JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 KOBALT TOOLS - TOUGH TOOLS FOR COOL SCHOOLS IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas, the championship, the team's performance this season and other ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 KOBALT TOOLS - TOUGH TOOLS FOR COOL SCHOOLS IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas, the championship, the team's performance this season and other topics.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE YOUR CHANCES THIS WEEKEND?: "I think we're in good shape. We've got to switch gears and get out of the short track mindset. I don't think Atlanta really crosses over here all that much, but Las Vegas does and we were really fast in Vegas, so I think we'll be good."
ANYTHING SEEM DIFFERENT THIS WEEKEND ABOUT THE TRACK?: "The bumps in one and two seem larger at the top of the track so I'm not sure if that's really the case until we get in the real car, but I'm happy to see the bumps growing and the asphalt color becoming lighter because the slower the cars go, the more abrasive the track is, the less grip there is, the better the racing."
ARE YOU READY FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP QUESTIONS?: "It's a great situation to be in to have those questions asked. It's something that we're hopeful to accomplish. We know the "Chase" is a long time from now and we need to keep our priorities in check and worry about making the "Chase." We were outside of it for a while and we've got our momentum going here and we're solidly up in the points right now. We've just got to get through this summer and transfer and get our stuff in order and hope we can nail 10 good ones again."
HAVE YOU FELT OVERALL IN YOUR GUT THAT THIS YEAR YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN BETTER AND MORE PREPARED THAN LAST?: "I think we are better prepared with race cars this year than we were last year for whatever reason. It's not really a preparation thing, but we've made more mistakes at the start of the season this season than we did last year. Last year the car held us up and this year we've been holding ourselves up. I've been caught speeding on pit road like three times, we've had some different issues and pit strategy has gone the wrong way. Cautions have come out at the wrong time when we're on pit road, so in that respect, we've made more mistakes, but I think we're far better performance-wise than we were last year at this time."
HAVE THE CHANGES MADE TO THE TEAM WORKED OUT?: "Definitely. We have some new blood on the race team - young guys who really haven't been in this environment on a Cup weekend dealing with the best teams and drivers in the business and it just takes a little while. The guys are all very strong mentally and fundamentally with what they do, but there's nothing like race situations. To get through a couple of races, to run strong at Bristol and fight for the win gave everybody a lot of confidence and then going last weekend and performing all day long has really helped cement our team together and hopefully we're going to be hitting our stride and continue on with these winning ways. I try to make analogies to other sports like just trying to stay in the sweet spot and trying to maintain your stride and try to find other things that make sense, because if you're operating at 10-tenths everyday all the time, you're going to make mistakes. If we're able to operate near 10-tenths and not be swinging for home runs and not be pushing so hard and we can still get the job done, then we're going to win championships that way. That's what we've been able to do the last years. We get into the chase, we can win, we can run top three, top five. Tracks that are bad for us we can turn into good tracks and that's because we have a little something left. We're not operating at 10-tenths all the time and hopefully we can do that again this year."
IS THIS A PLACE THAT IS A LOT DIFFERENT EACH TIME YOU GUYS COME BACK?: "It is changing. I think with the spring race, technology is really trying to find its way right now and teams are stumbling on new setups and new ideas. I think that has kind of led to it sometimes for the spring race. Early in the year we're always trying to outdo what we had last year, trying to make it better."
THE ROUSH GUYS ALWAYS SEEM TO BE GOOD ON THE MILE AND A HALF TRACKS. DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS NEED TO CATCH UP A LITTLE ON THE MILE AND A HALF'S OR ARE YOU CONFIDENT ON THAT PROGRAM TOO?: "Based on Las Vegas, I feel that we've got a very good idea for the bulk of the mile and a half tracks and even for the two mile tracks like California and Michigan, I think we're there. In Vegas the car had plenty of speed, maybe it was a little too edgy and little too uncomfortable to drive. So hopefully we can find some driver comfort in this weekend's race and get it to where I can run on that edge for 500 miles. The edge is there with the way we were in Vegas, but I was busting my butt at the end trying to push too hard and just had a little too sharp of a racers edge to deal with. If we can get it good and comfortable this weekend, we'll be in good shape."
IS THERE ANYTHING TO MAKE OF THE FACT THAT JEFF GORDON HAS NEVER WON IN TEXAS OR IS THAT A FLUKE-TYPE THING?: "He's had good runs and qualifies well. Some tracks are just tough on people and I have my handful of tracks that are that way. For Jeff, I'd love to see him win at these remaining two tracks. I think it would be an amazing feat for a driver to win at every track that we race on. So, if that 48 isn't in victory lane then I want to see one of my teammates and it would be great to see Jeff win."
ARE YOU A LITTLE MORE RELAXED IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP RUN THIS TIME AROUND?: "It's so far from now when the "Chase" starts and the real pressure kicks in. Right now it's about making the "Chase" and locking yourself in and being comfortable in the "Chase" and obviously winning races and getting your stuff right. The championship pressure with the new format of the "Chase," it starts so late in the year when you really start to feel it. Now if you're 18th or 20th in points right now, your hopes for the championship are on the line now and the pressure is on you. If you're in this top five then it's a little more relaxed. If you start slipping, that's when the pressure kicks in."
WOULD YOU FAVOR MOVING THE BANQUET OVER TO VEGAS AND SEEING WHAT HAPPENS?: "I'm not against trying stuff out and seeing if we can't make it better. I think it would be smart to sit down a group of drivers, owners, sponsors and fans and find out what's important to everyone and what the right venue would be. It might still be New York in that respect or it might be Las Vegas, or it could be somewhere else. As long as we're making forward progress with our sport and making the experience better and taking care of sponsors, then that's what we need to do. I'm for whatever that would be."
DO YOU GUYS THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE OF GM AND OBAMA'S COMMENTS OR DO YOU JUST FOCUS ON RACING?: "We all think about it and everybody understands the economic troubles our country is having and the world is having and you break it down to motorsports and how important the manufacturers are - what the manufacturers get from racing. We need them. We need each other. Those comments and the April Fool's joke that went around, we don't take it lightly. It's affecting our lives, our livelihoods, our families and our sport that we care for and love, so that stuff gets everybody's attention. Hopefully over time we're able to show how important racing is for the manufacturer and if there are any critics that don't believe in that, we can change their minds and show them."
HAVE YOU AND DENNY MOVED ON FROM LAST WEEK?: "I would expect so. I called him and left him a message. I assume I'll see him here at the track. Based on how things wound down in Martinsville and comments and the fact that he didn't come crash me once the checkered flag came out, there's a lot of telltale signs that show that it was just good hard racing. He and I have always had a great deal of respect for each other so I wouldn't anticipate anything. When you get to a short track and you restart at the end, you're going to have some contact. I had the inside position on him trying to go on by and he tried put the squeeze on me and we got together. I think everything is just fine."
ON SAM HORNISH NOT HAVING MORE SUCCESS: "I think so -- I've watched Sam (Hornish) in the open-wheel stuff for so many years and just dominate, even in lesser equipment. I've been a big fan of him. There's so many elements to our sport -- not only adapting to cars and tracks, but the people on the team and that relationship that exists. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's kept them from performing like we would expect them too. You can see Sam (Hornish) in the car and his effort and how hard he's trying. He's a racer at heart, committed to the sport and I definitely think he deserves to be in our sport and has a spot in it."
WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR SAM HORNISH TO HAVE SUCCESS IN NASCAR?: "It's hard to tell not being on the same team and understanding relationships and what goes on with information sharing among teams and how cars are built. It's very easy in our world to think that you have the same equipment even as your teammate does and if they measure differently off the surface plate it changes the whole way the ratio works on the suspension, spring rate, efficiencies, travels, body displacement -- there's so many small details. Something small at the ground level when you're just scaling the car and getting the measurements of the surface place can change everything and we've seen that in our own organization. So it's real tough to pinpoint what it is -- from driving on track you can see Sam's (Hornish) putting 100 percent in each lap."
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT?: "I've had so many that have kept my career going and moving on and going to the next level -- there's a long list of them. In my Cup career, my first big one for me was my first top-five in Atlanta in my rookie season. I ran three races the year before, ran a few at the start of that season and was fast at times, but not all that consistent. To go to Atlanta and run competitive all day long and finish in the top-five was like a huge relief and a ton of weight off my shoulders. I had a spot in the sport and I was going to have a job come the end of the year and things like that so it was nice."
ARE YOU IN LINE WITH YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS YEAR?: "I think so, I think we look back and say that at Fontana we made some mistakes and had a shot at a top-three if not a win and ended up ninth. Vegas, certainly had a shot at winning that thing and we were on pit road when the caution comes out and fight back and end up wrecking. So I look at those two and think we could have done better, but we still ran really well. We were above pace at Bristol, won at Martinsville so in general I am very pleased with where we're at. I think we could be doing a little bit better in some areas, but I think that our cars are strong and we have some new members on the team and a new season. It just took us a couple weeks to hit our stride and the last couple weeks we've done a great job of it."
ARE YOU STRONGER AT THIS POINT THAN YOU WERE LAST YEAR?: "Last year we were scrambling, we just didn't have cars that we knew what to do to them, we didn't know how to bring them
to the track, we weren't confident in the adjustments to make on the track during a race. This year we have a great baseline set up to work off of and know how to adjust to it so we feel that we are in a much better spot."
ON CHAD KNAUS' PROGRESSION CONTRIBUTING TO THE TEAM'S SUCCESS: "It's been a tough battle for drivers and crew chiefs and engineers. Trying to understand the bump stops and how they work and what's the best way to do it and for us the mentality we had with the old car and coil-binding the right-front it didn't apply directly to this. With the old car we had so much down force, we could sacrifice mechanical grip. This car has a lot less down force so you have to be very selective and smart about the mechanical grip you take away to get your aero-platform. We had to sacrifice all mechanical grip to get some aero in the car with springs, shocks and all that -- when we started off like that, no way, it wasn't going to work. That was our Vegas debacle. This concept worked here so let's try it again and it was terrible. It takes a while to understand the car and then on top of that now that we all have a better idea of the car Goodyear is still trying to find out exactly what tire they want, compound construction and size. It's good and there is always a moving element, a variable and always a target we're chasing. It keeps us working hard."
HAS THERE BEEN ANYTHING YOU HAVE BEEN DISPLEASED WITH IN LEARNING THE CAR?: "In the beginning it was frustrating because the teams feel like they should have had a little more control and be heard a little bit more about what the changes were going to be on the car when the testing took place. There were a lot of issues out of the box and I understand that NASCAR is in a position where they just can't react to every complaint, but I think we got a little behind at the start and now tires have been addressed, we all understand the cars and we know how to drive them and we've ended up in a good spot. I think there is a bit of a teething pain getting started, but fortunately that's behind us and we've got a car we can race now."
-credit: gm racing