JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed racing these next two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, joining the Grand-Am race at Watkins Glen during the Pocono Cup race weekend, JGR drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch,...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed racing these next two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, joining the Grand-Am race at Watkins Glen during the Pocono Cup race weekend, JGR drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and more. Full Transcript:
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKENDS HERE AT CHARLOTTE? "I'm definitely excited for the weeks here in Charlotte. This track has been really good to our race team over the years and also to Hendrick Motorsports. To come to a track that's good for the organization and for the race team to build some excitement and anticipation to get on the race track. For whatever reason, Dover seems to correlate to this track so our run in Dover was really strong. Based on history and how we ran at Dover that we should have a good weekend. I'm excited for it.
"There is different excitement for the All-Star race. Everyone experiences it and sees it. It's just great to not have anything to worry about tomorrow night when we go racing. And then we come back for the 600 and it's the total flip of that to where you have a lot to worry about because it's a 600-mile race and so many things change throughout the course of the event. So it's fun to mix it up this weekend and hopefully we can get the Lowe's car in victory lane."
ON RACING IN THE UPCOMING GRAND-AM EVENT AT WATKINS GLEN 'It's going to be a bit of a challenge time-wise. But I'm very excited to have this opportunity. The Bob Stallings GainsCo Team has invited me to come and compete in the six-hour event that takes place in Watkins Glen while we race at Pocono. So I need to get in the car and make some laps. Hopefully there won't be any weather issues and I can get to the Glen early Friday morning just to run for 10 or 15 minutes the way it looks; commute back to Pocono for our practice session at noon. So we're very excited with the opportunity. I've always wanted to run 'The Boot' (long part of track, Turns 6 -- 9), and I really enjoy driving those cars and am certainly honored that they'e invited me to come and run a different event with them than the 24-hour race.
"So hopefully it all works out. The big thing here is the timing of it. There is also a practice session late in the day, but depending on my qualifying draw and how well we run in qualifying, it will impact that opportunity beyond track as well. There's a good chance I'll only have 10 minutes of practice in that thing before I get in it and have to race it."
DO YOU GO INTO THE ALL-STAR THINKING THAT YOU HAVE TO GET WHAT YOU CAN GET IN THOSE FIRST TWO OR THREE LAPS OR YOU'RE JUST NOT GOING TO MAKE IT TO THE FRONT IF YOU'RE FIFTH, SIXTH, OR SEVENTH AT THE START OF THAT? "Track position is so important and I think we're so programmed that restarts, new tires, if there is an opportunity to pass multiple cars, go like hell (laughs). And that led at least to excitement and bent up race cars, and I guess I fell a victim to that last time. But what's tricky here, unlike a lot of tracks we go to, is that new tires take a while to come in. And this track and combination of the tire and the asphalt, especially if there is any track temp, it's pretty sketchy. And you've got to be smart at the start of that. But we're always walking that fine line and trying to figure out how to make up positions and get by guys. So it'll be an exciting start as well. And again, we're all so programmed that new tires, take advantage of it, you're bunched up; you'll see a lot of intense racing on restarts."
AS A FORMER ALL-STAR WINNER, TAKE US THROUGH WHERE YOU WANT TO BE IN THE LAST 10 LAPS. HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE IS IT GOING TO BE FOR DENNY HAMLIN TO HAVE THAT FIRST PIT STALL WITH A MANDATORY PIT STOP? "Pit road pick, there is certainly an advantage there. Sometimes it's just the placement of the camera, but in most cases there is a long segment to accelerate into, so that'll be helpful. Won't have any traffic because they leave an opening between each stall, so that will be a bit of an advantage for sure.
"Track position is so important and the fact that the cars are so equal, you want to start up front. I'm not sure if you want to be on the inside lane or the outside lane, but starting up front is everything. We'll be working as hard as we can all night long to get track position and to maintain it."
SINCE THE TRANSITION OF THE WING TO THE SPOILER, JOE GIBBS RACING HAS WON THE MAJORITY OF THE RACES. AFTER YOUR GOOD RUN AT DOVER, ARE YOU CATCHING BACK UP OR HAS THE ADDITION OF THE SPOILER THROWN YOU A CURVE? "I've been under the impression, and I think the garage has too, that there hasn't been a change from wing to spoiler. It's been heard enough, and I just saw D.W. on television, saying that there is no difference. He's been criticizing the teams and saying well, ever since the spoiler, the No. 48 hasn't been running good. I think everybody is finally understanding that there really isn't a big change.
"What it boils to is that there are good race tracks for certain drivers and certain organizations. We just came out of a stretch where there weren't some of our better tracks. Although we've won at some of those tracks, they're just not our best tracks. Darlington has been a backbreaker for us since it was repaved. Richmond has been either victory lane or terrible. We finished 10th. Dover is a great race track for the No. 48 team and we went in there with high hopes and certainly ran like we expected to. I think it's more in the fact that there are good tracks for teams and drivers and organizations than it is anything else."
IS THERE ANY REASON WHY YOU HAVEN'T PERFORMED AS WELL AS BEFORE IN THE LAST THREE COKE 600'S? "I don't know. I thought we ran second a bunch. Maybe that's the fall race. Okay, I just remember chasing that damn No. 9 car all the time and I thought it was the 600 (laughs). I can't really remember each even and what had gone on to lead to that but if I was to say anything I guess it's just that it's earlier in the year and we're still trying to refine packages and things like that. But I still have a feeling that we come here and we're competitive, so I'm not sure why those results aren't any better. In my head I thought we were in the top five a bunch, but it must be the fall race."
DO YOU SEE A SMARTER DENNY HAMLIN OUT THERE NOW? "Yeah, I do. I think Denny and Kyle (Busch) both have learned a lot. You can see the self-control when you watch the No. 18. You think he's going to do something wild and he doesn't. When I was racing with him at Dover last weekend I expected some crazy things to happen and he was well in control and executed and did a great job. Denny, I think has been there and been very close to it and is working very hard to make sure that he doesn't make the same mistake twice. I said it last year. He's a threat. He has the team and the organization and the crew chief and everything around him to do it. They have all the tools; it's just a matter of building a road map and figuring out how to execute it. So, they are a serious threat and doing an amazing job."
IS THE LOGO THAT SAYS CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY WEIRD TO LOOK AT NOW? DO YOU STILL CONSIDER IT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY? "It's been etched in my brain, and I'm sure everyone else's brain, to say Lowe's Motor Speedway for so long. I still call it Lowe's and I'm still trying to switch over to the Charlotte Motor Speedway thing. But once you get in the car, it's still the same race track and everything kind of falls back into place at that point."
HAS THE MUSICAL WITH KASEY KAHNE COMING IN PROVED TO BE A DISTRACTION AT ALL FOR THE ENTIRE ORGANIZATION? "I don't think on the competition side. I know on the management side, there's a lot there to work on. But I can't say I have heard his name mentioned in any of our debriefs, engineering meetings, or crew chief meetings. We know that's coming and we'll certainly address it when it's time, but I don't think it's at that point yet for us to look at from the competition side; it's more of a managerial situation right now."
-source: gm racing