qualifying trim, there's probably another 10 minutes there I could have stayed in the car at Watkins Glen."
DID YOU HAVE ANY PAUSE IN CHOOSING ARIC ARMIROLA TO SIT IN THE CAR FOR YOU WHEN THE BABY IS BORN? OR ANY PAUSE ABOUT ANY OTHER DRIVER FOR THAT MATTER "Starting with Rick (Hendrick) and then to Chad (Knaus) and my guys are all so excited for Chani and I to experience this and for me to be there and be a part of the birth and enjoy all those moments that come with it, that it's been really cool, especially from Chad's standpoint. He said, 'There is no way you're missing the birth of your daughter. You will be there. I don't care what it costs, or what it takes, or if we don't get points or whatever the situation is, you're going to be there.' And I'm like, I appreciate that but let's focus here and make sure we can cover all the bases if it's possible. So it's been really good from those guys. They're extremely supportive and it seems as if they're more interesting in me being there on time than anything."
WE'VE REACHED THE HALFWAY POINT IN THE RACE TO THE CHASE. HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS RACE TO GET SOME MOMENTUM HEADING INTO THE FINAL 13 RACES? "It depends on how you look at it. You certainly want points at every event and we've lost some points here recently. But this track doesn't apply to anything we race on at the end of the year. So in one light, it's important for points. In another light, if you don't run well here it doesn't really matter. Then the third thing I'm now starting to experience is the overall expectation of everyone and where the No. 48 car should run (laughs). So, those are the three factors. There used to be only two but now there are three that I'm learning to deal with. We want points. We need points. There is no doubt we've been slipping in the points because of mistakes that have been made. But I think we're going to be good. We were really fast in race trim today and had a good margin on the guys in qualifying trim. We'll get all we can this weekend and go on to the next one. Again, I'm really going to be focused on getting what I can out of the car. And if it's a fifth-place car or a 10th place car, I'm not going to step over that line and bust my butt again."
HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED AT THIS LEVEL OF FOUR CHAMPIONSHIP AND TRYING FOR A FIFTH TITLE? "It's such an interesting dynamic. When it's going well, it's almost as if you don't know why it's going so well. And you know it's a fragile environment and that anything can change it and that anything can change it and you know it's not going to be long-lived and that's why for the last four years we've been in the position like hey, this is amazing but at the same time it can all change at some point. So when it's going well it's almost easy. And things just happen and flow and work and you look brilliant in the car and brilliant on pit road and everything. But what shapes you is how you deal with the tough times. And it's not going to be good for you all the time or for anyone all the time. So I think it speaks to how special the last four years have been for the No. 48 team and then also shows how competitive this garage area really is. You've got to respect all the drivers and teams and go out there and earn it week in and week out. Just because something happened in the past doesn't mean you're going to have it happen again."
-source: gm racing