Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Impala spoke with the media about racing at Auto Club Speedway, racing at Martinsville Speedway and other topics.
Q&A's WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON:
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY TO YOU AND WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEKEND?:
WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN MISSING FROM YOUR INTERMEDIATE PACKAGE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY?: "It's hard to say that it's just one thing.We realized in the middle of the Chase last year that our mile-and-a-half stuff is competitive and will run top-five or top-10, but it wasn't what we were used to in the past and mile-and-a-halves have really been our bread and butter.We couldn't really change course then because we had a championship to focus on.Over the off season we've worked hard on a lot of areas and Vegas was the first mile-and-a-half track for us and we were experimenting and trying to learn stuff.Mid-race we got the car comfortable and a lot of track position.Raced my way up into the top-10 and then we had some mistakes late and it cost us a good finish.I know we finished 16th, but I feel like we really were fifth to seventh in Vegas if we could have avoided those late-race mistakes.With all of that in mind, going to California, I feel much better than I did going into Vegas.I knew in Vegas it was kind of a test session of sorts.We're getting smarter.Hopefully, this weekend we have everything just right, but it might take two or three more attempts on the mile-and-a-half tracks just to get everything where we need it."
WHAT IS IT LIKE DOING SOME WORK IN HOLLYWOOD WITH CHRISTIAN SLATER COMPARED TO YOUR LIFE NOW?: "I'm excited to tape on the show 'Breaking In' and met Christian (Slater) numerous times at the track and stayed in touch with him over the years.When they were discussing a racing episode he thought of me and reached out and got me involved early.Very excited to be on the show.Shouldn't be too hard of a spot, playing myself, but I might screw it up.Acting is not my specialty by any means.It's just a great opportunity.We had some of the writers, including the director Fred Savage out at the Las Vegas race looking around so a new show, a lot of excitement.Taking all the necessary steps to understand our sport and Thursday we tape and we'll see how it goes."
WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER BECOMING AN ACTOR AFTER YOUR RACING CAREER?: "I hope that's the case.I don't have a desire to be an actor.It's really neat to have these cameos and these little one-off opportunities.That's a tough world.It's very difficult to come off on camera as you need to or to go into character.I've only played myself and that's hard enough.I have a great deal of respect for that industry, but I'm going to stick to what I'm good at.There's some cameos flying by and if a couple of them come my way then I'll take them."
WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE LIKE FOR TAPING THURSDAY COMPARED TO A REGULAR WEEKEND SCHEDULE FOR YOU?: "We're doing it a day early so I'll go out two days early for the event, tape that day and then get into the normal race stuff.We really don't interfere with the routine and schedule we have at track for racing.I usually do stuff before or after the race weekend."
DO YOU HAVE TO BE UP EARLY FOR THE SHOOT?: "I guess I haven't seen the schedule, but I haven't heard anything yet.It's going to be a full day on Thursday, but I don't believe it's some whacked schedule, which 5:00 AM out there would be easy coming from the east coast.I haven't heard of anything crazy like that yet."
You show up and in a lot of cases your first laps on the race track is your fastest time.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY FOR A RACE?: "The physical aspect is extremely helpful for all the obvious reasons, but there is also a carryover from a mental perspective and knowing that you're prepared for hot days, physical tracks.I also like to be organized and like to have my stuff in line.When my workout weeks are complete, I know I've locked it all in and I'm going to the track ready.Mentally, in a more direct mental thought - I certainly go through discussions with the team.What went on last time at that track, what our thoughts are moving forward, studying video, go through my own notes and visualizing has been something I have used.Especially in qualifying and the first few laps on the track.You show up and in a lot of cases your first laps on the race track is your fastest time.With the qualifying order being determined based on your fastest lap, it puts more of a premium on that now today if you show up in qualifying trim, when the track is cool in the morning, you really need to bust off a lap.I continue to explore in that area and I think my swimming days in high school helped meout a lot.My swim coach there worked with us a lot in visualization - our stroke, our turns and it's been a helpful tool for me through my racing career."
HAVE RESTARTS BECOME A SKILL OF THEIR OWN?: "They have evolved.They've always been important, but it just seems like it's been an area of focus maybe over the last four or five years.I would say now that we have double-file restarts, it has been more if an importance because you can make up so much more ground on a good restart.Before single file, you could pass to the right, but you had a line of cars inside of you that were lappers and you just had to be patient and wait for things to sort themselves out.Now the way you line up, every spot counts.If you can get a jump on someone and get inside of them or outside of them into one on that first lap or two, working traffic in cold tires - it's not just the acceleration, but it's also how you drive the car on cold tires and things like that.There is a skill set there that is more important today.Just like pit road.Pit road has always been important, but as we continue to refine what we do, it's now down to the small pieces everywhere.Not just on track, but the restarts, pit road - it's been a huge importance of late."
HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOURSELF AS A RESTARTER?: "I feel like I hold my own.When you're the leader in today's world and we have that zone to start in, the leader has control.In most situations should come out on top.It's very difficult because if you're the guy lining up on the inside or in the second position or whatever that may be, you can't beat the guy to the start-finish and it kind of puts you in a bad situation if you get a good jump.You have to roll out before you get to the start-finish line and then the leader pulls by you.I feel like I hold my own.It's been an area that I've been good at.One thing I've had to work on is making sure my cars are comfortable enough on cold tires because I'm one that's been stronger over the long haul.In order to have a car fast at the end of a run, I need to be really loose at the start of a run.We need to adjust as the race wears on and race becomes shorter in distance.We've had to prepare for that, prepare for the short run to be more competitive."
HAS THE NUMBER OF BAD RACES YOU CAN HAVE WITH THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM CHANGED ANY?: "I think it's two-fold.I think the competition is tougher so bad days are harder to recover from.Our new points system makes it even more difficult yet.You have both those things that make it very challenging situation.There's a couple guys that got off to a poor start and got caught up in a lot of bad luck - the 11 (Denny Hamlin) car - he's had a ton of bad luck.He's been running decent I think, but a ton of bad luck.They're in a big hole."
WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE HEADING TO MARTINSVILLE?: "The spring race did not go as we had hoped.The fall race, we ran really well although I guess we didn't lead a lap.I remember the 29 (Kevin Harvick), the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and us racing real hard all day.I feel like we're close.We probably don't have the dominant car that we've had there in years past or other teams have caught us.I feel like I should have been second or third, but I don't recall the end of that run and why we ended up sixth.The track has been good to us and we just need to find a little something there - a little bit goes a long way on that small of a track like that."
WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE FOR YOU AT MARTINSVILLE?: "For me, it's just a fun place to race. I encourage friends and family to come to that track and watch.It's a great snapshot of NASCAR in the old days where you're right on top of the action whether you're on pit road or in the grandstands.I just personally enjoy the challenge that track brings and I think it's a cool venue.Outside of that I guess I'm a competitor and every time I'm in the car I want to win and I want to be as fast as I can."
WHAT INFLUENCES MOMENTUM AND CONSISTENCY?: "As a team and a driver, you can watch momentum carry a team or take a team down.Consistency trends with that momentum.Don't know why.It's not a tangible object that you can touch and feel and see.You just have to form an opinion and you see it or sense it or something - I don't know what it is.It's there.We all want momentum working for us in the right direction and that typically brings consistency or to the point that consistency brings momentum.I don't know the order in which, but I do know they both exist and I've experienced the good and the bad that go with it."