Jimmie Johnson - Kentucky 400 Friday Media Visit

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Kentucky Speedway

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Kentucky Speedway and discussed the new venue at Kentucky, the ESPY awards and other topics.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Lowe's Jimmie Johnson Foundation
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Lowe's Jimmie Johnson Foundation

Photo by: Bob Heathcote

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE NOMINATED AND ON STAGE AT THE ESPY AWARDS?: “It means a ton to me. With winning the AP Athlete of the Year honor and then with the Forbes honor earlier this year, to be recognized amongst the whole sporting world, I think it’s a huge feather in my cap and then also our sport. Very honored to be up again for Male Athlete of the Year and then also Driver of the Year – both honors are extremely important to me. I’ve been fortunate to win Driver of the Year in the past and hope to do it again. If Athlete of the Year took place then it would send a huge message to the sporting world. Again, just honored to be nominated and look forward to going out there next week. Be fun to go to L.A., it will add a lot of travel and work to the schedule, but something I am very excited to go do.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO COME TO A NEW RACING VENUE?: “New venues are fun although this one in a couple aspects, isn’t necessarily new. We’ve all been here a lot testing before in years past and then when you’re on the race track you realize that the surface is nowhere near new. Very rough and the grinding that has taken place has added some different kind of lines and character to the race track as well. I was excited to see how much rubber went down yesterday. I don’t know if we’ll get back to that state again when you think about how many laps were made yesterday by the Cup Series guys and all the tires we had on the track. It put down a ton of rubber and I wish that the lane kind of moved out a little wider – I think that would be good for the race, but with the grooves in the track, we kind of found a certain spot and that’s kind of as high as guys were willing to take it. If you got outside of that area, I don’t know if it was the grooves, if it was still dirty up there from the grinding or if the rubber not being laid down. The rubber seemed to lay down weird too on those grooves. It just didn’t work right up there. We didn’t get a wider race track. Hopefully we can end up with a wider track. We are going really fast around here and with half the racing lanes, when I catch guys in traffic yesterday, it would slow you up three or four tenths with the track being as wide as it was. Hopefully we can get that outside lane and up by the wall worked in so we can use it.”

IS IT SOMETHING EXTRA TO WIN AN INAUGURAL RACE?: “To win an inaugural event that is something special to do. Would love to have that opportunity and in this track, for me, when I ran here in Nationwide and the test sessions we’ve had, this track has beat me up quite a few times. I’ve torn up a lot of race cars here. Certainly hope that’s behind me and I can come out of here with a straight car and a win.”

WHY ARE THERE MORE DIFFERENT WINNERS THIS YEAR?: “I think that as time goes on and the longer the rules stay the same, it closes the gap up on the competition side. It allows more winners, it provides for more winners throughout the course of the year and the less you’ll see one guy running away with it. Rules open up and there’s some changes, I think you’ll see the big teams kind of migrate away from the rest of the group and then find something first. Certainly hope that Hendrick Motorsports would be the group to do it and we’ve been that in the past. Then everyone starts catching up. My opinion, it’s the fact that things have stayed relatively the same for a long period of time. The other component to that which throws us from week to week is the tire. The tire technology is changing, Goodyear is trying to make their product better each and every week and we’re not coming back to the same race track with the same stuff. Even from a spring race to a fall race it changes. It’s amazing how big of a difference the tires make. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just different. Every time you show up, you have to start over and figure out what the tire wants. I think those two elements have changed things quite a bit.”

DO YOU THINK THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON?: “I don’t know. This year has been very tough to predict. I don’t know. I kind of see more of the same from my opinion. We see more teams sorting their stuff out and Penske is the perfect example of it. The start of the year, things weren’t working well for them and now they’re there. It seems to be more crowded up top then it’s ever been. I would predict it’s more difficult – and every year that goes by its more difficult for someone to dominate and I think that’s what’s so special about what the 48 has done over the last five years. It’s just a tough, tough environment and this year is another step tougher, more difficult.”

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE END OF THE DAYTONA RACE WITH THE 88 AND ARE YOU ON THE SAME PAGE GOING FORWARD?: “Oddly enough, it was nothing that Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and I had talked about or Chad (Knaus, crew chief) on our big calls that we have each Tuesday with all four drivers and crew chiefs. It’s never been brought up. I assume there was conversation between Chad and Stevie (Letarte, 88 crew chief) before that pit stop and we elected to pit. I know that when I took to the race track after that pit stop, Chad said if we have a third – this was when the second green-white-checkered came along he felt like some guys were getting ready to run out of fuel and we were hopeful to get a third and then we would have been in a great situation. I assume that was the thought process. The tires don’t make a big difference there so I think it was trying to get enough fuel in the car to go the distance for three green-white-checkereds. Our run to the front was way too late and we were trying to be conservative, trying to make sure the 88 finished the race and with what we saw at Talladega, we felt like going with five laps to go or something wouldn’t be a problem. With 15 to go, the lead group was so far ahead, we’re like, ‘We’re dead in the water.’ I think when we came to that last, when we pitted that last pit stop for us, I know from the 24 (Jeff Gordon) standpoint and our standpoint and the 88’s, it was just to do what we can to get our best finish and kind of every man for himself because we were so deep in the field. We chose to pit.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED AT THE REACTIONS FROM FANS ON TWITTER?: “In some respects, but as time went on and the more I checked in on Twitter, I saw a lot of support from his fans. In the beginning there was plenty of creative messages on there for me. As time went on and I was really impressed and appreciate the support from Junior Nation and then also my fan base defending me and it still at the end of the day, every fan is entitled to their own opinion. There are different things that exist inside the garage area and a different reality than people see. It’s been fun. It was my first real experience to how active social media can be following a race.”

HOW IMPORTANT WAS YESTERDAY’S TEST SESSION TO PULL EVEN WITH DRIVERS WHO HAVE RUN HERE A LOT?: “From a driver’s standpoint, this track has changed so much from the last time I had driven here. My first laps on track had Brad (Keselowski) behind me and I let him go and got in behind him just to see what line he was running. He only showed me one and two and then he pulled off and came to pit road. Wish I could have followed him a little bit more. It was a big help for myself, the teams also. We’ve been really eager to test on a mile-and-a-half just to more than anything validate the adjustments on the car and we believe certain things so whatever they do on the car. Until you come to the track and have a chance to validate it and really look at it with the telemetry, you’re just guessing. It was nice to get a data set. Granted, it’s real specific to this track and especially how rough this track is. I don’t think we have another track on the schedule that’s rough in this manner. Then the grooving in the race track is different too. If you’ve ever driven on a steel bridge, you know how your car kind of wanders as you’re on a steel bridge, that’s what the grooves do to the car. The car is constantly moving around and you’re wondering, ‘Am I loose or tight or is that just the grooves in the track?’ It was nice to get that on track experience to close up the gap between the experienced drivers here and the ones that weren’t. Then to also get some date on the race track was very important. I hope that NASCAR considers doing this more often. I think yesterday went really well for a lot of the teams and it makes sense. We’re here, let’s put some telemetry on the cars and go out there and validate and learn a little bit.”

WHY HAS THIS TRACK BEEN TOUGH FOR YOU IN THE PAST?: “I think from my memory, I had a decent race going in the Nationwide race and Jeff Green was the dominant car and he had some issues, was back where I was in fifth or sixth and we crashed over in three and four. That’s kind of my memories of the race, but this track has a really high level of grip and with the speeds we carry, especially in turns three – it’s such a flat entry and there’s not much banking until you get really far around three and four and then it kind of catches the car. All of my issues have been in the entry or turn three. I’ll lose it early in the corner and end up against the fence somewhere over in three and four. One time we had to cut our test short, we had a backup car, but I hit pretty hard left rear and left side. When I got out of the car, I wasn’t really there and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) kind of did one of these in front of my eyes and said, ‘Alright, pack it up, we’re going home, we dazed him.’ Hope that doesn’t happen again.”

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN A RACE TRACK THAT NEEDS TO BE RESURFACED AND ONE THAT DOESN’T?: “My opinion, that line is if the owner/operator of that facility thinks the asphalt is going to come up. Is it going to cause a problem? Is it going to affect the race like what we saw in Daytona? Outside of that, we need this character on the tracks. The rougher it is, the more interesting the surface, this grinding, it’s a whole different game and I think the cars are so equal that we need the tracks to separate the field somehow. If that’s a rough surface and shocks become important or driver technique and lines become important, that will open up opportunities to pass. If we have perfectly smooth race tracks, tons of grip, it’s going to be a parade out there at 200 mph. In my opinion, it boils down to can the track support the vehicles, the heat and not come apart.”

TELL US ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF THE ESPY VIDEO: “Had some fun with that. I think I actually tried to steal some stuff from your (Marty Smith) standup routine. We shot a commercial that day with Kasey Kahne that will be running on SportsCenter on ESPN and it was a lot of fun. There was some good humor in that spot. Then ESPN was nice enough to let me film some more. I think we did two or three spots that are all viral videos that are running right now. If anybody has a chance to check them out, you should. I know through our Facebook and Twitter accounts you can get to them. I imagine if you Google or just look on ESPN, those viral videos are out there. Just had fun with it. Trying to draw a little attention to the two awards that I’m up for and acting like a fool or a J.A. as you like to call me. It was just good fun.”

By: team chevy

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, jimmie johnson, kentucky, nascar, nscs, sprint cup