JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS MET WITH MEDIA AND DISCUSSED THE DAYTONA 500, HAVING DALE EARNHARDT JR ON BOARD AT HMS, HOW NASCAR INFLUENCED HIS CAREER WHILE GROWING UP IN CALIFORNIA, RACING AT LAS VEGAS AND MORE. HOW DO YOU GET OVER...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS MET WITH MEDIA AND DISCUSSED THE DAYTONA 500, HAVING DALE EARNHARDT JR ON BOARD AT HMS, HOW NASCAR INFLUENCED HIS CAREER WHILE GROWING UP IN CALIFORNIA, RACING AT LAS VEGAS AND MORE.
HOW DO YOU GET OVER WHAT HAPPENED AT THE DAYTONA 500 AND GO FROM THERE? "Daytona is huge for everybody in the sport. Everybody wants to run well there. But in the seven years I've raced in that race, I've only won it once, and I've had a lot of late race incidents pop up. So I guess I'm used to leaving Daytona and looking forward to the rest of the season. In a lot of drivers' minds, I think if you don't win, that's one of 26 to worry about before the Chase and you kind of move on. And that's really the way I've looked at it. We didn't run like we wanted to. We put a lot of effort into it but we just didn't get the result that we wanted, but we'll move on."
ON HOW THE RAINY WEATHER WILL AFFECT PRACTICE TIME AT CALIFORNIA "I think everybody wants more practice time. And if this keeps us from getting on track, that will have a lot of us scrambling. There were a few cars that seemed really strong in the test, and I'm sure those teams and drivers hope it rains, but the rest of us want to get on track."
DO YOU SAY OKAY, LAST WEEK DOESN'T MATTER AND JUST MOVE ON? "Well it does matter. We want to run well at Daytona. It's one of 26 to get us into the Chase and hopefully the 29th place finish doesn't affect our transferring into the Chase. But this early in the season you just kind of move on and focus on the next race. We're more worried about what the bulk of the season is built on, which are tracks like California and Las Vegas."
MOST PEOPLE TRY TO AVOID TALKING ABOUT THE CHASE THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON. WHY ARE YOU ALREADY BRINGING IT UP? "That's what it's about. It's all about being a champion. And the goals that we set forth at Hendrick Motorsports are to transfer to the Chase and then race for a championship. And that's really our focus, not only for the No. 48 car, but for all four teams."
HAVING WON TWO CHAMPIONSHIPS, IS YOU CONFIDENCE SKY-HIGH AND DO YOU THINK YOU'LL ALWAYS BE IN THE HUNT FOR THE TITLE? "Every year is a new year. The things that I look at are how our test sessions went when we were out here in California and Las Vegas. They were okay. They weren't what we had hoped for. So I really just go off of the last test session and the last time I was on track. We have a little bit of work ahead of us, but it's really early in the season to form too much judgment on either side, good or bad, and we'll just kind of roll with it and see where we end up."
CAN YOU GIVE US A PREVIEW OF WHAT TO EXPECT IN LAS VEGAS? "At the Vegas test, you could really attack with the car. It seemed like the track was getting a middle lane, if not an outside lane. So as we get into that weekend and all that activity on track, I hope that the track really widens out. I think it's going to be a better show for us to put on because we can really be aggressive with the cars. At California Speedway, there's not a lot of banking to tiptoe around, but at Vegas you can really charge."
GROWING UP IN CALIFORNIA, HOW HAS THE HISTORY OF NASCAR INFLUENCED YOU? "It has been limited to say the least. I know plenty about dirt bike racing and off-road racing and all that stuff. NASCAR was just such a different world and so far away (while I was) growing up. Chevrolet really helped (me) to see what else was out there. I thought naturally that Trans-Am and then Indy Car would have been the road I would have taken. It ended up being mid-west-based off-road truck racing, into ASA, then into Busch, and then Cup. When I was a kid looking at NASCAR, it seemed like a world away and that I would never get there."
WHAT TRACK DID YOU VISIT THEN? "Phoenix was one of the first tracks."
CALIFORNIA TRACKS "California-wise, I didn't tour a NASCAR track until I was racing in the Busch Series and came here to drive. The first time I ever drove a stock car was in North Carolina. I didn't grow up racing on short tracks here in Southern California anywhere. I was off the road on the dirt, bouncing around (laughs)."
ON ADDING DALE EARNHARDT JR. TO THE MIX AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, IS IT LIKE THE DREAM TEAM? "We certainly have big names with all four drivers at Hendrick Motorsports. It's brought a lot of hype to the start of the season for us, but it's not going to carry us through the season. It's not going to cheer us the finishes we want or a championship at Hendrick Motorsports. It's nice. It's something to talk about. But we're ready to get to work and get the season started. I think Junior is going to bring a lot to Hendrick Motorsports, which is exciting. The challenges that Jeff (Gordon) and I have had on track, and being teammates and fighting for wins and championships has made us both stronger.
"It's helped us both look at each other's set-ups and driving styles and has forced us to be better drivers. So I look forward to that challenge with Casey (Mears) and with Junior. Hopefully we have the four strongest cars every week."
ON IF SOMEONE MADE A MOVIE ON HIS LIFE, WHO WOULD PLAY HIM: "I don't know. My wife says I look like Colin Ferrell because we both have eyebrows that are on different points. (Laughs) So, with that in mind, I would choose him."
ON ROBBY GORDON PENALTY: "I don't know anything about it but I find it hard to believe that you don't know what is on your car. That is the point of view that NASCAR has. It is not our problem; it is a problem for the team. Wehad an issue where there wasn't even a template made,they didn't like the way it looked. and we got nailed. That is why you keep hearing over and overcrew chiefs talk about how scared they are and how nervous they are about their positions, their jobs going through that room that is right behind us. You just never know what is going to happen and the crew chief is held responsible for everything that is on that car. Again, I don't know what went on, it is the first I have heard about it. But I know it is not a fun roll to be in, I have been there twice and I hated it."
ON WHAT HAPPENED TO CAUSE HIS SPIN IN DAYTONA 500: "We were close together and the car got loose at first and then I got a little tap after that."
ON WHAT HE DOES TO UNWIND WHEN HE ISN'T RACING:bWe race all the damn time, we don't have a choice. If I am not racing the Cup car, I find my way in to an endurance car or other things. Racing is what I do."
ON RECEPTION BY FANS AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY: "Absolutely different for me here. Wherever we race, there are different reception. At Daytona, I was surprised on my lap around in the pace truck, no one flipped me off and there really wasn't a lot of noise, I don't think the hard core No.8-now No. 88 fans, knew what to do. They just kind of sat there and watched me go by. I am used to people hanging on the fence and flipping me off and booing me and it did happen."
ON MOVING ON FROM DAYTONA: "Daytona this year and really every year is huge for everyone in our sport. Everybody wants to run well there. But, the seven years I have raced in that race, I have only won it once and had a lot of late-race incidents pop up so, I guess, leaving Daytona behind and looking forward to the rest of the season. I think in a lot of driver's minds, if you don't win, that is just one of 26 to worry about for getting in to the Chase and kind of move on. That is really the way I looked at it, we didn't run the way we wanted to. We put a lot of effort in to it, but we didn't get the result we wanted. We will just go on."
ON SITUATION WITH SHORT PRACTICE TIME: "Everybody wants more practice time. This weather (referring to rain at California Speedway) if this keeps us from getting on track, that will cause a lot of scrambling. There were a few cars that showed really strong here in the test, I am sure those teams and drivers are hoping that it rains, for us we just want to get on the track."
MORE ON DAYTONA FINISH: "Of course it does matter, we do want to run well at Daytona. It is one of 26 to get us in to the Chase. Hopefully the 29th place finish doesn't affect where we are in the Chase, but this early in to the season, you just kind of move on and focus on the next race. Really, what we are worried about is what the bulk of the season is built on which is tracks like California and Las Vegas."
-credit: gm racing