Las Vegas: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed fan perception of his dominance and other topics. ON WHAT HE EXPECTS FOR THE WEEKEND "I'm looking forward to it. This...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT TOOLS IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed fan perception of his dominance and other topics.

ON WHAT HE EXPECTS FOR THE WEEKEND

"I'm looking forward to it. This track, with the progressive banking since they've resurfaced it, is a fun track to drive. You really have to show up and attack. So I'm looking forward to today and the qualifying that we'll get in. Looks like we'll need to work on some race trim today because of the weather moving in. So, all in all, I'm looking forward to it. Last weekend went well for us. I think that we had a top five car there at the end and I was able to win with not having the best car, so, I feel good about what I'm doing behind the wheel and our pit stops and I know that with a few small changes we'll be in good shape and we've got some great ideas for this weekend."

HOW DOES THE NO. 48 TEAM BREAK DOWN A RACE TO MAKE SURE YOU'RE THERE AT THE END?

"A lot of teams have a similar mindset where you really need to get your big adjustments out of the way early because they take so much time during a pit stop that late in the race if you need to add a spring rubber or something that's going to add a second or two to the pit stop, you don't want to do that at the end. So you'll see a lot of teams make big and aggressive changes early and then just fine-tune for the end. For us, last weekend, luck didn't have us lead 101 laps. Luck didn't hold off the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) car. Luck put us in position. I'll take that. I'm the first to admit it. But luck didn't win the race for us. It gave us an opportunity to win the race and then I had to do my job. The funny part too, is that when I was on pit road and the caution came out, I swore I was dead in the water. Every time I've been on pit road and the caution comes out, you're dead. It's just how it works. And I beat the No. 31 (Jeff Burton) off of pit road by half a car length. Some may say it's lucky, but I look and say we had a great pit stop. We had one of our best pit stops at that point in time which led to us being off pit road by us being off pit road by half a car length ahead of the No. 31. So it is what it is. And again, I do recognize there was luck involved at the given moment when the caution came out, but I still had to go win the race."

HOW FRUSTRATING IS IT THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT GIVING YOU CREDIT AND SAYING YOU'RE LUCKY?

"There are some that may not give us the credit. But deep down inside it doesn't matter if it's a fan or a competitor; they know this No. 48 team is the real deal. It's way too early in the season for me to be too excited and say we're unbeatable and we're going to win a fifth (title). From my standpoint it's unfair to say that and from the viewing audience. It's early in the year. This is only the second race. We've felt like we're a little bit off from the second half of the race on and the RCR cars really impressed everyone. Credit needs to be passed out where it's due and we'll see how things go this weekend and take it from there."

HAVE YOUR WINNER'S CIRCLE APPEARANCES CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? DOES IT SEEM LIKE TRACKS TRY TO GET YOU MORE INVOLVED WITH FANS AND HAVE YOU DO SOME CRAZY THINGS?

"They are crazy. In the end, I'm not sure that the whole Winner's Circle program is working as it needs to. There are some tracks that are a pleasure to work with and other tracks that are not. In the end, I think the goal of the Winner's Circle program is to sell tickets. And if somebody can show me how a paint ball fight is going to sell tickets and fill the grandstands, I'll gladly be a part of that paint ball fight. I don't believe that's the case though. Do hot dogs really sell tickets? There are a lot of questions out there that don't made sense in a lot of ways. At the end of the day we need people in the grandstands and we need to figure out how we do that. I think there has been a lot of pressure put on the garage area to fill the grandstands. And if you really look at what's gone on in the garage area, the teams have had to step up and build new cars; all the money that it took to build new cars and to develop them and Goodyear has built a new tire. You look at the competition side of NASCAR and the field is closer than it's ever been. Drivers are being encouraged to speak their minds. You look at everything that goes on in this fenced off area and we're tapped out in there. We're doing everything we can to put on a great show. People may think that we race for points, which is absolute crap. We're out there to win races. So everything in that garage area is tapped out. What happens over here in filling those stands, that responsibility needs to go back on the tracks and the promoters and they need to understand what it takes to sell tickets and put people in the stands."

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THEY'VE HAD YOU DO?

"There is everything from we've held events on, I'm trying to keep from making a complete ass of myself in slamming people which is just what you (the media) want, so needless to say there is a lot of stuff that doesn't drive grandstand sales. There is a lot of stuff that improves the position maybe with the track and the local market and the local media and favors that seem to be taking place, but I really find it hard to believe that we actually are impacting the people that are going to be at the ticket counters buying the tickets. That's where the shift needs to take place."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE AXEL ISSUE AND WHETHER YOU WERE ALL HAVING THE ISSUE AND WHAT YOU KNEW ABOUT IT

"We're still learning about it. I haven't had a chance to really catch up with Chad to know where things are at right now. We had our issue at Daytona and then the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) had a problem. So, it's unusual for us. I know the guys are working on it, I just don't know the latest."

ON DANICA PATRICK, IS IT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON HER AND ARE THE DRIVERS UPSET THAT SHE IS GETTING SO MUCH ATTENTION?

"No, I think as a community, she couldn't be more welcomed in a better way. Drivers, competitors, and everyone is excited to see her come to NASCAR and to be a part of it. I think where a lot of fear comes in is that it would have been really good for her to run a couple seasons of Late Models or more ARCA or Truck races before you even get to Nationwide. It's a very competitive sport and you would hate to have this great opportunity in the spotlight and then for her to not run well. That's been the big risk in my eyes all along. She's going to draw a ton of media attention and we need to take advantage of this and ride that horse as far as we can. But if we beat the horse to death before it completes the first lap and she's up to speed and knows what she's doing, it's going to be bad for all of us. So that's where my concern comes in with too much exposure. Hopefully as she finishes her final race for a while in a stock car, she can find a way to go drive ARCA races or test or practice and even go run Late Models. I had this conversation with Max Papis the other day and he's in a similar situation coming from the Open Wheel world. He's been in 17 Cup races and I think eight Truck and Nationwide races in total and that's not much oval experience. And he's never driven a Late Model or ARCA car; none of that. It's like man, you need to go to a local short track and figure out what's it like to really race in a closed-body car. And I think that's what she needs to do as well to speed up the curve and to take advantage of this great opportunity that she has and our sport has."

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE YOUR DOMINANCE IS HURTING THE SPORT?: "What's funny and there's a couple thoughts to it -- I hope I don't lose everybody here. When I was growing up, I looked at someone that dominated a sport and wanted to be like that person. I think kids watching the races watch somebody that's winning, dominating and say, 'I want to grow up and be like that.' I don't think that many, if any, kids on local short tracks or local go-kart tracks watching the race and sees who finishes 43rd and says, 'I want to be that guy.' That just doesn't happen. In the big scheme of things in sports, we all look at sports and say, 'Shaun White is the best in snowboarding and dominates.' Does it hurt their sport? No. If you look at golf, granted Tiger's (Woods) got some different issues now, but before that, did it hurt golf? No. You got through tennis (Roger) Federer, did it hurt that sport? No, it helped. I think that a lot of it is the perception of the fan base and in our culture we don't like to see dominance. We like to see the underdog come through and prevail. It's a little different in the end. I think the overwhelming majority, when they reflect back and especially as a kid. I was thinking about this over the weekend. When you're a kid and you pick a hero, you're going to pick a person that's dominating. With that in mind, it cannot be bad for the sport. I know it's frustrating for people that aren't a 48 fan, that's athletics, that's sports, it happens, but it's not bad for the sport."

HOW DOES YOUR DIMEANOR CHANGE WHEN YOU GET IN THE RACE CAR AND KNOW THAT YOU WON FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A ROW?: "I certainly picked heroes that were winning as a kid growing up so the correlation to it being a baseball player and looking at the pinstripes and wanting to be a Yankee, I totally get that. As a kid growing up, I watched motorcross and raced motorcross and all my heroes were motorcross racers and they were all the champions and the guys that dominated. In motorcross you typically have one person that dominates for a long period of time. Ricky Carmichael has been that for a lot of young kids for a long time. Yes, I do see that. For me and my mental side of it, I feel very fortunate that I didn't have amazing success growing up through the ranks. I feel that the hard road that I came down, we all know the story of my parents and our financial situation and the opportunities that I had to go racing that I had to go out there and make it happen. I feel that in the end, I really respect our sport, I made a lot of friends along the way, I learned a lot of great lessons and I really appreciate where I'm at today. I think its also led me, in a situation where people might say that I'm vanilla or boring or whatever it may be because I've been there. I've struggled, I've worked so hard to get where I am and I know how hard it is to climb that ladder and I know at some point I'm going to come down that ladder. If you're an ass on the way up, how you treat people going up the ladder is how people will treat you coming down. That's just always been in the back of mind and I feel that because I didn't have great success until my late 20s or shoot, 30 when I won my first, that has helped me handle thing the way that I have. I'm concerned about that stuff and I know that I'm not going to be on top forever, but I know that I'm going to be in the sport for a long, long time. It's important to me to have friends. It's important to me to be respected in the sport. They don't have to be my fan, but I think if you go through the garage area and the other teams and drivers respect what I've done and how I've handled myself."

WHY HAS OUR FAN BASE LOST SIGHT OF THE FACT THAT YOUR BACKGROUND IS A 'FEEL-GOOD' STORY?: "It's weird, I've fought that issue my whole career and I think a lot of it has been because of my opportunities. Once my professional career was really established, I drove for successful teams and I think being attached to those bigger teams can put that impression in people's minds. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A SECOND SPRINT CUP RACE AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND WHERE WOULD THE DATE COME FROM?: "I think its really tough to have two Sprint Cup races at any venue. You look at California Speedway, I have friends and family that were season ticket holders and when there was one race a year, it was real simple what you did. You only had one opportunity to go to that race and watch so you would go. They have two races, their ticket packages and different things that were forced upon them to be a part of and things started to change. They thought, 'I'll skip the spring race and go to the fall race.' The fall race comes around and, 'I've got some things going on so I'll go to the spring race.' I have some friends that now have not been for four years because of that cycle. I think you lose a little something when you go to two dates. I think if you go to two dates, you have to have the situation like Bristol where there's a long waiting list for one event. Then you consider expanding to two races. I don't think you can take a facility that is seating 60 or 70 percent of its capacity and add a second date and expect a big turnout at either event. That's just my opinion and what I have seen. I think it's impossible to do this, but I think it would be great if we had 36 races at 36 different tracks and we hit as many towns and areas throughout North America as we possibly could. That's not the situation we have. Tracks just aren't in certain areas. I do understand it takes a lot to build these facilities and all that. It's a tough road to hoe to have two events and you have to have a sold out track once a year with a long waiting list to consider a second date, I believe."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS?: "This track deserves a lot of credit. It was a very challenging and competitive track before and then with adding the progressive banking. If you can look at track development and technology, there's really two or three things that have some along. Soft walls, progressive banking and then this aggregate that's being used for repaving. Soft walls made the track safer. The progressive banking, I think tracks as they resurface really need to consider it. It adds so many more options to the drivers as the track ages over the years and through the course of an event to move around and find a better place to run. Then this aggregate they're putting down adds a lot of grip and makes it a track that the drivers can charge the corners at and be aggressive with. There's a bit of an argument that its almost too good and it takes longer to age. I think Charlotte (Motor Speedway) is going through that right now. It's finally getting over the hump and aging some. Once you get outside of that four or five year window after it's resurfaced, I think its really, really good."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Kevin Harvick , Max Papis , Ricky Carmichael