Indianapolis Motor Speedway
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed racing and winning at Indy, racing the Nationwide car for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Watkins Glen and other topics:
THE MODERATOR: We're going to go ahead and roll with Jimmie Johnson. Big winner here before at the Brickyard. He's currently second in points, one win on the season.
Jimmie, I'm going to ask you a couple things. Coming to the Brickyard, it's one of the more prestigious events on our schedule. You won it before. You know what it means to kiss the bricks. Also this is the first race in what they're calling the five-race Sprint Summer Showdown. You can win a million dollars coming out of Atlanta. Talk about what it means to win at the Brickyard and the cool deal with the Sprint Summer Showdown.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The Brickyard to me, it is such a tough race. There's only a couple tracks on our schedule that when you walk into the track you feel the history of the facility. This is one of them. The focus and the notoriety of this racetrack and its history worldwide throughout motorsports, it builds in my mind. I have that sensation when I walk around and think about the men that have raced here before me, the world's greatest have been here and competed.
Very excited to be here once again. Very fortunate to have won three times. Hopeful to win a fourth.
The 500 and the Brickyard 400, it's argued back and forth which is more prestigious and important. It's tough for me to pick one. But they're both very special. I'm very fortunate to have won at both of them. With my upbringing throughout motorsports, it's extra special for me to come and compete at this track and to have won here. I can remember all the races I watched with my grandfather and dad, watching the Indy 500. It's really special to come back.
As far as what Sprint is doing with the Sprint Summer Showdown, I mean, it's going to be tough to do. Hopefully someone does it because there's a lot of money up for grabs. The component where it links in the fans and also the driver's charity, a lot of good can be done with that $3 million.
I'm excited for it and I think it will bring a level of excitement, a good talking point, maybe spice things up a little bit. So I'm very happy it's here and proud of Sprint to dig into their pocketbooks, wallets, put in some cash.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. You talk about the prestige of winning here. In golf people are measured by their majors, tennis by their Grand Slams. Do you feel like that's a fair comparison? There's four major races we have. When you look at it, you and Jeff are the only two that have won all four. Carl and Kyle haven't won here. Is that a fair way to measure greatness like other sports?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess we have more ways to measure. I think golf, when you look at majors, I don't know, it depends how you look at it. They have No. 1 in the world, they have their FedExCup, then the majors. I think it's relatively similar. We as a sport haven't focused on the majors maybe as much as they have.
I'm thinking it's probably five or six. There's tracks with a ton of history that we all dream about winning at and competing on those tracks. When you walk into these facilities, you're like, I'm here. So we do have those tracks.
Q. Can you say a driver is great if he hasn't won at those tracks?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, Jeff and I aren't the only two best drivers to sit in a car. There's a lot of other guys if you think of everybody before us. I don't think that's a fair way.
Q. Current guys.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I thought you meant ever. Would you stop making me think. I'm not really good at thinking (smiling).
I don't know. I think it's a lot like golf where your career can be defined by a major but at the same time, number one, the guy that is the leader of the Golf World, leader of our racing world, at the end of the year, that's our man.
Q. (Question regarding the Nationwide race.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I want more reps on road courses. I want to continue to improve. I've won one Cup race at Sonoma. I want to become more proficient and better at it. The way you do that is by getting laps.
I haven't been able to run as many Grand-Am races this year as I did last year, with the schedule moving around with the Six Hours at the Glen. I want to get some more reps on the track and get some more experience.
Q. This is a very difficult track. Only six guys in the field have won. Your second only to Gordon in terms of number of victories. What about this track plays into your strengths? Why have you won and other real good drivers haven't?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It is a very technical track. The way you drive this track really only applies here. It took me awhile to figure this place out. I still usually get off to the wrong start. My natural tendencies to drive a track don't apply here with the flat corners, the square corners we have, no banking. My driving style hasn't worked here. I have to focus really hard on the way to drive this racetrack. I think that happens to a lot of people.
When you get off to a slow start, don't qualify well, it's so difficult to make up positions on the track, starting up front is important. Although I say that, and the first one I won here, we got a flat and had to come back through the field. It's tough to pass. You get sucked into the mistakes others are making on the track.
You almost have to race the racetrack almost in a Darlington manner, not because the track is going to reach up and bite you and you'll crash the car, but you'll go a half second slower if you don't drive the track the right way. That's why this track is so difficult.
Q. Did you have a 'Eureka' moment where you went all of a sudden from not real good to great here or was it more of a gradual progression?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Back when we had testing, we tested here a bunch, part of a tire test. When we came back here in '06, won here the first time, something was different from the first lap on track. I went around and put together a lap. It was top of the board. At that point, Whoa, okay. I made some small changes in how to drive the track and it equaled a lot of speed.
Anytime you have a long straightaway, a small mistake leading onto that straightaway compounds and adds up to so much time. At that point the light switch went on and I was like, Oh, that's how you drive this place.
Q. This week you got into areas on Twitter that some wouldn't. Do you think that athletes are held back too much on doing that? Do you like expressing yourself more like that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I don't feel like I'm held back. There's no one telling me what to do or not to do. I just don't think that we get outside of many topics in our media centers, media gatherings, it's really just racing related.
It's amazing how hot of a button politics are. Certainly a lot of people are agreeing with my opinion and a lot of people against. That's why we have the government we do today and the freedoms we do, is because we can all have an opinion.
Clearly we've got a ton going on in D.C. that needs to get straightened out. Every time a headline is released, it's more discouraging, the status of our economy and country. Hopefully we can turn things around.
Q. You seemed pretty upset at Montoya after New Hampshire. Are you still upset?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely upset. What it really boils down to, I don't feel at least two of the three things that have happened are intentional, they were racing instances. But there's a point where you've got to respect the people you're racing around and also respect a driver that you may have had some run-ins with.
Juan and I have a friendship, we get along great. After three times of me getting turned around, hearing apologies, I'm tired of hearing apologies. I don't want the contact, I don't want to be raced that way. We can do it for different parts of the race, but towards the end of an event I find myself spun around. I've certainly had my fair share. It certainly can't happen again.
Q. Is this something you have to settle on the track?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: He and I have always talked about things in the past. I have not heard from him since New Hampshire. It's not like he drove in there and ran me over. There's a flow at Loudon and how you drive that put me in a bad position and got me turned around. I'm sure we'll talk about it. We always do.
I've was in my motorhome. At Darlington when he spun me out there, then I'm in my motorhome showering. He walked into my bus, into my shower, to apologize. Then he told me I'm naked. Of course I am, I'm in the shower. There's some times where you can understand. But after three times being turned around, hearing 'I'm sorry,' it can't happen.
Q. What are some strengths and qualities this year you're seeing?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The obvious strengths are we see when teams are running well on a weekly basis. I really look back at the tough times that the 99 team and the Roush organization have been through in the last year or so, how they stuck together as a team and came through that. There's a lot to be said about that.
I feel that they can face adversity. When you get into the Chase, it's very rare to have all 10 races go your way. I don't know if it's even happened before. To be able to overcome adversity and stick together as a team is an important asset or quality you need to be a champion. They've proven they can do that through tough times over a long period of time. I find that to be their most dangerous asset or attribute.
I don't know. I mean, I don't know what they're dealing with, where they are with their cars. But the pressure of a championship does weird things to everyone. I would have to say, it's something I have to face. Even though we've won the last five, it's a new year and set of challenges. The pressure that takes place from Chicago on now, the last 10, it's a different world. The first 26, running fine, leading points, but that pressure cooker starts in September. We'll see how everybody responds.
Q. There's a lot of guys contending this year, a lot of winners. What do you attribute that to?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Personally I think it's because the rule book has stayed the same for a long period of time. Anytime there are rule changes, the big teams have a chance to find speed first. There's a separation and a gap, some guys that dominate. The rules have stayed similar for a long period of time; it's allowed everybody to close up.
We have great parity, frustrating parity I'm sure from a fan and driver standpoint at times. All the cars are running the same speed which looks great on paper, but on the racetrack you can't pass.
I'm hopeful there's a rule change and we have a chance to go chase that next chunk of speed and try to beat everybody to do it.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know, maybe a LeMans style start. Let's make it different.
Q. How does it feel to run second in the points?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It really sucks to be running second, to be honest with you (laughter). How does it feel to be leading the points? Nothing bad about it.
Q. Pocono next week. What does it take to win there? Bringing back shifting, was it a good thing?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. The shifting, I feel like it gave us something to do. Here we're shifting.
For those watching on TV, Carl Edwards is watching. He's been asking me questions. There we go (laughter).
Shifting at Pocono. I thought it was a good thing. I don't know how it looked on television, what people thought of the racing. Again, as competitors, you want to have a chance to work on your equipment and try to find something before other people do. There were different straightaways that brought an element of something new, an area to work in for us. So from an engineering standpoint, a team standpoint, I like that side of it, felt like it was better.
Q. What are the keys to winning it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Boy, keys to winning there. I think the first thing that comes to mind is fuel mileage. It's one or the other. You either have a really fast car and poor fuel mileage, not running so good, roll the dice, stay out, save fuel, take those two strategies. I'd rather have the better-driving racecar and fight for the finish.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, thanks a lot.
By: team chevy