Darlington: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed having decal of Bill France, Sr. on his car this weekend, racing at Darlington, season to date and other topics. TALK ABOUT HAVING THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME DECAL...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed having decal of Bill France, Sr. on his car this weekend, racing at Darlington, season to date and other topics.

TALK ABOUT HAVING THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME DECAL HONORING BILL FRANCE, SR. ON YOUR CAR: "It is pretty cool for me. Bill, Sr. was before my time so I didn't have a chance to get to know him or meet him. To have him on my car is really neat for myself and the race team. I certainly respect his vision and all of his hard work and everything he did to start NASCAR and make it what it is today and then to pass it on to Bill, Jr. then to Brian, it's really cool to have him on the car. I know what Bill, Jr. was like, I can only imagine what his father was like and I just wish I was a little older and had a chance to meet him."

TALK ABOUT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO GET A VICTORY THERE? "I feel like we have been snake-bit at Michigan a few times here lately. Obviously, last year we ran out of gas in both races leading. Years before that we have had some fuel mileage things that have come in to play that have kept us out of victory lane. We know that track is a fuel mileage race track and we're doing everything in our power to get better fuel mileage but I think with my driving style and with the horsepower we have built at Hendrick Motorsports, it's just tough to just really get an extra lap, especially on a track that big. On a short track, it's pretty easy to get a few laps but at Michigan it is impossible. Mark (Martin) was able to capitalize on (Greg) Biffle and I racing really hard. It really slowed down and just made it so, it is tough to make up two-miles of race track. But, I feel very good about the way we have raced there over the last few years and I would love to shorten that list of tracks that we haven't won on with the No. 48 team."

YOU HAVEN'T WON IN FIVE RACES, YOU ARE SECOND IN POINTS, WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? (SMILES) "We were close at Texas. At Martinsville we were experimenting with some new things and certainly found a direction in Martinsville. We were hopeful to find a new package that worked really well and it just didn't turn out for us. Talladega, we raced really well until the end, had some issues late. Richmond, it's been such a hot or cold track for us. We fought so hard the other night to finish 10th and I am proud of the effort and the result, but if you look our history there, it is either on or off. And we were off unfortunately. I was last year's race of Darlington and the commentators made note about a two or three race rough patch that we had been through. As I am on the treadmill running, watching the race and thinking "Hmmm, ok, well, history is repeating itself. Here we are again." There are just tracks that work for you. Tracks that don't. I think that it was well documented at the start of the year, we didn't have the dominant car but we really took advantage of opportunity. Here lately, we've been working hard to find new speed and some new stuff to make the No. 48 car strong when it is the right time of the year. I think we are getting close. I know Jeff (Gordon) and those guys have been working in some areas and it has been working well for them. Mark (Martin) has been experimenting and hasn't really found what he needs. Junior's stuff has been getting better. So we are all kind of massaging our packages and I hope that we get what we need out of the No. 48 car soon so we can get back to victory lane."

IS IT POSSIBLE TO GAME PLAN AT ALL FOR THE POTENTIAL NUMBER OF GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED BEFORE THE RACE STARTS OR YOU ARE AT THE POINT WHERE YOU HAVE TO ASSUME THEY ARE GOING TO HAPPEN AND PLAN ACCORDINGLY? "I think you look at track history a little bit and you are kind of in a position where if you need fuel with 20 to go and you know you can't make the full three attempts, you come in for fuel and maybe pump the tires up a little bit and you go for it. So I think it is encouraging guys to take four (tires) later in the race in the event of. Then also with the fuel that is bringing us to victory lane, again, man, we have it scienced out to the lap of the checkered, you are going to be out of fuel. So, it is bringing those two opportunities around where for fuel and then since you are there with 20 to go, you may as well take some tires and pump them up."

TALK ABOUT THE ALL STAR RACE: "I think there is a smile on everyone's faces, from the competitors to the fans to a great facility, great race track, we are all at home. They find different ways to make it more exciting each and every year and then obviously at the end, the paycheck for $1 million bucks to the winner motivates everybody and it is off the races. I am excited for it. I really look forward to the date each year and I enjoy the tags on television where it is counting down. It keeps it fresh in my mind of what is around the corner. I know that in our sport, we have a true All Star event and we really put on a great show and everybody is out there giving 100%."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF KASEY KAHNE'S ADJUSTMENT TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "I've said it before. It is a really weird situation. I'm extremely happy and proud to call Mark Martin a teammate and a friend and think he brings a lot to Hendrick Motorsports but at the same time, knowing that Kasey is out there and will be coming in, I'm extremely excited for that opportunity as well. Adjusting is part of the NASCAR world. You need to have broad shoulders to deal with the struggles from week to week, stay open minded to the ever-changing sport we live in and then through the course of a race, you always have to adjust and worry about races that start in the day and go to the night. Long races and how much the track changes. Those are things that if you are going to make it at the Cup level, you've got to be good on your feet and have to be able to adjust mentally, physically, from a technical standpoint of the car. Adjustibility needs to be in all areas to succeed."

WHAT DO DRIVERS THAT EXCEL AT DARLINGTON HAVE IN COMMON? "The game has changed a little bit here with the track being resurfaced. A lot more falls into the hands of the setup and I think as the track ages again, setup is going to be very important like it was in the old days. I say old days, before the paving job, I know the track has been around for a long time so my version of old days may not really apply to the true old day. As a driver you had to pick what you wanted. If you wanted to go fast and be a hero and lead for 10 laps, you could do that and you would wear your tires out. But to survive, this track has really always been a driver's track. I look forward to the track losing some grip and migrating back that direction. You have to be extremely disciplined here and I'm hopeful that the track has gone that way a little bit with a year going by."

JEFF GORDON SAID HE THINKS YOU ARE GOOD FRIENDS NOW BUT WILL BE BETTER FRIENDS IN 15 OR 20 YEARS WHEN YOU'RE NOT WANTING THE SAME THING ALL THE TIME. YOUR REACTION TO THAT: "I don't know. Did he mentioned that a long time ago, or did he mention that recently? A week or two ago? I remember months back, maybe the start of the year, some comments along those lines and it is a very competitive world we live in. Whoever the champion is, the rest of the field uses that driver as the mark and says they have to beat that driver and that team. We've always found a very good way to be competitive inside of our walls at Hendrick Motorsports and especially inside of that 24-48 shop. To push each other and to fight for positions but really not cross over that line. At Texas we got to a point where, in my opinion it wasn't on equal ground and I pushed back and the push back led me to run in to the side of him. We lived through that episode for a week and at Talladega, I made a mistake and it re-fired it all up and opinions went and he is frustrated and it turned into a circus. We've always walked that fine-line of being respectful and teammates and challenging each other. It's not easy to do. But we've done it. We've had a little bump in the road. We're through that and in time, I see us working very closely together like we always have to make our stuff better.

"On the personal side, he is the guy that introduced me to my wife, so we definitely have a friendship there. Competition does crazy things to people. Our lives have changed a lot is kind of what I am getting at too. Now that I am going to be a father soon, maybe we will have more in common and be around each other more in a personal setting. There hasn't been an issue with our friendship. I think our lives have changed some and in time, at the end of our careers, I am sure we will sit back and have a few beers and talk about a lot of things. Right now we are competitive teammates doing our thing."

WITH THE TIRES NOT FALLING OFF TOO MUCH AND TRACK POSITION SO IMPORTANT, ARE YOU THINKING THAT YOU ARE JUST GOING FUEL STOP TO FUEL STOP AND NOT STOPPING FOR TIRES MIGHT BE A LEGITIMATE STRATEGY TO STAY IN FRONT OF ALL THE CRASHING? "I think that is the plan going in. We will certainly have to see what the tire drop-off is; the track should have lost some grip this year. But, we will be looking at that closely and I am positive early in the race, you will see guys rolling the dice and seeing if there is anything there to gain. We'll all pay attention and say 'ok, it worked for this team or that team' and that process will start if it is available. I'm not sure you don't want any tires, but two tires, you are going to see that. Maybe even at the end, just guys staying out. Mark and I did that last year and made it on fuel and nobody came to chase us down because it is so tough to pass here."

-source: gm racing

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