JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/CHEVY 100TH ANNIVERSARY CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Charlotte, the battle in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, qualifying, mile-and-a-half tracks and other topics.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TALK ABOUT COMING OFF YOUR BIG WIN AT KANSAS AND BEING HALF WAY THROUGH THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE AFTER CHARLOTTE AS WELL AS HOW THE WIN AND KANSAS HELPED THE TEAM: “A great performance last weekend. If you leave out qualifying, we have a lot to be proud of from last weekend’s race. Great work on pit road. Great race car. Great pit calling. So, a lot to build on; a lot to be happy with. I’m excited with our mile-and-a-half program. At the start of the year; midway through the year, it was a soft-spot for us and an area that we probably talked about a few times in these get-togethers about how we needed to be better on those tracks. We’ve got there, especially in race conditions. We have the speed in the car and the comfort in the car to go out there and race for wins. Very happy about that. Excited to come back to a mile-and-a-half and to a track that has been so good to me over the years. Excited to get out there and see what we’ve got.”

THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM MAKES IT MORE LIKELY THAT MORE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE LEFT IN THE CHASE FOR THE NASCAR SPRINT CUP RUN AT HOMESTEAD, DO YOU THINK IT IS GOING TO COME TO THAT? WILL THERE BE FOUR, FIVE OR SIX GUYS IN OR WILL THERE BE TWO OR THREE? WHAT IS YOUR BEST GUESS? “I think there is going to be more than two or three. I think it will be in that five or six category to be honest with you. When I look at the year and how tough it’s been for any team to stay hot for a long period of time. I think there is going to be a half-dozen guys that have a shot at it in Homestead.”

TRACK POSITION IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT; QUALIFYING IS IMPORTANT; HAVE YOU GUYS DONE ANYTHING TO ATTEMPT TO IMPROVE YOUR QUALIFYING POSITIONS? “We’re working on it as aggressively as we can. Depending on the schedule, that really dictates how much time spend on qualifying trim. Tracks where we do all the practice on Friday and then qualify on Sunday {Saturday}, we’ve found that doing more race trim and focusing on a good foundation for a setup is beneficial and has helped in qualifying. Then, on schedules like we have here, or last weekend, it is a little easier to work the tire allotment around and just focus on qualifying on Friday, or Thursday, and then worry about race trim the next day. So, what we’re trying, we’ve looked at both schedules, actually there have probably been three or four different schedules at tracks, but we know how important it is. We’ve always been focused on getting a good qualifying effort, especially the last two or three years and we’re working on it every week. We’re trying to get better at it. Just haven’t had that…we’re missing a chunk. We can find little pieces here and there. Short tracks seem to be well. We’ve got good speed there in qualifying trim. But, the big tracks, we’re just missing a chunk. We’ll try it again today and hopefully get it.”

THERE HAVE BEEN EIGHT MILE-AND-A-HALF RACES THIS YEAR AND EIGHT DIFFERENT WINNERS, DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT TREND AND DO YOU THINK IT WILL CONTINUE? “I think it is going to continue. I think that’s the way the year has been and the year will continue to go. Just difficult to predict who’s going to be the dominate guy and to have a favorite. I think we’re going to see a lot more of the same over the next six races. I think that we’ve had strategy play a big part in the fact that we haven’t had repeat winners on mile-and-a-halves, with fuel mileage and things like that taking place. Even down to how many tires you put on the car. It’s kind of changed the outcome of a lot of races. I guess I’m thinking of Dover. That’s not a mile-an-a-half by any means, but, I think it is more in the strategy and in the race calling that’s changed that around than the fact the fast car always finds its way to the front.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE IN THE PAST THAT YOUR PRESENCE AT THE FRONT OF THE FIELD IN THAT MIX RATTLES OTHERS? “Boy, when we, I don’t know what year it was, but, the year we raced with Carl (Edwards), we finished second at Atlanta, I know in Victory Lane it was told that we finished second and you could tell that shocked him and got to him a little bit. I think racing with Jeff (Gordon), we won like four or five races in that Chase. We won at Phoenix and he came into Victory Lane with a white towel waving it. There are some small moments there that we’ve been able to see it, but it has been after linking together just run after run. So, I don’t know if we have that fortune now. But, if we keep doing what we have over the last two weeks, we might be able to get some of that.”

DO YOU HAVE THEM RIGHT WHERE YOU WANT THEM RIGHT NOW AFTER LAST WEEK? “We are happy where we are. But, I look at those first two races and still think about the points left on the table. I’ve said that a few times now. You just don’t know what that point total is going to be at the end of the year and I hope I don’t need the spots from Chicago and New Hampshire. But, where I want to be is on top. I think if somebody can sit on top of the points and lead and continue to lead, there’s a small advantage in that. And, I want to be that guy. I want to be leading the points every week that I can.”

COUPLE OF FUEL INJECTION TESTS COMING UP, WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING FROM THOSE? THEN AT A PLACE LIKE TALLADEGA WHERE IT’S BEEN SUCH SMALL TWEAKS TO RESTRICTOR PLATES OVER THE YEARS, HOW MUCH OF A CHANGE DO YOU THINK IT IS GOING TO BE TO THE RACING AT SUPERSPEEDWAYS? “The EFI stuff, I’m not sure there is a ton for the drivers to learn through all of it. But, our engineering staff, it’s a big day for them. At the Kentucky test, and also at the Phoenix test, we’ve made a lot of gains with our systems, if you will. There will be a lot of guys in collared shirts walking around collecting data and trying to be smarter about what goes on there. At Talladega, I don’t know what’s going to change there. Whenever there’s bigger plates, we have the opportunity to pass more. It increases the closing rates. There could be more passing. The fact that we have a lower pop-off valve, would mean that we would probably need to change more often and that can create some excitement and have cars split apart. But, until we get into practice and really see what goes on, it’s hard to predict it.”

GOING TO THE FINAL FIVE RACES IN THE CHASE, BEING WHEREVER YOU ARE GOING TO BE WHY DO YOU PREFER TO BE LEADING AND HAVE THEM CHASING YOU WHEREAS IN GOLF SOME GUYS PREFER NOT TO BE IN THE LEAD? “It really just boils down to points. I think it would apply in golf too. I mean, you don’t want to give up any shots and need that later in the round or at the end of the tournament. If you are leading, it means you have been collecting more points than anyone else. It just kind of boils down to that; is just simple stuff. I want ever point I can get and hopefully be up front.”

YOU ARE A SUPERSTITIOUS GUY, GET UP AT 7:48 EVERY DAY, ETC. GIVEN THE HISTORY OF THE ALL THE JINXES OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN ON THE COVER, WAS THERE ANY CONSIDERATION GIVEN TO THAT WHEN YOU DID THE COVER? “I’m not superstitious, but it is 6:48 that I get up at. (LAUGHS). I never even thought twice about it to be honest with you. It is such a huge honor to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I accepted and…actually we didn’t really know what was going to take place with the passing of Al Davis (owner of Oakland Raiders). So, one day it was on and the next day we weren’t sure and then it ended up working out. Huge honor for myself. Sponsors. Glad to be one it. The jinx, I would have to imagine that if you talked to the other people that were supposedly jinxed, they just didn’t play right. They didn’t do their jobs. I am not going to be superstitious about that. I will be about the time I get up and some other goofy things that I do but I chose not to be superstitious about this.”

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOU HAVE THE MOST DIFFICULTY YOURSELF GETTING PAST? IS IT A MISTAKE THAT MAYBE YOU MAKE LIKE SPEEDING? IS IT SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS WITH THE TEAM ON PIT ROAD? OR IS IT AN INCIDENT THAT YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OF THAT HAPPENS ON THE TRACK? IS THERE ONE THAT IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN ANOTHER FOR YOU TO GET OVER? “That’s a good question. I think it’s between a mistake I made and then just being caught up in something. A bad-luck situation. I guess probably the bad luck as I think a little bit more about it would affect me more because if it was my fault, I can at least learn from it and be hard on myself and things like that. I think bad luck would be the thing that hurts the most.”