JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JOHNS MANVILLE CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Chase and other topics. Full transcript: ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JOHNS MANVILLE CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Chase and other topics. Full transcript:
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO RACING AT NEW HAMPSHIRE THIS WEEKEND? "Excited. Ran well here in the spring, qualified decent and ran up front all day long. Excited for our chances. I think these first two races are going to be really good for the 48 team. I'm hopeful to come out and get a win and ideally get two wins. Really get everybody worried about the No. 48 team and doing our job. We're excited. Kerry (Tharp, NASCAR PR), no worries, I announced that I am the 2009 Male Athlete of the Year and did my opening comments. Way too much information."
BEYOND TALLADEGA, IS THERE A RACE TRACK THAT CONCERNS YOU IN THE CHASE? "I felt like what I experienced last year with Texas, you really are vulnerable anywhere you go. I know a lot of people make Martinsville up to be a wild card race and it certainly is because of the close contact, but Martinsville you can hit the fence, you can hit someone else and in most cases, keep going. Texas, I felt like the mile-and-a-halves, you would have room and you could avoid situations and that was my belief last year and I was caught up in something that kind of has changed my mind. Maybe it hasn't changed my mind, but it's made the reality for me that anything can happen anywhere. I tried not to be sucked into that because last year we had so much momentum and so much going on. It just seemed like things were really going to happen for us and then Texas was the reality check that this thing isn't really over until you run every mile at every race."
CAN YOU TAKE YOURSELF OUT OF A CHANCE TO WIN BY WORRYING ABOUT WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN AT A RACE TRACK? "I really think that a driver and team needs to continue doing what they've been doing and if you're a team that doesn't think and spends a lot of time thinking and now you're spending all this time worrying about stuff that will probably hurt you. Ideally you just have to do what you know and what got you to this point. For me, that's not thinking -- I'm not good at thinking."
DOES NEW HAMPSHIRE AND THEN DOVER FAVOR ANY TEAMS IN THE CHASE? "First of all, we all think that a fast start is needed to win the Chase. In '06, it wasn't the case so we all say that but until we get to race six or seven, the race strategy of what it really takes isn't going to be clear yet. Yes we are all hopeful to get off to a good start here and for our team and the fact that we've been very consistent and running in the top-five here the last few times. Then Dover has been such a good track for us, it gets us really excited as the Lowe's team that we can hopefully run where we should and run up front and collect a lot of points. Lead a lap or lead some laps and get off to a fast start in the Chase. We're hopeful for that, but if it doesn't happen then we'll spin it in a way that says in '06 you didn't need to and there's still hope and there's still nine races and it probably drives all of you crazy, the positions we take week after week. We've got to give ourselves hope somehow."
WHY DO YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE AT DOVER? "For me, it's really just the history that I have at these race tracks. Dover was my first big track that I ran in ASA and sat on the pole, led a bunch of laps and had a puncture with the tire and took me out of it. Nationwide, loved it. Cup career have loved it and won a lot there. It is a place though that if something goes wrong and outside of the spin I had in qualifying, you're going to hit something. You can spin like a top down the front stretch, but I'm just glad I didn't hit anything. It will eat you up. I may be coming back to a question we had at the start, I'm going with what I know and going to continue to drive the car as I always have and Dover is a track that I just love driving. I'm looking forward to it and am going to go in there with that mindset and try to put the fear out of my mind and go for a win."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS IN THE CHASE AND PEOPLE SAYING THEY NEED TO 'JIMMIE-PROOF' THE CHASE? "I guess I take a little pride in it because it means we've been doing our jobs. It's such a fragile environment, living it myself, I know we've had four awesome years, but anything could have happened at any time from the way I see it. It's very difficult to operate at this high level in this sport that is so competitive with so many superstars that are out there. I take a little pride in that comment, but at the same time, I know this is a tough road to hoe."
IS YOUR INTERMEDIATE PROGRAM AS GOOD AS IT HAS BEEN IN THE PAST? "I think I made these comments a few months ago when we were getting into the summer that the mile-and-a-halves were a little tough for us. It seems like we've been able to qualify well, then as the race goes on we just couldn't adjust the cars the way we needed to. We led a lot of laps at Chicago, there's some other tracks where we would start well and then fade. Michigan, we started up front and then just really couldn't get the car tuned in right as the race went on. We see some tracks where we ran well, but had a spin at Chicago, use that as an example. I felt like we would have finished well there. Then we look at Michigan and feel like we didn't run like we should have and that does worry me. A few of those tracks, including Indy, we start up front and just a slow fade to the back. What makes me feel good about that going into the Chase is how we ran in Atlanta. We went back to the 48-style stuff and what we know and had a car that maybe wasn't the fastest all night long, but a car that we could adjust on and improve and at the end of the race I had a shot to win. If we didn't have Atlanta, I would be a little more concerned, but Atlanta gave us a lot of direction and I think we'll be competitive on the mile-and-a-halves. I'm not sure that we're as strong as we've been there in the past on those style of tracks, but we do have some time yet to kind of sort things out."
ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE USING THE CAR YOU WON WITH IN JUNE OR DO YOU WISH YOU HAD BROUGHT A NEW CAR? "Just depends on your team and what's going on that year. Through the summer in some of these races that we've struggled at, we've been trying new stuff. From different style clips on cars to setups and sometimes you think you need to keep moving forward to keep up with guys and we go down that road and it doesn't pan out for us. So we've actually back-tracked a little bit and have gone back to stuff more like the start of the year and early spring that really works for us. You never know. You have to stay looking forward and the stuff we were working on through the summer, we haven't put it away, we just need to figure out another piece or two to put with it. Our minds are always thinking forward, but at times you can get ahead of yourself in some respects. The Childress guys have had a lot of momentum lately, they've been bringing great cars to the track all year and there are times and they might be the example that when you keep using new stuff and you have the right direction, you can bring better equipment to the track each time. Right now, we're not really in that position. We have a lot that we want to bring, we just need to sort it out a little bit more."
HAVE YOU ARRIVED AS A GOLFER? "Oh no. Far from it. It was a cool spread and glad to be in it, but I'm still 25 handicap. Golf is a means to drinking beer for me so it's still the same thing for me. I am 35, am I getting close to that Senior status?"
IS THERE A STRATEGY TO WIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE?: "In the spring we had a great car in the long haul and we came down to some short runs at the end and that really played into the 2 (Kurt Busch) car's hands. We put on a good race and moved each other out of the way to fight for the win and sort things out. This track is so difficult because what you need for the long run and we have a lot of long runs through the middle of the race will not work for a five lap shootout. You just have to pick your poison. Are you going to worry about the end of the race and just hope you don't go a lap down and hope you maintain decent track position or do you work on the car like you normally do and try to make it good for an entire fuel run. Of course we're trying to balance it, but it's a really tough thing to do here. I would assume we're going to have short runs at the end, but we need to keep our eyes on that this weekend and make sure our car's right."
DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE PERCEPTION OF THE FANS AND COMPETITORS OF YOUR ABILITY TO DO WELL IN THIS CHASE? "With what we've done and what I've heard through being in there week after week, that chance is there. I'm not sure that one race would make the garage area say, 'Oh man, the 48's there.' In my eyes I try to think about it realistically, if we're able to run well here, Dover and get two or three races linked together then we might be able to pick up something like that. I sure hope I do and I would love to put our team in that position that see if it really makes a difference or not. Early in the Chase, at least in my experience, it's easy to not get too emotionally attached to things. At the end of the Chase when you have a shot and you can see Homestead out there and you're one of the two or three guys that has a chance, your mind does a lot of weird things on you. If I can build some momentum until then and be a player and a factor at that point, I think we can get some heads. Until then, these guys are too strong, too smart and I don't think they would allow that to go on."
HOW DIFFERENT ARE YOU THIS WEEK HEADING INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE? "I made those comments in New York doing the media stuff and I woke up this morning, put together a crib and put together the little mobile on it and got the bath tub out and got everything setup. Then I was like, 'Oh yeah, we've got media coming up and practice.' I know I have said that point comes where it hits you and it hasn't yet so I know it's the Chase, I know what's going on and walking the garage area and take my job seriously and do everything that I need to, but each year I have had more fun in the Chase. I am hoping that this is a sign that I am more relaxed, enjoying the moment and I'm going to give 100 percent either way so the less I stress about things, I think the better I'm going to run. I've seen that trend as well. I'm excited, I'm relaxed and looking forward to the Chase and we'll see what happens. Hopefully I can be more relaxed this year and enjoy the experience and make even better decisions yet because I'm in the right place in my life."
DID YOU LOOK AT THE TIME WHEN YOU GOT UP THIS MORNING? "I jumped in the shower at 10:20 and was panicked. I was like, I have to get to the media center so I was just kind of occupied doing other stuff."
WHAT IS YOUR LEVEL OF VELNERABILITY AND WHAT COMPETITOR CONCERNS YOU GOING INTO THE CHASE?: "We've had enough slow summers that I don't feel vulnerable going into the Chase. I know the tracks that are on the schedule and we all know how good they are for me and they all give me a lot of hope and excitement moving forward. I don't think that I'm any different this year than last year. Stats may show that this year I'm actually in better shape than I was last year. I can play into that stuff and let it change my mind a little bit emotionally. Either way I know that I've got great tracks coming up. I know that we respond well to pressure and I'm excited for it. I feel good about things. I'm also a realist and I look at that two ways -- one, and I'm only 10 points out now so that gives everyone a lot of hope because the furthest out is 60. Then from there I have to go out and look at these final 10 as this is the start of the season and we're at Daytona again or wherever again, it has started over. I'm not going to stress about the past, I'm not going to carry baggage in from the regular season and I hope my team doesn't. I feel confident with the conversations we've had that we're all on the same page and we're on a clean sheet of paper and it's time to go. I know we say this every year that we're up here and that everyone has a chance, but honestly it's a wide, there's a wide group of guys that can win this thing. We've seen the Stewart-Haas stuff coming along, Roush cars are fast again, RCR (Richard Childress Racing) cars have been great, Gibbs cars have been good and Denny (Hamlin) has been a little streaky like I have, but the 18 (Kyle Busch) has been real consistent lately, Denny is coming off of a win -- it's going to be exciting. I've got my teammate Jeff (Gordon), he's been real consistent all year long and I put a lot of weight in a past champion's hands when it comes to a championship battle. You've been there and done that and you know how to deal with the pressures that come with it. I think it's going to be a really good Chase."
-source: gm racing