Daytona 500: Johnson - Media Day visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA met with media and discussed 24/7 by HBO, fear, the amount of attention Danica Patrick is getting, last season versus other seasons, and more. Q. How are things going? JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it's going ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA met with media and discussed 24/7 by HBO, fear, the amount of attention Danica Patrick is getting, last season versus other seasons, and more.

Q. How are things going?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it's going well. I've been spending time with the crew. The crew, they're phenomenal. They know what they're doing. It's been a lot of work. I've been very proud of what we see each Tuesday.

Q. Are you getting good feedback?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The feedback has been over the top. The cool thing is, people want to see more of different aspects of it. Everybody wants an hour show, more episodes. I think, you know, from an HBO standpoint, that's what they want to do. They want to create kind of a desire and people want to see more and more in depth with the team, whatever it may be.

There's been a lot of away-from-the-track stuff. I'm excited to see them here at the track these next two weeks. They've brought their editing studio to the tracks, their entire crew is here. They're excited because it's the first time in all of the shows that they have left New York and brought the whole crew out. So there's a lot of excited HBO folks running around.

Q. The media today picked you to win the championship.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm thinking it my be a curse. We'll see how it turns out (laughter).

It is cool. It's a great honor. I'm excited to see it. Last year I wasn't sure. And I said it last year, I'll say it again, it's great until we hit the track, and ten up have to prove that you are the guy. It could be us, it could be a Roush car, it could be a Childress car. We don't know.

Q. (Indiscernible)

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I use fear to motivate myself. I'm entering this year saying we're going to get beat in my mind. That way I work as hard as can, the team works as hard as they can. We don't leave a stone unturned.

I motivate myself that way. I always have. I've always used fear to motivate myself in making mistakes, forgetting how to drive a racecar. It's crazy. I typically start the season with nerves, am I going to remember how to do this. You know, I really, really do. It sounds crazy. But I'm not nervous for here. But I know the night before I go to California, I'm not going to sleep well. I haven't for the last eight years. Especially the first year, because I really didn't know what the hell I was doing.

As I've been better and better in the car, I still have all those fears. I've grown to enjoy them and look forward to 'em and know that they're good things for me to keep me on my game.

Q. Do you use fear as a defense mechanism against (indiscernible)?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know if my brain thinks that far ahead and is that in depth. I guess it could be in some ways, subconsciously. There's just a rhythm of driving the racecar. Over the years, making mistakes, doing things, when I see a situation develop, fear tells me, you've been there, don't get sucked into this, don't do this, don't do that. It's more kind of a guide for on-track performance. It's not necessarily from a complacency standpoint saying we've done it, we're cool, we're fine. It's kind of more of a performance standpoint, keep me on the edge.

Q. As four-time champion, is it hard to feel fear?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, the fear is easier to come by these days because it's been so good. There's only one way to go. So the fear is more readily available to maintain what we've been doing.

Q. Danica Patrick is getting more attention than a four-time champion or Dale, Jr.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: First of all, I think attention for our sport is a great thing. It doesn't matter who the driver is, champion or not, newcomer. Our sport, it's weathered the storm of the economy, but we've all seen cutbacks in every category. We need as many eyes on this sport as possible. And I'm excited that she is considering our sport and going to give it a shot for a few races to see where she's at, see if she enjoys it, get her feet wet. I think it's great. I have no issues with it.

It's a long season. Everybody deserves their time in the sun, their time in the spotlight. At the end of the last year, that spotlight was bright and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm not worried. When it comes back the end of the year, I want to be in that spotlight for another championship.

Q. How do you beat Jimmie Johnson? How do you beat the 48? How would you do it?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't even know how I've been doing it, so I don't know how to beat it. I know that I give everything that I can to make team and my sport. I know that Chad does. I know my guys do. Thankfully we have great communication skills, all the tools that Rick provides, all the stuff we're talking about week in and week out.

I boil it down to a commitment from myself and from my teammates. The commitment that we have made to this race team has made the difference over the last four years. As long as that commitment's there, I will be proud of whatever the results are. That's the bottom line. I know at some point we're going to get beat. It's going to be to happen. I'm more aware of that than anyone else. I don't want it to be anytime soon. As long as I leave this season saying we're fully committed, I won't be happy, but I'll be content, I'll be good about the season.

Q. Have you done anything differently going into this season versus the last three or four?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The only thing different is I haven't hurt myself. That's about it. I wrecked the shit out of that Rolex car. God I feel bad, still. I've never been hit backwards before. We have fuel cells and all that to absorb the energy. I've never felt a transmission, engine bolted to the frame. Your seat is literally bolted to the same piece of tubing that the engine is bolted to. That is a hard impact. I guess I tried to hurt myself.

Q. This year the media said Jimmie Johnson is the guy to beat. Finally getting your due respect. Do you ever go into a season saying, you and Chad talking, Okay, this guy or these couple of guys are the ones that we've got to compete against, give us the most trouble?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We do. And in the past it was real easy to understand who that was going to be out of the gate. But with no testing, we don't have a clue. By now in the past, we've been to Daytona, we've been to California, we've been to Vegas. We knew if we were ahead, behind. We knew who was ahead or behind. Right now we have no idea.

We've been working on things off the racetrack with some (indiscernible) programs, seven-post, wind tunnel, chassis dynos, engine dynos. We think we've done all the right things, but in 2008, we thought we did all the right things and started the season and we were terrible. So we don't know who that is going to be. All right now we can focus on is making sure we're buttoned up and ready and get to California and see where we are.

Q. (Indiscernible)

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wouldn't think the sport was going to do a whole hell of a lot. Without a doubt the cars will drive differently and respond differently in traffic. But I don't think from the grandstands and from television you're going to see a difference. I think NASCAR is going to overshoot the size of the spoiler to give the cars more downforce and make them more secure because as drivers we've been saying these cars need more security, especially on the big tracks. So I think they're going to accommodate that.

At the end of the day, it's a different thing on the back of the car. It's not a complete body change. I don't think there's going to be huge differences and a huge advantage for everyone.

Q. This season will be a milestone for you because you're going to be a father now. How meaningful would it be to win the fifth as a father?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think I've grasped it yet because it's just not here. Now hearing Jeff make the comments that Jeff has made in the past, I better understand. Seeing my parents, the years being with them, conversations I've had with them, the pride that they have. Again, it's only such a small scale because the baby is not even here yet. I could see how it will connect a lot more to my parents. Chandra has had an amazing time with her mom already. I can see things growing even more and more there.

I can only imagine what that would be like and I look forward to it.

Q. Have you had any moments with Jeff to sort of joke or be serious about (indiscernible) now that he's got company?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I haven't actually. But I think his slogan was Drive For Five. We need to come up with a new for me. Let that be his motivation. We should think of one, though.

Q. I'll spend a night doing that.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Please. I think he had shirts and stuff, banners, Drive For Five. I don't want to steal from him.

Q. Is there something to that? Is there a competition now between you guys? There always is, but is there anything added now?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, there is no one more motivated and annoyed by our success than Jeff. And I mean that in a great way. He's in the same shop. He's driving the same equipment. He wants to be that guy. And he's always been that guy.

The competition that we have that spins off from all that keeps our team on top. And I have to give him a lot of credit for managing the relationship side of it and setting a good example and how we can be so competitive and so annoyed with each other, especially he's been annoyed with me, but maintain a great friendship, teammates, how we operate and work.

It hasn't been easy for him. I commend him for that. That competition is what keeps us on top. Now we have Mark that's part of that whole equation that's a thorn in the side, in the same complex, driving. Hopefully we made the right changes with the 88 so it's four of us frustrating each other each week.

Q. If it can't than be you winning, how much would it be for Mark getting that first one?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The sentimental favorite is Mark. It's tough for me to pick between Mark or Jeff if I wasn't to win. Jeff gave me my start. Co-owner, great friend. It would be tough for me to say which one would be my first pick.

But this last year when it came down to the two of us, if I lost the championship to him, I would have slept fine. I would have slept well. I would have been truly proud of him and happy for him and the first one to congratulate him.

Q. Comment on winning at 51.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He's a bad ass. He's tough.

Q. If I'm another driver, the first guy I would rough up is the guy winning all the time.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: NASCAR has been telling us for a few years that they've loosened up the reins and let us do your thing. I don't see a lot coming from that, I just really don't. On the track, guys race each other, we all race each other how we've been treated. Unless I go in there and start some stuff, start wrecking people, I just don't see it happening.

Certainly if somebody starts wrecking me, I'm wrecking 'em back. You have to police the sport yourself. I've always tried to race people with respect, how I've wanted to be raced. The Mark Martin school of racing. When I was a new driver coming along, everyone said if that's how you want to make it in the sport, that's how you race. And that's who I kind of mimicked growing up.

Q. What would a second Daytona cement for your own legacy?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me the second win is probably the toughest thing. To count on people helping you, and no one really wants to help me right now, to have so many factors needed to win. You just can't put your head down and look out the windshield and focus on a good-handling racecar to drive away from people. It takes everything around you and people around you to create the opportunities.

To win a plate race is a pretty big feat in itself. The 500 was amazing for us and really helped us mature as a race team, to mature as a race team and grow so that we could win that first championship.

I have a lot ofb^0x0011- a large majority of my desire to win is to have Chad here. The guy has put his heart and soul into this race team. One thing he's missing is that Daytona 500 photo from Victory Lane.

Q. (Indiscernible)

JIMMIE JOHNSON: My views might be different. We're going to have to see when we get further along. There's an off weekend in that time frame. So hopefully what kind of timing would that be if that worked out.

Q. (Indiscernible).

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Right now, we haven't really discussed it to be honest with you. Every time we try to engage with the doctors at that point, it's too early. We need to figure out as we get closer to that time, the size of the baby, what issues might be along. So right now it's just been kind of floating out there. And Chad has like five or six plans in effect.

Q. (Indiscernible)

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You could. You could. But, you know, from Chad's standpoint, Rick's standpoint, Chandra's, there's no pressure to handle it a certain way. Just let it run its course.

Q. (Indiscernible)

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know. We'll just have to see what happens. I just don't know. There's going to be every attempt to be in the car. It's pretty easy. You put the brakes on it if it starts, right (laughter).

Q. Right after your championship, Rick had a conference call. One of the first things he said is my biggest priority is getting the 88 turned around. Knowing that's what he focused on, that's what he wants to happen, what do you think is realistic for that team this year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think that team needs to make the Chase, it needs to win a couple races. I know that every effort has been made. They should. They really shoot. There's no one that wants it more than Junior. He knows. I mean, the thing that's tough for him is he left DEI and said he wants to win races and a championship. So there's no one more aware of the need for this to happen than him.

It's been tough on him. I think his confidence has been beat down some. I think the unification between the 88 and the 5 is very good for him.JHe looks up to Mark. He seems to respond very well to folks that have been around the sport for a long time. Mark is more than willing. Especially if Junior engages himself and asks the right questions and takes it to him, because he can't do it on his own. He's been more internal and to himself on cars, setups, kind of been on his own little island. If he really embraces the teammate standpoint and is right there alongside with Mark day in and day out, they'll get it figured out. It may take changes in driving style, a lot of things that aren't familiar to him, but he's gonna have every opportunity and we're making sure he does.

Q. (Indiscernible)

JIMMIE JOHNSON: A guy I'd want to learn from would be Mark. I think he adapts to situations about as good as anyone does. And certain guys, Jeff has a certain style, and he's gonna drive that style regardless. Mark is very good at adjusting to whatever it takes to make the car fast.

The guy I wouldn't want to learn from would be Sam Hornish.

Q. Why?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: He hits way too much stuff, including me, at important times of the year. And then he's never said a word. I wish he'd just walk up and say, Man, I meant to crash you. Either way, wouldn't you think with what is on the line, you would just walk up to a guy, it wasn't my fault, somebody hit me. The guy just doesn't talk, doesn't say anything.

Q. Punch him in the face.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I'll leave that to someone else.

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Danica Patrick , Mark Martin , Sam Hornis