JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his annual charity event, racing in California, Danica Patrick, his success at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and more. ON RACING AT CALIFORNIA THIS ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his annual charity event, racing in California, Danica Patrick, his success at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and more.
ON RACING AT CALIFORNIA THIS WEEKEND: "We're excited. It's been a very busy week and a very fun week. It's been a week that's been really rewarding for my wife and me. We went back to San Diego and saw the four (Habitat for Humanity) homes completed that we've been working on over the last two years with our fundraisers that have gone on. We have three families in the homes and are looking for the fourth (family) now. To see the kids running around and the homes finished, there's a little play area for them, and just everything was really, really neat to see it and the finished product. That was great. We had our fundraiser, our dinner, and our golf tournament and in this tough economy we were still able to raise over $500,000 that will all go back to the San Diego community with school grants.
"I've been just blown away by the generosity and by the support that our tournament has received. We roll into the weekend here and I have the great honor of running the Jimmie Johnson Foundation on the car. Lowe's again has stepped up in more ways than just being a team sponsor. It has allowed us to finish off the week with the paint scheme. And then we have the Helmet of Hope that we've all been looking at for the last six weeks and I'll be wearing that as weekend as well. At the auction, the helmet went for over $27,000, which really blew me away again (laughs). So it's just been an amazing week. Hopefully we can cap it off with a great performance and do what we need to in the grand scheme of things and gain points on Mark (Martin)."
DID YOU HAVE SEVERAL OF YOUR FRIENDS PLAY GOLF WITH YOU? "We did. There was I think six drivers that came and a variety of different athletes and some folks from the L.A. Hollywood world and some people from the San Diego community as well. So, all in all it was a great event. It was sold out, which we were surprised to see from the dinner aspect and even over to the golf."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA SAID IF YOU CAN'T MAKE IT IN HENDRICK EQUIPMENT, YOU'D BE HARD-PRESSED TO MAKE IT ANYWHERE. IS THAT A FAIR ASSESSMENT? "I'd say for the majority, yes. When you look at what (Brian) Vickers has been able to do, I really commend him and he kind of led the charge to leave Hendrick Motorsports and try something different and he's done a great job and has been more competitive in the Red Bull cars than he was in a Hendrick car. And I really think it boils down to people. You look at the environment Casey Mears was in and different crew chiefs and a lot of changing and it led to his departure and obviously Mark (Martin) being available sped that up as well and knowing what an asset Mark Martin would be. But it is tough. I had that fear in my own mind when I started at Hendrick. Jeff (Gordon) hand-picked me and put me in the equipment he won with the year before. And I knew that I had to get the job done. And I can't tell you how much relief I experienced and how the weight of the world was off my shoulders when I won here (Auto Club Speedway) in the tenth race of the 2002 season. It sounds funny but I turned to my friends and turn to my parents and smiled and said, 'I'll have a job now.' That's really what it boiled down to."
WITH THE OLD CAR, THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT AERO AND HOW SENSITIVE THEY WERE. HAS THAT IMPROVED ANY WITH THE NEW CAR? "I think we've made a lot of gains with the COT. On 1.5-mile and two-mile tracks we still have some ground to make up. In my opinion, I think the opinion of the vast majority; we've actually made the cars more aero sensitive. We have less to work with from mechanical grip standpoint and from an aero grip standpoint, and we have a much bigger vehicle. As you're further back in traffic, there is more turbulent air than what we had before. Earlier in the year, we had a couple of meetings with the officials and team owners and drivers and we addressed some different ideas then. So, I feel that we all know we can make it better and when the economy recovers and the teams are more stable with their financial situations, there are some changes that could be introduced and I would hope would be introduced, to help take away some of the aero-sensitivity and improve the racing on the bigger tracks. At short tracks, we put on a great show. I think at road courses we do. Talladega and Daytona we do. It's just these high downforce tracks where the cars a little more sensitive than before."
WITH WHAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THE CHARITY, HOW ENRICHING IS IT TO YOU? "In my mind growing up, I've always felt like good things happen to good people and I've been very fortunate, even before driving Rick's (Hendrick) stuff, I had the great fortune to have a hobby turn into a career and all the great things that it brought me and I felt like I needed to give back and offset the good that I've experienced. Before I had a foundation, I'd participate and go to local children's hospitals and just do things that I could in the community to help out. There's a feeling when you do it that's indescribable and it hits you deep. It feels great. So to have everything come together and to do it on a larger scale and really give back and reach more people and help, it's great. It really is. What makes it so special is to see the people and meet the people. These homes that we've been building have been a two-year project up to this point. A lot of photos and drawings and paperwork and different aspects of it, but to actually meet the families and see the kids and see the finished product and visualize what life would be like and how you are going to impact someone's life makes it all the better."
DANICA PATRICK LOOKS LIKE SHE MAY WELL BE IN A STOCK CAR NEXT YEAR, WHAT IS YOUR SINGLE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE FOR HER? "I heard Juan's comment and I think that is a valid point to make. I believe she has that opportunity just to run stock cars exclusively. I think the overall thing she's trying to accomplish and I think what everybody is eventually getting at is that seat time is everything to learn these cars and learn these tracks. She may have raced on these tracks but not in a closed body vehicle. So, it boils down to seat time. Just not to be in a hurry, drive anything with a body on it...ARCA, Truck, Nationwide, Cup. Hit some walls. It is tough because she is obviously going to have a big spot light on her. Hit walls, tear up equipment, make mistakes. You have to go through that. You cannot short cut that aspect. It doesn't matter is you are Juan Pablo who has been and F-1 driver coming in or a guy coming from a local short track. You have to go through those experiences to learn."
AT KANSAS YOU APPEARED TO HAVE THE CAR TO BEAT UNTIL THAT FOUR-TIRE STOP. DID YOU FIGURE OUT WHY IT DIDN'T COME BACK UP TO SPEED? DOES IT SEEM LIKE YOU GUYS HAVE HAD MORE RACES THIS YEAR WHERE THE STRATEGY HAS KIND OF DIALED YOU OUT AND IS THAT SOMETHING YOU AND CHAD ARE ADDRESSING? "Yes. We have been a little frustrated with leading a lot of laps early and then at the end, it slipping through our fingers for whatever reason. We've had a handful of those this year. If it has been running out of gas, taking a chance because we were locked in at Michigan, the second time running out of gas. Then an incident like we had at Kansas. So, we need to address that, we need to close. That is what we have always been so good at is being there at the end and running our best at the end of the race. With all of that in mind, we are addressing that, we're thinking about it, we're focused on it like we have always been, but we just haven't had it turn out like we wanted out. Kansas is still a bit of a mystery. As we have gone through everything, it still kind of boils down to track position, I guess, and the fact that we took four (tires) when everybody took two. After that we were on two again...I'm sorry...we went two and so guys went four and we ran where we ran. I have a hard time believing that was all of it because I started 11th, worked my way up through there, passed a lot of cars, putting them down a lap and didn't have the imbalance in the car like I did those last two runs. So, I guess, it was track position because there was nothing wrong with the car. It is hard to believe that from the time the caution came out until we took the green again, had to be five minutes, 10 minutes, that the track could have changed that much. We didn't make any adjustments to the car. The only thing that it could possibly still be is that we had a bad set of left-side tires on the car. Because the left sides stayed on even for that final run. So it is either track position or the left side tires had something off on them."
HERE AT CALIFORNIA, DO YOU FEEL LIKE ALL EYES ARE ON YOU BECAUSE YOU DO SO WELL HERE AND DO YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE? "I can certainly let different aspects of this weekend creep in to my mind and put more pressure on me. I have always done a good job of trying to keep it simple and just look at it as another race and it is one of 10. I need to go out and still run practice and get the car right, qualify, practice again and do my best job on Sunday. Hopefully my experience over the years can help keep it simple and help my mind stay focused on the things that are really important and make a difference and not pay attention to it being a hometown track, a track that we have won at in the fall. It is a good race for us in the Chase. The Jimmie Johnson Foundation is on the side of the car. All of those things. I try to push that out of my mind."
WHAT HAS BEEN DIFFERENT FOR YOU AT CHARLOTTE IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS AND WOULD IT BE PARTICULARLY PLEASING FOR YOU AND YOUR SPONSOR TO MAKE ONE LAST VISIT TO VICTORY LANE? "Without a doubt, it really would be nice to win there. It has been a great relationship with the track and Lowe's and then all the victories we have had there have been really neat. The track, I really think since it was resurfaced, it just changed the dynamic of the race for us. I had some lines that worked really well. I think our setup worked really well for the abrasive track. Rough tracks with bumps and things like that seem to work well for me with my background. I just worked. It was one of those tracks that just worked. They ground the track and it still worked well for us. We came back and it was resurfaced and we were competitive but we didn't have an advantage by any means. I really think the surface has a lot to do with it. It has made the track more forgiving than it was in the past and I think it helped close the gap. I am hoping the track hurries up and ages and gets rough and bumpy and turns back in to the track it used to be.
"We work on stuff each time we go back. This year I think we'll be better yet. Last the few times we have been there, we have just been super tight and needed more front grip with the car. I think we are a little smarter even from the All-Star and the Coca Cola 600 weekend, we're smarter now than we were then and hopefully it makes a difference."
-credit: gm racing