All-Star: Johnson - Friday media visit



ARE YOU ONE OF THE BRING THE TROPHY HOME OR BRING THE STEERING WHEEL HOME GUYS IN THIS RACE? SOMETIMES THIS RACE BENEFITS THE GUYS WHO ARE RECKLESS MORE THAN THE GUYS WHO ARE SMART AND PATIENT "In the end, if you're in a position to win, you pull all the stops out. But it's still is a race and there are a lot of laps and you need to get to the end of it. Taking a risk in lap five is not going to pay off - especially if you crash your car. So when it comes down to the end, it's a free-for-all at that point. But we certainly will be pushing really hard. It's more of a sprint race than a 500 or 600-mile race. So from lap one, throughout the entire race, it's a little more intense."

THERE IS NO INVERSION THIS YEAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? "I'm going to look like a fool. I have no clue what the format is, or how many laps we're running. I'm learning as I'm out here. So, I'm excited to hear that because the inversion - even last year when we won, I missed the inversion by one spot and had to start deep in the field and still found my way through. So I'm excited about that. Thank you for telling me."

HOW MUCH EASIER DOES IT BECOME TO WIN ON A TRACK WHERE YOU'VE WON SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE? "It doesn't really get any easier, but you have a little more confidence coming into the event. You know where you need to be on the race track and the right rhythm and try to hang on to that mentally and apply that each time you come back. So I guess I know where to look. It doesn't mean we're going to go out and run well, but I get excited to come here. When we find the right rhythm and what I need in the car, we know we can sit tight and be confident."

THIS RACE IS GOOD FOR THE FANS AND THE SPONSORS, BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE GUY WHO REALLY LEAVES HAPPY. THERE ARE A BUNCH OF WRECKED RACE CARS IN THE END. IS THIS A RACE THAT MAY NOT BE THE BEST THING FOR THE TEAMS AT THIS TIME? "No, I think all the teams look forward to this event. It's a great warm-up for the Coke 600 that's coming up. We will also be able to get some real race activity during the hours of when we'll be racing the Coke 600. I think all the teams look forward to it. Granted, you don't want to lose a race car, and some guys might be a little short on the race car count right now, but I think everybody welcomes this race."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SEVERE PENALTY THAT WAS HANDED OUT BY NASCAR TO THE NO. 8 TEAM FOR AERODYNAMICS INFRACTION AT DARLINGTON? "It just keeps growing - especially when you mess with the parts that NASCAR provides. They are pretty clear that if you mess with those things, you won't like what NASCAR hands down. They've lived up to that and you can see a steady progression from each violation increasing. And I don't expect it to get any lighter or any less. I think NASCAR is really trying to send a message not to mess with this stuff - don't screw with it at all. And I think the message is coming through. In some cases, it's really a risky situation for crew chiefs because the gray areas are where they are used to walking in. Anymore you can really get in trouble for that."

YOU REALLY SEEM TO HAVE ADAPTED WELL TO THIS TRACK "It's been a great track for us. We look forward to coming to in and we've had a lot of success here. I don't know why it's worked or why it's been this way, but hopefully it'll continue and we'll have that same magic we typically have."

HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY COLD SHOULDERS BECAUSE OF ALL THE SUCCESS YOU'VE HAD SO FAR THIS YEAR? "Oh, I wouldn't say cold shoulders. Inside the garage area, everybody knows how hard this sport is and everybody knows how hard Hendrick Motorsports works. And even though they may not like the roll we've been on lately, I think there's a lot of respect for Rick (Hendrick) and for what we've done as a team, and been able to accomplish in the car. It's a good position to be in to have a target on your back. That's the position all drivers, crew chiefs, and owners want to be in. And we're excited about where we're at."

WHAT EXCITES YOU OR ATTRACTS YOU TO NEXT WEEK'S SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE HERE? "I really want to become a better road course driver. When I go to Watkins Glen or Sonoma, I can run in the top 10 and top 5, but not fighting for the win. I want to get more experience in road course cars and Cadillac was nice enough to invite me to participate in the SPEED World Challenge Race. They took me to Sebring and I tested the car there. I tested it here. It's just been more experience for me in a road course car."

WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION AFTER YOU TESTED THE CADILLAC HERE? "I was surprised on a couple of points. I was surprised on how quick and good the production-based car is. The Cadillac is really an impressive car. The other thing is that it really reminded me of a Nextel Cup car. The weight of the vehicle and stopping power and the way you drive it was a lot like a Nextel Cup car. So it was time well spent on my behalf."

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT IT LIKE ABOUT THE STANDING START? "The standing start is going to be different for me. They have a launch control that I really didn't figure out during the test, so hopefully I can figure out how to utilize it so I can really make it work for me. The part that I'm most disappointed in is the track. We won't be able to run through the infield and run a true road course because of all the motor homes and things that are going on during the 600 weekend. So the track isn't what anybody is really excited for. You're really on the oval with a couple of chicanes. That's the only part I'm bummed about, but I still understand why the course is like it is, so we just have to deal with it."

WOULD YOU EVER LIKE TO RUN ANOTHER WORLD CHALLENGE COURSE THAT'S NOT A NASCAR COURSE LIKE MAYBE ROAD ATLANTA? "I would. I would love to run the Corvette if that opportunity was there for me; or a Daytona Prototype events or SPEED World Challenge events. It's really a lot of fun to go run these vehicles and see new tracks. But the toughest part is the schedule. And it was hard to really cram in this race during the 600 weekend with how much responsibility I have with running the Busch car and the Cup car and now the SPEED World Challenge car. So it's going to be a busy, busy weekend for me."

AS MUCH AS YOU TRAVEL, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HOME FOR TWO STRAIGHT WEEKS? "It means a lot. For me it is a little different. Being the Lowe's driver at Lowe's Motor Speedway holds a lot of responsibilities. So even though I'm home and sleeping in my own bed, it's a lot of early mornings and a lot of work to represent my great sponsor and all the relationships they have here at the track. So it's been hectic, but to be home - there's nothing better. To hit some local restaurants and sleep in your own bed is nice. It's nice to be here in May."

YOUR FRIENDS DON'T GET TO SEE YOU THAT MUCH UNLESS THEY TRAVEL, DO THEY? "No, they don't get to see it much. We also have a lot of friends who come in at this time of year to Charlotte and we love the SouthPark area where we live. There's no place better to be. It's really just a fun time. My wife really enjoys it. We get to spend a lot of quality time with friends and showing them what we're doing and what's around."

WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER ONE CONCERN ABOUT THE STATE OF NASCAR? "I guess I haven't thought about it. I guess this would be a general comment - just making sure that we continue to grow. Our sport has done such a good job of showing growth. There are different arguments about TV packages and sponsorship packages and length of races and the Chase and adjustments to the Chase to make for better entertainment. We just have to make sure that our sport continues to grow and that it's here for a long, long time."

DO THE DRIVERS HAVE A LOT TO DO WITH THAT BY TALKING TO NASCAR? "There are times when we are approached about things, but it's not like we have a group of drivers that is in conversation with NASCAR. It's in their hands. It's been a family run sport for a long time. They brought it to this point so we all have a lot of trust in them and feel that they are going to lead us the right way."

ON RACING AT DOVER, WHAT IS THAT LIKE AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM THE NEW GENERATION RACE CAR? "I think a lot of us really think it's going to be a big challenge for the car of tomorrow - the hard transitions into the corner and also off the corner are a challenge for us. I'm hopeful we get some more practice time. It's going to be really tough on us. The way we load the tire there, and the way this car of tomorrow works, we could potentially see extra wearing - especially on the right front. So hopefully we get in there and can get some good quality laps in and understand how the bigger cars work and take care of the right front.

HOW CHALLENGING IS DOVER? "Dover is one of the toughest tracks we go to. The straight-aways are elevated higher than the center of the corner so you almost launch off the straightaway into the corners. It's concrete so there is a lot of grip. Aerodynamics is very important there with the high speeds that we run. It's a very intense track. It's also narrow. So if you spin out, you hit something. So it's really a challenging race track that I've always enjoyed. I think the car of tomorrow is going to make it more challenging yet."

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN JEFF GORDON AND DALE EARNHARDT AND BECOME A THIRD TIME WINNER HERE? "That would be quite an honor. I feel like we've got a great chance. We've found our way to victory lane twice; maybe we can do it a third time and join the high ranks of Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon in that category."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon