Chicagoland: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his newborn baby girl, traveling schedule for the weekend, day practice for a night race, and more. CONGRATULATION, JIMMIE. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A DAD? "It is unbelievable as...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his newborn baby girl, traveling schedule for the weekend, day practice for a night race, and more.

CONGRATULATION, JIMMIE. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A DAD? "It is unbelievable as parents know and understand. I'm only two days into this (laughs), so there is a lot more to go. Wednesday was the absolute best day of my life. The last two days have been incredible. Haven't had a ton of sleep. I just got up from a nap so if I have bedhead and am not quite awake, I apologize. But it's just incredible. I'm so thankful that she is health and she is doing amazing and Channi is as well and we're excited. We're looking forward to getting Channi home on Sunday after we get back from the race and the baby home. Hopefully we'll have a name by then! I think we have to before we can get her home. So the clock is ticking but we are just way excited and blessed and thankful that everything is well."

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TRAVEL SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND? "The last two nights I stayed at the hospital with Channi and the baby. I flew up (to Chicago) this morning. And tonight I'll go home and relieve Channi's mom and let her go get cleaned up and get an overnight bag and I'll go back home sometime tonight and crash out and get some sleep so that I have plenty of energy for tomorrow. "And I'll get back to the hospital sometime in the morning and spend some time with everybody before I fly back up (to the race track). We're very fortunate that the schedule is a night race and there's a lot of flexibility to go to and from and allow me to get home each night."

WHERE DOES CHICAGO RANK ON YOUR LIST OF RACES TO WIN, ESPECIALLY WITH CHAD KNAUS BEING FROM THE AREA? AND IS IT A BIG DEAL? "Yeah, it really is. I know Chad has joked with me over the years that we were able to get our first win in my home state (California) and he wasn't one here really, really bad. I'm not sure if it might be like a Daytona 500 to him, but I know it's really high on his list. We've been close over the years and in '08 I just messed up on a restart and allowed the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) to get by me and win that race and I feel terrible for that and promised I'd get him one some time and not make that mistake again. So we're excited for that. "And then the history I've had with the track, I've always enjoyed this track and won my one and only Nationwide race here. It would be great to cross another track off the list that was possible; tracks that we haven't won at."

WHAT DO YOU RECALL ABOUT LAST YEAR'S BRICKYARD 400 RACE WHEN IT LOOKED LIKE MONTOYA HAD THINGS PRETTY MUCH IN HAND MOST OF THE DAY AND YOU WERE THERE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT? WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO JOIN THE ELITE LIST OF FOUR-TIME WINNERS THERE? "Yeah, it would be a huge honor to join the list of four time winners; just to win there one is a career maker for anyone. So to have three victories there means a lot to me and when I went to do the winners circle appearance a month or so ago, I was there with Rick Mears and to see him as a four-time winner and to talk about his experiences at the track and what it's done for his life and career was neat and helped me open my eyes to his world and the open-wheel world there. So I'm pumped and excited. Juan (Pablo Montoya) had track position on the side and was really, really strong, and I don't know if it was our qualifying effort or what, but we had to fight our way through the pack and get there. And really we were one of the only cars that could. I know when the No. 42 (Montoya) was mired back in traffic, granted we didn't have a ton of time left, but he really didn't go anywhere. So we look back and are very proud of the fact that we could pass cars and work our way to the front. And I remember I started next to Mark (Martin) on that restart on the outside and I was committed to attempting to run flat through Turn 1 on the outside of Mark (Martin). I knew that was my opportunity. And if I could stay alongside of him through (Turn) 1, I felt like down the back straightaway, I should be able to get by him. And I went into Turn 1 committed, and made it through without tearing up any race cars and exited off of Turn 2 and had the lead."

ARE YOU PLANNING A ONE-HOUR SPECIAL ON SUNDAY TO ANNOUNCE THE NAME OF THE BABY (LAUGHTER)? AND SECONDLY, DALE JR. SET UP I-RACING FOR YOU BEFORE SONOMA. TELL ME HOW THAT HELPED? DO YOU USE FOR OTHER TRACKS? "No on the 'special' (laughter). I didn't realize that there would be so much interest behind it, behind the baby's name I should say. And I don't know if the nurses are just being nice or what, but they say it's pretty common to have parents in there that don't come in with a name. Although I look in the nursery and there are all these little yellow stickers on all the children with first names. And ours is one of the very few in there without one. So, wherever I look, the pressure is kind of there. But we're just taking our time. We'll have one here before long, I'm sure.

"But the i-racing thing was helpful for me. I think if you haven't been to a race track and if you haven't driven that type of vehicle, it's just a big help. For me, it's a pretty complicated game or simulator, I should say. For me to go in with the stock set-up for the prototype and drive it on the track, was good. But it was six or seven seconds off the pace of what we were running there in the race. So, it gave me some reference points; it helped me out. I should have spent more time with it, working on the set-up and trying to make the car go faster. But it was very helpful. As I got up to speed, I could see how it helped with the visual references and the rhythm. I learned the shift points, what gear to be in where, which was totally different than our Cup car with their five-speed gear box and how much faster those cars are in the turns. Pretty fast; like you're flying through there in third gear. So it was very helpful for me. I don't think it would help me as an experienced Cup driver right now for Chicago or something. But I do understand the F-1 teams have these pretty complicated simulators and those I think will work. Some of them move and you can get a sense of g-loading and what the car is doing. I think if you get into that realm there is a lot to learn there and it would be very helpful.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TO YOU FEELING RESPONSIBLE OR MORE RESPONSIBLE AS A NEW DAD, AND ALSO WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO HAVE A NEW BABY? I have to say leaving the hospital today to come up here has really activated my mind to think about other things and I can't stop thinking of her and Channi and the whole experience. I hear noises and for the last two nights I've been sleeping next to her and Channi and every noise you're wondering if it's good or bad. So I hear something and it's a car and I jump and think this is not the baby, what the heck are you thinking? So it's really weird how those two days of non-stop action and of trying to feed and get some rest and before you know it the little girl is making noise again and it's time to feed and undress and you get in that rhythm of things and it was a little disorienting you know, you're just out of it. So it's nice, even though it's tough, to get away today and try to get back to work and I go back tonight. And then she keeps sending me photos of her at different parts of the day and that's not making it any easier being away."

ON NOT PRACTICING AT NIGHT IN CHICAGO WHEN THE RACE IS HELD AT NIGHT, DOES THAT AFFECT THE QUALITY OF THE EVENT OR HAVE YOU DONE THIS ENOUGH THAT IT'S NOT AN ISSUE? "We're all pretty good at it. I still think it would be awesome to practice at night to prepare for a night race. I don't think it hurts the show any and being that it's equal for everyone. We've been excited because we've been pretty good at adjusting from day to night and we look at it as a possible opportunity. So I don't really have any objections to it although I'd like to practice in the correct conditions. It just seems to make more sense to me. But maybe it does separate a couple of teams from others, but too many times you get a newer rhythm on it."

ON THE CHANGES BRIAN FRANCE TALKED ABOUT, ARE YOU MORE LIKE ENTERTAINERS AND A SHOW THAN ATHLETES? "Yeah, I think some drivers are really good at playing into that persona and putting on a great show with being witty and aggressive on track and maybe find that with the relaxed rules there are some opportunities there to express themselves and do the witty things that they do. I've seen some pretty comical things; I know we all have the past few months. At the end of the day, it's still not making a race car go so I don't think we've lost anything in the athleticism of the sport of the roots of the sport as of now. We've seen some change and I think we do need to change and change with the times. The consumer, the fan, there are so many more options for them and what they can do with their Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Racing used to be an extreme sport and now you've got guys jumping out of airplanes without parachutes and back flips and motorcycles.

"There is just a whole different breed of kids out there and young adults and what stimulates them in what they want to watch. For our sport to stay successful and continue to grow, I think we have to change with the times some. I think we've made some great changes and have found a good compromise between the two and I think the double-file restarts and the three attempts at green-white-checkered are some really good things there. Some of the wild and off the wall stuff that's been thrown around, I think we've got to be careful and not get too far away from what our sport has done, especially overnight. I guess as we keep making small changes we can see if it's impacting our viewing audience and keeping people involved, but to go from one extreme to the other I don't think is all that smart. I know there is a crazy thought floating around about one race to determine the champion and I think through the garage, driver or owner, it doesn't matter who it is, everybody is thinking that's a wild one and wouldn't want to see it.

NO MICROPHONE "Yeah, that's a tough question. We put our faith in Mike Helton and Brian France and John Darby and the team of folks and the head offices to balance that out. I know from watching our shows and hearing stories people thought Bill Jr. had no clue what he was doing, coming after Bill Sr. in handing the reigns over. I saw some of that with Bill to Brian. And our sport has done amazing and it continues to grow. So we just have to trust the France family and the people they've hired to continue the sport heading in the right direction. The Chase, at first, I was one that was against it and it's come along and been real good for our sport. So, you never know. I'm happy I don't have their jobs. It's a tough thing as we all know."

WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM CHAD KNAUS OR THE LESSONS HIS DAD JOHN KNAUS PASSED DOWN THAT HAVE HELPED YOU BE SUCCESSFUL? "The thing that always impresses me is when everyone's tired and exhausted at a test session or at the race track for a race weekend and a casual comment comes through that might make your mind think about a different direction to go with things. Those questions always run through your mind, through everyone's minds in the garage area, you kind of chase them off and think no, no, I don't even want to let that in my head right now. I've got to stay focused here. Chad does a very good job of exploring those small random thoughts that come along. Of course he's smart and technical and can do all the things that he does but what impresses me more than anything is how he manages all the thoughts that come through. And he'll chase down any lead that goes through his mind or an engineer's mind. It's amazing how they continue to chase leads. And they might not pan out but he'll see it though and that's the only way he can sleep at night is when that brain of his shuts down and he knows he's exhausted all thoughts and then he can finally go to sleep at night. I'll get a text from him all hours of the morning saying got it and figured it out and we're good, I'll see him in the morning when I wake up. And I'll be having breakfast and coffee and I'll see this text that's been in my phone for a while and wow, glad he figured it out. I'm in good hands."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Rick Mears , Mike Helton , Kyle Busch