Johnson - Friday media visit

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Event: Las Vegas

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Las Vegas, Jeff Gordon’s win and other topics. Full transcript:

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

Eric Gilbert

ARE YOU EXCITED TO BE AT A RACE TRACK WHERE YOU HAVE WON SEVERAL RACES?: “Yeah, I definitely am, but this race is so early on the schedule that each time we come here -- coming in, looking at my notes and preparing for the race, there’s always been a lot of concern and a lot of new stuff that we’re trying. We’ve been able to sort things out and win here more than not. Something works well and we’re able to find our groove here. There was one year where just this little bend on the front stretch had my car loose and we ran terrible. Outside of that, it’s been a great track for us. I feel like we came a long way as a company last weekend at Phoenix. Granted it’s a much smaller track, but I feel like we’re testing at the race track, which we kind of have to, the way the rules are and the fact that we can’t go to other tracks and test. Last week we got a lot of direction and made up a lot of ground. Optimistic, but at the same time just don’t know because we haven’t had our new style stuff on a mile-and-a-half track yet.”

DO YOU EXPECT JEFF GORDON TO BE A MAJOR CONTENDER THIS YEAR AND HAVE YOU SPOKE WITH HIM SINCE HIS WIN AT PHOENIX?: “I do, I expect all of my teammates to be up there and fighting for it. Again, the work that has taken place from midway through the Chase last year until this year. We were in a fortunate or unfortunate situation where we didn’t have two cars in the Chase and we did a lot of experimenting with those cars. Worked very hard during the offseason and obviously the change in drivers moving to different spots in the shop -- I think that there’s very good pairings there and kind of a fresh start for those three drivers. Jeff (Gordon) made the most of last week and did an amazing job. Even with a car that was a little beat up from a wreck earlier in the day. I expect him to be there and I only saw him in victory lane and the smile that I saw on his face in victory lane said enough for me. He was very, very happy with that win and did it in great style. Had to overcome a lot and went up there and raced hard with the 18 (Kyle Busch) for the win and got it done.”

DID YOU GET TO SEE THE CARTOON OF YOU IN THE LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL?: “No, not up close. I just had a photo emailed to me or texted to me last night that I checked out. I look forward to seeing it -- it sounds pretty good.”

DO YOU THINK THE AGGRESSIVENESS FROM PHOENIX WILL CONTINUE THIS WEEK?: “I think the aggressive nature, it really comes out on some tracks and Phoenix with its single groove through three and four -- one and two you have some options, but really you want to be on the bottom because when you get back to three and four, you need the inside lane to kind of work your way by someone. Just after years of being in that environment and then as the race wears on, we just know how important every inch is and we start fighting for it early in the race and often. By the midway point of the race everybody was pretty agitated and nobody is cutting anybody any slack. I think Kyle (Busch) openly admitted the mistake he made and thought that he was clear on the back. We had two incidents back there, which I don’t know what started the other one, but that was pretty rare to see that through the dog leg. Huge, huge wrecks that took out a lot of cars. I think tracks breed it. I wouldn’t expect to see it here. There’s multiple lanes around and there will be a lot of hard racing, but I don’t think there will be a ton of bumping and banging.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MICHAEL WALTRIP DOING COMEDY AND HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT DOING THAT?: “Not me -- that’s not my gig. Michael (Waltrip) is a funny guy. I will be curious to hear how it goes and I’m sure he’ll have fun with it. He has a big personality as we all know. I’m curious to hear the reviews.”

DO YOU HAVE SPECIAL MEMORIES WHEN YOU RETURN TO AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY IN CALIFORNIA?: “From an emotional standpoint I do fall back on those thoughts and the wins, everything that has gone on there -- I show up with a big smile on my face and excited to go racing. That track has changed so much since I won my first race there and even from a spring race to a fall race where we run on the track, the lane that’s important, the setups that are needed -- the track has changed a lot in 10 years and especially the last two or three years. What worked, the line you ran, the setup you had may not work when you go back. The first race is so early in the year, again we’re always searching for the right setup and what we want for that season. Emotionally, yes, way excited, but the part that matters going to work still show up a little curious and just not sure of where we’re going to be.”

HAS JIMMY VASSAR EVER TALKED TO YOU ABOUT DRIVING ONE OF HIS OPEN WHEEL CARS?: “There has definitely been some conversation on it. Four or five years ago I would have been in a position to do it. I’ve joked around about the agreement that Channi (wife) and I had -- open wheel cars were cool until we had a baby and until I can get that sold through my wife, I just don’t see it happening. Regardless of what type of money they put up. I love those cars and now I’m working on a road course with her. If I can maybe get it off an oval and onto a road course, I just want to drive one of those cars. They are so awesome and the down force and what they can do. I would love to drive one of them, I just don’t know if it’s every really going to work out on an oval or at the 500. That’s the first hurdle, then there’s Rick (Hendrick) and Lowe’s. There’s a lot of steps in this to get it done. I wish that I had the opportunity and I wish Chevy was in open wheel four or five years ago. I would have pushed real hard and hopefully would have made something happen then.”

HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY SENSE OF HOW THE NEW NOSE WILL REACT?: “I think we’ve learned a little bit. The new nose is very rigid, which is good for trips through the grass and some of the casual contact that we have. What it does do though is in the race car, it is so rigid that the minimum ride height in the car needs to be picked up some so the cars aren’t as low in the front as what we could run last year. Especially with our bump stop gaps. That old splitter moved and flexed around a lot and now what’s up there is rigid and stiff. We’re running a little higher in the front and it seems to take the abuse a little bit more. I think the appearance of the car is a lot stronger and in the right direction. I think it’s a good thing.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE RIGHT SIDE TIRES FOR LAS VEGAS?: “I don’t even have a clue what we’re running on the cars. I don’t know. Is that a topic that’s been brought up or just a thought process from how the cars drove at Daytona? There are just some things that I don’t even bother knowing about because it changes so much and it doesn’t do me any damn good. I’m shocked to hear that because over the years the loads that are needed and the loads we see at a mile-and-a-half track are so much higher than anywhere else that it’s taken different builds. It’s an interesting point, I’ll have to go ask some questions about it.”

WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE SPORT IN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF THE SEASON?: “I think that our product is still very similar. We have some good initiatives that helped in the first two races. There’s a lot of hype about the new surface at Daytona -- granted, the two car push things was something that no one really saw coming in that fashion. When you look at the ethanol blend and the steps in taking the sport green and being more current there are good. I look around at the attendance that we had at Daytona then again at Phoenix. I haven’t heard how we’re looking for this weekend’s race, but things seem to be trending the right way. I feel like our product on track and the type of racing that we’ve seen the last few years, it’s still there and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think the garage area has done a very, very good job putting on a good show. Hopefully the economy and some marketing are bringing people back to the stands.”

DO YOU FEEL FOR YOUR TEAMMATES WHO HAVE NOT WON FOR A COUPLE YEARS?: “I do and I try to learn from that and in Jeff’s (Gordon) situation even. This magic we’ve had isn’t going to last forever and at some point it will dry up. I certainly hope it doesn’t -- I’m going to do everything I can to avoid it, but I do sympathize for those guys. I see how hard they work. I know what those wins mean to them. I do sympathize for them, absolutely.”

IS LAS VEGAS A TRACK YOU LOOK FORWARD TO EVERY YEAR?: “This track is a lot of fun for us. Since they’ve resurfaced the track and built in the progressive banking I feel like the banking has opened up at least two lanes of racing. I’m eager to see what the warmer temperatures and the Cup cars come Sunday. The rubber that the Nationwide cars are putting down and the fact that they had an open test, it will help that top line come in and I would expect us running at the wall in three and four and probably at the wall in one and two. When that happens, we have more opportunities to pass and the drivers really enjoy that.”

- source: team chevy

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chev, chevrolet, vegas