Atlanta II: Johnson - Friday media visit

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed his fundraising activities for the victims of the Southern California fires, his reaction to the Roush feud and other...

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed his fundraising activities for the victims of the Southern California fires, his reaction to the Roush feud and other subjects.

"I appreciate the opportunity to speak a little bit today and the details continue to change and grow and hopefully this great problem continues but. and that problem would be more people wanting to get involved with what's going on on our race car this weekend. Mr. Hendrick and I were talking a couple days ago about what's going out in California with the wildfires and we decided to donate the money that we earned in the race this weekend - and hopefully we win the race and take the big check out of here - but we've decided to donate those funds to the American Red Cross. Through that idea, there's been a lot of people seeing the need and opportunity to get involved and have stepped up. Lowe's is going to match whatever money is raised through our on-track performance this weekend. Bruton Smith and Sonic Automotive is going to match, again. It sounds like the France family is considering. and Bruton just had filled me in a second ago on this. So there continues to be more an d more people in the racing community looking at this opportunity to raise some money and to give it to the American Red Cross to help everybody in Southern California.

Growing up there I lived with fires. There's a season where it kicks up and right now it's the heart of that season. So it's something I'm very familiar with. The area where I grew up has had fire burn through it many times including when I lived there. I have friends and family whose lives are all impacted right now in some way, shape or form with what's going on. I know Mr. Hendrick with his auto dealerships, Lowe's with their business, Mr. Smith and the auto dealerships that he has there, this is really impacting a lot of people and I'm just glad and tickled that everyone sees this concept and idea and how we can give back to people in need and are jumping on board with it. And as you all know we had a huge tragedy take place with Katrina moving in and we still have families that are in need and still aren't back in their homes. With what's going on in Southern California, if we don't get involved and help as fellow Americans, we're going to have a large part of our societ y in dire straights. We need to get involved and that's why I decided to step up and Mr. Hendrick and everyone else involved with Bruton and Lowe's has as well and we'll see what we can do. Every cent is going to help, every cent is going to matter and I really feel that with the matching that's going and the purse that we're putting into it, we can really raise a lot of money to send out to the American Red Cross.

On top of that, my foundation - if the fans choose to donate or anyone would like to donate, we have a direct link from the Jimmie Johnson foundation right to the American Red Cross. On top of that, Lowe's is making their stores as a donation point as well. These are just the early details and things continue to change and we're just hopeful that people can see that there's a lot of families in need right now and it would be good to get involved. So I appreciate the time to be in here today to talk about it and hopefully there are more updates as we continue on through the weekend and we'll recap all of this one it slows down and let everybody know where this nets out."

HOW DOES ATLANTA PLAY INTO YOUR DUEL WITH JEFF GORDON FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "In my opinion, it's tough to really know how it's going to play out. I know how I want it to play out but when we look at its statistics, I think that Lowe's Motor Speedway should have been a track and an opportunity for me to make up points on Jeff and it was the flip. And last weekend we knew that was going to be tight and I got a few on Jeff. So it's really tough to say how it's going to go. I feel very good about all the tracks left on the circuit. I feel that Phoenix might be a chance where Jeff could earn some points on me going off of the statistics and how we run from place to place. So I really don't know what to expect and the game that Jeff is bringing week after week, he's dangerous. He's tough to beat and I've got to show up here this weekend and ideally win the pole and get the first pit stall pick, try to lead the most laps and try to finish ahead of him and score every point everywhere I can."

GORDON'S CREW CHIEF ACKNOWLEDGED THAT HE MAY HAVE MADE A MISTAKE HERE LAST TIME. DO YOU THINK THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE? "I didn't know where Jeff finished. I remember he had some troubles. I don't think if Jeff runs clean there's going to be 11 cars in the finishing order wherever we're at. There's going to be two to three spots is the way I see this thing going to the end. That's why I need to make sure I lead a lap, try to lead the most laps and really have this thing set on kill. If at all possible, keep so much pressure on Jeff and the No. 24 to where they would make a bad call or they would get into a situation that typically they wouldn't be unless they were pressured. That's really what we have to bring to the track each week and push as hard as we can."

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE ROUSH FEUD AND HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO PUNCH ONE OF YOUR TEAMMATES? "I thought 'wow' and yes I have. I think at Talladega last year with Vickers, I wanted to kill him. It happens and it doesn't matter if it's your teammate or another competitor. At some point in time you want to get out and drill someone. I don't know what all led into it and I saw the highlights and I sat there and watched it trying to think 'Carl looks serious but he knew the cameras were on, was he trying to scare Matt or trying to ham it up for the cameras'. I don't know and I haven't seen these guys and I know you're probably all dying to get a few minutes with these guys to figure out what in the world went on. So I'm tuned in and watching like everyone else."

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: "My current collection? I can't say that I have. Casey probably wanted to punch me after I crashed him at Talladega when he was trying to get to the pits but I don't think so."

FROM A COMPETITIVE ASPECT, HOW DOES IT WORK WHEN A NON-CHASE TEAMMATE LETS YOU PASS SO YOU CAN GAIN CHASE POINTS? "I don't even know how to answer you. I can say I fortunately haven't been in that situation and I know when our team was in that situation earlier this year that after that, there were more meetings that took place and how uncomfortable the situation was and how we don't want to be in that position. And we really want it to be every man for themselves out on the track. And there is a balance that each driver and each team has to look at and recognize and admit if they're willing to make that sacrifice for the team and hope that someday if the roles are flipped, that that sacrifice is going to be made back for them. I don't really have a specific point of view on it but that's what we're faced with and there is probably a lot of wrong in a lot of people's minds but in some ways the right and wrong is in your own head and it's how you deal with it. If you're willing to make those sacrifices for the team, and not only has it happened in our organization, there are other teams o n track that have done it. We've seen much more dramatic cases of it in F1 and other places so it's out there and it doesn't make anybody happy, I don't think."

NOW THAT YOU'RE THE REIGNING CHAMPION, IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR MINDSET ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL CONTENDING THIS YEAR? "I really think so. I think I'm much more confident in my abilities as a race car driver, the way I work with my team. Everything that we're doing, we're just a more mature and developed race team. And I think that shows. I feel that you can try to hard and I've tried to hard in the past to win races, to win poles and even to win championships. And this year I feel a lot like after my first win that coming back for the second win, it's a little bit more of a clear picture that you're looking at instead of just red in the eyes and intense and trying to do whatever it takes to get it. I've been there, I feel like I know where to focus, I know how to let some things roll off my back that would stress me out or worry me from track to track. As you lose points or gain points, the pressure that's either positive or negative that comes with it. So I'm just much more advanced and developed than that now and feel that I'm in a much better place and I'm actually enjoying this year and this championship battle. This has been a lot of fun for me. It hasn't taken anything away from the intensity or the desire to win the championship but I'm having a good time doing this."

ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE AT TEXAS A LOT DIFFERENT THAN THOSE YOU FACE HERE? "The tracks are much different. We've always been good here and I think the last race, if not the last two races in Texas, we have brought the right setup, driving the track the right way and we've been in contention to win and have been competitive so I know our finishes really don't show it, especially the spring race there. But before our troubles I think we had an engine problem and then the No. 20 car spun and I was trying to get slowed down in the smoke and bumped into him. But that race gives us a lot of hope going back and we hope that we can go to Texas and perform like we do here in Atlanta."

DESCRIBE YOUR OLD NEIGHBORHOOD IN CALIFORNIA AND HOW IT WAS AFFECTED BY THE FIRE: "Where I grew up was east of San Diego and I grew up out in the hills, essentially, where I could ride my motorcycle out of my driveway and maybe ride for a mile on an asphalt road and then be in the hills and have trails and all kinds of areas to ride. Growing up out there you're just under the impression, when you're that far out from the city and everything that goes on there, you grow accustomed to the dangers of fire and what goes on. And even our schools, from earthquakes and the fire prevention and fire safety training that we had, that was class that we'd have once or twice a year throughout our schools and evacuation things and it's something you grew up with and it's reality you'd have to face living in Southern California. I can remember growing up as a kid and my memories are pretty young and the fear was probably much greater than what it was. But being at home, knowing fires are in the area and I hear places that are only a few miles away and a few valleys away from I lived - and I lived up on top of a hill actually - so there was always this fear of being surrounded and parents taught us if there's a fire burning up one side of the hill you evacuate down the other side. It was just a lot of things we were faced with as a kid and scared us. There were a few fires that were close and my parents said 'alright let's get out of here. We're just going to leave ourselves before we get trapped up here.' Where I grew up we fortunately did not have a fire burn through our neighborhood but the most recent fires that took place out there came right through the area where I grew up, where I rode my motorcycles. I came through (and saw) many burned down homes on the block I grew up on. For whatever reason the fire leap-frogged the home that I grew up in and got the surrounding homes. So it's something that when you're living there and this sounds like there could have been a lot of arson, but there are times where fires started just from glass that had been thrown out of the side of a car and broke and was on the side of the road. Just the heat and the sunlight on that piece of glass had started fires out there. It's a scary time and I can't believe that it's burned so far into the city and in so many areas and so many fires and so much devastation. It's really the worst reality that you would ever face out there living in southern California."

ON THE MOST ENJOYABLE PART OF WORKING FOR HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: "The Habitat relationship for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, that mindset was a big part of it because every community has a lot of needs but growing up in southern California I know how tough the fires are and how many homes have been lost there so as we were putting things together and that was a very important part of it - was to give back to some families that may have been involved with fire and whatever what was going on out there with the tragedies we've had. The Habitat relationship was a big part of it too."

ON BRUTON SMITH, JIM FRANCE AND MR. HENDRICK SUPPORTING JIMMIE JOHNSON'S EFFORTS IN CALIFORNIA: "Thank you so much. To see Bruton and Mr. Hendrick and the France family and everybody come together, it's phenomenal to do this. Hopefully we can get a big number (raised) here, hopefully over a million dollars if at all possible to raise for all of this so this is good stuff."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson