Charlotte II: Johnson - Thursday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the Chase, his rear tire changer, double-file restarts at Martinsville, the Hall of Fame, and more. WE'RE AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND NEARLY HALFWAY THROUGH THE CHASE. WHAT'S...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the Chase, his rear tire changer, double-file restarts at Martinsville, the Hall of Fame, and more.

WE'RE AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND NEARLY HALFWAY THROUGH THE CHASE. WHAT'S YOU'RE OUTLOOK RIGHT NOW? "We feel good about things. Obviously the win last week is a big confidence-booster and helps the team and gives us some momentum; those types of things. We're at another great track. We have a lot of great tracks coming up for us. I'm certainly optimistic but at the same time, the past is the past and we have to go out and do our jobs. I'm going to try to execute each Sunday, Saturday night this week, and see what happens. We're excited about things and ready to go."

DO YOU HOPE QUALIFYING IS CANCELED BECAUSE OF ALL THE RAIN TODAY, OR DO YOU WANT TO GET OUT ON THE TRACK? "I definitely would like to get on the track. I think all the teams would. The knowledge we can gain from making even just a couple of laps and understanding our set-ups would make everybody comfortable in the garage area. I am excited in one respect, but at the same time there might be more of an advantage if we were to qualify well on our own and some of the other Chase contenders didn't have a good qualifying effort. So it's kind of a mix of emotions. In the end, I think that first pit stall is more important and I guess I'll take the rain and lock that down for a long, 500-mile race."

ON MARTINSVILLE AND DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS THERE "I think it's going to be a good race. I'm excited about the race in the later stages as rubber is laid on that inside groove and you can start working the outside lane. I think that will be helpful with the double-file restarts at the end and we'll have a good lane to race with. I think that double-file restarts are going to make it more intense and more exciting; a lot of the same stuff we've been seeing. I think at the start of a race, you might see some guys forcing their way to the bottom and maybe taking some unneeded risks to get down to the bottom lane. But I think at the end of the race you'll see guys stuck door-to-door for a long, long time and not able to clear the other guy and take that position. I think it's going to be a great race. It's been a good track to us over the years and it's been an opportunity for us to gain points on some of the other Chase contenders that maybe don't prefer or like that track."

ON THE REAR-TIRE CHANGER POSITION ON YOUR TEAM, BECAUSE OF INJURY THERE HAVE BEEN THREE GUYS SINCE BRISTOL NIGHT RACE THAT HAVE BEEN IN THAT POST. IS THAT A CONCERN FOR YOU? ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT A DISRUPTION ABOUT TEAM CHEMISTRY? "Yeah, we're certainly concerned about it. Team chemistry is an important part of what we do week in and week out. And we've worked hard over the years to get the four guys, two guys changing and two guys carrying, and we've worked hard on those positions and the guys have been so good to us over the years. It's unfortunate that Jeremy West had a back issue.

"Then we had a substitute guy in. Then we found someone to be there full time and the guy did a good job but maybe a little young in that position. He just needed some more time. We elected to use somebody else at the California race. And he did well. The first time I met him was when I climbed out of the car in victory lane. I wish I could tell you his name but so much has changed and so much has been going on. It was nice to greet him there. We're feeling good about things. We don't want to lose spots on pit road. Last week, I think, on the better stops, we maybe lost two to three spots. So we need to get over that hump. But we are able to race up to the front and take care of things on the race track and hopefully we can do that again. As long as I leave pit road and everything's tight and we don't have to come back in, I'll be happy with that. But we're definitely in a tough position and Chad is really working hard on getting it right. The guys that have come through have taken their opportunity seriously and have done a good job. But it's tough this late in the season to bring in a younger person and somebody new to a team and okay, here you go, we're going for a fourth championship and by the way, we're mid-way into the Chase and we need to win today and have a good race (laughs). So it's a tough thing. I commend the guys who are trying and hopefully the situation we have now will work out for the rest of the year."

ON THE QUAKER STATE WORLD'S WORST COMMUTE CONTEST JUDGING, TALK ABOUT THE STORY AND TELL US HOW YOU CHOSE THAT PERSON. "Truthfully it was Quaker State's contest that they ran, The Quaker State World's Worst Commute. They live in Florida. It requires a long dirt road with a puddle that's almost a pond, called 'Alligator Puddle'. Great stories. In fact, we just drove over from the Fan Club event I had. We had a funny thing happen (laughs). We're busy; we're here, and we're going to take the commute from Hendrick Motorsports after my Fan Club event and bring them to the race track and show them a good weekend here at the race track. I'm in the passenger seat. They're in the back seat. We're talking. I'm signing some things. We're backing out of Hendrick Motorsports and Chris Haid, one of the marketing folks that works for Hendrick Motorsports is driving. And Chris proceeds to back over a light pole in the Hendrick parking lot. So not only did these people have the worst commute, but they just experienced at crash at Hendrick Motorsports (laughter). We got out and had a few laughs and took photos, and Chris hates himself and my Tahoe is pretty banged up."

CAN YOU UNDERSTAND THE FRUSTRATION JEFF GORDON IS FEELING BY FINISHING SECOND TO YOU AND MARK MARTIN; AND ALSO TO TONY STEWART WHO RUNS HENDRICK ENGINES? "I wasn't sure he was frustrated. I know he wants to be competitive each and every week and win races. I'm not sure if he's necessarily frustrated. It's just a fact that he wants to win. When I'm on the track I know that my teammates are out there, but it's still Mark Martin and I know what he does and it's still Tony Stewart. So it's not necessarily a teammates' thought or process in my head. It's just about I've got to pass Tony or I've got to pass Mark. I know that Jeff has put in a lot of great years in this sport and is still very competitive and wants to win his fifth championship. It was really tough on him to go that winless streak. So I know how motivated he is and how bad he wants to win but I'm not sure it's a level of frustration from what I'm doing."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE HALL OF FAME SELECTIONS? "I'm excited to see the first five selected in. I think it was going to be tough either way for the world to be happy with the five. I understand there is some controversy about the overall picks. But I think it's a great class. I think it represents our sport. I'm very happy to see the France family, both Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. in there, and I think it works. I think the fact that people are concerned about who was in that first group says a lot about our sport and how important this Hall of Fame is; and I'm glad I don't have to pick these out and I know that over the next four or five years there is probably going to be more heartache and more frustration about who is selected. I look at it as a positive. People are taking about our sport. We've got conversations taking place about our Hall of Fame and a lot of people's emotions are showing up."

CHARLOTTE AND MARTINSVILLE ARE GOOD TRACKS FOR YOU. IS THERE A PLACE YOU WANT TO BE AFTER MARTINSVILLE, GOING INTO TALLADEGA? "I'm really trying not to look too far ahead and to pay attention to some goal because I just don't know what's going to happen. And I don't want to get emotionally attached to different aspects of different races. If I'm running fifth at Martinsville at a track I feel I should win at, I don't want to beat myself down or create any issues within the team that I'm leading the race. So, I just need to get all I can and that's really what I hope to do over the next six weeks. But it would be so nice to have a cushion, whoever the leader is, have a cushion going into Talladega and you can try to race a smart race at that point."

CAN YOU EXPLAIN A COP STOP? "I don't know if it's a coined phrase or not, but at home we'd call it a 'Cop Stop'. You'd go into reverse, and then whip the steering wheel and spin the nose around and then pull it into drive and drive off. At Fontana last week, I was messing around with another version of that I learned at the Bondurant School where you'd do a 180-in, slide and turn around backwards and roll backwards and then spin back around and carry out in first gear and put it in drive and take-off. That's what I was doing on the back stretch and having some fun with last week."

YOU'VE NEVER TAKEN THE POINT LEAD FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS LATE IN THE SEASON. HAVE YOU GUYS FIGURED OUT HOW TO PEAK AND NOT WANT TO BE IN THE POINT LEAD IN THE FIRST PART OF THE SEASON? "Man, it's truthfully not by design. The stats show it and I live it and know that the summer is tough on us in most cases. I felt, at points this year, we were really focused on the No.14 (Tony Stewart) car leading the points and we need to go up there and get the lead and lead the points and all the effort was there. I do feel like during the summer there were a bunch that got away.

"I feel we could have had another three or four wins and circumstances just turned out to where we didn't take advantage of is. In some cases we ran out of gas and finished in the thirties. I can see where big chunks of the points went away where we didn't have that chance to get up there and fight for the lead in mid-season or earlier in the season. But I wish that we would have. I want to lead the thing from start to finish, you know, and just dominate the whole season. But we're leading it now and I'll take it. Really, I wouldn't care if we didn't lead until the last lap at Homestead if we get the big trophy (laughs) because that's what it's all about."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports