JIMMIE JOHNSON NO. 48 LOWE’S/ KOBALT TOOLSCHEVEROLET met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed his feelings going into the chase, the Richmond incident with Kurt Busch, team radios and other topics.
ON RACING AT CHICAGOLAND AND GOING FOR A SIXTH STRAIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP. “ I think that yesterday’s media and what we have been through the last day or so, I think Chicago has embraced our sport and kicking off the chase, I thought the media stuff yesterday was successful and such good momentum to carry into the chase for our sport. As far as this track, and Atlanta coming out, Atlanta for us is a tougher track with the old car we seem to have things sorted out but I would say our average finish is more consistent here than what we had in Atlanta. When I saw the schedule last year when it was released, I felt comfortable about this track being moved into the chase and I think it is a great host to kick off the chase. Looking forward to today, it is obviously much different than what we experience over the last four or five months with the temperatures. There will be a lot of grip out there today, not sure how it is going to play into our efforts on Saturday for qualifying but this might be a good chance for us to get a feel for the race. Day practices with night races are always tough. It might help close that gap a little since this is an afternoon race. Was this a night race last year?” IT WAS IN JULY LAST YEAR, VERY HOT “I almost spun out, never mind” I knew there was a night thing in my brain for some reason” (Laughs).
EVERY YEAR THIS TIME WE TALK ABOUT SO AND SO IS GOING TO BEAT THE GUY TO BEAT JIMMIE THIS YEAR, WHY IS IT THAT EVERY YEAR YOU SEEM TO BE OVER LOOKED DESPITE YOUR PRETTY PROVEN TRACK RECORD: “I think at this point it is safe to say it’s not going to last forever, we have gone so far into these championships, and it is just going to end at some point. Rightfully so, some guys who have shown a lot of speed over the years and we all look at the markers leading up to the chase and who is going to be competitive. In years past Kyle (Busch) was on a tear, Jeff (Gordon) is showing a lot of strength right now, so some of it is far. From my experience when you get into the chase, it is its own season. When you start over and the points spread is as close as it is from first to twelfth everybody has a shot again. Our guys have always done well with the pressure.”
DOES CHAD FEEL THE SAME WAY THAT HIS TIME WILL EVENTUALLY RUN OUT? “Well, Chad (Knaus, Crew Chief No. 48), in his mindset it may seem extremely confident at times but he is more focused on the reality of what could happen and wants to see. Techniquely you could win every race in the course of the season. Is it possible? No. I say no, he says yes, it is possible. He just looks at things a little bit differently, and with the championship coming on, when you look at the facts within our race team and how we have been running, how we have entered this chase versus other chases. We are just as strong as we have been for the last five years. That is what he looks at, and he needs too. He needs to build our team around that. I do not want to sound in a way that I am not
DO YOU THINK THAT PLAYED INTO YOUR FAVOR OR INTO YOUR HANDS THE FACT THAT EVERY SEASON YOU HAVE COME IN AND YOU ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE ONE THAT ALL THE TEAMS ARE LOOKING AT? “I want to be that guy. I wanted to lead the points coming into the post season, we worked hard to put ourselves into a position for that and with what went on at Richmond (International Raceway) it did not happen. I want that target on my back and on my team at all times. There is an advantage you can gain by dominating and setting the mark and having everybody chase you. That is good momentum. I wish that we had that on our side. We don’t right now. We are running well, we are running in the top five, but we have got to go out in the chase and set a statement and get back to our ways and do what we can.”
JEFF GORDON SPOKE THIS WEEK ABOUT PAUL MENDARD’S SPIN AND SAYS IT IS FISHY THAT IT HAPPENED AT THAT TIME IN THE RACE, IT LEAVES ME TO THINK IF HE IS QUESTIONING IT, DO THINGS LIKE THIS HAPPEN. HAVE YOU SEEN THINGS LIKE THIS HAPPEN ON THE RACE TRACK, IS IT KINDA LIKE WHERE THERE IS SMOKE , THERE’S FIRE. HE IS TALKING ABOUT IT SO THEREFORE IT HAS HAPPENED IN THE PAST. “Yea, I don’t know. Yesterday was the first I knew about it. My race was obviously way out of whack. Spent some time behind pit wall, I didn’t even know what the last caution was for. Yesterday, I had a lot of questions asked to me about it, but I still don’t know what happened and still haven’t seen any video, so no real clue what happened.” Yea, I mean you can be difficult to pass but at least in my position and over the years that stuff comes around and it polices itself. Sure, somebody might be able to do something in the immediate future to benefit a teammate that gives them short term gain but there is next week and there is the week after and then it all finds its way to balance out. I have not been a part of any of that. I have not spun out; I guess that is what the allegation is. I have not done anything like that for a teammate. On plate tracks you can help teammates, other tracks it is real difficult. The only thing you can do is be difficult to pass is about it.”
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT RADIO COMMUNICATION. MIKE HELTON WAS TELLING US THAT IF IT WAS DRIVER SPOTTER CREW CHIEF IT HAS TO BE ON A LIVE CHANNEL BUT APPARENTLY TEAMS USE DIGITAL RADIOS TO TALK WHERE PEOPLE CANNOT EVESDROP. DOES HENDRICK DO THAT? DO YOU GUYS USE OTHER RADIO CHANNELS TO TRY AND COMMUNICATE STRATIGIES TO ONE OTHER THAT THEN GETS RELAYED TO YOU GUYS BY SECRET MEANS? IS THERE A LOT OF THAT GOING ON? “I think that our group brought the digital radio in years back. What it was used for and what we use it for during practice is so that we can talk openly on our channel and not give away our shock setting and our spring settings and the adjustments were making to everyone else. NASCAR understands there needs to be a level of privacy there and allows it to happen, but those digital radios cannot be in the racecar. From there I think there are conversations that take place on pit road during a race or the crew chiefs can talk openly about strategy and what they want to do but NASCAR wants the fans to have access to as much as possible and that is why the analog radios are the only ones allowed in the car. We use it so we can talk openly about a variety of things. Strategy can be a part of that, things taking place during the race. I am on the digital radio when the car is parked. There is a rule there that the car has to be stopped and the engine off in order for us to use the digital radio. I will use it and speak on it during practice to talk about what we need to. During the race, I am not sure what level really takes place there. What happens for us is truthfully everybody in the pits is on the digital radio and then they scan the analog and then Chad (Knaus, Crew Chief), myself and the spotter talk on the analog. When I come in they literally unplug on radio and plug me into the digital so that I can join that conversation and as I leave to go out on the race track, Chad is typically thinking about his next change and will be instructing the guys get this ready, that ready maybe some conversation between he and the engineers about next steps and things like that. So that traffic is not in my ear while I am driving around.”
COULD YOU NOT TALK IN CODE KINDA LIKE HOW A SKIPPER GETS A BASEBALL PITCHER WHAT PITCH TO THROW TO GET AROUND THAT? “You can and we did. First four or five, six years maybe, we would talk in code and frankly practice we just wouldn’t talk. Come in and window net would come down, crew chiefs are inside the window of the car and you would talk in great detail about springs, shocks and those things but when they allowed us to use a digital radios, it just made it easier to work in the garage area, to have everyone up to speed because we have guys. Like our shock guy is inside the transporter waiting for his adjustments to come from the crew chief instead of Chad being in the window talking to the engineers and someone is running through the garage area to the transporter to tell the shock guy, it just saves a lot of steps and it just helps things progress much quicker.”
ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT THE WHOLE SITUATION WITH KURT BUSCH IS BEHIND YOU ENTERING THE CHASE? “I am. The discussion we had following Richmond, that is the first we have had a discussion like that. I do feel it is behind and I am entering this chase and the next ten races, and really forever on the race track that it is behind us, and certainly hope that it is.”
YOU START TO HEAR THINGS LIKE THAT BECAUSE THEY SAY JEFF MADE AND YOU ARE GOING TO HEAR A LOT MORE OF THOSE TYPE THINGS I GUESS DURING THE CHASE BECAUSE GUYS TRY TO PLAY MIND GAMES DO YOU THINK THAT IS GOING TO BE APART OF ALL THIS. PEOPLE JUST TRYING TO GET INTO EVERYONE’S HEADS. “It could be. There are some guys that are really good at it and then some of it might be I don’t know if it is intentional as a mind game. But we are in a world now that we just speak out mind. There are a lot of opinions out there. Opinions may be kind of misconstrued and you guys may give us too much credit for our opinions, and might think that it is a mind game and were just speaking our minds. A lot of those speaking for myself I walk in here, I don’t read and watch and spend a lot of time knowing what goes on in this room, so I walk in and usually do not understand most of the back story, give my opinion, then I see it somewhere else and it maybe doesn’t have, maybe I was not up to speed like I should have been. And it has a little different meaning once it is placed in to the overall story. Some of it is just opinions of drivers.”