Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway to discuss the upcoming race and the season so far. IS IT YOUR TURN (TO DOMINATE) THIS WEEK OR JEFF GORDON'S? "I hope it's my turn.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway to discuss the upcoming race and the season so far.
IS IT YOUR TURN (TO DOMINATE) THIS WEEK OR JEFF GORDON'S? "I hope it's my turn. Unfortunately for me and Jeff there's still 41 other guys who have something to say about it. It's been good fun for us and for the guys at the shop, to see all the hard work come together for these guys. It's been a good time for Hendrick Motorsports and it's probably not going to last forever but we're enjoying it while it's here."
JEFF BURTON WAS SAYING THAT IT COULD GO ON ALL SEASON. DO YOU DARE HOPE FOR THAT? "Well we all hope for it. That's why everyone puts in the hours that they do. But the Gibbs cars have been so close, and the Childress cars, Burton especially, have been right there. These teams are too strong and too good to not have what they need every week. And we go to so many different tracks - it's not as if we go to the same track week in and week out. We're enjoying it but we know that not all good things last forever."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JEFF'S GORDON'S RECENT SUCCESSES? "I think a lot of it is getting to know one another and forming that relationship that a driver and a crew chief need. Stevie (Letarte) and Jeff have known each other a long time but when you're splitting hairs and the competition is as close as it is . sometimes some mannerisms or expressions or gestures . you can see them somehow sense things and they're at that point with their communication right now and it's really making a difference."
WITH JEFF RECENTLY PASSING EARNHARDT'S WINS, DO YOU SEE HIM STEPPING UP INTO A LEADERSHIP ROLE OFF THE TRACK? "I think so. I think that Jeff has the respect of all the drivers and of NASCAR. It's not a position he's looked for or wanted to be in but the drivers in the garage area think 'Hey, you can be that guy and carry that voice for us.' Now I wasn't around and see Earnhardt really handle that role so I'm not sure what it would look like or how it would take place but just from things I hear in the garage area, Jeff could be that guy."
ON THE DRIVER'S MEETING: "I think he did a great job of bringing attention to an area that we needed to focus on. I told Jeff when we got out that if I had said that I would have screwed it up and people would have been laughing at me and saying 'why did you bring that up?' Jeff's been doing this a long time, he understands how to approach NASCAR and he also knows what we drivers are thinking and feeling and he knows how to make a blend of all of that."
HAVE YOU AND CASEY RESOLVED WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN YOU LAST WEEKEND? "Yes. It seems that on all fronts we weren't able to communicate between the teams, get confirmation between the pit boxes . the spotters weren't able to notify one another . and I couldn't see anything from within the car . hand movements and so on. On all fronts we somehow missed it."
YOU WENT OUT AND PLAYED GOLF AND EVERYTHING'S RESOLVED? "We talked a few times and when I eventually got hold of Casey he said 'Look I know it wasn't intentional. Just let it go.' I said 'I appreciate you're saying that but we need to figure out what was taking place and how to prevent it happening in the future.' He's a great sport and a great teammate but at the end of the day it was a situation we should have been able to avoid. They lost a lot of crucial points that they need. We just need to get those guys some luck. They've shown a lot of speed and they showed that that Sunday in Talladega. Unfortunately we were in a situation where we didn't communicate and we caused a crash."
CAN YOU GET TO THE BOTTOM OF WHAT HAPPENED? "I think we saw some things with pit box communications that didn't work like we expected. Our spotter didn't know. So we need to make sure these guys . You can imagine on a restrictor plate race and through binoculars you may not see the general hand movements that the spotter uses to notify the other spotters that you're going to pit. The spotter needs to go up to the other guy and grab him by the arm and say 'hey, we're pitting.' That's a step we're going to take, not to assume that somebody knows . It doesn't have to be a teammate. That situation can happen with anyone behind you. We need to make sure the spotters are communicating up there as well."
YOU AND JEFF (GORDON) HAVE BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL WITH THE IMPALA SS YET NOT VERY SUCCESSFUL AT RICHMOND. WHICH WILL WIN OUT HERE THIS WEEKEND? "We're hopeful we're on the right track. We had a good test but so far with the Car of Tomorrow it seems the teams and drivers that run well at Bristol still ran well at Bristol, the same with Phoenix, also Martinsville for that matter. So I'm optimistic but this is Richmond and I still won't run well here."
YOU HAVE SOME VERY INTERESTING TRACKS COMING UP. "I think they're all good tracks for us. Richmond's a place we want to improve on and at the end of the season, going into the Chase, it's such an important race. We want to leave here right and that we do the right things. But once we get out of here, Darlington is one of my favorite racetracks, Lowe's Motor Speedway has always been good to us, so I think the month of May can be really good for the 48 and for Hendrick Motorsports."
BUT YOU WENT TO TEXAS RED HOT AND EVERYTHING WENT WRONG. CAN A TRACK STOP A TEAM'S HOT STREAK? "I think so. But not only a track. Racing's such a tough deal. It's not as predictable as sometimes we're led into. Statistics show certain things and I think that statistics are right but at Texas we were in great position, we ran in the top three all day long feeling that we were doing the right things to be in there fighting for the win at the end. Jeff was leading and got into the wall. Casey was strong but got crashed in the first lap. So I really think we were going to break that jinx at Texas but it didn't work out. So I guess there are a lot of variables out there and earlier I was saying that this is a good run for us but it's not going to last forever because there are so many variables week in and week out on the race track."
IS JEFF GORDON DIFFERENT THIS YEAR, NOW THAT HE'S MARRIED? "He doesn't seem any different. I know he's married and he's going to become a father but him any different as a race car driver. Maybe we're not used to seeing the finishes we've seen out of Jeff in the past few seasons or so but as a teammate and a friend he's always been the same with that competitive spirit and that desire to win. I think that the thing I'm most impressed with Jeff on is his ability to build a team and create the environment around him that he needs to succeed. For the last few years he's been doing that. He hasn't had the success he's expected and has wanted but he's had a great frame of mind, has lifted the team up and now has the team where it needs to be. I'm really impressed with that."
IS THERE ANY RELATION BETWEEN HIS PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIVES' SUCCESS? "I don't think that they're related. He may say something totally different but from what I see about Jeff it's that the whole situation is coming together for him right now."
WHAT MAKES THE ALL-STAR RACE SO SPECIAL? "A million bucks? That never hurts! I think that we're out there to race for a big purse. We all look forward to that. We all say, going into the All-Star Race that we're not worried about it that there are no points, and then you show up at the track and then you realize that there are a million bucks to win and that competitive spirit kicks in. And you start the race with a very similar competitive mindset to a points race. I think it's very exciting for the fans, for NASCAR, for the track - everyone tries to put on such a good show and not concentrate so much on the competition. The short format, the concerts during the break and all that . there's so much energy at that event from all aspects, that lifts it up and makes it such a special event."
THE FORMAT HAS CHANGED OVER THE YEARS. DO YOU HAVE ONE THAT'S YOUR FAVORITE? "No. I think the race is long enough and the way that things work out at the end, the good cars make it to the front and have a shot at winning. That's all you're really after. The inversion (of the grid) is really interesting and you never know where that's going to end up being but it seems that that last segment is just long enough to have the fast cars get back to the front."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE FAN VOTE? "It gets the fans involved and that's the type of race . we should focus on, get the fans involved and make them feel part of it. That's what makes that race so special for us. I think it's perfect."
WHO ARE YOU GOING TO VOTE FOR? "Can I vote? I haven't even thought about it. Maybe Kyle Petty, he's a good one for it."
DO YOU EVER GET THE SENSE THAT JEFF GORDON IS ENVIOUS OF WHAT YOU'VE ACHIEVED IN THE LAST FEW SEASONS? "I don't think so. Why it's stayed the way it has and why we haven't picked ourselves apart as competitors, as teams . Jeff's really proud of the 48 and what we've been able to do, to win races and the championship and those things. He started the interaction between these two teams, he's maintained it and kept it there and that's something else I'm really impressed with."
HOW WAS YOUR GOLF EXPERIENCE AT QUAIL HOLLOW. HOW WAS IT TO BE ANONYMOUS WITH TIGER WOODS AND SO ON? "I wish I could have been anonymous! They wouldn't have remembered my terrible shots if I had been anonymous! I absolutely had a blast but I can't tell that I've ever been more nervous in my life. Luckily they call Casey first and his first ball goes five feet, the second goes 10 and I go 'I know I can do better than that and that's all I really care about.' And mine went 30 feet. So it was a lot of fun, but very intimidating. As the day went on I parred a couple of holes so I was pleased with that. It was nice to be at an event and to interact with the fans, where I didn't have to worry about my job. I could really enjoy the experience and the autographs and hang out and have conversations with the fans going down the fairways, talk about stuff. A lot of guys were teasing me about crashing Casey, so that was fun. Some heckling going on. All in all it was great fun."
YOU WERE PAIRED WITH DARREN CLARK. DID YOU GET TO TALK TO HIM MUCH? "I did. Unfortunately our round took so long because Casey and I are so bad at golf so we had plenty of time to get to know him. He was a great sport. Unfortunately he had an injury he was trying to work through - he'd been playing soccer with his kids and hurt his hamstring. You could see that as the day went on that his hamstring was really bothering him so I felt really bad for him there."
WHAT DID YOU SHOOT? "Par was your partner. So if weren't going to make par you picked up. I picked up a lot."
JAMIE MCMURRAY IS A FRIEND OF YOURS. HE MANAGED TO STAY UPBEAT DURING HIS BAD 2006. HOW DID HE MANAGE IT? "You're right. He has been able to stay upbeat through the bad times and that's really impressive. I don't know how he does it but he does a good job at it. It would be really hard not to get down on yourself and not get down on your team but he's managed to keep a good perspective on it all. I'm not sure how I'd do it."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DOMINANCE OF HENDRICK AND THE IMPALA SS IN THE CAR OF TOMORROW RACES? "We've been dominant in these races but there have been some other teams that have been very close. I think the Gibbs cars have been dominant in Bristol, also Tony had control of the race at Phoenix, but didn't win the race. So not only have we had good cars we've also been putting ourselves in position to win at the end of the race. That's the other thing that's really important. We hope to keep it going but we know the competition's right there and sooner or later someone else is going to win one of these races."
HAS HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS REALLY DONE ITS HOMEWORK ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW? "I think so. The stats show we've really been on top of it, that we've really done our part. I think there's room to improve, to make the cars better yet with more time, working with them more and more. With limited test sessions we have it's really tough to get a good baseline with the cars, but so far we're doing a great job."
-credit: gm racing