Continued from part 2 Q: Jimmie, I'm not going to talk about this year's championship. I'm going to take you back to 2004. It seems like we've compared every Chase from that one because that was the first one and the way it finished on the last...
Continued from part 2
Q: Jimmie, I'm not going to talk about this year's championship. I'm going to take you back to 2004. It seems like we've compared every Chase from that one because that was the first one and the way it finished on the last lap, et cetera. What did you learn from that Chase, how close it was, how it finished, the competitiveness? You were in the Chase and you didn't really know what was going to happen over those ten weeks. What did you learn that whole period that you can apply this year or that you've applied the last two years?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Truthfully, that anything can happen. With the plane crash and the emotions we had as a race team going forward, the run that we got on and were making up points on the field and guys are having trouble and we were scoring points and doing well, and then the race starts, and Kurt has his trouble and we're sitting in position, and it's like - I was convinced it was ours. And then when the checkered flag fell, I looked in the mirror and there's the 97. I was like, oh, it wasn't meant to be.
So that's a very good thing to go through. It's a very good thing to experience at the time. You know, it's painful, and I think we were a little more emotional than probably we should have been because of the situation with the plane crash. But at the same time, those guys went out and earned it, and it was their year.
It took really '06 for me really to look back and understand that when it's your time, it's your time. As I look through my career, I've done well in other forms of racing and other levels of racing, but it wasn't my time yet. And when it's your time, you've got to take advantage of it.
I've built some confidence in that, because there's a lot of voices in all of our heads about what's going on and pressure and all those things. So as I've worked through some of these experiences, it helps me stay a little more calm, and I'm just trying to stay in the mindset that if it's meant to be this week, it's meant to be, and we're in a great position to do that.
Q: Johnson, you hear a lot, you have to lose one in order to win one. You have to kind of learn that process. How much does a team mature? What does a team learn when they fail?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think you learn about your fight and who you are and what you want to accomplish. You just learn a lot about yourself and the fight and character that you have and that your team has. You know, I personally learn more when I make mistakes than I ever have when things go well. It doesn't matter if it's personal life or professional life. When you make mistakes and things slip through your fingers, that's when I learn the most.
Q: Jimmie, in the sport I've noticed for a long time the drivers get certain personalities. For the King (Richard Petty), it was driving hard in his hat and his glasses; for Darrell (Waltrip) it was a hard-driving guy that they nicknamed Jaws; for Dale Jarrett right here, The Ultimate Gentleman; for me it was Rubber Head With a Big Mouth. It was wide open. Everybody gained personalities. We did a piece on you last week with ESPN where we followed you around, and you looked like you were having fun in the limousine, and you jumped up and said, "People don't get me, man. I'm this jackass from El Cajon. When I came to race at NASCAR I had to learn that I've got to be polished, I've got to be a corporate guy, I've got to say all the right things, I've got to dress right. I've got to do the whole thing." With you about ready to grab your third championship right now, is that enough, that you can open up and be the jackass from El Cajon and have some fun and be your own personality?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, sure. I don't know what it is about going to my work space and taking it seriously and maybe not letting that personality come through. But at the end of the day, I am that jackass from El Cajon deep down inside. It's not that I'm not trying to be there, but I'm just focused on what I've got to do. I wouldn't feel if I was to win a third that now I'm empowered and now I can be someone because through it all, I've been myself.
If it's hard to figure out, I guess I'm hard to figure out. It's not that I'm trying to be anything, I'm just being myself. I just roll with it, you know, and see where it goes.
Q: Do you often think about the Intimidator, how he had that atmosphere around him, and how Tony Stewart is controversial, mad at the world all the time it seems like? Everybody has got their own different personalities. And have you thought about creating that for yourself and the fans, or are you happy with what you're doing right now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I haven't. I'm very happy with what I'm doing. I'm proud of who I am, I'm proud of what I've done in the sport. I think things come a little later. I didn't race against Dale, Sr., but I know he knocked the crap out of everyone every chance he had. I think the Intimidator part came later if I'm not mistaken.
I look at different personalities in the sport, and those are things that - I mean, the guy has to act that way, but they're kind of given to them. I'm not one that's going to sit up at night and say, wow, I need to be the funny guy or I need to be the Intimidator or I need to be any of those things. I'm just doing my thing. I guess I'm the confusing guy. It is what it is.
Q: You guys have won so much, and you've got your unique ways of doing things. Carl, you do the backflip when you win, and Jimmie, you spin out, and you do a great job of doing that. Have you guys ever thought about, hey, when I go into the '09 season I'm going to try something a little different for the fans? Are you going to stick with what you've been doing, or are you going to change it up?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think Carl should go for a double backflip personally.
CARL EDWARDS: I can get maybe one and a quarter and straight to the hospital. The problem is I come out of that backflip and that's about all I've got. I've got to stick with it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can't do flips, so I'm just doing doughnuts.
Q: Jimmie and Carl, as a student, I was wondering, how has being a NASCAR driver helped you build character, and would you recommend this sport for someone around my age?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You're in high school (laughter)? Wow, sometimes we don't act any older than that. I really enjoy it. I mean, the competition is the best part for me. The idea that - when you're in regular life and you're driving down the road or something or you're doing whatever, I know for me I have to have an outlet for that competitive fire, and I feel so fortunate that every week I get to go out and compete and race against these guys, and my job is to be a competitor.
So I think that's helped me in my life just to have something to focus on and a goal. So that's good.
As far as recommending it to someone that's younger, I think that the people in the sport, the people that I've met, I've met a lot of really great people, and being able to go compete like that is really fun and rewarding, so if there was an opportunity for you to be involved in it somehow, I would recommend it.
Q: Carl, you've had this incredible year competing in two divisions, maybe the best team start to finish in Cup. If you don't come away with either one of these championships this year, do you worry a little bit that history will kind of forget what you've done this year?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, no, that's something I haven't worried about. That's good.
No, I think that the joy really and the thing that I've learned is this sport is, like Jimmie said, it's very humbling, it'll chew you up, and I've learned to try to take joy in our performances and the things that I've become better at and the driver that I've become, and I feel like the wins and the things we've done this season, by themselves, they kind of hold me up and make me feel good about this season. Whatever happens, happens.
I'm 29 years old, and I feel like our team is the best it's ever been, and I think we have a lot to look forward to. No, it's not a worry that I've had.
Q: Guys, I've got a question for you. Here we go: It's the end of the 2008 season; we're at Homestead. We've run the Car of Tomorrow the entire season now and it's gone through the stages of finding out what's wrong with it, what made it great. What is you guys' opinion on it as we head into 2009, on the Car of Tomorrow, now the Car of Today? Has it become more of a racy car? Has it really brought a lot of fans back? Or does it still need a little more work?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, I think that we've learned a lot about the car over the year, and I think that the teams have spent a lot of time and money to make the cars more comfortable to drive, to put on a better show.
We're doing all that we can. The cars are exciting to drive. I think that the hard part - the difficulty in driving the cars helps myself, helps my team, I know it helps Carl. I think it separates some of the competitors. I mean, it's one thing when the car is driving perfect and you've got a ton of grip to go fast. But this car really requires you to think a lot, to be smart, to attack in the right areas, and then it's challenging to get this big, boxy car with very little downforce and very little mechanical grip to handle right.
There's been a lot of challenges. I'm not keen - it's not my decision to run the car, but we're making the most of it and I think we're putting on good races. I think the car on short tracks has shown a lot of promise, and we've had some good finishes. I even look at Dover and the racing that took place at Dover at a faster track.
I still think we need to do some work on the intermediate tracks to make the cars a little more comfortable to drive side by side and to really work your way up through traffic. But NASCAR has more interest in these cars being racy than anyone, and we believe in where they're taking things and what they're going to do.
CARL EDWARDS: To add to that, I think that every racer all around the country racing at local, dirt track, wherever, there's nothing worse than not knowing - if it's a guy's car that's beating you or if it's that driver. I think NASCAR has done a good job of making these cars - putting you in such a tight box that you really feel like you're racing crew chief to crew chief, driver to driver. It's good competition. It does make it hard to pass at some of the tracks because so many guys are the same speed. But man, it's sure cool to know that you've got a really good chance; you're not going to get beat by some guy's magical fender or something.
Continued in part 4