JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his season to date, the Chase, tires at the Brickyard and more. DO YOU MISS HAVING CARL EDWARDS RUNNING UP FRONT WITH YOU AND DOES NASCAR NEED HIM UP THERE? "Yes, NASCAR needs...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his season to date, the Chase, tires at the Brickyard and more.
DO YOU MISS HAVING CARL EDWARDS RUNNING UP FRONT WITH YOU AND DOES NASCAR NEED HIM UP THERE? "Yes, NASCAR needs him up there. But in a very selfish way, I don't miss him up there because he's one hell of a competitor. It's a long season. Those guys are chipping away at it. Last year, if we wouldn't have been able to test, it would have been a long time before we would have recovered. So they're not where they want to be right now, but I think everybody in this garage area is waiting for the day he shows up and puts it back on us. So we're not letting our guard down."
YOU GUYS HAVE AVOIDED BEING LEAP-FROGGED TECHNOLOGICALLY "This year we did. The year before we didn't and thank goodness we had testing and we could go out and work on our cars. We tested 26 times last year to get it right and to be competitive for the Chase. If last year happened to us this year, we would just be stunned. We'd be struggling to find what we needed to catch up. This year we've done a good job, but next year there's no telling what will happen."
DO YOU VIEW THIS RACE AS SORT OF A THROW-AWAY RACE LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CHASE AND THIS BEING THE FIRST RACE OF THE CHASE, A RACE WHERE YOU MIGHT TRY SOME THINGS OUTSIDE OF THE BOX? "In a certain way you would look at it and know the importance of it because we come back here and start the Chase at this track. I don't really see it as a throw-away. We'll experiment with some stuff and try to validate it for here so when we come back we have a read on whatever package that is. So yeah, I guess in a certain way there is a level of R&D that takes place at this first race, but it's pretty well scienced out. It's not, at least for us, we're not looking for the homerun. We're just kind of making sure we've got it right."
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP YOUR SEASON AT THIS POINT? ARE YOU PLEASED WITH WHERE YOU ARE AND FEEL LIKE YOU COULD BE IN BETTER SHAPE WITH CERTAIN THINGS THAT HAPPEN? "Yeah, I'm real happy with the speed in the cars. Unlike other years, we've made more mistakes as a team. Again, like last week I got nailed for speeding on pit road. I've made plenty of mistakes like that this year. I've crashed a couple of cars that I shouldn't have. Pit stops are really in our rhythm now but we've had a couple of hiccups along the way. So in general, I'm really happy with where we're at. I think we've missed a few opportunities to win races. At Michigan we were leading the race and ran out of gas; at Pocono we were in really good position there; I look at Phoenix where Mark (Martin) won earlier in the year and we had some issues we overcame there and we were the fastest car but didn't pull it off. We lost that race because of mistakes we made. So I think we can be better than where we're at, but I'm very happy to see the progress. We've been cleaning up things over the course of the year and I think we're going to be just right when the Chase starts."
ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT WHY THERE HAVE BEEN MORE MISTAKES THIS YEAR? "We're all human. I would say more than anything, it's just trying too hard. In a lot of cases, for myself, there's a sweet spot that I've been able to hit at times and a lot of times when I'm not performing it's because I'm trying too hard. I just need to get back into the right rhythm and start clicking things off. And we've been doing that. If you look at Dover and how well we ran; really from Dover on, we've been extremely competitive at all the tracks. We're there. It's just one little hiccup from time to time that takes us out of contention for the win. We still finish well, but we've got to stop making mistakes."
SHOULD THERE BE A ROAD COURSE RACE IN THE CHASE? "It wouldn't hurt my feelings if there were. Frankly, I've stopped thinking of those big picture things a while back. There are a variety of different reasons and opinions, and at the end of the day NASCAR really makes the decisions, so I just show up and drive wherever they send us."
NOBODY HAS MORE THAN 30 BONUS POINTS AS OF RIGHT NOW. IS THAT COMFORTING IN A WAY OR IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'RE REALLY FOCUSED ON? IS IT WORRISOME THAT YOU ONLY HAVE 10 MORE CHANCES? "Last year we had to overcome a lot of bonus points for the Chase, so my feeling on the bonus points and the importance of them has kind of gone down some. It's still very important, but we had a lot to make up for what Kyle (Busch) had last year. We were still able to perform and get the job done. We want them to think about them. I can only say, really, once we had the mindset that it's all about the bonus points, and that was at Michigan. And it was like you know, we're going to push as hard as we can and if we run out, so be it. We'd like those ten points. I think as we get closer to the Chase, people will start taking more risks and focus on those opportunities."
WHY DID YOU PROVIDE AN AFFIDAVIT IN THE MAYFIELD CASE? "For myself, it was speaking not directly about Jeremy, but in general about the safety of the sport and how I don't want anyone on track under the influence of any substance or under anything. Myself and a few other drivers were asked if we agreed to those kinds of statements and I do."
ON THE BRICKYARD TIRE TEST "Knowing that we had some teammates there, through the process, is helpful. If we didn't we would be much more worried about it. But I feel good. The No. 24 car (Jeff Gordon) was there and we've had good information to understand what the tire will do and then we'll obviously, I think as a group, we'll still show up a little concerned and really wait until the rubber goes down to form our opinions.
"Last year I really think we had a few things combine and create the worst situation possible. The track is abrasive, regardless of the type of vehicle that's on it. F-1 has had problems; IndyCar has had problems, and our cars certainly do. The new car on that race track, the tire was supposed to be the same, I guess, or similar to, but the vehicle itself is so different and the loads where the weight sits on the tires is much different than the old car. Those few things together really made a bad day for us.
"NASCAR hasn't made any rule changes to the vehicle to help with the loads and where the weight sits. The track is still the same but Goodyear has really done everything they can to make the tire stronger and better."
-credit: gm racing