JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed participation in the Disaster Relief Fund, his focus on the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the pressure, the competition, and more.
YOUR FOUNDATION HAS BEEN VERY ACTIVE IN SUPPORTING THE RELIEF EFFORTS FOR HURRICANE SANDY. CAN YOU TOUCH ON THAT? “Yes, definitely. Myself, Hendrick Motorsports, and Lowe’s are proud and happy and more than willing to donate money to the Disaster Relief Fund.
In the Manhattan area in the building that Chani and I have an apartment in has been flooded and it’s still evacuated. Nobody can go in the building and the bottom two floors are underground and have been flooded and the main lobby had some major damage too.
So it’s impacted us in a small way; to many others, in a much greater capacity. But it’s just a wild, wild deal up there.
And to talk to our friends about the experiences they’ve had; and to know how many people in Manhattan and all the surrounding area that are dealing with all the water issues, It’s a sad thing.
Hopefully what we’re doing will help influence others to donate and try to help our friends up there.”
TALK ABOUT COMING TO TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY WITH THREE RACES TO GO; YOU’VE GOT THE POINTS LEAD. WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR THIS WEEKEND? "Honestly it’s really been the same thing throughout the Chase, and that’s to go out and get as many points as possible.
I’m in the mindset of sitting on the pole and winning the race. I think that’s what you have to do with as tight as the points have been and with how strong the competitors have been on the race track.
Denny’s (Hamlin) troubles have put a gap for Brad (Keselowski) and I over third spot. And I guess in some respects, you can look at two guys and a two-guy breakaway right now, but I’m not putting too much stock in that.
A mid-pack finish for myself and Brad will bring everybody back into it and that’s not too big of a margin in my eyes. So, I’m still very focused in getting as many points as possible and trying to win the races.”
THERE HAS ALREADY BEEN A LITTLE BIT OF JABBING BETWEEN YOU AND BRAD KESELOWSKI. HOW MUCH DOES THE MIND GAME ISSUE PLAY INTO YOUR STRATEGY ON AND OFF THE TRACK? “I wasn’t aware of any verbal jabs yet, but it’s racing. There are different aspects to it I think.
Personalities of drivers; some are eager for those opportunities and like to play it out in the media and stir the pot. It’s really not been my outlet. I like to go out and perform like I did last week; and send a message on Friday with a strong qualifying effort.
If that doesn’t work out, make sure that I rebound and come back on Sunday with a strong performance.
So I look over the last couple of weeks and what our team was able to accomplish at Kansas with a damaged race car and then what we did last week, is quite a statement in that we’re serious about this championship and we’re doing the right things to go out there and try to win this thing.”
ON THE BUSCH-WHACKED MUD RUN AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY DIRT TRACK, DID YOUR TEAM END UP WINNING AFTER ALL? "Yeah, we won the overall team competition last night, which was cool. It was fun.
It was my first opportunity to run a Mud Run. I’ve done some triathlons. I’ve done a few 5K’s. And to do a Mud Run was quite a different discipline.
I think the distance of the race was like just over a mile; 1.2 miles, with 10, 12, or 15 obstacles; something like that. So, in the running areas, you’re trying to keep a good pace going; and then you’re challenged with some obstacle that for whatever reason would elevate your heart rate higher than you wanted it to be.
And then you’d get over or through or under the obstacle and take off running again trying to catch your breath. It was an intense 13 minutes during my lap.
I ended up second overall, which was cool. My throat is still kind of raspy just from breathing so hard yesterday in that event. It was an aerobic workout to say the least. It was a fun event.
I think the awareness from this event will, if Kurt (Busch) decides to continue to it, I think it has potential to be pretty big; and incorporate the fans and the competitors in the garage area.
A lot of team planes didn’t send their crews early, but I have a feeling in the future there would be enough crew members lobbying for an early plane to get out here and be a part of it.
There are so many guys who go over the wall and work in this garage area that they’d get involved in a heartbeat. And it’s for a great cause; I need to also mention; with the charity component.
So I hope it was a successful fund-raiser for them. I know I had a lot of fun in the event.”
THE APRIL RACE HERE FEATURED A LOT OF LONG, GREEN-FLAG RUNS; AND FROM THE FAN PERSPECTIVE, NOT THE MOST EXCITING RACE OF THE YEAR. DO YOU EXPECT THE SAME THING SUNDAY?
OR WITH DIFFERENT WEATHER CONDITIONS AND DAY INSTEAD OF NIGHT, DO YOU THING THIS RACE COULD BE DIFFERENT OR DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE THE SAME? “I think it will be like that, to be honest with you. I’m trying to think back to Kansas and what created all the cautions.
I think a lot of it was the narrow racing groove and the uncomfortable or unbalanced aero situation that the pack was in and it did create some slipping and sliding and a lot of cautions.
But here, we’ll be from the line to the wall all the way around the track ad we’ll have options, which the drivers love. It creates fewer cautions because we have an opportunity to race and move around.
The flip side of that is there’s a lot of green flag racing. So I’m preparing for that, in my mind.”
WHILE THE VOTING IS JUST A THEMED SORT OF PRESIDENTIAL THEME BECAUSE OF THE ELECTION IT REALLY IS FACING YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) OFF AGAINST EACH OTHER EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK. DO YOU TRY NOT TO LOOK AT THAT? “I walked through the garage and I didn’t see it I guess.
I was too busy catching up with (Kristine) Curley on, I don’t even know what it was. It’s great I think the hype is great for our sport. It is certainly great for Brad and I both.
It’s a tough thing to dodge that excitement and notoriety all that comes with it. I’m glad I’ve missed it so far because it’s just a distraction at the end of the day. I will just keep my blinders on and keep going in circles and hopefully fast circles.”
OBVIOUSLY THERE IS AN AGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) BUT DO THE TWO OF YOU HAVE ANY KIND OF PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP AT ALL? DO YOU KNOW EACH OTHER TO ANY EXTENT? “Well he was at Hendrick for a while, but that was four or five years ago something like that. He was pretty new in the sport, eager, and talented.
He showed a lot of speed and a lot of potential. I watched him in (Dale Earnhardt) Junior’s car for those couple of years. I was excited for his success there and happy to see that he went to Penske as well.
I know Roger (Penske) well and certainly respect his organization and everything he has done in motorsports. I think it’s been a good fit along the way, but my relationship with Brad has really been at track or racing related.
We haven’t had a chance to hang out too much off the track. For the longest time he hasn’t been old enough to have a beer so it has been hard to hang out too much.
We’ve got a good relationship and I feel a great deal of respect for another and I think that is why we have handled things how we have so far and raced like we are.”
CLINT BOWYER WAS IN A LITTLE BIT AGO AND WAS RATHER LOOSE; HE REALLY HAS NOTHING TO LOSE. DO YOU THINK THAT DEMEANOR HELPS HIM?
THE WAY HE HAS RUN THE CHASE DO WE SORT OF DO OURSELVES A DISSERVICE TO OVERLOOK HIM BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN STRONG ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS?
HOW ARE YOU SIZING UP HIM IN THIS BEING A TWO MAN RACE, BUT WITH A DARK HORSE LOOMING? “I feel like if Brad (Keselowski) both have a mid-pack finish it really opens this thing up at this point. A finish in the 20’s something like that man this thing is real tight.
There is some pressure taken off you when you are back. I think there is more pressure on the point’s leader, but there is more control as the point’s leader.
Just a week ago was sitting there seven back thinking okay if I got two a weekend or if I got three a weekend or how you play that game. Right now I don’t have to think about that.
There is the pressure to maintain, but I would much rather be leading the points than be anywhere else. Pressure shows up in a lot of different ways. Clint (Bowyer) is a serious threat so is Kasey (Kahne).
Those guys have been very strong. I think both have shown their best in the Chase and have really delivered and stepped up. I’m glad that we have a gap over those guys because I like when it’s down to one person and not three or four to deal with.
If we slip up they are going to be right there in the middle of it and strong, good tracks for both of them. I’ve said this about Kasey (Kahne) too if you look at his performance every year he always finishes so strong.
I’m happy from my own selfish perspective to have a little gap on him right now because he could finish this thing our really strong.”
Source: Team Chevy Racing