BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS:
ON HOW EASY IT IS TO SLIDE OUT OF THE CHASE: "The points go along with the race. You put together a couple of bad races and you can be in a really bad position. I had trouble at Daytona and lost quite a bit in the points even though I had a nice comfortable lead. That reminded me how fast you can lose some points and how strong the rest of the competition is. To have someone like Tony Stewart, two time champion and be as strong as he has been all year, sitting outside the top-10 right now is a huge message to everyone in the garage area.
ON WEEKEND OFF BEFORE BRICKYARD: "Man, there is nothing on my mind right now except the off weekend that is coming up, taking a little vacation. We just have such a grind week to week. Our test over there was fair, I think when we go back, we will be better. Just excited about that off weekend and looking forward to getting out of here Sunday. I hope it doesn't rain here so we can get done and get going after the race."
ON HOW HARD IT IS TO GET TO THIS HOT PART OF SUMMER: "Yes it does, it does on all the teams. Not only the drivers but the crew members also. The crew members don't have some of the luxuries that the drivers do. Those guys work more hours than anyone in our sport, seven days a week non-stop working. So it does take a toll. The heat and the things that come with the summer make it even that much harder. But it is go time. The way the format is laid out, the season starts off and everybody has a little time to catch their breath and get on their feet. But once everybody gets in to this part of the summer, everybody is trying to finish up one championship battle and then getting ready for a second one."
ON GETTING AROUND WATKINS GLEN: "The Glen is probably the most forgiving road course we run on. I think the gap between the fastest cars and slower ones is a lot closer just because the track is a lot more forgiving. It is fun. I enjoy going there. We have been decent in our road course program so I think it will be fun.
ON QUESTIONABLE MOVES MADE ON THE RACE TRACK RECENTLY BY EXPERIENCED VETERAN DRIVERS: "I would say at New Hampshire I was probably the most aggressive I have been in a race car in quite some time. I think I hit the wall four times and had a left front fender caved in from David Stremme and all kinds of stuff. But I think it is just racing. From my perspective, I haven't seen anything different on the track than other years. I just think that everybody has to race hard. Something else that I think other drivers in the sport are feeling is that 'If I don't stand up for my self, if I don't command that respect, I am never going to get it and people are going to run all over me.' There are good examples of how to do that and there have been some bad examples of how to do that. I just think you have people standing up saying 'Hey you aren't going to spin me out, you aren't going to knock me out of the way.' People are just trying to get that respect."
ON BEING LAST DRIVER TO WIN BOTH RACES HERE IN ONE YEAR: "Fortunately there is only a month from one race to the other and technology doesn't change that much. When you go a whole year to get back to a track, technology changes so much, it is hard to really bring that setup back and have momentum. The 11 car (Denny Hamlin) coming in here has got to be the favorite. He was so strong here a month a go. If there is anyone who can do it, I think he can. He was really smooth, really fast and really kicks our butts here last time.
ON IMPORTANCE OF CREW: "The crew is very important. You need good pits stops on pit road number one, to get the car right and to decide what adjustments to make and then make big adjustments. And then not lose a lot of time on pit road because we all know how important track position is. I really rely on these guys and fall back on them. We just try to run our own race, play our own strategy and it seems like the races are long enough that we can get the car sorted out and get back up to in to a decent points paying position."
ON SEAN KERLIN (MECHANIC ON CREW) "I have known Sean for a long time. Before he started with our race team. I knew him back when Blaise Alexander was alive and his family and Blaise family were very close and I got to know him then. He has been a huge asset to our race team. He is great for morale, he is very talented at what he does and is moving up internally at Hendrick Motorsports. He does a great job. He takes care of my stuff. He takes care of my seat and all the little things I need to be comfortable in the car.
ON WEATHER DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WEATHER NOW AND JUNE HERE "The hotter it is, the less grip there is. This race track is pretty consistent, it is an older surface and there usually a lot of grip to start with. So setups will be similar but you might have a little bit more tire wear than you did in the spring. "
ON BEING EXCITED ABOUT GETTING TO THE CHASE AFTER HAVING LED THE POINTS FOR SO LONG. "Man, I wish the Chase was over and I had the championship right now (chuckles). It is a long year, there is a lot of races left and we will just keep diggin."
ON CLOSE BATTLE BETWEEN THREE THROUGH 11 POSITIONS IN POINTS: "I think on the race track, we are all just racing for each position. We know how important each position is. I haven't seen anything different from competitors based on where they are in points. It is just good hard racing. It doesn't matter if it is me leading the points or someone who is 20th in points. The competition just keeps getting stronger and stronger. These guys are all good racers so we are just racing our butts out."
ON EXPERIMENTING WITH SPRINGS, SHOCKS ETC? "Yes, we are always changing but there is a general trend we stick too. We were probably a little more aggressive a month or so ago. But we are really trying to narrow in and settle on some things that we think are best for the race car. Just so that we can refine it during practice. We try to find a package that will pick us up three-tenths and then from there we can adjust to find another tenth or two. And then it is just about fine tuning it. I think we have done a good job about planning this year out and how we are going to approach it. I feel good about the package I think we are going to settle on."
ON FEELING OF WALKING INTO INDY: "Just the nature things that go through your mind besides Gasoline Alley. When you walk out pit road, and see the cars come by and see the yard of bricks. They are both cool things but I can't say that it is any different than the first time I drove in to Daytona. They are both huge races, In the world I lived in then, Indy was the big race. In the world I am in now, Daytona is the big thing so they are both huge events."
THOUGHTS ON WHAT WOULD TELL NASCAR ABOUT POSSIBLE CHANGES TO THE CHASE "I would say, and my opinion is going to be much different than the promoters, in my opinion, it should be anyone within 400 points, not a minimum number of race cars, just anyone who is within 400 points makes it in the Chase. Then increase the points in the Chase when the Chase starts. I think it is just ridiculous that you race for 26 races, you come and have a five points margin, I think there should be a bigger points spread between each position."