Fontana II: Johnson "wake up call" interview, part 1

JIMMIE JOHNSON , DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO was the guest of today's NEXTEL Wake Up Call. This morning he also made a major announcement on behalf of himself and Lowe's regarding hurricane relief efforts. TELL US MORE...

JIMMIE JOHNSON , DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO was the guest of today's NEXTEL Wake Up Call. This morning he also made a major announcement on behalf of himself and Lowe's regarding hurricane relief efforts.

TELL US MORE ABOUT ANNOUNCEMENT

"Lowe's obviously with their line of business are so close to what happens with natural disasters in our country and throughout the world. They want to support any disaster that happens in the United States. They have their own hotline and their own program that is in place and they also partnered with the American Red Cross. So they are naturally stepping up as a company to try to help everyone down in the southern area that's having difficulty with the hurricane. They're going to give $480 per lap and at the end, if we're able to win the race, it will be an additional $4,800. If you do the math, over a 500-mile race and 250 laps, Lowe's is going to give up quite a lot of money if we are able to finish all the laps. Then on top of that, my wife (Chandra) and I, after watching all that we've seen on TV feel so badly. Before the hurricane hit I was watching some things on The Weather Channel and saw where there are still communities from last year's hurricane season that aren't up and aren't established and still shut down and having problems. I've had my eyes on different charities and different things that my wife and I support, but we need to support our own country. We need to support the people right here in the U.S. My wife and I last night decided to be with Lowe's on this charitable function that is taking place. We are going to donate $48,000 to go with what Lowe's is doing as well. I want to give back to our country. Those people down there are struggling and lives have been lost. We just feel horrible. Hopefully what we've done will help other drivers, team owners, NASCAR, the NASCAR community see this and also want to contribute too. We all support a lot of things but to be able to support our own country in a time of need, I think is really important."

ON YOUR WEEK IN CALIFORNIA

"It's been very hectic. To have a nice morning to sleep in was much needed. I got out here on Tuesday afternoon. I went to the Padres game and was able to see an old friend, Brian Giles, that plays for the Padres. I went up in the suite and watched him rock a home run at his first bat of the night. It was pretty exciting to see him. I haven't seen him since high school and to watch him rock one like that was pretty cool. They were able to win that night.

We did a lot of press at the Padres game around seeing Brian and also the relationship I have with his brother, Marcus, in Atlanta. I was also promoting Kearny Mesa Chevrolet that I am owner of. It's a great opportunity for me with Rick Hendrick to have a car dealership in southern California. I was so surprised out there all week long at how the community has really been behind me. I haven't really been back on the press side promoting anything or doing anything. I've been back to visit family and friends. That was my first press round up and first time really out there trying to get any exposure. I couldn't believe how supportive this San Diego community was. It's been 10 years at least since I've really been there and been a part of the community. They inducted me into their hall of fame and a lot of great things happened. I got a huge applause at the Padres game, which I'm used to boos at all the southern NASCAR races. So it was nice to hear so many applause. It was really a good time. Tuesday we went to Lowe's and debuted our 2006 paint scheme that we will run in October. Yesterday we had our grand opening, even though the Chevrolet store has been open for a while. I went through and shook every hand of every employee and had a big luncheon and folks from Chevrolet came down and really helped us kick off the opening of the store to the employees. I was able to meet everyone and Rick was too. It's been a very busy and exciting week. I had a lot of fun this week. It's great being back."

ON STRATEGIES THAT A TEAM CAN PULL OFF WITH FIVE DRIVERS IN THE CHASE THAT ONE DRIVER MAY NOT BE ABLE TO PULL OFF

"I've thought about that comment. I don't think there is anything that teammates can really help each other with in the Chase that you wouldn't already be doing with teammates. For the organization and all the hard work Hendrick Motorsports puts into everything, I want them to have as many opportunities to win the championship as possible. I think all of our teams are capable of it. I think the 5 and 25 (cars) have shown that those guys are up to speed. I can't wait for those guys next year to have a clean start on things. I really feel that they'll be in the top 10. For the company, I want to see Jeff Gordon in it. I want to see Brian (Vickers) and Kyle (Busch) in it so we can be there proudly showing off the Hendrick equipment. Hendrick deserves it. I'm hopeful I'm not the only one in there. Jeff is in there now and I'm very confident that he'll stay in it."

HOW ARE YOUR TRANSPORT DRIVERS HOLDING UP WITH ALL THE RECENT LONG- DISTANCE TRAVEL?

"First of all, we all like to complain. We all complain about the schedule but the truck drivers love it. They've got somebody riding shot-gun with them. They drive all night long. Especially if you run well, they love it. As long as you run good, those guys don't mind too much. I think all of our guys like the challenge. I know our truck driver probably needs some sleep right now but he's smiling and he's got the precious cargo out here. On top of that for everyone else, we're going to test in Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday. Our truck driver will fortunately go home since we have a test truck coming out. Our road crew guys are running it hard. With that said we do like to complain because it's the thing to do, but when we're sitting there smiling that we're figuring stuff out, we're really enjoying it."

ON THE RETALIATION THAT HAPPENED LAST WEEKEND AT BRISTOL WITH RYAN NEWMAN AND DALE JARRETT

"Retaliation is something that does take place. I don't think it's usually as obvious as that was for everyone. If you remember back to the Earhardt days, back in the '80s and early '90s, that stuff happened all the time. It's just like as a kid growing up, if there is someone bullying you around or if someone took a cheap shot at you, if you personally didn't do something about it, you're going to get run over. That's the same thing on the race track. Granted we're in front of millions of people watching. NASCAR has to look at things and keep it under control. What I think you saw is something as simple as in school when someone gave you a hard time, if you didn't set things straight, then you're going to have to deal with it for a while. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but stuff happens and every once in a while you've got to do something like that as a driver."

HOW MUCH COVERAGE HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO SEE OF THE HURRICANE DISASTER?

"With the busy week we've had, I've really one seen it in the papers and on The Weather Channel briefly. Just to hear to the numbers and to imagine being in a stadium with very little water, food and sewer system issues. I've been to New Orleans. I went down there to watch the OU - LSU Bowl game two years ago. To walk the streets and see that they're 15 to 20 feet under water right now, that's just staggering to understand that and believe that. With all that in mind, that's where my wife and I thought that we need to give back and support and help out our country."

WHAT WILL YOUR HURRICANE RELIEF DONATION BE USED FOR?

"I'm not sure. I'm donating directly to the American Red Cross."

ARE RETALIATION PENALITIES STRICT ENOUGH?

"I guess there is always something for us to question and talk about in our sport. I guess that's why we all have our jobs and there are so many people that pay attention. Sometimes we watch the decisions that NASCAR makes and sometimes we think it may be a little harsh and other times it may not be enough. I've been in the big truck and I've been handed penalties for different things. I've watched them first-hand look at the situation, evaluate what was going on, listen to both sides and then make a decision. I didn't really get to see it all since I was traveling right away plus I went out early and didn't see what happened at the end. I'm sure it was all thought out. I know that they had both drivers in the truck afterwards. I've been in that position before too. I know things nine times out of 10 end right there and are solved and fixed. I wouldn't expect to see anything else from here."

DO YOU WORRY ABOUT RETALIATION AFFECTING THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?

"I think last year we were all nervous about it and worrying about the cars in the final 10 and how vulnerable they are and how much is on the line. That's what you have when you still have all 43 cars on the track while a championship is taking place. It's just one of the risks that go with it. I like it how it is. I think all 43 cars need to be there. I also feel that the point system and the same points being available for everybody is a good thing. One thing that was tough towards the end of the year at Homestead especially. I had a great day going. I was up front the whole time. When I would catch cars that weren't in the top 10, they would let me go by pretty easily and give me the room to race. I thought 'wow, this is great.' Then towards the end of the race I would look in my mirror and I knew the 97 was having trouble. I'm sure was being respectful to the 97. Before I knew it, he was on my bumper. I thought, 'man, I wish he would have had a harder time going through traffic.' We need to be out there. We need to be racing. It's just one of the risks you take. It's part of it."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO TAKE IT UP A COUPLE OF NOTCHES WHEN THE CHASE BEGINS AND DO YOU THINK YOU'VE FALLEN A LITTLE BEHIND TONY STEWART?

"Yeah, I think we've been mirroring what we had last year in the points. We had a nice comfortable lead and won some races right out of the box. We were dominant. And then over time toward the middle part of the season and lost some momentum. We came back and really poured it on hard at the end. This year reminds me of last. With the testing we've done and the testing we're getting ready to do, I feel we will catch back up. We simply haven't tested. Our teammates have been holding their tests close as well and we've all been preparing for this final 10. The Roush guys as a whole have been the strongest throughout the entire season. The No. 20 (Tony Stewart) has been the hottest of late. I really feel that we're gaining momentum. And with all the testing coming up, we will hopefully start peaking at the right time which is two races from now."

HOW MANY TESTS DO YOU HAVE LEFT?

"I believe we have four. So we really haven't done anything all season."

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart