Jimmie Johnson changes in qualifying and in Chase

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Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, met with members of the media at Daytona Media Day and discussed racing at Daytona and other topics.

REGARDING RICHARD PETTY COMMENT

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I just caught wind of that, so I'm not so prepared.

HOW CLOSE DO YOU FEEL LIKE DANICA IS TO WINNING A RACE AND HER CAPABILITIES?

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Covy Moore

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think her most immediate opportunity to win would be plate-wise. What she's shown down here, especially in the 500, look at what she did in Indy, she had a really good chance of winning there at the 500 once or twice, and last year was in a great position through the course of the race.

I'd say plate racing is probably the first opportunity for her. It's just going to take time to sort out of the other areas. We have the ability to see open-wheel drivers coming to NASCAR. Outside of Tony, we haven't seen

I'm still interested in watching, if whatever happened, a (indiscernible) car guy going that direction. You need at least five years over here to figure out what's going on, understand these cars, be competitive.

Regardless if it's Danica, a male driver, whoever it is, you really need five years to kind of get yourself where you need to be in this sport and find those last few 10ths. It's one thing to get within a couple seconds, but the last few 10ths are the hardest thing to find. DOES THE (INAUDIBLE) FEEL DIFFERENT TO YOU THIS YEAR?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, not yet. It's been out of mind for sure. That could be due to the addition to the household. It's very busy at home with two. So many parents with more than one kid tell me how much busier it was going to be. I'm like, Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's far busier than having one.

There's some of that, and the other part is I haven't been in that mental space yet racing or competing. I think as the year goes on and if we are to make the Chase and get down to the race at Homestead, that's when it will be top of mind. Right now it's so far away, such a process to get there, I haven't put much thought into it.

ANY TROUBLE GETTING DOWN HERE?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, we got out this morning. We were smart, repositioned our plane to Charlotte-Douglas. The trip from the hangar to the runway was exciting. They hadn't plowed any of that. I thought I was in an off-road truck for a while trying to get out to the runway.

DO YOU GAME PLAN DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR KNOWING YOU'RE PROBABLY GOING TO GET INTO THE CHASE?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean, it certainly will. People will. We haven't talked about it amongst the 48 team. We've always felt, especially when the wild card program came in, if you were to win one or two races you could play for a while. As you get close to September, we always believed you had to fine tune and be done with major concept changes and really pick your package and refine it.

2005 we thought we were real cute and smart and locked in early, had a big points lead, did all this experimenting, kind of lost our way and got confused when the Chase started and it backfired on us.

We prefer to have a package and move forward at that point. But the start of the year, you just got to be open to it. If you're off, you've got to go test, you have to go work. If you're on and competitive, you can probably be a little patient and preserve your test sessions. It's going to be an ever-changing and evolving process.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I still think the way you win a championship is the same: you've got to win races. I think it builds more excitement with the fact that you've got to win the transfer, there's that elimination process that works its way down.

I still feel very good about it. When we look around at sports, everything's changing. The Olympics look far different than they used to. NFL is considering change. All sports. The world is changing. Our viewership is changing, so the sport has to change.

I'm not sure if this is the exact thing, the right thing. Only time will tell. But I do support NASCAR and I do commend them on making a bold change and think that it's -- I know it's going to bring excitement, especially those final 10 races.

I still think there's some more change out there that can be done. You can argue the first 26, what's going on there. I think you can argue the overall premise that maybe there's a little too much NASCAR at times. Maybe we race too many times, our races are a little long. I think there can be some format changes and procedure changes during the course of an event to kind of compact that.

We know it's a major time commitment to come to the racetrack. You got a two-hour commute with traffic in and out, you have a five-hour event. That is just a daunting task for a lot of families.

In my opinion, there's some other areas where we can work in as well. Kind of where the conversations were before this announcement cam out.

When change was to come, I felt like it would change in other directions and our process to crown a champion was going to stay intact, but it ended up being the opposite.

REGARDING CONSISTENCY

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it's great for a work environment. That's where I thrive and do my best work. If you look at my personal life, always being in relationships, there's always consistent things going on.

The world we created at Team 48 is perfect for that. It helps us hold things down because we've got a strong nucleus of people. As things change, and there's a lot of change this year, when you look at qualifying procedure, the way the champion is crowned, rules package, officiating, they're parking the transporters different. Every time I hear something, something is different. It's going to be nice to have a familiar foundation to work from.

IN SOME WAYS WE'VE NEVER SEEN HOW GOOD YOU CAN BE AT HOMESTEAD BECAUSE YOU'VE NEVER HAD TO BE.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah. We respond well to pressure. That's one thing that the 48 has done a nice job with. First things first. We got to transfer through the different segments, make sure we're not eliminated and have a shot at it.

YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT THE CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE. WHEN YOU LOOK AT ALL OF THAT, THE CHAMPIONSHIP, QUALIFYING, THE APPEALS PROCESS, THAT'S A LOT IN ONE YEAR. AS A RACING FAN, IS THAT A GREAT DEAL OF CHANGE FOR THIS SEASON?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, fan or participant, it is a lot of change. In certain aspects of it, NASCAR has worked hard. I think it was a third party that came in and evaluated the business in a variety of aspects. They've come up with these changes that they're making. I really think they're for the betterment of the sport. I think the infractions, there's a category that it falls into, the appeals process, the rule book changing, having CAD drawings really shows what's approved and what's not, the approval process.

There's a lot of areas there that needed to be updated, perfected, be black and white, crystal clear the way things happen and work. I'm happy to see all that coming.

I think from an approval process they asked from all our parts sometime in January. I don't know how they're going to go through all the stuff. They have our stuff, Penske's, Childress'. I think it's going to take a year or so to get everything ironed out as it needs to be.

Brian's made it clear: the success of this sport is on his shoulders. He's going to make change and not be afraid to make change. Then we get into the way we crown the champion, that aspect. Definitely a bold move made. I'm supportive of the move and hope that it's the right move.

IS IT MY IMAGINATION OR DOES THE BODY TYPE OF DRIVERS SEEM TO BE SHRINKING NOWADAYS?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Under the circumstances because we're not athletes (laughter).

If you drove the car at your capability for the entire race, you'd break it. You've heard these stories of guys, David Pearson, even Junior Johnson stories, laying back, being smart, not worrying about your equipment, going when you need to.

It's changed. It's changed so much in the 12 or 13 years I've been in the sport. The weakest link is the driver. That's why the fitness is so important.

REGARDING WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS WITH A DIFFERENT FORMAT

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It does. I mean, I feel regardless of car or points system, we'll be a threat. It would be nice to win one, two, whatever, with the new format.

WHEN YOU'RE AT THE RACETRACK YOU'RE KNOWN FOR BEING CAREFUL. WHEN YOU'RE AWAY FROM THE RACETRACK, ARE YOU A LITTLE CRAZY AT TIMES? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CRAZY THINGS YOU DO?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, definitely the work hard, play hard mindset. I felt like the guys I grew up with, the area I grew up in, 'Jackass' style stuff was very common. We would camp all the time, crash stuff, break stuff. It's the way we grew up in the local deserts and at the river. We'd find ways to stay entertained doing things we shouldn't. The golf cart surfing being in that category. That's for sure.

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO BE OUTSPOKEN AND WHEN IS IT NOT?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It just depends on who you're trying to make happy. If you want to get something done within NASCAR, saying it through the microphone is not going to help you any. Make some fans happy. Fans appreciate hearing those outspoken words.

There's politics in everything. Turning to the microphone and bashing anyone or someone or anything or a procedure or a car, I mean, it's going to make some of the fans happy, but it's going to hurt the overall cause of advancing the sport.

Team Chevy

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Interviews
Tags chevrolet, jimmie johnson, nascar-cup