Phoenix: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the importance of leading the points, why Phoenix is such a good track for him, going for four in a row at Phoenix and much ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the importance of leading the points, why Phoenix is such a good track for him, going for four in a row at Phoenix and much more.

ON HOW THE JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION IS DOING. "The foundation is doing great. We're really getting into the fundraising part of the year for us. The track was very generous to form a partnership with us last year and it went really well. This year they came back and we improved it some. Changed it around in some ways and raised money this year for my foundation and also a local charity here in the Phoenix area. I'm not sure if it has a lot to do with the naming of the race, but this year there were a lot more people in the stands and I'm not sure of the number yet but we raised quite a bit of money. More than we expected so a very successful event and great notoriety for the foundation."

HOW DO YOU MENTALLY APPROACH A RACE THAT YOU'VE WON SO MANY TIMES SO YOU DON'T ASSUME THAT YOU WOULD WIN THAT RACE? "I think in getting the experience over these years, I've come in too cocky in my own mind, I've come in not really confident enough in some respects because of what's gone on during the season and through those highs and lows I've just kind of found a spot where I come in with confidence and I feel like I've got a good plan and take today is today and just try to keep it simple and stay even-keeled through it all because we've showed up at tracks where we had great success at and didn't react soon enough when the competition caught us. We were like oh well we won here the last three or four times. We're good, we don't need to worry about the track will come to us. We start the race and we're going to the back and guys are going by us. So we really try not to be caught up in that and we are starting with a different set up than what we ran here the last few times and its comforting to know if that doesn't work and we get through this first practice we can always go back to where we were. Even with the success we've had here with the same car, we're moving on to other things."

YOU KILLED THEM IN NOVEMBER HERE SO WHY WOULD YOU RISK MOVING AWAY FROM THAT? "Just hoping that it's getting faster and better. Without testing it's a good opportunity for us to work on our short-track program. What we kind of learn here we'll cross over to Richmond. We'll also cross over to New Hampshire to a certain degree. So we can spend this first practice trying to develop something. Even if it doesn't work we can go to the shop, dig in deeper and show up at Richmond a generation ahead of where we are at now and maybe a step closer to a better package."

YOU GUYS HAVE WORKED YOUR WAY UP THROUGH THE POINTS TO WHERE YOU ARE SECOND NOW GOING INTO TOMORROW NIGHTS RACE, IS IT IMPORTANT TO BE THE POINTS LEADER THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON OR THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON? DOES BEING THE POINTS LEADER CARRY MUCH WEIGHT? "Yeah, it does carry a lot of weight and I think the ultimate goal and you find some peace in the fact that while you just need to be in the top-12, even if you're fifth or tenth or wherever it is, that's the mark you look at. But as the points leader I think it sends a message to the garage area. You get a lot of great press around that which is important and more so than ever with the economy like it is and showing your value as a race team and your sponsors and all that stuff. So it does carry a lot of weight and I certainly want to be up there and lead through the regular season as often as possible and hopefully through the Chase as well. That's our ultimate goal."

WHY IS THIS TRACK SO GOOD FOR YOU? "It started off not so good for us and then we got a good baseline set up underneath me. I had to adjust my driving style to drive more like Jeff Gordon here. It's something that took me a few years to understand. I learned how to adapt at Richmond and Martinsville here at Phoenix and it's worked out well for me. It's just a different style of driving the car. I'm typically much smoother with the gas and brake and overlap the two feet and spend a lot of time at part throttle. Jeff is typically more physical with the car, hard braking, pulls on the steering wheel real hard and through that requires a little bit more of a tighter set up than I do in most cases and my smoother style just doesn't work on tracks like this. So I had to be aggressive with the inputs to the car and make the car turn and force it to start rotating through the center of the corner."

WITH A TEAM LIKE RCR, THEY'RE GOOD, CONSISTENT AND A NICE TEAM, BUT WHY DO YOU THINK THEY DO NOT RUN WITH YOU GUYS FOR THE WINS? "I don't know. I kind of see that as well and I know they're going to be there over the long haul. You'll see them toward the front of the race when a race is over and in points as the Chase wears on -- I shouldn't say that I guess (Jeff) Burton led a large part of the Chase last year. I don't know. There's time I can remember chasing (Kevin) Harvick for the All-Star win and couldn't catch him. Trying to get by Burton last year at Charlotte and couldn't. I don't know why. I think of them as one of the teams to beat and all of their drivers. Sometimes you'd think they would win a few more races than they do and stuff like that, so I see what you're saying but I'm not sure why."

IS JEFF GORDON MOTIVATED BY NUMBERS OR DOES HE EVEN SPEAK TO THAT? "Yeah, I definitely think he is. It's not a conversation that he and I have had. I know how important it was or how special it was for him when he was able to tie (Dale) Earnhardt here a couple of years ago for wins and I could say through my own experience and as I watch myself climb up through those different stats, its activated something in my mind to where now I pay attention to it. I can only imagine that Jeff does as well. He's trying to leave his mark and put his mark in this sport. It's already well established but when you're that close to being one of the best ever I'm confident that it's a motivating factor for him."

DOES IT KIND OF BOGGLE YOUR MIND WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU'RE GOING TO FOUR IN A ROW HERE AT PHOENIX? "It does. I actually kind of forgot about it. I knew that we won with two last year and then when we showed up yesterday and heard that it was three I was like wow that's pretty amazing. It's been a good track to us and I hope to keep it going. We've done a decent job over the years of hanging on to certain tracks that we run well at. A win is at the top of the mind but another good points day would be great. We need more time with working with the new members on our team with pit stops. Just kind of get that rhythm. We've had it the last few weeks, I just can't wait until we're executing every aspect through the whole race and I think that's right around the corner for us."

WHEN YOU GUYS GET READY TO LEAVE THE SHOP FOR A PARTICULAR RACE, DO YOU AS A DRIVER HAVE ANY INPUT WHATSOEVER TO WHAT CAR YOU'RE BRINGING? "From my experience especially as you become a veteran driver you can be involved in as little or as much as you want to. At this point with Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and I and history we'll talk before we go to a race about what our practice plan is, the car we're taking and he'll really explain to me why we are doing things. If I had a problem I could say I think we need to take this car and we've had a couple of experiences like that before where he would call me and say I built a new one its untested, unproven or we've got this car which one do you want to take and we'll make a decision on that and go. The stage we're at and the way we work and I leave a lot of those decisions up to Chad and he'll bounce things off of me but in my opinion one guy needs to make the decisions right or wrong and you build off of that. You learn how to make the right decisions from that. I passed those reigns over a long time to Chad and let him take care of all that stuff."

HAVE YOU EVER DISAGREED? "We disagree all the time (laughing). It's part of it and through that we learn lessons. I try hard to not step in and say I need this spring or I need this adjustment or this car because our success we've proven it to ourselves that one guy needs to be in charge and in my opinion he's living with those cars every day. He's living with the data every day so he needs to be the final answer. I just need to give him the information so he can make his best decision and that's really the way we approach it."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon