Atlanta: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed improvements in the car, racing at Bristol and last week's race at Las Vegas, plus much more. ON RACING AT BRISTOL "We're getting close (to taking a win there). It's taken a...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed improvements in the car, racing at Bristol and last week's race at Las Vegas, plus much more.

ON RACING AT BRISTOL

"We're getting close (to taking a win there). It's taken a lot for me as a driver to change my habits and the way I drive that race track. I've had to completely switch over to a different driving style. It was easy for us to look at what worked for the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) for so many years, but I just couldn't make that work. Our styles are so different that I couldn't make it work and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) had to really focus in on some other areas and in time we've gotten much more competitive. I feel like in the fall race last year we had a really good shot at it, but unfortunately a lugnut had hung up in the wheel and we couldn't get the wheel to index back on the hub. If we didn't have that hang up, I think we could have done it. I'm excited to look at our two chances at it this year and hopefully we can get it done."

WINNING 2 OF THE FIRST 3 RACES THIS YEAR, WHAT AFFECT DO YOU THINK THAT IS HAVING ON THE OTHER DRIVERS? "I don't know but I want to assume that us winning two of the first three (races) has no affect on them. If I think we're softening up the competition in some way, shape, or form I think that's foolish on our part. We need to take every race and every team as seriously as we can. We got into this position by not letting up and by keeping our heads down and focusing on each and every week and doing the best job that we can, and didn't really pay attention to the outside stuff. We really focused on what happens in the walls at Hendrick Motorsports and what happens in our pit stall and what happens on that race track. If those things are coming our way and we are in people's heads. I've always said that's great and we'll take it. It's not the game we try to play. We just really focus on doing our jobs each week and the last two weeks we've done a really good job."

OTHER DRIVERS TODAY WILL ADMIT TO BEING IMPRESSED WITH YOUR START, BUT NOT INTIMIDATED BY IT. PUTTING YOURSELF IN THEIR POSITION, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU SHOULD BE INTIMIDATED BY YOUR 4 CHAMPIONSHIPS, AND 2 OF 3 RACE WINS THIS YEAR? "I would find a way to not be, as well. I think I do that when I see other guys on a roll. I don't want to admit of think that they've got us beat. Every weekend we go to a new track and it's a new set of circumstances. And you get into the rhythm of saying okay, that was last week; let's move on. I don't think the pressure of what a team is really doing comes into play until late in the regular season when you're fighting for that final spot in the Chase. And then when the Chase starts, you live and die by that day in and day out. But at this point, I wouldn't be intimidated myself either. Feeling frustrated and some other things would come before 'intimidated' in my mind. But I've been saying it. And I'm sure a lot of other people have said it too, this is only three races in. There's a lot of racing left to go."

YOU'LL BE THE 4TH FASTEST TO GET TO 50 WINS WHEN YOU EVENTUALLY GET THERE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT GETTING THERE IN LESS THAN 300 STARTS AND ABOUT JEFF GORDON GETTING THERE IN 232 STARTS? "I cannot say it enough that I definitely never dreamed of being in this position. To be here and living this is pretty damn cool, and weird, and amazing. I'm very proud of what I've done as a driver and very proud of what we've done as a team and how we've worked together over the years. The success we've had isn't because of any one person. It's because of team work and people and lots of people and lots of hours and it's just an accumulation of things. To have so much go right for us in 300 starts; well not necessarily go right for us because I feel we've created a lot of where we're at today. So to have so many people working in the right direction and have their career paths peaking at the same point collectively as a group is pretty cool. And it doesn't happen often in sports. And that's why we've been fortunate to be in this position. I'm very proud of what we've done and I continue to say that I feel we have a lot more to prove and a lot more that we can still do as a race team. We are fairly young as a whole. I would say coming into the middle part of our careers and I think there is a lot of racing left in all of us."

JEFF GORDON AND HIS CREW CHIEF STEVE LETARTE BOTH SAID THEY NEEDED TO BE RISK TAKERS THIS YEAR INSTEAD OF PLAYING IT SAFE IN ORDER TO CATCH YOU. DO YOU NOT WANT TO SIT STILL BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE OTHER GUYS ARE GOING TO BE THERE TRYING OFF-THE-WALL STUFF? "It does help, but at the same time, time will truthfully tell what the right path is. We've worked really hard in areas over the 2007 off-season going into 2008 and we found a whole bunch of cool stuff we thought was going to work and we showed up and were terrible. And it took 26 or 27 test sessions to get our stuff right. In theory and the way things happen, yeah we might be forcing people to try things outside of their box to catch us. At the same time, we feel like we're coming across new things to make our stuff better. But they may find something before we even think of it and leap-frog us. We just don't know. And if you look at people and racing organizations and the gains they've made in the off-season, RCR hasn't just made one step up, they've made two or three steps up.

"So you just don't know what that's going to be. It's tough to find stuff anymore because we continue to say that the areas we have to work in are so small that stuff you've overlooked for years and years are now the hot spots where you find chunks of speed. We've got to do something different here. We have not been as strong as we've needed to as a group, especially for the No. 48 car. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) has been on-spot with adjustments and strategy at the end and gets some decent results for us, but as far as just heads-up racing we haven't been where we need to be here in a couple of years since the CoT came around."

"There is nothing radical anymore. And it's almost frustrating for the crew chiefs because they will make what have been small changes for years and years and we come back in and say it's a totally different race car. And the crew chief thinks, 'It can't be. I've changed the spring 30 pounds and a couple clicks on the shock and a little bit of wedge. That's nothing. Well, as a driver, that's a ton. It's not that we're reinventing the wheel coming here, but we've just got to go about it a little differently. So it's 15 to 20% different maybe than what we were here in the fall last year."

WHEN YOU GOT UP TO THE FINAL PIT STOP IN LAS VEGAS AND CHAD KNAUS CALLED FOR 4 TIRE CHANGE RATHER THAN 2, WHAT DID YOU THINK? "We're in big trouble. When I left pit road, I could see two cars ahead of me exiting the pits. I had an early pit box and was focused on getting in my pit box and the pit stop taking place, so I didn't see how many cars went by. So as I left pit road and came around that long radius that it has, I saw two cars and a long line of cars on the race track. I told Chad on the radio we're dead. You're not going to like this at all. And he was like what are you talking about? We're great, we're great. There's no way. Everybody took two (tires). And then as I came onto the track, I was noticing those guys were all a lap down. I took for granted how fast the lead group was and how many cars we put down a lap. And then once all that sorted itself out and I lined up in the second row I started smiling and felt like we had a chance. But there were four or five minutes there where I really felt like we were in trouble."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon
Teams Hendrick Motorsports