Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed Jimmie Johnson Foundation, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart as teammates, importance of winning at Michigan to Chevrolet, preparing...
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed Jimmie Johnson Foundation, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart as teammates, importance of winning at Michigan to Chevrolet, preparing for the Chase, saving fuel and other topics.
DRAWING FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION: "The fan selected St. Jude for last drawing for the special helmet paint so they will go on the helmet for last week's draw for Claire B. Lang. I will draw these two here. Once again, thank you to everyone for supporting this idea with the helmet. It has been really amazing how much support it has received and how many fans and media members have written in. I know that all the foundations really appreciate it too, so thank you. The first one is Winston Kelly, MRN Radio, the charity is the Classroom Central, it levels the academy playing field for over 80,000 students in the Charlotte region. Many of these students show up the first day of school empty handed, but, because of Classroom Central, their teachers are able to provide them with all the basic material needs for learning. Thank you Winston and congratulations.
"The fan is Susan Engle. The charity name is Caring Bridge. A co-worker's grandson recently had a rare brain tumor and had to go from Indianapolis to Phoenix for life-saving surgery. Michael's family posted regular updates so everyone stayed informed without having to take away time from Michael by making tons of phone calls. It was a family blessing for a family touched by illness. It is a website that connects families and loved one in times of critical illness. So thank you Susan Engle."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TONY STEWART/RYAN NEWMAN COMBINATION? "I think that you have two very hard-nosed, territorial drivers that are smart and can earn points. I think Ryan at times has been one of the hardest guys to pass and Stewart may be a little easier to pass from time-to-time, but you know you have made him mad and have something coming. (LAUGHS). I say that with all the respect in the world to both of them in trying to make light of it all. But I think those two together will do exactly what that team needs. Ryan is great at qualifying; they are obviously going to need that. They are both great at points racing. Now as teammates in a sense, hopefully they are able to make it through all the weather issues the first five races and get those two cars where they need to be. I think it was a wise move on Tony's behalf. Very stable environment over there, very stable group of drivers. You have Matt Borland and Ryan potentially back together, if not back together. I think they are making smart decisions."
HOW WOULD YOU RANK THE TWO WHEN COMPARING TO OTHER TOP TIER DRIVER PAIRINGS? "It is so hard to tell, especially without seeing them on track. There is so much time between now and California Speedway (next season). Maybe a better mark would be between now and the Las Vegas/California test sessions. Daytona is Daytona. It is not really an indicator of what the season is going to be. At that point, I think we can start forming opinions. Haas has been a great organization that we know the engines, bodies and chassis that they have on their cars, just putting the rest of those pieces together and get the chemistry right inside the team. Both drivers have obligations through the end of this year to finish up strongly, plus Haas. Then those guys need to somehow gel during our short off season and come together and be ready. So they have a lot of work ahead of themselves, but I think you have professionals across the board over there and they will do a good job."
ARE YOU USING THE SAME SETUP ON YOUR CAR THAT YOU USED IN JUNE HERE AT MICHIGAN? "Michigan started some new ideas in our minds when we came here a couple of months ago. The practices we kind of validated the technology that we were bringing to the car setup. I think qualifying was rained out actually, but we were very fast in qualifying practice. In the race, I think we led the most laps and ended up 10th or 12th or something like that because of fuel strategy, I can't exactly remember. But, we fought for the win all day long. I really since then, we have improved our car setup that we started with here. Coming back, I feel very strong about our performance. I think the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth) and the No. 99 (Carl Edwards), the end of the race, I really remember chasing the No. 17, I know there were a couple of other guys. This is a great track for Matt. As I traveled here and thought about what the race was going to look like and be like, for whatever reason, I see that No. 17 up there and I know we are going to be dealing with him."
CAN YOU GIVE US YOUR HONEST ASSESSMENT OF WHAT KYLE BUSCH HAS DONE THIS SEASON IN ALL NASCAR SERIES? "I think it is an amazing story what he has done. I would much rather it be myself with the eight wins and you guys asking Kyle about we are up to. The competitive spirit inside of me doesn't like to see what he doing. But, I respect what he is doing. I have worked with him as a teammate and have always know that he is a special, special talent. I told him a couple of years ago 'Once you figure out how to win, you aren't going to stop, but you have to stop knocking the right sides off you cars and crashing in practice and taking unnecessary risks.' He has figured that out this year and he has been on fire. I feel the same thing about championship form. Once he understands how to win a championship, he is going to be tough to beat each and every year. Chemistry means so much. You look at what he has done at Gibbs with his group of guys. Denny (Hamlin) and Tony (Stewart) are driving the same equipment, what is the difference.
"We see that at Hendrick Motorsports where you have four cars and four guys running in different spots in the point standings and throughout the race. So chemistry is everything and he has hit the perfect combination. Once you have it, you have to recognize it and figure out how to maintain it. There are so many challenges that come along week-to-week, year-to-year and Kyle is going in to new territory for himself right now and trying to figure out, how do I hold on to this? How do I keep this through the end of the regular season and in to the Chase and so forth and so on. It is a tough thing to do, it really is. He has matured a ton and he is doing a damn good job."
HOW IS YOUR TEAM RUNNING HEADING IN TO THE CHASE AND DO YOU GAMBLE NOW TO TRY AND PICKUP PRECIOUS BONUS POINTS? "We don't gamble all that often. If we are a lock, I think things change at that point if we lock in. Until then, we want top-fives; we want the momentum of running up front. More seat time, more pit stops, that whole energy and that pressure that comes with racing for wins. We want to be in that every day. I feel that we have made a lot of ground from the start of the season until now. I think we are where we need to be. I still feel we can be a little better and hopefully over these next few weeks, we can really polish up we have and be a little bit more consistent with the top-three finishes, our worst day being a top-five. Of late, I think we have only been in the top-three the last few races, oh; we finished seventh at Watkins Glen. If we can do that, find that rhythm and just sit there in those top-threes, top-five, opportunities to win will be there and we will collect points and everything will take care of itself."
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK THIS RACE IS FROM A MANUFACTURERS' STANDPOINT? "Every race pays the same amount of points so in one respect you look at it as just another race. But, whenever I go back to California or I am Lowe's Motor Speedway, there is a different mindset that it is our home track. I completely understand how the manufacturers that are based here come to this track and want to win on their home court. And I can only imagine how bad that No. 20 car with Home Depot signage on the side wants to win at Lowe's. So I can also understand how bad the other manufacturer would want to come in and beat the US-based companies here. I kinda see it and understand it. It doesn't change how we race. It doesn't change what we do, but Monday morning when everybody is at their board meetings, catching up in the business, there are some big bragging rights that go with it all and we want to make sure a Chevrolet wins again. Junior's win was the first in a while and we want to try and do that again."
HOW FAMILIAR ARE YOU WITH THE TERM HYPER-MILING? "That would be the first time I've heard of it? What is hyper-miling and how do you spell it?"
IT IS SOMEWAY TO SAVE GAS AND SOME PEOPLE ARE DOING IT ON THE HIGHWAYS NOW. IT IS JUST LIKE FUEL CONSERVATION TECHNIQUES ON THE HIGHWAY AND IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYTIME WE COME HERE, YOU GUYS HAVE TO USE THAT. SO, IF YOU ARE TOLD YOU NEED TO SAVE GAS, WHAT IS PROGRESSION TO DO THAT? "You try to let off a little earlier and not use as much brake in corner entry. Just maintain a speed the car can handle on corner entry to the center. When you get to the center of the corner, you try to roll back in to the gas slowly. Obviously the slower you roll back in the gas slowly. Obviously the slower you roll back in to the gas, the slower you are up on to the straightaway, but you find a rhythm and lap time you can produce. On the pit box, Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and the engineers are calculating that lap time versus how much it is saving fuel. Through a series of smoke and mirrors, you come up with what you think is your window. There is no guarantee, if they car is tighter it is going to affect it. If the car is looser, it is going to affect it. So it is really a guessing game and it is tough to get it right. Sometimes it surprises me how close they can really calculate where you are going to run out. It is tough to really save fuel. In most cases, you get the deal on the radio where you go back to green and you are running like crazy and they are 'Hey, you need to save fuel.' You are like, it would have been nice to know that 20 laps ago or 10 laps ago and now what are you going to do. It is really tough to save fuel."
ONCE YOU ARE LOCKED IN THE CHASE, HOW MUCH EXPERIMENTING CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR CAR? "It depends on where you are at. In '05, we got real aggressive with some things and almost talked ourselves in to it because we felt like we were close; it didn't work out for us. The last two seasons, we focused more on refining the equipment we developed to that point and mentally being ready and treating those last few races like they were in the Chase. The pit stop mentality, how you drive on track, you are just trying to find the right rhythm through the weekend from qualifying practice through qualifying on to the race and everything that goes on in that period of time. A lot of it depends on where you are at. If you are hanging on to be in the top 12 right now, you only have a couple of ways and choices you can make. If you are in Kyle's position, you can look at it a couple of different ways. Either it is pretty good, don't mess it up or guys are catching us, let's get aggressive. So, it is really tough to give you a general comment. It is more about the individual team and where they are at."
HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT JUNIOR AND THE NO. 88 CREW IN RECENT WEEKS? "No, not anything different. I can say that at the start of the season, Tony, Jr. (Eury) had a real good feel for what the setups need at that point. As time has gone on, this sport keeps changing. Everything is moving and shaking. We didn't have it, and we have slowly picked it up. Those guys had it early and are trying to get that going again.
"It sounds odd when all the teams are in the same shop and that technology doesn't apply from one car to the other, but, driving styles, crew chief styles, it all plays a part of it. Those guys won't be down long. They have all the tools necessary. I have been extremely impressed with Tony's and Dale Jr.'s commitment to the team. The feel that Junior has had in the car. I didn't know what kind of a teammate he would be like; he has blown the roof off of the expectations because he really has a good feel for the car. You go up and down, you go through slumps and stuff happens, but those guys will be just fine."
-credit: gm racing