JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed where his team is going in to the Chase, racing a Bristol, thoughts on the Chase itself and other topics. JIMMIE, TALK ABOUT YOUR...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed where his team is going in to the Chase, racing a Bristol, thoughts on the Chase itself and other topics.
JIMMIE, TALK ABOUT YOUR JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION HELMET: "I just wanted to thank everyone for participating with the Helmet of Hope. We are very excited to have all of the different charities on the helmet and this helmet is already posted on EBay and it is doing well on the auction site. The auction will come to a conclusion at our event Tuesday night out in California. I just wanted to thank everyone for supporting and being involved. It has meant a lot to myself and the foundation and I know to all the charities that are on the helmet."
YOUR THOUGHTS WITH THREE TO GO BEFORE THE CHASE FIELD IS SET: "I'm excited for where we are in the points (third heading in to Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway). Hopefully we can lock ourselves in here in the near future and get over that hurdle. At the same time, I would like to win some more and close up that gap to where we are to Carl (Edwards) and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch). We are working as hard as we can, we are doing all that we can, we are doing all that we can. I feel we are going to be very competitive in the Chase. At least where we are right now, we are maybe a little behind where we were last year, but at the same time, I feel like we have a lot of racing left. We have testing out ahead of us to try and sort out the cars even more and we are working really hard to win our third championship in a row."
IN 2009, THERE WILL BE A WEEKEND OFF GOING IN TO THE CHASE; IS THAT A GOOD THING OR BAD THING? "I think it is a great thing. I am not sure if it will work out that way in the years to come the way the calendar falls and things work out. Any break we can have is needed. That is coming from drivers saying this who aren't working seven days a week, how many hours a day that these road crew guys and the guys back in the shop are. We still will work, but it will be nice not having the pressure of a race weekend. I am sure teams will be testing; there will be plenty of stuff going on. Just to a take a mental break, even a physical break from the competition will be much needed for the race teams.
"It could hurt momentum a little, but I think it is a pretty small factor if it affects your momentum either way. I don't think it's going to change much."
DO YOU THINK THE CHASE IS STILL THE BEST WAY TO DETERMINE THE CUP CHAMPION? "I wish I had won a championship under the old format. In my opinion it is more difficult to win a championship under the old format. If you talk to Jeff Gordon, he will say the opposite, the Chase is more difficult. I feel in today's world of sports, the Chase format works really well. I think we are going to put on a great 10 races. The fans are going to have a lot to see. I am in favor of it. It has taken me a long time to sit up here and say that. I was against it from the beginning, but I as I have watched our sport grow. Watched it pull in new fans, see what the Chase has done, the excitement, all of those things, I am a firm believer in the Chase now.
DOES IT PERSONALLY MEAN MORE TO YOU BECAUSE YOU COULD HAVE WON ONE OF YOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS EITHER WAY? "I had forgotten all about that, so no. If I had the Winston Cup trophy with the old format, it would register then, but I have lost sight of I would have won it either way."
AFTER HAVING INCREDIBLE STRETCH RUNS IN THE CHASE THE LAST FEW YEARS, HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DOES THAT GIVE YOU GOING IN TO THIS YEAR'S CHASE? "When I look at what we have done in the past, it gives me confidence because I know we have been there before and done that and that we have that within us. Does it mean it is going to happen again? No. Do I hope it does? Heck yea! I hope that takes place. History has shown that we have been very strong over the final 10 races and I am counting on that. I am hoping that is the case once again. This year has been a much different year. This year has been a much different year for us. Usually we are good at the start and at the end and this time we have been pretty good through the middle part of the season. I hope we continue on and put up a good fight for this championship. I feel like the will."
WHAT ARE ADJUSTMENTS YOU HAVE TO MAKE ON THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TRACKS YOU RACE ON IN SUCH A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME? "I personally think it makes NASCAR racing exciting and more challenging from a driver's standpoint and a crew standpoint to hit so many different types of tracks. It was one of the toughest thing to learn coming in to this sport, how to take the mindset from a road course to a short track on to a banked track, moving all around. It is a tough disciple to figure out. I enjoy it and over time you learn how take last thoughts out of your brain. I fill out my post race report, I go through the stuff I have to there and then I kind of close that book and open the book for Bristol, look at my notes and everything we do for Bristol and prepare myself and try to wrap my brain around it before we get here. We just get in that repetition week after week and figure out how to do."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOUR BRISTOL NOTEBOOK SAYS? "The notebook I have here, there really isn't a lot of good written in that book. (LAUGHS). I feel that we have been competitive at times. I feel that in the Spring, we had a really strong car here and was positioned for a nice top-five run and had some things go wrong there at the end with the flat tire. I am coming back excited.
"I had a great experience in the Truck Race. I really enjoyed that and Saturday night will be the final answer if it really helped to run that race or not. But, I feel that is has already helped me and looking forward to it. I really want to be competitive here. I wanted to win on a road course and I missed that mark this year and Bristol was the other one. So, we will see what we can do."
DID ANYTHING ABOUT THE TRUCK RACE SURPRISE YOU? "I was surprised how similar it drove through the center of the corner. Has a lot less power, so it was fun to be that aggressive with the truck. At the same time I had no idea I could go a half of a lap and finally hit something or get hit down here at the end in turn two. I thought I could gather that thing up with all the side force that thing has but I ended up swapping ends and it was all over.
"The truck stuff, I am not really sure what is going to cross over and we will know a lot more after this weekend is over and the dust settles. But, it can't hurt. At the end of the day, if it is me just getting more laps on track, that is going in the right direction, it has got to help. The fact that they aren't running on bump stops and they are running the old style setups with coil bind and stuff like, I am not really sure what will carry over, but it can't hurt. I mean it really can't hurt and we had fun. It is fun to go to the race track and learn more. I always learned more as a kid when I was racing motorcycles, if I went to a practice session and had the pressure of riding, I did what I was supposed, but something just didn't sit as well as a free ride when my Dad would take me out and say, just go ride. No motos you need to run, just go ride and burn a couple tanks of gas and have run. And that was what the truck race was for me, just to go out and have fun and try different things on the track."
IS IT A BENEFIT AND HELPFUL TO ENTER THE CHASE WITH A TEAMMATE THAT IS HAVING TREMENDOUS SUCCESS ON TRACK? "I think so. I think when you get to crunch times and the Chase is one of those periods of time you look a lot closer at your teammate -- their setups, their driving techniques. If something is working someone you have to find a way to make it work. You are out of time to sort out your thoughts and your driving style, it is helpful to have a teammate that is being successful and has been successful in the Chase, at those tracks or that weekend. It makes for an interesting dynamic between the driver and crew chief because the pressure is on more than ever and at first the crew chief typically has a hard time leaving his setups and his thoughts and going that direction. Then once he clears that hurdles and does it, now the pressure is on your shoulders because your teammate is hauling butt with that setup. So, it really complicates the situation there and it takes a strong driver-crew chief relationship to work through that stuff."
THE DISCUSSION IS CIRCULATING AGAIN ABOUT IF RACE DRIVERS ARE ATHLETES -- HOW ARE YOU? "Absolutely and whoever doesn't think that we are, they should go to the Jeff Gordon Driving School or one of those driving schools that are out there and go run eight laps and see what it is about. We absolutely are athletes."
WHAT HAS THE COMMUNICATION LIKE AT THE RACE SHOP? "At Hendrick Motorsports, we are all looking in areas to find more stones to turn over, to find speed in different areas. I feel that through the middle part of the season, we have really been working in the right areas. I feel we can refine a little bit more in those areas and get the car more consistent and a little more speed out of it, but I think we'll have to find something else. We have a lot of testing still ahead of us for all the teams, I feel that with what we have, we will be competitive and we will be able to fight for the championship, but I really liked where we were last year. Between the No. 24 and us, once we got in the Chase, we had a little something over everyone, and we could settle it between the two of us. In some ways I am excited for it, I mean, it is going to be cool to see three different makes of vehicles, three different drivers, and there are other guys who are certainly going to be a part of this, it is going to be a good Chase for the sport. It is going to be a good Chase for the fans; we are going to have to buckle down and get to work."
-credit: gm racing