Jimmie Johnson Homestead Friday media visit

Team Chevy Racing press release

JIMMIE JOHNSON NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway and discussed the end to his championship streak, who he is choosing to win the 2011 title, shopping with his wife and other topics.

Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TALK ABOUT COMING HERE TO HOMESTEAD AND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THIS WEEKEND: “Yea, just excited to get on the race track and want to finish up the season on a positive note. Truthfully try to get to victory lane, we finished second here last year and have been steadily improving at this race track. It has been an interesting couple of days. It hit me yesterday with the champions press event that took place, realized that I was not there and a part of it, kind of hit me in the gut a little bit there. I was even more disappointed to not be there and at least have a shot mathematically. There are little things that keep playing through my mind, last time I was sitting at this table, sitting here on top of the world, with just winning my fifth. Some of those little parts of last year bleeding over into here and looking at those experiences and not necessarily emotional, just thinking about it, like “WOW” it really is over. Disappointed that it is over but very proud at what this team has done, what we have done over the last really ten years, the last five obviously stand out but what we have done as a group over the ten year run so far has been truly amazing and look forward to finishing up strong and I want to be in the top-five in points, finish as high as I can, but I would love to keep the stat alive in of being in the top-five in points for the ten years of my career.”

BEFORE YOU WON FIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS, YOU CAME CLOSE A COUPLE OF TIMES, CARL (EDWARDS) HAS COME CLOSE A COUPLE OF TIMES, WHEN YOU COME CLOSE AND YOU DO NOT WIN, WHAT DO YOU LEARN THAT HELPS YOU THE NEXT TIME YOU ARE IN THAT SITUATION? “I certainly learned from my mistakes. You also, not only learn and get stronger. I look at Carl’s situation with he and Bob (Osborne, crew chief, No.99) and the challenges they have had. At one point they were split up and they came back together. Through all of those trying moments you just get stronger and you learn more. That is what has put them in the position that they are in now. The other part that was weighing heavily on my mind and shoulders in 2006 was I had been close a couple of times in these championship opportunities don’t come around every year. I was afraid that I had missed my chances and then when 2006 came along, we opened up in New Hampshire with our issues and had the crash at Talladega, I was not sure I would ever have another shot at a championship again. I had a lot of anxiety surrounding the finale in 2006 and a lot of pressure on my shoulders because I did not want to miss that opportunity.”

TALK ABOUT BEING PAIRED WITH DARIAN GRUBB BACK IN 2006, WHEN YOU GUYS ENDED UP WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 AND WHAT YOU SAW FROM HIM THEN, HOW HE HAS DEVELOPED AS A CREW CHIEF? “That was a really big year for the No. 48 team, myself, Chad (Knaus, crew chief) obviously for Darian to get the wins that we had including the 500 and to really propel his career onto being a crew chief. Darian, on any race team you have a very tight group of people that work together and with Darian, Chad and I, we had a great thing going, with Chad’s suspension, we talked in the off season how we all needed to step up in our individual roles and then together as a team, to race for a championship in 2006. It was thrown into motion at that point. We had talked about it and thought we were going to start the season in the right space, but we did not have a choice at that point when Chad was sent home, so he learned a lot then, as did I and opened doors for him to go on and be a crew chief and he has done an amazing job. Darian has a certain style, a real friendly, nice guy to work with and he has been able to take that into a very difficult role as crew chief and still keep his style and do his thing and be successful at the same time. I am proud of what he has done.”

IT IS A CHANCE TO REFLECT BACK AND MORE IMPORTANTLY TO LOOK AHEAD, HOW MUCH MOTIVATION DOES THIS GIVE YOUR TEAM TO GET BACK TO THE TOP? “A ton and I can say that in the past, sitting at the banquet is another level of everything setting in and I have hung onto that moment more than anything in years past, have carried that into the off season. I would assume that will take place again, we do not have that nice seat upon the stage; we will be sitting down on the floor and wishing we were up there. I am sure we will leave the banquet highly motivated. Motivation comes easy for all of us. I know that question is asked a lot, but we just want to race and if we are going to spend all the time to do all this we want to be racing for the championship”

DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT EIGHT IS AN ACHIEVABLE GOAL? “I don’t know. I want to believe in it. How long I can race into my career, I think there is a chance, I don’t know how realistic that chance is, but I want to believe in it and think that I can.”

IT SEEMS LIKE THE RACE WINNER HERE ALWAYS GETS OVERSHADOWED BY THE CHAMPION, WHAT IF DALE EARNHARDT JR WON? “I still think he gets overshadowed. It would be a heck of a footnote, but our sport everything is built on the championship. It would be a great party that night too, if he won, but I still think it is secondary to the champion.”

WHO DO YOU THINK WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND WHY? “Man, coming here I think Carl (Edwards) has a bit of the upper hand, just based on past history. I think Tony’s (Stewart) chances are very strong, especially on how they have been running on the larger tracks, but I think I put a little bit of weight in past history at this race track. Both of them I think would be fantastic champions, but I guess I am leaning a little bit more towards Tony with the associate with Hendrick Motorsports and I want to see a Chevy win the championship.”

FOR THANKSGIVING THIS WEEK, YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT FOOD, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO AT THANKSGIVING, FAVORITE FOOD? “Yea, we have been cooking on our own here lately, and surprisingly have come out well. Tried the last couple of years and we will do it again for a third. Me though, I get into mash potatoes, how you can mix everything into them is always fun and tasty. Then dessert is another crucial component to a good Thanksgiving celebration, so all of that. Then I hope I still fit in my fire suit next January.”

TONY STEWART SAID THURSDAY THAT IT WOULD BE PRETTY COOL TO BE THE BOOKEND TO YOUR RUN OF FIVE TITLES, WHAT ARE YOU R THOUGHTS ON IF HE IS ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH THAT, WIN THIS THIRD TITLE AND DO SO WITH THE TITLE OF CO-OWNER AS WELL, KIND OF FOR HIS LEGACY? “Yea, his situation, being an owner of the race team and a driver, I thought that era had pasted. I didn’t believe that it was possible for it to happen again. If it does, that is a huge accomplishment for him and something that I would not want to say would never happen again because he’ll just dispelled that whole process to start with but it is beyond me to think of what it would mean to him, what it would mean to our sport. There is so much work that goes into being a driver; I can’t imagine all the other pieces of the puzzle. Within all that he still has four or five other race teams as well, on the dirt side the sprint cars and all that stuff. I have a great deal of respect for everything he has done in motorsports.”

CAN YOU TRACE FROM THE MOMENT YOU GOT TO THE TRACK TODAY WHAT YOU DID DIFFERENTLY FROM THE LAST FIVE YEARS ON THE FRIDAY OF RACE WEEKEND AND DO YOU HAVE A SENSE THAT IT TOOK THE END TO YOUR STREAK FOR PEOPLE TO REALLY TAKE AN APPRECIATION OF IT? “As far as things being different, today, we have a typical routine that takes place at tracks, so I can’t say that today from a work load standpoint if any different. From an emotional standpoint, I don’t have the pressure of racing for a championship, so much more relaxed then what I have ever been down here. The other points, leaving Phoenix, the last five years, I have left Phoenix with an amazing feeling and confidence going into the final race and obviously the press, championship press event that took place yesterday, that was a reality check for me, through the weekend there will be some other ones but today so far has been very normal if you will. I can’t say I have a full understanding of opinions that are out there and the run that we have been on and maybe needing to not win for it to be appreciated. I don’t have a good gage on that right now, but I can say that I have been extremely impressed and overwhelmed with the respect that has been paid to our streak. I don’t know where it goes from there but every access point I have had to see what the fans are thinking and what people are thinking, there has been a lot of respect passed out. I am very thankful for that and there have been some different tribute shows and some things going on to that I did not really expect to take place. I guess we could be going down that route, I am not really sure yet.”

YOUR TEAM WAS LEAST AFFECT BY THE PERSONNEL CHANGED MADE DURING THE OFF SEASON LAST YEAR, DO YOU EXPECT ANY CHANGES FOR YOUR TEAM DURING THE OFF SEASON? “No, I don’t. Last year was a surprise that I was not really aware of until things happened and it is something that management needed to keep quiet because there were so many moving pieces to it. This year, from the No. 48 standpoint, I do not see any changes taking place next year. We have a lot to learn from this year and Chad (Knaus) and I have already been in meetings throughout this last week setting up wish lists of what we think we can do better, how we can do a better job at it. We are moving forward on next year and figure out how we can dissect weak spots, if it is on track, you know pit calls have changed dramatically this year, what can I do differently as a driver, all those different components, we are addressing and working on them now. Try to do some more come Daytona, but if you look at Kenny (Francis) coming in with Kasey Kahne, there will be a bit of change over at that point. I think Kenny is an exciting spark to bring into the fold at Hendrick Motorsports. Smart guy, that maybe we can learn some things from and incorporate it in all four cars.”

ARE YOU IMPRESSED WITH WHAT KENNY FRANCIS HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO WITH KASEY KAHNE GIVEN THE FACT THAT THEY ARE WITH AN ORGANIZATION WHOSE FUTURE IS BASICALLY UNCERTAIN AT THIS POINT? “A lot of things that Kenny Francis has done I am impressed with. Even the dynamic between Kasey and Kenny, they have stuck together through a lot of stuff, a lot of moving. They have a great relationship, certainly know how to find speed in cars and to go through multiple organizations and figure out how to still win, it is a big feat, we are really going to enjoy having them.”

CHEVROLET JUST UNVEILED A NEW CORVETTE DAYTONA PROTOTYPE, HAVE YOU HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH BOB STALLINGS ABOUT POSSIBLY DOING THE 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA? “Yea, I have an open seat there to drive that car to participate and to have fun with them. This year I have informed them that I won’t come down and compete in the 24, although it is a big year, and a very special year for Chevrolet, with the Corvette, I just want to unplug this year. Really spend some time at home. I am going to regret it when I turn on the telecast and see all my friends out there racing. This is probably the year the Stallings group goes on and wins the 24; I am going to kick myself for not being a part of it. With my daughter running around and how busy things have been, and the work load and stress level and all that, I just want to take the year off. The winter really off this year and show up at Daytona refreshed and ready to go.”

WONDERING IF YOU CAN TAKE ME BACK TO 2006 THAT SUNDAY MORNING BEFORE THE RACE, BEFORE YOU WENT OUT AND WON YOUR FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP, IS IT ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO NOT HAVE SOME NERVES, WHAT WAS THE MORNING LIKE FOR YOU? “Yea, I guess I am even guilty of this, but the comments we hear about guys aren’t nervous. That is ridiculous. I have been a guy saying that so I am ridiculous, but I guess you learn how to manage your emotions and the pressure that comes with it. You find a way to either be happy in that space or not. I think both championship contenders we have this year are very happy being in that role. The pressure is not as bad as it could be. There is no doubt there is pressure. What I have found is the races went by in the “Chase”, got down to the final couple, the pressure started to build and especially over the final race here in Homestead, practice session, you are only worried about how ever many guys are in the running for the championship, that is all you care about, where are they, how are they doing. Even look across the way at their pit crew and their attitude, the pit they have and try to form some opinions, then qualifying goes and you either won or lost a small battle there and then it goes onto the race and on and on. Those are the experiences that I had and I can also say that in those six. I struggled with the reality of the previous two years and not winning the championship. I was not sure I would have another opportunity to win a championship and I did not want to mess it up. The pressure I put on myself to not make a mistake was very high. My friends and people around me could see that, knew that. I came out of the motor home and of course I had every family member and friend around attend and want to be a part of it. The good things if they came, they could tell I was so nervous they would not even make eye contact with me. It was a very stressful year for me. They continue to get easier, and I think last year was the most relaxed I have been, the most enjoyable experience I had, but 06, it was damn near life of death to win the championship for me.”

TONY MENTIONED YESTERDAY THAT YOU TWO FLEW HOME TOGETHER FROM PHOENIX, DID YOU TWO TALK ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND WHAT NEEDED TO BE DONE THIS WEEKEND? DID HE ASK, DID YOU TELL OR DO YOU JUST NOT TALK ABOUT IT? “No, we had a plane problem and had our thumbs out on the tarmac and he was leaving and had seats, so we jumped on with him home. Yea, well we had a plane that we were flying home with and there was some sort of electrical problem that was a no fly. So we were like ok, now we need to hitch a ride home. We caught a ride home with him. There really was not much conversation about things that went on. We talked about the race, and the performance he had in the race and how strong his car was and how good he felt about the race there. That was it, he was real calm relaxed. I think felt, not necessarily relieved, but I know from my own experience when you put a good race in and you go to Homestead with a shot at winning it, there is some excitement there and you are relaxed and eager to get going. I could sense that in him that he was eager to get to Homestead and go racing. I even saw some comments where he wished that he could just go to the track and run then and you just get in a rhythm when you come off the track and you want to go and I could sense that.”

EARLIER YOU WERE ASKED ABOUT YOUR MOTIVATION FOR NEXT YEAR AFTER THIS YEAR, HOW EXPENSE WAS THAT SHOPPING TRIP WITH CHANDRA YESTERDAY? “She did well. (Laughs) She can win trophies for her shopping skills. She is good at that.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, johnson, miami