JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWES/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his success at Dover, why this track suits his style, getting away to New York City, and more.
YOU HAVE WON FOUR OUT OF THE LAST EIGHT RACES AT DOVER, YOU ARE THE POINTS LEADER, AND YOU’VE WON THREE TIMES THIS YEAR. TALK ABOUT RACING HERE AT DOVER: “Yeah, we’re definitely excited to be here at this race track. As you mentioned, the stats are very good for myself and this team here. It’s a track that I’ve enjoyed racing at from the very first lap here in an ASA car. So, I’m glad to be here. I’m very happy with the start that we’ve had to the (Chase) season. Chicago went really well for us and than obviously last week at Loudon to run second there was a strong showing as well. So, things are working well. Clearly, there are eight more races to go and we’ll just keep working hard and see what we can do.”
NOBODY THAT’S EVER LED THE POINTS AFTER DOVER HAS GONE ON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU THINK THERE’S ANYTHING TO THAT AT ALL OR IS IT JUST COINCIDENCE? “No, there’s not much to it. I think the point in that it that it’s a long season and a lot can happen. But you want every point you can get and leading now is a great position to be in. I think any champion of the Chase would take leading out of Dover.”
KURT BUSCH JUST LEFT THE MEDIA CENTER AND WAS TALKING ABOUT MAKING THE CHASE NEXT YEAR WITH THE FURNITURE ROW RACING TEAM. DO YOU THINK THAT TEAM IS CAPABLE? DO YOU THINK THE CHASE, IN GENERAL, JUST NEEDS THE BUSCH BROTHERS IN THERE? “Well, I don’t know enough about the No. 78 team to understand their equipment or their engineering staff and what goes into it. In the past, and that could still be the case, but I know they had a relationship with Childress and I have to think that whatever relationship they have is key; and what type of information they get, and what they can really afford to spend on that relationship, is key. So, we’ll see. Time will tell. Kurt does an awesome job. I think he’s shown again this year how talented he is. We’ll see. And as far as the Busch brothers in the Chase, again I’m shocked that Kyle (Busch) is not in. He’s a definite threat week-in and week-out; and as Kurt finds his way into highly competitive equipment, he’ll be a factor as well.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON WHAT CHRIS ECONOMAKI MEANT TO RACING IN GENERAL WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF RACING THAT YOU’VE PARTICIPATED IN? “Yeah, I did see that this morning. It’s definitely sad news (that he passed away). At 91 years of age, he did so much for all of motorsports. I think many generations of race fans and racers and everybody in between has an ‘Economaki moment’ and remembers hearing his voice and seeing him on television and maybe meeting him. Everything he’s done for motorsports is makes me so thankful for what he contributed to our sport and his passion and dedication for our sport.”
IF YOU WERE SOME GUY SITTING DOWN AND LOOKING AT YOUR RECORD AT THIS TRACK, WOULD YOU BE WORRIED? CAN YOU PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES AS THEY SAY OH MY GOODNESS, WE’RE COMING TO DOVER AND LOOK AT JIMMIE JOHNSON? “I think we all look at other drivers and where they excel. You know that you’re going to have to deal with that team and driver and last week was a good example of it. We all knew, going in based on the spring race (Louden) that Denny (Hamlin) was going to be the car to beat at New Hampshire and they did that. So, we all look through stats and I’m not sure that a long history plays into things, but certainly a spring race is one that you pay attention to.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR. WAS NOT HAPPY AFTER CHICAGO OR NEW HAMPSHIRE. HE SAID HE’S BEEN VERY HESITANT TO BE VOCAL ABOUT THIS ISSUES TOWARDS HIS TEAM. HE DOESN’T WANT TO BE COMPLAINING ALL THE TIME. HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING ABOUT THAT? HAVE YOU GIVEN HIM ANY ADVICE IN TERMS OF HOW TO GO ABOUT EXPRESSING DISPLEASURE WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH AND YOU FEEL THINGS NEED TO BE DONE IMMEDIATELY? “I’m not in the conversations that he and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) have. There are different layers that the drivers share and different experiences that we have together at debriefs at the track and during the week. As a shop mate, there’s a lot of communication that he and I have. I’ve not seen him this open and willing to communicate ever.
“So, from my standpoint, I’ve been very impressed with his ability to communicate what he said, the information that he is providing, the direction he’s helped the No. 48 car with and the overall team in bringing some stuff in the summer months to the table. So I’m sure he’s not happy with his opening two races, but I’ve been really proud of him and feel that he’s been an amazing teammate and really has offered and added a lot to Hendrick Motorsports this year.”
A LOT OF PEOPLE ALWAYS POINT TO YOUR RECORD HERE. BUT CAN YOU TALK A BIT FROM YOUR PROSPECTIVE; I’M ASSUMING THAT CREW CHIEF CHAD KNAUS JUST DOESN’T COME HERE THINKING THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE GOOD AGAIN EVERY TIME YOU SHOW UP. HOW MUCH WORK DOES IT TAKE TO BE THAT GOOD AGAIN WHEN YOU COME BACK HERE? “It does take a lot of work. And what’s confusing is that this track does change quite a bit. With the tire that we’ve had for the last couple of years, it lays a lot of rubber down. And the way your car handles on a clean track during practice is far different than what you have in the race. In practice, even though we’ve won here recently, I can’t say those practice sessions went as smoothly as we had hoped. And you really have to fall back on experience and keep an open mind about the new pieces you bring or the new thoughts you bring to your set-up; and will they work come race time? They might not work on a clean track, but the race is really different, especially deep in a run when the right-side rubber lays down and you’ve got to navigate that stuff.”
DENNY HAMLIN’S SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST HAS TOLD HIM HE’S GOT TO LEARN TO LOVE DOVER. HAVE YOU LEARNED TO LOVE A TRACK? DOES IT TAKE A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST TO HELP YOU THROUGH THAT OR DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT YOURSELF IF YOU CAME TO A PLACE YOU DIDN’T USED TO BE ABLE TO THINK YOU WERE GOOD AT? “We all have those tracks that we don’t like or that don’t like us; however you want to phrase it and work through it. But, believe me, for years and years I went to Bristol telling myself I loved it. And I didn’t love it until I won there; the same with Sonoma (laughs). So, until you go to that track and prove to yourself that you run well there, it’s just a lot of positive thinking; which does have it’s benefits. For me, personally, until I’ve gone to those tracks and I’ve executed and I come back the next year and walk in the gate, that’s when the feeling is truly different. And you’re like wow. I am good here. I can get the job done here.”
BESIDES MEETING THE AVETT BROTHERS, YOU WERE IN NEW YORK THIS WEEK. WAS THAT A PLANNED TRIP? IS THAT LIKE A GETAWAY WHEN YOU SPEND A FEW DAYS THERE OR IS THAT DUE TO THE PROXIMITY OF DOVER OR IS THAT A WAY THAT YOU GIVE YOURSELF A DIVERSION DURING THE STRESS OF THE CHASE? “It’s really more driven by where we’re racing. We have an apartment in the city and we try to get up there and enjoy it as often as we can, which really isn’t much as the year rolls on. So the fact that we’re racing up this direction, between Loudon and Dover, it worked out well for us to be up there and enjoy the city. And I had a great time at the Avett Brothers. It’s cool to see some Concord guys or Charlotte guys, have the success they do and watch them in action. They put on a heck of a show. Distractions like that are helpful. It helps keep my mind off of things. The other aspect that’s beneficial for me is the training. I’m getting ready for this next Triathlon and I think that’s been a good way to hit the sheets exhausted every night and make sure that I get the rest that I need to and that my mind doesn’t wander. I’m learning a lot as the years go on and how to feel complete with the day in doing my job and staying focused on my job. I’m also having some fun in balancing things out. So, a concert is an example of it; and then also family time. One nice thing about going to New York is that no one can track me down from the racing world, really. And I can separate and I’ve had some awesome days with Channy and Evie.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE IN A WRECK AT TALLADEGA? WE’LL OBVIOUSLY NEVER EXPERIENCE THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THAT. BUT WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND AND WHAT HAPPENS DURING A CRASH? “For me, at Talladega, when something happens you start evaluating the damage to your car. If there are a couple of small bumps along the way, your mind’s thinking okay, that’s not too bad. I didn’t get hit in a wheel; maybe just a fender. We can fix that; we can fix that. And you’re keeping some hope until there’s always typically a moment when you’re like, oh, that’s going to hurt (laughs); that’s going to require some behind the wall time to fix that up. So, you just kind of hang on and go for the ride. I’ve been fortunate to stay on my wheels and not be upside-down, so I don’t necessarily have a good play on that. Although it would be kind of cool to flip if you’re going to out, you may as well go out in style. But you just kind of evaluate what’s going on and hope that you don’t hit anything too hard and you can get to pit lane and get it fixed.”
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? “It usually gets quiet at some point. The engine shuts off as you get close to backwards or sideways. There is a lot of tire squealing. When tires blow, they make a lot of noise, a big explosion. And depending on the impacts, they all have different sounds as well. The first sound you usually hear is the guy on the throttle hard trying to steer it or drive it in the right direction.”
Source: Team Chevy Racing