Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet. April 30, 2002 Moderator: Yancey Casey Guest: Jimmie Johnson - first Winston Cup win Part 2 of 2 Q: You had a solid Busch career, but I don't think certainly...
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse
April 30, 2002
Moderator: Yancey Casey
Guest: Jimmie Johnson - first Winston Cup win
Part 2 of 2
Q: You had a solid Busch career, but I don't think certainly anything like the kind of success you're enjoying this year. Can you just talk about how you've been able to make the jump from one level to another level, and kind of make it look easy? Just how have you been able to have more success at the harder level than you did at Busch?
JJ: I don't know what to attribute that to. I mean, the things I can think of is the equipment I'm driving for, that I'm competing in and the team I'm driving for. It's hard to argue with Rick Hendrick's success, especially the 24-car success. A lot of the equipment I'm in is equipment that 24-car ran last year.
Q: The equipment is the big deal?
JJ: Yes. I mean, equipment in your surroundings or you could say resources or security net or something like that. I mean, we've go the best engines, best chassis. We've got engineers working day and night. There's just a huge support group behind that team that you see that is really the stuff behind the scenes that no one can see that really keeps the team on the cutting edge of technology and leadings.
Q: I wanted to ask some follow ups. What were your honest expectations of yourself coming into this year? What'd you think you were capable of achieving?
JJ: I wanted to make every race and try to finish on the lead lap was like the goals we set forth, but inside I'd hope that by the end of the year we could run the top five. I figured if we're consistent in points racing smart, we could maybe be top 15 in points if everything worked out just right.
Q: Have your expectations changed now?
JJ: No. I think if we start changing our goals, we're going to run into some trouble and put too much pressure on ourselves and maybe self-destruct. Something we've been talking about since the beginning of the season started, we've been running so well that that's not changed anything. That's what we're putting in right now is working well. Let's keep this same effort and polish up our game and see what happens from there.
Q: Thanks, Jimmie.
Q: Do you think that a guy can come in at this point, a younger like yourself, Tony Stewart, Matt Kensik, and not get with the right team and survive in Winston Cup as competitive as it's become?
JJ: Yes, I think so. I mean, the reason I say that is when I was driving for my Busch team, Herzog Motorsports, it was surprising to me how many people paid attention to the situation I was in. They knew that I was with a young team. They were very dedicated and put a lot of money to it, but as important as it is for a driver to have experience, the team I was driving for was a rookie as well.
You know, there's just rookie wins for anyone. Rick Hendrick noticed, and Rick Hendrick saw what was going on with Jeff Gordon and wanted me to drive the Winston Cup car. So I have young friends that run in the Busch series right now that are trying to get started and get their feet in this, and I keep trying to give them that bit of advice and saying, "You never know who's watching. You'd be surprised who's really paying attention and who's watching." If you just keep smiling and giving 100%, things will work out for you.
Q: You seem a lot further ahead in your development from a mechanical standpoint than Jeff was at your age. When I talked to Jimmie Smith when I was doing the California piece, he said that it kind of amazes him that these guys were complaining when they're cool suits don't work after running a Baja 1000 event. After your experience, I could see why. Was it just your hands on kind of background that has made it easier for you to understand what point Chad is trying to get across?
JJ: Well, I think one thing I've been real good, I've had other teammates that I've watched how they've described things and their interaction with their team, and I've been able to use that as a model. Rick Johnson was the first experience ahead of that off road racing, and I've learned great habits there. I think that's the biggest thing that I'm doing well is explaining what I'm feeling.
I don't really know how to fix it at times. Looking from a mechanical side, not the aero side or looking at it a little differently, and as long as I just verbalize what I feel to Chad, he goes off into his little thinking land and has been able to come up with what we need to make the car work. He made a comment about at this age being successful compared to Jeff, at this point - when Jeff was 26 he had a few championships already. So I'm a little behind him.
Q: Well, I'm not sure where he was coming in. I mean, for this to be your first year compared to where he was when he first came in, you guys just seem a lot further ahead in the game.
JJ: I think there's a lot to be said with this part of your career. It's kind of like when you're 16 to 18 you're an entirely different person growing up, maturing. I think in your early 20s as far as your race car career is concerned, that's that same adolescent time zone I think. There's a big difference from when Jeff got in at 21 or 20 whatever it was to where I am now at 26.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Jimmie Johnson, let me ask you a few things a little different. Are you having fun?
JJ: Absolutely. I've been having an incredible time, and the times you get burnt out, worn down, I just keep looking at this experience I've been granted to have and enjoying it. I mean, how do you argue with that?
Q: It would seem to be, I guess, it's good that you're having fun because it would seem that the pressure of where you are and what you're doing would negate that. It's good that your maturity is mature enough to realize hey, this is a good time.
JJ: Yes. I mean, it's kind of hard not to when you've having a good season like we have. The true test is when adversity is thrown at you. We have had a little bit thrown at us in different races, but not for any long periods of time. That'll be the true test. It's out there.
It's going to happen, and Kevin Harvick's going through it right now. He set the world on fire last year, and this year's been tough on him. He's going to be a better person and a better driver when this is all said and done. But, man, it's a good time right now, and I keep hearing this from the veterans, enjoy it while it's here because you don't know how long it's going to last or if it's going to come back. So I'm living it up.
Q: Tell me about the celebration this past weekend.
JJ: We didn't do anything. We just sat home.
Q: Come on.
JJ: No, we went out in Los Angeles. Some friends from the San Diego area were around. Jeff was ready to have some fun being his first race win as a car owner, and had a good time in Los Angeles and traveled back yesterday and got home to more people wanting to celebrate, and had to turn them down because I had to say, "I've got to go to work."
Q: What about that old line of running down the hill chasing the bulls versus walking down the hill? It sounds like your maturity is taking away some of the youth.
JJ: No. I mean, there's just such an internal pride that you feel after accomplishing something like this. I mean, I can just sit in silence for probably ten hours and just smile and smile and smile and be celebrating in my own way. I'm looking forward to some good times here with the crew guys. You know, we've got a luncheon today and planning a victory party for him here in the future, and that's when we'll really be able to celebrate as a team, and we can all stand around and tell lies and talk about what we were able to accomplish. So I'm looking forward to that.
Q: You mentioned something that was pretty interesting, that you'd been racing for 21 years. Is racing racing? Does it matter what level you're racing at whether it's go-carts or off-road? Is racing racing, and it gives you that maturity, the ability to compete?
JJ: I think so. Obviously car set-up and maybe strategy of races are different depending on what you're racing in, but I think one thing that's helped me a lot is having such a diverse background in racing off-road moto-cross ASA, Busch. You know, I've got a different perspective on some things, and I'm just experiencing in a lot of different forms of racing. I think half the help, maybe not all the time, but I think it definitely helps.
Q: Is racing speed or the competition? A lot of people like to have the all out speed and 200-mile an hour and so forth, but it sounds like you're saying that the competition is racing.
JJ: That's what I'm after. When we go once in a while on the go cart track and take a few drivers to this indoor carting track that has five-horse Burgis Stratton engines on them, and we'll sit there for four hours racing our butts off at 20-miles an hour and I feel like we're in Daytona running 200. So it's more the competition than the speed. I mean, don't get me wrong. Speed is a fun thing, but it's more about the racing.
Q: Jimmie, congratulations. I'm sure you've heard that a million times. One of the things Jeff said in the post-winning interview was that your life was about to change. I've heard so many who have said, "God, I hope Jimmie doesn't change," because from the crew guys to the media, you know everybody really likes how you are. Has your life started to change, and how will you protect it from not changing as you head into your career now?
JJ: I mean, it started to change at Daytona when we sat on the poll. I guess when it's a slow transformation you can keep up with things and try to understand it all, but I think winning this race is going to blow the roof off of some stuff. I don't know. You've just got to be yourself and true to yourself. If you can wake up and look at yourself in the mirror everyday and know that who you want to be doing what you want to do, that's your only gage.
You know, there's so many polls and strains and pressures put on you in this sport, it's easy to get burned out I could see and easy to get frustrated. You've just got to kind of find a way to deal with it all. So far I've been able to deal with it, and we'll just see what the years do to me. Hopefully everything's going to be just how it is.
Q: What kind of a winner, what kind of a champion do you want to be?
Q: A fun one. I mean, I just think especially myself and a lot of people that I'm around all the time, give them one heck of an opportunity to enjoy life and experience life in a different way. Make the most of it and have some fun with it.
Q: Thanks and congratulations.
YC: Any other questions for Jimmie?
Q: Jimmie, your parents weren't with you in California you said on the TV.
Q: Can you tell us the circumstances of that, because I know they're normally with you?
JJ: Yes. My dad drives a motor coach, and we decided not to tow the motor home all the way out there and then bring it all the way back to Richmond and run them into the ground, not run my dad into the ground, that is. So I've got a 12-year old brother named Jessie that is trying to do a little bit of racing of his own, and he - hold on one second.
My mom and dad are here as we speak. My mom runs the fan club stuff and does a lot of my autograph requests and stuff like that. So everybody's kind of stayed home and was working here. My dad hasn't been around a lot obviously from being on the road driving the motor home, so he chose to spend the weekend at home, take my little brother, Jessie, racing on Friday night, and wasn't there for a win. I know he wished he was. It right about killed him when we won.
Q: So did they watch on television?
JJ: Oh, yes.
Q: When did you first talk to them after the race?
JJ: Unfortunately we ran all over the place with what was going on, it was probably an hour or two after the race I was able to talk to them. Last night when I got off the plane I came home and took the trophy over to the house and hung out a little bit, and spent some more time with them here this week.
Q: Okay. Thanks a lot.
JJ: Thank you.
YC: Anymore questions for Jimmie? Okay. I think that does it. Thank you very much for joining in our conference call, and hopefully we can repeat it again in Richmond.
JJ: Thanks. Bye.
- Lowes -
JJ press conference Part I