Johnson, Martin, Hendrick - NASCAR press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: Jimmie, how much redundancy and backup have you built into this weekend? Are you bringing like 20 axles, pieces and parts? What do you know about the history of the car that you're running? JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wish I...

Continued from part 2

Q: Jimmie, how much redundancy and backup have you built into this weekend? Are you bringing like 20 axles, pieces and parts? What do you know about the history of the car that you're running?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wish I knew which car it was. I don't know the car. I would suspect it's the car we ran at Charlotte. It's just another mile-and-a-half track, or two-mile. What is it? Something like that. Details (laughter).

As far as the parts and components and everything that goes with it, you know, we prepare for every race the same. I know you hear it from time to time, but every race anymore, with what Rick gives us to prepare with, the level of equipment we have, it's the same stuff. It doesn't matter if it's Martinsville, Daytona 500, final race of the season, even down to the responsibilities on the car, what guys do, the check systems that they go through, wire things, lock things, all those things are really the same. That's really what we strive for, is to treat every race the same, so that when you get into these pressure-packed situations, it's just the same old thing, that nothing affects you and things should work out as you would hope. So it's really the same stuff we've been doing all year.

Q: Jimmie, we've all seen what you can do in a racecar. We've seen Chad make great decisions up on top of the pit box. There's been a core group of guys behind this team, not just this year but from when you first started finding success. How important has it been that that group really hasn't had a lot of turnover and you've been able to keep those guys together?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it's a really big part of the success, especially of the 24 and 48 shop. You know, at the track you may see some different faces year to year, but the guys that came off the road, typically for family reasons, they want to start a family, be home more. They've been on the road for so many years, they're ready to settle down and have a job at the shop. But those key players, even guys that I started this team with, they're still at HMS. They're still in that race job. The engine tuner, Danny Emerick, he's still there in the engine shop working. He was my engine tuner from the beginning. He's still contributing to not only my efforts but all my teammates' efforts. That culture comes from Rick. People have left and have worked at other places to get experience, try to increase their possibilities. In most cases, they've all come back, come back on great terms and really contribute to the company.

Not only just on the 48 team and the core group of guys that you see every year, you know, it's just the culture of the company. It starts with Rick.

Q: Mark, I'm guessing you're not going to want to answer this question. A lot of people refer to you as the greatest driver never to win a championship. Where do you think you stack up in terms of this sport, the history, what you've achieved?

MARK MARTIN: That might be a misuse of that first word. What was that first word you said?

Q: 'Greatest.'

MARK MARTIN: Yeah. Probably a misuse there. My record does not stand up against the greats in this business. It was funny, I think Dustin asked Jimmie what does he want. I thought about that a little bit myself. I just want to be a winner, just a winner, you know. That doesn't mean a career or at Monopoly or Scrabble. I just want to be a winner. I worked really hard and I try pretty hard to be that.

Q: Why do you think people hold you in such high regard, if you don't think you're among the greatest?

MARK MARTIN: Because I'm the worker. I'm the guy that rolls up my sleeves, and I never put that mask on that I talked about and pulled the gun out. I work real hard and try to win the game, whatever it is, you know, fair and square.

RICK HENDRICK: Could I ask a question? Jimmie, would you answer that for Mark, if you think he's one of the greatest.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: My answer is yes. He's too humble of a man, and doesn't understand what he's done in this sport, for this sport, how many young guys have respected what he's done. You mentioned earlier how we weren't around each other for me to look at your style and want to drive like you. But coming up through ASA, everybody knew who Mark Martin was. I aspired at that time to have people speak of me as they did you. When I came to race in the Busch Series at the time, you were wearing us all out week in and week out. That was our chance to race against Mark Martin and to learn something from him.

So as she suggested, I'm sure all of us in this room, you are one of the greatest. We all think the world of you and respect the hell out of you.

MARK MARTIN: Thank you.

Q: Jimmie, what has your week been like since Phoenix? As a guy who will do things like set his alarm clock for 48 minutes after the hour, do you try to stay in the same places, do the same things when you get down here, given it's worked out for you for three years in a row?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, I got home I guess, what, early Monday morning, just stayed at the house, really trying to distract myself from the sport. If SportsCenter is on, something comes on about the Chase, change the channel. If the local news is talking about it, change the channel. I just want separation from it because I can really control my own thoughts. What gets me, leave here today, I'll have to go home, try to flush the brain, it's when all the other questions come about, you start thinking about things, maybe getting excited, maybe doubting. Before I know it, the brain's doing things I don't want it to.

So I've really tried to remove myself from that all week, do things I enjoy to do, also do things to wear me out, because sleeping at night is typically difficult in the Chase. So plenty of working out, just trying to wear myself down so I can get a good night's rest.

Q: Jimmie, during your run, by the time you got here, you haven't really had to win this race or really go all out, just play it safe, clinch the championship. Your recent comments about going for it this weekend suggest you want to win this race. How active is that approach for you compared to playing it safe and how much have you looked forward to that opportunity?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I really look forward to it. In years past coming down here, it's really been a goal then as well. I don't think that we have had this track under control as a company. I feel that we've been close, but Hendrick Motorsports has not won here yet. We hope to change that on Sunday.

But that's been a big factor. There's a window in which I'm willing to take a risk. You know, if I'm driving to the edge of the car, I know that I can slide it around a little bit more, I'll take that. If it's gonna give me seventh, I'm going to take it, or eighth I think we finished one year. If I can slide the car around a little bit and be within my comfort zone, have a shot at winning the race, I'm gonna take it. There's no doubt about it. But I'm not going to push it over that limit and spin this thing out on my own or put myself in harm's way. That's the same as any other race.

The safest place to run on the track is up front. You think of double-file restarts, the safest place to be is being the race leader, picking which lane you want to be in and set the pace coming to the green. Everything in my eyes points towards trying to win the race. That's what we're here to do.

Q: Given your expertise on mile-and-a-half tracks, how have you looked at this track compared to some of the other ones? More difficult? Whatever quirks have worked against you, things you feel can work for you this weekend?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: This track is so different than any other big track we run on that it's tough to take Texas or Chicago, Charlotte, any of those tracks, take that setup and apply it here. The progressive banking, the way it works is different than any other track we run on. The entrance to turn one is really flat for a long period of time, and then the banking finally kicks in. Then in turns three and four, it looks more like other tracks, but it still is real different in how we run through there. The banking seems to be early, but you almost run downhill, at the center of the corner you turn around and run uphill, instead of it being a normal dish like we see at a lot of tracks.

The subtle differences make the setup totally different than other places we run. We're working hard to get that under control and to really have a very stable and comfortable car that we can run here. But without testing and not racing here a couple times a year, it's tough to really advance your program.

Q: Jimmie, just wanted to ask you about the success that you've had with this organization. To what extent would you credit the stability and continuity that you've enjoyed with those people who have worked on your team? How much do you rely upon that and how much confidence do you get from that when you strap yourself in, knowing that these guys have been through the wars with me, won championships with me? How much confidence do you get? Do you think you would have had the success you had without that and maybe even without the resources driving for Mr. Hendrick?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: As Rick said earlier, he wouldn't want to race against us. I wouldn't want to race against him. I wouldn't want to race against these cars, knowing what we have there. I'm not sure how things would turn out. I don't even know if I would have had a chance to race in Cup if it wasn't for Rick. I don't know what he and Jeff both saw in me back in 2000 as I was a mid-pack Busch driver. They saw it, offered me a job. Nobody else was calling offering me a job. I don't think I'd be where I am today without Jeff and Rick, what they've put on the line for me.

I do believe having guys on this team that have been in this pressure-packed situation before is a big advantage. I know from my own experience it helps me out a lot to understand each weekend the type of pressure I could possibly be expecting, the sleepless nights, what the brain does to you, how you think about things, worry about some things, get excited about others. Experience has helped me manage those emotions.

The same thing, when I climb in the car, coming down pit road, if we're off and we need to adjust on the car, there is a lot of confidence in my mind knowing that Chad has been here before, our engineers have been here before, they're going to be less sensitive to the pressure hopefully. It's been that way so far.

So I think it is a big plus. I think experience, you could chalk it up to experience in a lot of ways. We've all been through it probably in our professional careers. The more experience you have, the more you think things through are maybe not easier, but things seem to slow down and you can make better decisions because of experience. I feel having this core group of guys over these last really eight years, and it's changed a little bit over those eight, but the core group, I know Ron Malec on the mechanical side, it's not going to faze him that it's the final race of the year. Greg Ives is our race engineer. He has been here. It's not going to bother him. That gives me the comfort to sleep at night.

RAMSEY POSTON: Thank you, everyone. Thank you, gentlemen. For closing remarks, I will turn it over to Steve Post.

STEVE POST: You know, I'm becoming a history buff of this sport. History is going to be made on Sunday afternoon. 1983, the great Bobby Allison, who we're so happy to have with us here today, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, becoming the oldest driver to do so. History could be made on Sunday. Mark Martin could best that by winning the crown on Sunday.

This date, November 19th, 31 years ago today, at Ontario Motor Speedway, it was the Los Angeles Times 500. Ironically enough, Bobby Allison won that race. But Cale Yarborough cinched up his third straight championship. That is a mark that has been matched but not been surpassed in the 61-year history of the sport. That very well could happen on Sunday afternoon. No matter what, history will be made on Sunday.

Guys, thank you for allowing us to live it out. It's been a blast. What a season it's been.

To wrap it all up, we would like to on behalf of NASCAR, Sprint, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Ford, thank everyone for coming out and joining us here today at the championship contenders press event. We're getting geared up for Ford Championship Weekend.

Thank you.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Bobby Allison , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports