JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his mindset going into the finale, qualifying, earlier Sunday race start time, and more. SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOUR PREPARE TO HIT THE TRACK FOR PRACTICE, AND SET YOUR SITES...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his mindset going into the finale, qualifying, earlier Sunday race start time, and more.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOUR PREPARE TO HIT THE TRACK FOR PRACTICE, AND SET YOUR SITES ON A FIFTH TITLE "I'm just excited to get on the track and understand what our car is going to be like and what the challenges will be for the weekend. Really, you're just thinking about what you've done here in the past and how your car drove and what your notes show. But today is a really big day for all three guys (championship contenders, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin) to get out there and feel out their cars and understand what the challenges will be. It's easy for your mind to then focus on the right things because your car is either tight or loose or whatever it may be and you can really focus in on what's important. Last night was easy; a piece of cake. I saw a couple of guys at Juan's (Montoya) event and had a good night sleep and I'm ready to go."
DID YOU SLEEP WELL LAST NIGHT? ARE YOU NOW A DIFFERENT GUY AT THE TRACK? "I slept great. I don't know if Denny (Hamlin) did, but I know I did (laughter). Last night was awesome. I got a lot of sleep and feel good for today. I'm looking forward to it and today, It's easy to come in the gates and have a little fun with you guys (media) in here. But when I walk through the gates to the garage, it's all about business. And it's time to get to work and we know what we need to do and it starts today with a great qualifying effort and hopefully we can get that done."
AT TALLADEGA, KEVIN HARVICK SAID WE NEED A NEW CHAMPION. DO YOU GET SICK OF PEOPLE BLAMING YOU FOR THE LOW ATTENDANCE AND RATINGS? "Not really because if they're saying that it means we're doing well. I don't care what people have to say. I just care about how our team performs and what we do. So be it. I guess you can't have one without the other. I don't believe I'm the reason. When you look at television, regardless if its sports or other popular shows or reality TV, most things have dropped, if not all. Attendance has been tough for sports in general. We certainly have our issues and it is what it is and there are so many ideas of what it might be that I can't sit here and say it's because of me.
"And I guess when this started; everyone said it was because of Matt Kenseth running away with the year in 2003. So if we're trying to blame someone, we can pick someone. I can be that guy if everybody wants me to be that guy. But I think the problem was there before I came."
ON SUNDAY, ARE WE GOING TO SEE THREE CARS CONTENDING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, ALL OF WHOM START THIS RACING GOING ALL OUT TO WIN THIS RACE? "Yeah, without a doubt. I think the way everybody is approaching the start of the race, qualifying will tell a tale and some guys may be in the back and may need to be aggressive to get to the front. Some guys may be up front and their job is a little bit easier. So the things needed to win the championship will kind of evolve as each lap is made this weekend. Even then, we look at last weekend's race, the No. 11 (Hamlin) was the dominant car and fuel strategy came into play and we didn't know until the checkered fell, who was going to finish where. So it has that potential to go all the way to the end. I hope it doesn't. I hope it's very easy for the No. 48 early and off we go. I don't' know if we're going to have that luxury this year."
YOU WON THE POLE FOR THIS RACE LAST YEAR WHILE ATTEMPTING TO CLINCH YOUR FOURTH TITLE. BUT IN THE LAST 2 WEEKS, NONE OF THE TOP THREE GUYS HAVE QUALIFIED BETTER THAN 17TH AND YOU'VE ALL ENDED UP RUNNING BASICALLY IN THE TOP FIVE. SHOULD WE EXPECT TO SEE ANYTHING DIFFERENT TODAY? "I would hope so out of us. I made a joke about it last weekend and said that we've been in a world class pillow fight in qualifying here lately. Nobody is qualifying well. It's frustrating for us and we spend Fridays in qualifying trim to qualify well. And I'll go out and run a lap, a lap I think I should be proud of and find out its 21st. Are you kidding me? So I don't know where that speed has gone. Some of the other guys work on race trim and then switch to qualifying trim and that's a little more understandable, but the Chasers, well the top three, have been lacking a little bit in qualifying performance. I guess since all three have had trouble, there hasn't been a huge discussion about it. I remember years past when one of the guys fighting for the title qualified bad, that was the headline. But when all three of us are qualifying so close together, I guess it's a non factor. Ideally you want to start up front and we all know that. But it doesn't mean you can't win from behind."
THE RACE STARTS EARLIER THIS YEAR. (CREW CHIEF) CHAD KNAUS SAID YOU COME INTO THIS RACE NOT IN THE POINTS LEAD AND YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT STARTING TIME FOR THE RACE. HOW WILL THIS RACE BE DIFFERENT THAN THE LAST FOUR YEARS? "I think the track is going to be slick for us. We do have practice kind of in that window of time when we'll race, so the practice session will crossover. One thing we always fight is practice in the heat of the day and then a race that starts in the afternoon or the night, is how do you set the car up? Where are you with the balance? And we'll have a lot of good information from tomorrow's practice session to carry over. But I think it will be more slick. The groove has already been pretty wide, but I think that will ensure three and four-wide racing because you're going to be looking for clean air and the track's going to be slick so you'll search all around the race track for a line."
IS SUNDAY THE BIGGEST RACE OF YOUR CAREER? DOES THAT MATTER? IS THIS LIKE THE CROWNING MOMENT OF YOUR NASCAR CAREER AT THIS POINT? DOES IT MATTER TO YOU NOW OR IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'RE GOING TO REFLECT ON LATER? "It's something I think I'd reflect on later in life more. But you bring up a good point. To win five in a row would be the biggest moment of my career. And I think it's the same for all three of us. It is really the biggest day of our careers. It would be the first championship for Kevin (Harvick) and for Denny (Hamlin) and then our fifth. So it's a big day. I don't think any of us really want to let it in and think about it too much. But the potential is there for sure."
TO WHAT EXTENT WERE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE PIT CREW SWAP AT TEXAS AS BEING SOMETHING THAT COULD POTENTIALLY DERAIL YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES AS WE GOT TO CRUNCH TIME? WHAT INPUT DID YOU HAVE ON THAT CALL? "Through the course of the summer, we didn't necessarily have the performance on track. And then we'd come down pit road and we'd see a couple things here and there and it was really hard to pinpoint issues on pit road when we didn't have the speed on the track. We had a lot of areas to work in. We felt like we'd been through so much with these guys and when we got into the Chase things would come back and we'd be fine. We had some good races but we also had some bad ones. The way things unfolded in Texas, we had an opportunity to take not a B-team, but Jeff's (Gordon) guys that were doing a really good job, and put them in. So there, we had nothing to lose. And we had such a good afternoon with them in Texas, that going into Phoenix; I know there was a lot of discussion about it, but to us, it was real easy. We know these guys. It's not like we brought in seven strangers to work with. We're one big team. Even though there was a lot of criticism possibly or discussion about it in general, as much criticism as I saw, I also saw positive things. So it's kind of a mixed bag of responses, but we felt good as a team (1) because we worked with them in Texas, and (2) they'd been there all year and they're teammates so it didn't really play on our minds that much.
"I don't know what things look like following this race. I really don't. Actually, the front tire changer, Clay (Robinson), I met when I first moved back here and was staying at (Ron) Hornaday's house. He was there a lot as well. So, he actually put brake lines on the first Late Model that I drove. It was in my garage and it was Ron Hornaday's son's car and I put it together and went to the track and so it's just wild to see that kind of come full circle. And I do know the other guys on the pit crew and have worked with them in the shop and see them around and stuff. Again, they're not seven strangers but I have no clue what next year will look like."
-source: gm racing