JIMMIE JOHNSON, driver of the no. 48 Lowe'S Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Contender, spoke with the media about his season and his battle with Ryan Newman for the year-end Rookie honor. Highlights follow: YOU'RE SECOND...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, driver of the no. 48 Lowe'S Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Contender, spoke with the media about his season and his battle with Ryan Newman for the year-end Rookie honor. Highlights follow:
YOU'RE SECOND IN POINTS AND COULD GO AWAY WITH $240,000 IN LEADER BONUS MONEY IF YOU WIN THE RACE
"That sound really good. I hope that comes together. Obviously we've had a great season with the Lowe's Monte Carlo and we've found ourselves in a variety of neat situations (like) racing with Ryan in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle, which has been strong since Daytona. We're in the middle of a points battle and we've been able to win some poles and win some races and have a shot at breaking the mark that Tony Stewart set as a rookie. It's been a great season. Regardless of how everything shakes out, we're proud of what we've accomplished this year and look forward to a great future with the Lowe's Monte Carlo."
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF BEING ABLE TO WIN THE WINSTON CUP TITLE AND NOT WIN THE ROOKIE TITLE BECAUSE OF HOW THE POINTS ARE AWARDED
"We knew, coming into the season, the way the points system is paid. I'm not sure who created it or exactly how it came together, but the points have been awarded as the system is set up. It does seem odd - I'd be lying if I didn't say that - that you have an opportunity to win the championship and not the rookie of the year. If for some crazy reason that was to happen and if we won the championship and not the rookie of the year, Ryan is extremely deserving of it. He's been super consistent and if he didn't have the problems he did, he would be contending for the championship.
"But yeah, I would love to take it all. I think it's just the competitive spirit that everyone has. But this season is incredible. If we do too many more things, I'm going to be scared to come back next year because we're setting the mark awfully high."
ON GOING TO A BACK-UP AND ON PASSING AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY LAST YEAR
"Last year (in the Busch Series), it seemed like I was having troubles on Fridays as well and I tore up the car there. The track was single file in some respects because of the new asphalt. We had a great race car and had it free enough that we didn't pick up too bad of an aero push and worked our way through traffic. I think the big key last year - and it will be this year too - is pit stops. We had great stops in the Busch race. If, when you come in you have a really good pit stop, you can pick up five or six spots. It can take you 25 or 30 laps to gain five or six spots on the track. Pit stops are important."
ON RACING FOR HERZOG MOTORSPORTS AND MOVING TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS THIS YEAR
"I've felt like I was in a great situation with Herzog Motorsports. They had taken me through the off-road situation and then ASA and then the Busch Series. We had spoken a lot about moving into Winston Cup together. The way this opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports came along was a huge surprise to me and I didn't know where it would lead. To be sitting here at Kansas with the success we've had (one year later) is pretty incredible."
ON THE TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE FOR THE HOME STRETCH
"Kansas, Lowe's Motor Speedway, and Atlanta are my good tracks. Tracks that I've had problems with in the past are Rockingham and Martinsville. Martinsville, as far as performance is concerned, I'm looking forward to turning things around. Talladega - we'll have our fingers crossed on that one as w dodge bullets all day long."
ON THE MOMENTUM HE GETS FOLLOWING A GOOD RACING PERFORMANCE AND HIS WIN AT DOVER LAST WEEKEND
"It definitely energizes the team. We've raced really strong but our Fridays have been hard on us. We've had a lot of top 10's to show the capabilities of the team, but the win last weekend really give us a shot in the arm. Our pit stops really won us that race. They were incredible all day long. The guys had been very consistent and could hold their own, but they've really stepped it up with the pit stops. That can win you races every week. There are a lot of little things that went on. Obviously to have a fast race car and to be able to stand the pressure from Mark Martin there at the end add up. But the biggest thing has got to be the confidence of the team needs to have to have those awesome stops."
WHAT ROOKIE MISTAKES STAND OUT?
"Oh, I've got a bunch of them (like) sliding through my pit stall while leading (the race) at Lowe's Motor Speedway is one. Another on is racing Jimmy Spencer as hard as I did at Richmond and racing for the win and spinning out and crashing. The mechanical failures (two) were both gears that we broke. We didn't have control over but found reasons why they broke. But there were plenty of points opportunities that I, as a rookie, have given up. Also, the stuff on Fridays - making some mistakes and tearing up cars - just puts you behind all weekend long. My guys have on overtime working hard to keep me in good shape. But the stats we have at the shop say that Jeff Gordon went through 17 clips in his rookie season and I've only been through eight or nine. So, I think I'm doing good."
ON HIS RIVALRY AND FRIENDSHIP WITH RYAN NEWMAN
"We have respect for each other. Earlier in the year, we rode to a test up in Martinsville together to hang out and get to know one another together. I think it's important to have friends out there. I'd rather walk through the garage and be friends with everyone than walk through with your head down and being afraid to make eye contact with anyone. What's been neat is the respect that we have (for each other) and how hard we've been able to race each other without crossing the line and taking each other out."
ON HIS FAMILY BACKGROUND BEING SIMILAR TO RYAN NEWMAN'S
"We share a lot in common there. Both our dads drive our motor homes. We both drive for super teams and have veteran drivers to help us. So there are a lot of similarities."
ON WHAT JEFF GORDON HAS DONE TO HELP HIM
"Where Jeff Gordon has been able to help me is in the big picture and the way things work themselves out. There have been a lot of things off the race track where Jeff has been able to keep me out of trouble. He's never really sat down and taken out a notebook for racing 101. But I have spent a lot of time his information and data to try and understand his driving style. I can go to him and ask him one-liner questions and get responses that I can then take from there (like) learning how to get out of the gas getting into turn three or how much brake I need to use. There are a lot of little things that just happen in normal interaction. More importantly, the big picture is what Jeff has helped me the most with."
"The responsibilities of a Winston Cup driver, interacting with the media, dealing with a sponsor, and dealing with fans. There are a lot of new things there - especially coming from the Busch Series. When I started Winston Cup racing, I didn't realize all the responsibilities that came along (with it). I thought it was going to be like the Busch Series. I had a couple of media things to do, but more than anything I put my helmet on and went racing. Now, if you add up the number of hours I work out of the racecar, it's double or triple what the work that I do inside the race car."
ARE YOU INTIMIDATED BY RACING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP WITH VETERAN DRIVERS?) "I like where we are. We're not expected to win the championship and I'm not expecting to win it by any means. The experience that Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin, Jeff Gordon, and even Tony Stewart - even everybody in the top 10 has a shot at it. But I like being the underdog right now. We're not supposed to be in this situation and I think that would be unneeded pressure on us. But I'd love to sneak in and steal the whole thing if we could."
SINCE JEFF GORDON QUALIFIED 2ND AND WON HERE AT KANSAS LAST YEAR, ARE YOU USING HIS SET-UPS THIS WEEKEND?
"What's wild is that the technology and set-ups of the race car have evolved so far (since then) that we're not even close on set-up. So much has changed during the course of the year. We looked at his notes and his set-ups that we can't believe he won here with that. He'd run 35th with those set-ups now. It's pretty amazing at how fast things are changing. Jeff obviously has a good feel for this track and has some good notes, so we'll keep that in the back of our mind but the set-ups are totally different."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I don't have a clue. I really haven't let a lot of that into my mind. I haven't put a lot of thought into it. Right now, all I can say is that it would be cool. I just don't want to be caught up in that. I've got more gratification and pride in the team right now, and if it would happen I'll start to soak it up then."
HOW ARE YOU HOLDING UP DURING THE LONG SEASON AND THIS LAST 20-WEEK STRETCH?
"I'm actually thinking of my ASA days when I had to drive the transporter and straighten clips and put bumpers on and put bodies on. We didn't race 20 consecutive weeks, but the workload we had was more intense that what we're going through now. With the way the teams are set up, we've been able to get away and have some (more) balance now. I'm hungry and ready to go."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR TITLE TO YOU?
"It definitely would mean a lot. We sat here at the beginning of the season and held a press conference and that was where our focus was. Now, we've been able to have an incredible season and we're looking at a bigger carrot. It's going to be a great accomplishment for whoever wins. I've won almost every Rookie of the Year battle I've been in. The only one I haven't won was in the Busch Series. I've got a lot of Rookie of the Year trophies at my house and I'd love to have this one to add to my collection."
-team monte carlo-