Jimmie Johnson - Team, Sponsor Teleconference 2011-04-05

Jimmie Johnson - Team, Sponsor Teleconference 2011-04-05

Jimmie Johnson Teleconference Transcript

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Impala spoke with the media about the pit road speeding penalty, racing at Talladega and other topics.

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Q&A's WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON:

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING TO TEXAS AND MAYBE WEARING A COWBOY HAT IN VICTORY LANE?: "I would love to. Obviously a cool trophy there-those six-shooters, everybody wants those things and everybody wants a picture wearing the hats and the guns. Hopefully we can do it. We've been able to do it one other time. Texas has been good to us in the spring. We're hopeful to go back and do that again. I think we're certainly going down the right road with our cars. We're more competitive each and every week off the truck. Regardless of how we unload, we seem to find ourselves in contention. I think that speaks a lot to our team and the way we're able to work through a race. Excited, but still it's early in the year and we are still working through some stuff. I'm going in optimistic, but at the same time I feel like we might have a little work in front of us. We'll just see."

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY YOU THINK YOU WERE PENALIZED FOR SPEEDING AT MARTINSVILLE?: "Not only is that first pit stall important, but I would say-every track is different, but the timing lines are laid out in a random order on pit road and every team and driver reviews those based on their qualifying results and their pit order pick. You try to maximize those segments and try to find the zones to where the timing lines fall in a way where you can accelerate and get slowed down entering your pit or on exit if it's in a way where maybe you come through and trip the line and you stop in your pit box. Then you do a pit stop and you have 14 or 15 seconds on your side to accelerate where you can't get caught speeding. We look at that stuff just like all the other teams and try to make smart decisions on pit road. The best way to help that is by qualifying well. Even though we didn't qualify well, we got a good stall and to reflect back on last weekend some, the comments I made in the race and the comments that Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made and then the comments following the race were made without all the information. The fact of the matter is we were wrong. I was misinformed and was referring to the segment that I knew I could not get busted in-I thought that's where we were busted. At the end of the day, that wasn't the segment we got in trouble on. I made this point once before and still think it's a very valid point that if the pit road segment times were broadcast live for everyone to review, it would eliminate this finger pointing. At the end of the day, it's probably not good for me to climb out of the car and call NASCAR's credibility into judgment and I apologize to NASCAR for that. When you're only dealing with part of the information and you're in the heat of the moment, it's easy to react and I was wrong. I guess I was right about the segment that I was accused of speeding in-there was no way to get busted in that one. All of the reports we got on Monday showed that I was only going eight miles per hour in that segment. That's where our position came from and why we were so adamant that we weren't speeding. The problem was we were talking about the wrong box."

DO YOU STILL FEEL NASCAR SHOULD BE MORE OPEN ABOUT THE SPEEDING PENALTIES?: "They have the information being sent to a computer that they're reviewing in race control. It would be very easy to broadcast that signal just like they do for timing and scoring for all the teams to see. At that point, when it's coming up live time, there's no argument. In a world of black and white that we live in now, we're all looking for that transparency. I think if I were them, I would believe that would be a smart move to make just to eliminate this. We have this controversy once every month, once every couple races-it comes along and if we have that data instantly like NASCAR is reviewing it. It would one, be cool I think to add another layer of information for the fans to digest and two, it would eliminate people like myself on Sunday feeling so strong about what took place, making comments and in a way probably harming our sport and the credibility of our sport. I think it would be smart to go that route."

IS THE MAP WITH THE TIMING LINES GIVEN TO EACH TEAM?: "I don't know what NASCAR passes out. I think what they pass out shows where pit road speed starts and where it ends and where the start-finish is. I don't know if it shows each segment. I don't know. The sheet I look at and study with before I get in the car, you may notice that we stand next to the car-Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and I do a few things and one of those things we review is our pit road sheet. It's a Hendrick sheet that we have that we know where those lines are. I don't know what NASCAR provides them."

DO THE DRIVERS KNOW THOSE SHEETS EXIST?: "We all know it exists and we all know where the lines are. Every team, every driver knows where every single line is. We try to pick in ways to maximize pit road. It's just the way it is."

WOULD NASCAR SHOW YOU THE COMPUTER WITH THE PIT ROAD NUMBERS?: "We get that stuff and we get that information, but its Monday at some point. When you're upset after the race, especially when you climb out of the race car and you feel you're in the right, they're in the scoring tower-the officials are-trying to get it down to the truck so you've got to wait an hour plus for them to get to the truck. Then they don't have the printout and they basically tell you that you'll get it tomorrow. That's where I think they could eliminate the confusion and the frustration and the comments that don't need to be floating around if the stuff was just broadcast live."

Not only is that first pit stall important, but I would say-every track is different.

Jimmie Johnson

DID YOU HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH NASCAR THIS WEEK AND WHY THEY WON'T BROADCAST THE PIT ROAD TIMES?: "I have not spoken with NASCAR. The team and I have talked and once we received the data yesterday, we went through and took a good look at things and then it became obvious what took place. I haven't spoken to them and I have not asked them myself why they don't broadcast the segment times. I don't have those answers. Certainly hope they consider it in the future. I have not had that direct conversation with them."

DO YOU HAVE TO MEND FENCES WITH NASCAR AFTER A SITUATION LIKE THIS?: "It kind of depends, the times I have really pissed them off, they call me immediately and we talk about things right then and there. I have not heard from them. They're in a position where they just have to provide facts and try not to take things personally. As that works itself out through yesterday, it was like, well damn, we screwed up. It kind of solved itself in the scheme of things. That's one reason why I'm making the suggestion I am to just let the facts be out there. If it is possible, maybe it's tough to broadcast those segment times, but you would think it would be possible and it would sure save a lot of crazy comments floating around."

WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE HEADING TO TALLADEGA?: "A driver goes to a plate track on Friday for qualifying or whenever qualifying is and qualifies and practices-it's pretty easy for the driver and there's no pressure on the driver so it's nice to go to the track and be relaxed. You don't have to get inside your head and drive your line or worry about your reference points. But when you get in drafting practice and you're still kind of reserved because you don't want to be in a wreck and then the race takes off and it's such a dynamic all to itself. Plate races are pretty easy to prepare for from a driver's standpoint, but on the flip side, especially in qualifying, that's all the speed depends on the work that's done at the shop. It's somewhat of an off weekend for the drivers from a work standpoint, but for the crews it's one of the most difficult weeks."

WILL THE TANDEM DRAFTING STILL RESULT IN A BIG DRAFT PACK?: "That possibility is definitely there. We're all learning a lot about the push drafting and how it works. It just depends on how close together we can all stay. If we're all in a big pack, regardless of the tandem pushing or not, your chances of a big crash are there. Then if we get into a spread out situation where cars are separated, you might have a single car spin or something like that. It just depends on where the pack is."

WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU SAW JEFF GORDON'S EMOTIONS AT TEXAS LAST FALL?: "Kind of funny to watch. He's gotten out and pushed a few people around so it's kind of funny. I know he's actually landed a punch in the past too so I was proud of that one more than anything. He was certainly upset when things took place and he marched himself down the race track and I'm sure he takes it back a little bit, I'm sure he would rather have thrown a punch that sat there pushing. Obviously, it was the wrong thing to do on national television. I just kind of laugh about it. I think he does as well."

WHAT DID YOU THINK AFTER REVIEWING THAT INCIDENT?: "I don't know what the heck went on there. I do know that Jeff Burton-I trust what he says and I have been in a variety of situations with him. Things that have taken place on the track that I didn't appreciate. He's walked into my truck, past my crew guys and didn't necessarily apologize, but fesses up to what he did. He said, ‘Hey, I was wrong, sorry for running all over the side of you and passing you that way.' I personally have experienced Jeff Burton being a man of his word and being a guy that will step up and admit when he's wrong. It was just a wild set of circumstances that took place and then the wreck and all that. I don't know what all went on there."

WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT YOU WERE APOLOGIZING TO NASCAR FOR WHAT YOU SAID ON SUNDAY?: "It's not a position you want to be in, especially after climbing out of the car and thinking I was so right. I need to be talking about the right segment. All the information is necessary before we get out and run our mouths when we get out of the race car. It would be nice to have all the information, especially with the access and the interaction we have with the media. I was out of the car for 15 or 20 seconds and right into interviews. I hate saying something out of turn and I'll certainly admit when I'm wrong."

Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

WHAT SEGMENT WERE YOU FAST IN?: "Segment three."

WAS THAT BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR PIT BOX?: "Before."

IS THE SEGMENTS A GOOD WAY TO DO THIS OR SHOULD IT BE THE SAME SPEED ALL THE WAY DOWN PIT ROAD?: "I don't know. If you have a consistent space down pit road where the cars have to maintain, it will make pit road tighter. Put much more of an emphasis on just the pit stop alone. It will take out the rewards of qualifying well because it won't matter where you pick on pit road, unless you have an opening. Depending on how many openings you have on pit road, you could have from four to seven pit stalls where the way it is now you end up with quite a few. It changes each track, it just depends on where the timing lines fall. Right now, we're in a situation now where there's more opportunity to pass on pit road and I think that's good. Certainly it has its ups and downs, one way to eliminate all issues like we had over the weekend would be to have a consistent speed down pit road, but I think it eliminates some options of dancing on pit road. Does that make sense?"

WHAT RULE CHANGE HAS HAD THE MOST IMPACT ON DRIVERS-BOYS, HAVE AT IT OR THE NEW POINTS?: "I really think it's just the cars. When this car was designed and brought out, it took away a lot of areas that the crews, crew chiefs, engineers could work in. With doing that they've tightened up the field so now it's more difficult to pass and through that breeds frustration. You've got to drive harder for every position, drive harder in qualifying because track position is more important. Not only is track position important, but your pit road pick is important. Everything that's been created from the car has elevated the amount of intensity needed on all fronts. I think that's more indicative to the pressure we feel as competitors today that anything."

DO YOU HAVE TO BE MORE AWARE OF THE POINTS NOW THAN YOU WERE IN THE PAST?: "As the year keeps developing, it seems to be very familiar. If you're running well and consistent then you're going to be up there in the points. I know that the break off is at 20th and it gets more challenging then, but we watched the 29 (Kevin Harvick) climb up out of a hole. We didn't get the best start and we're back up there. In some ways, I wanted to start off conservative and kind of fearful of the points and really focus on consistency until I got into the season and could see what really took place with the points. The further we go, the more familiar it seems."

ARE YOU FEARFUL THAT NASCAR MIGHT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH WHAT YOU TWEETED FOLLOWING THE RACE?: "If I have to pay a fine, I'll pay it. I feel like I'm entitled to my opinion right or wrong. The way it turns out, I guess I was right on the area I was talking about, but wrong in the scheme of things. If I said something and I have to pay a fine then I'll pay it. It is what it is. I just hope they put my money to good use."

DO YOU FEEL YOU DAMAGED NASCAR'S CREDIBILITY?: "That's the way I feel. In time, once we receive all the information, it unfolds then and now I'm here apologizing. We could save that whole step once again if those times were broadcast. It worked itself out in the end and I want to assume that people understand that when I'm adamant about something there's a reason for it. We'll see. If I have to stroke a check then I'll stroke a check."

DO YOU JUST WANT TO TIMES OUT THERE SO THERE IS NO CONFUSION?: "All of the above. We just want to know. How many times have we had people, swearing on their family that they weren't speeding. It would eliminate any of that in all shapes and forms-it would eliminate it. That's what I'm fighting for."

DO YOU THINK NASCAR WOULD EVER CHANGE A TIME OR SPEED TO SUIT THEIR OWN PURPOSES?: "No, I don't think so. I don't think that would happen-I know it wouldn't happen. I just got frustrated at the time. I felt like I knew that I could not get busted in that segment and they said I was speeding and we just assumed it was that segment. Of course frustrated then."

HOW DID YOU MAKE THE MISTAKE YOU MADE THAT YOU WERE SPEEDING?: "Once we had the data and looked back on the data on Monday-yesterday, midday-we could see right where we were right at the limit for a few stops beforehand. The final stop running second, wanting to get all that I can trying to beat the 18 (Kyle Busch) out of the pits and went too fast. Just that simple. The picture becomes so much clearer once you have all the information in front of you. Once we had that on Monday, it was like, ‘Oh, alright, we were talking about different segments."

The picture becomes so much clearer once you have all the information in front of you.

Jimmie Johnson

IS IT TRUE THAT THERE'S A FIVE MILE PER HOUR CUSHION?: "Yep. The end of the day, every team sets their tach for 35 miles per hour. It's just how it is."

WHAT IS THE PROCESS IN BETWEEN TIMING LINES FOR A DRIVER?: "We worked on it for years and I think that it's been an evolution for all teams and drivers. We've always known getting in the pits, but let me go back. When I first started when we would do pit stop practice, the teams would, the crew guys would give you a hard time if you came in and you didn't have the brakes locked up. Come on man, get the car in here, we want that right front locked up. Then you always thought that if the right front was locked up, your tire changer can actually spot the lug nuts because the tire is stopped and it helps him hit the nut that he's going to hit first and get going. When I first came in, to be so that you were hazed by your crew guys, you had to get in the box hard. Then I remember watching (Matt) Kenseth when his crew was so on years back, not only was his crew on, Matt was on. Matt was really charging the box hard. Then I think the whole sport picked up on that and followed it. Then it turns into coming to pit road and coming off of pit road. If you watch the intensity of how guys get to pit road and that first timing mark-we work on it in happy hour and find hard reference points on the track to make sure that we know exactly how deep we can get. You can shave off a second or two on a guy that's not charging that and we know what a half a second does on a pit stop-imagine two seconds. We're maximizing and trying to save time every time around that race track, all the laps. Whatever the green flag is out or even the caution when we're coming down pit road. It's just been an evolution and you learn, you make mistakes, learn from your mistakes and just kind of take it from there."

HOW CLOSE CAN YOU GET TO THAT LINE?: "We all study it and I would say that we're living in a world of half a mile an hour is how close its calculated from all the teams standpoints. I would say that we were a little off at the start of the year and I would be doing my suggested speed based on the mathematical equation of tire size, gear ratio, pit road speed and all that we do to come up with a number. I would be doing my number and guys would be inching past me. We've raised our bar a little further yet so we're walking a tight rope. Every team is sitting on pit road with your pit road speed."

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT NOT TO SPEED?: "It's tough because you don't have a visual reference to where the timing lines are. Just going off commands from spotters telling you where those are and you can come to pit road-what's a big, scary moment to be honest with you is when you come to pit road and you try to get all that you can. When you see someone lock a tire, the car isn't slowing down at the same rate when a tire is locked up so there are numerous times that I have come into the first segment, tires locked up and thinking that I am in trouble. You just give as much back as you can, but you don't know where that timing line ends or where that segment ends so you just slow way, way down and give back a couple thousand RPM-so you just give back a thousand RPM at least and then at some point you're like, ‘Well I think I crossed the timing line, now I'll get back to the speed I'm supposed to run.' There's a lot of moments on pit road where I've left cringing just waiting to hear, '48 speeding, pass through or whatever it is.' You don't and you know you did it right."

WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF TECHNOLOGY THAT LIMITS PIT ROAD SPEED FOR YOU?: "NASCAR has always been of the approach that less technology is better and it leaves it in the hands of the competitors and I buy into that. I think if we had a sustained pit road speed all the way down, it would eliminate passing on pit road so I like the system we have, it would just be nice to know what those numbers are as the race is going on. We could have saved ourselves some trouble and if we knew that we were that close in that segment and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) could have told me we were flirting with disaster and to back off in segment three. That would be helpful there and I don't expect NASCAR to change the rules based on that it would help me in that particular segment, but on the back side it would save a ton on controversy, a ton of all these conversations we're having right now. I think that's again a route to pursue and I do like the way NASCAR has always kept it in the hands of the competitors and I would hate to get away from that."

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

DO YOU HOPE OTHER DRIVERS ARE ON THEIR TOES AT TALLADEGA?: "I can't say that I do-we feel like we're crawling around the track. It's so big and wide. I guess the big fear that's in the back of my mind is getting airborne. That thought comes through every now and then, but it doesn't usually happen until you get turned around. Everything up until then, you're real comfortable. The fact that we can bump and push and do what we do shows how comfortable we are. The fear part is pretty far removed. It runs through your mind quickly when you're sideways, but up until then and you're confident and comfortable and bouncing off one another, pushing guys around and we can't even see as the pusher. You're just like, ‘Alright man, lead me through, we're going.' It's not that intimidating until things go wrong."

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT PIT ROAD SPEED MOVING FORWARD FOR YOU?: "A one off penalty is something that you can't take too seriously. We don't want to get in trouble, worst time for it to happen on the last pit stop, but if we get two or three issues during the race last weekend then we would have to change our calculations and really address something. We don't get hit with speeding penalties often so we're walking a tight rope and when you're playing at 10 tenths, you're going to make a mistake. On that front, I don't think we can change anything. That's just the environment on pit road and everyone is trying as hard as we are on pit road and we just messed up that one stop. Of eight or more stops we had. Even if I think I'm right when I get out of the car, I need to keep my mouth shut and not say anything to anybody at the time."

IS THERE A DIFFERENT MINDSET FOR THE DRIVER IN PUSH DRAFTING?: "The mindset is to have someone do the pushing and the way things worked last time is your water temp and that pop off valve. You have to keep the water in the car and if you pop off that valve that they put in place from getting it too warm then you vacate the water in the engine and it creates a big air bubble in there and that gets trapped inside the engine typically and creates a hot spot within a few laps you are sidelined with a blown engine. That to me is the first thing you have to focus on is making sure you don't burn the engine down and from there I'm not sure leading is ideal. Trevor (Bayne) made it work at the 500, but you start positioning yourself where you want to be. Hopefully you have a good pusher or you've been a good pusher and you've got the guy you want to work with there and it's just strategy at the end. It's similar to years past. You have a trailer with you now so the overall dynamic once you get inside of a few laps from the finish is very similar. Up until then you have to manage your car far more than you did in the past."

-source: lowes racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, johnson, lowes, sprint cup, texas