JIMMIE JOHNSON, No. 48 LOWE'S/ KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway to discuss competition in the Chase, possible changes to the Chase format, finding speed at an important time and more. IF WE WERE TO...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, No. 48 LOWE'S/ KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway to discuss competition in the Chase, possible changes to the Chase format, finding speed at an important time and more.
IF WE WERE TO START THE CHASE RIGHT NOW YOU WOULD BE THE TOP SEED--YOU BEAT DENNY HAMLIN IN THE TIE-BREAKER. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON EARNING 20 MORE BONUS POINTS OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS? "I would certainly like to do that. This race and Richmond were pretty tough on us the first time this year when we went to those tracks. I'm not sure of when--although we would love to have it and take it and we're working for that--but I think our goal is just to finish in the top 10 and get back into that rhythm. Start worrying about top-10s, top-fives and then look for victories. We've had some good runs that have turned into bad finishes because of crashes and flat tires and a variety of things. Then we've also had just some bad races where we haven't had the speed that we needed and faded and finished in the high-teens or in the teens or whatever. We're working hard; we're doing everything we can to bring our best stuff to the track. We've been trying some different stuff today. In the first practice we found a lot of stuff that didn't work, and then in the second practice things seemed to start going the right direction. We'll buckle down tonight, see what we've got and go after it tomorrow."
THE WAY THAT THIS YEAR HAS STACKED UP IN TERMS OF HOW COMPETITIVE IT HAS BEEN AMONGST THE TOP-15 IN THE POINTS-- WITH THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS AND THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERS. DO YOU THINK THIS WILL BE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHASE THAN WE'VE EVER SEEN? "Yeah I think so. We have new elements as you mentioned with the double-file restarts, three attempts at the green-white-checkered. That changes the dynamic of the race a lot. Another factor to speak to your point, and I do agree that it is harder this year to decide who will be a favorite--although at this point I have to look at Harvick as the favorite with the consistency they have had, all types of tracks over a long part of the season. Those guys have done an amazing job and have turned it around from where they were last year to where they are this year. They deserve a lot of credit for what they've done. As you look at another organization that was struggling really bad and we all thought 'what the heck' to where they are now, which is Roush [Fenway Racing]. This Chase, you have a lot of teams getting their stuff right just in time for the Chase to start. There is a lot of unknowns. We aren't where we want to be yet, but we've been in this position before in years past and gone into the Chase looking for a little bit of speed and we've found it, so I'm not too concerned with where we are. I think it's going to be exciting. You've got Jeff [Gordon] who has been real consistent, you've got Roush cars coming back, you've got all three RCR cars showing a lot of speed, and Gibbs cars--we expect them to start the Chase and be strong and be right there. I think it's going to be a very interesting Chase."
WITH THE GUYS THAT ARE ON THE CHASE BUBBLE--CLINT BOWYER, RYAN NEWMAN, MARK MARTIN--DO YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE IN THEM, THE WAY THEY ACT, THE WAY THEY DRIVE COMPARED TO EARLY IN THE SEASON? "Yeah, and I think other drivers try to give them a little more room as well. No one wants to be the guy that affected the championship or the guy that got into the championship. You can see them all fighting for every single inch, and rightfully so; every point is going to count when this thing is all said and done."
DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT FEEL FOR THIS SKID COMPARED TO OTHER SKIDS YOU HAD GOING INTO THE CHASE? DO WE NEED TO START LOOKING FOR YOUR FACE ON MILK CARTONS IN GROCERY STORES THAT YOU'RE JUST DISAPPEARING? "No, I don't think that's the case. Every organization has its ups and downs; some teams can turn it around faster than others. We look at what Childress has gone through, and now where they are, where the Roush organization was and where it is now. We've gone through it ourselves. You can't pick when it happens; you cannot time that. Technology is changing so fast and what changes your environment is what the other teams stumble onto and we're at a point right now where on the mile-and-a-half and two-mile stuff, we're playing catch up. I think we're strong on the short tracks, we've shown that. We've led a lot of laps, and I think we had a really good chance to win at Bristol and got tangled up there with Juan on the backstretch. We're missing a little bit on our bread and butter tracks, which are those big ones and we're working hard to find it. Again, I've been here before. If you go back and look at some of the years, I have struggled through this part and we go in and I watch the headlines read, 'what's wrong with the 48?' And we find our mojo. We're looking for it. We recognize that we haven't performed like we needed to on some tracks. We also know that we've had some bad luck that have led to bad finishes on others. We always got to be optimistic and that's where we are and we know that we're working as hard as we can. At the end of the day as long as we know that we're working as hard as we can, sometimes that's all we can do."
WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP RACING, IT WAS ALL ABOUT RACING AND NOT BEING IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT SOME OF YOUR EARLIER COMMERCIALS DO YOU CRINGE OR HOW DID YOU LEARN TO BE ADJUSTED AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE THE FIRST TIME DOING THAT KIND OF STUFF? "Man, I still cringe when I see myself on TV. It's a tough thing to be comfortable in your own shoes shooting those commercials. Some guys take to it a little easier than others; it's not the easiest thing for me to do. I feel like over time I've gotten better at it. I still need to improve. It is a tough element and I think that notoriety in our sport in general has been a tough thing for a young guy to come in. It is a lot to balance there. If I was educating or working with a young guy coming along, it would be just don't read or watch anything just stay in your little bubble with your race team and focus on that and you'll be fine.
"It's amazing when that red light turns on the camera or when they say action; we've all had different experiences in trying to speak or public speaking or doing something for charity or foundation. You just freeze. When they say 'action' or 'it's time,' something clicks for me in front of a camera or in front of a group of people. It just gets tough. I hate it, but it happens. Over time you get more comfortable with it, but it also helps when the creative people write a spot that fits your style and it's in your words. Some of the most difficult radio spots or TV spots that I've done are when you're really trying to sell something and they have it written a certain way and you have to hit each word exactly how they need it done. Those are the toughest."
WE HEAR ALL THE TIME ABOUT HOW TEAMS FIND THESE LITTLE THINGS THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF A YEAR THAT CAN HELP THEM STANDOUT ABOVE THE REST OF THE TEAMS. IS THERE ANY WAY TO EXPLAIN HOW BIG ARE THESE THINGS ACTUALLY? IS THERE ANY WAY TO QUANTIFY THE SIZE OF THESE THINGS THAT CREW CHIEFS AND TEAMS ARE FINDING? "From our standpoint, it's usually not one component; it's not just a shock or a spindle or a spring away from being good. It seems to be an entire package and finding a little bit on each corner of the race car because your contact patch is the four tires. At the end of the day, how those four tires interface with the road is where your speed comes from. In qualifying you want to be very aggressive and abuse the tire to get all the grip out of it. Then in a race run you want the opposite and you want it be real gentle on the tire and take care of it. It's just different philosophies and you need to stack up a lot of chips to make something happen. That's why it seems like it takes so long; especially in today's world. We don't have a lot of areas to work in anymore to kind of save yourself. With the old car, you could maybe work the body around to help with the balance of the car and get over a mechanical grip issue and now you can't. It takes a lot of little things to stack up and make a difference now. It's tough. When you talk about the tire, the tire changes frequently and we're trying to stay on top of how that tire wants to be worked and the camber that it likes to see and the loading that it wants to see in order to be happy. Then you have the aero standpoint of the car and the mechanical grip; those three worlds of the tire, mechanical grip and aero--it just confuses the hell out of you. At times you feel lost, and other times everything seems so crystal clear and easy. It's a weird dynamic because when it's off, it's off and you're just scrambling to get it right. Then there's the fourth element of the engine, but we kind of leave that out. The engine shop is always doing what it can, what they can to bring along more power."
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE POSITION THAT KEVIN HARVICK IS IN--BEING THE POINTS LEADER GOING INTO THE CHASE. DO YOU THINK THAT GOING FORWARD WITH THE CHASE WE NEED TO EXAMINE THE AMOUNT OF POINTS SOMEBODY GETS FOR WINNING THE REGULAR SEASON SO TO SPEAK, OR BEING THE POINTS LEADER GOING INTO THE CHASE? IT SEEMS LIKE YOU'RE REWARDED TO WIN THE RACE, BUT TO BE THAT POINTS LEADER GOING IN AND THEN YOU GET NOTHING FOR IT ONCE THE CHASE STARTS. "Yeah, there are definitely arguments both ways. You have to look at it either way. I struggle with it because at times, especially when NASCAR is asking my opinion on changes for it, people chuckle and don't want to take me seriously with changes that I suggest after winning four championships. So I've just kind of let my point out throughout a lot of this stuff. There is no doubt that the points are tight and it benefits being consistent more than anything else. From my opinion I feel like our series is so long that the points structure should reflect a consistent team and driver. I think over a ten-race span, what we have could be modified some. I think you could have a bigger gap to win a race, but still at the end of the day, it does reflect consistency. If we only ran 10-12 times a year or played 16 games here or whatever compared to other sports, then I think you could be more creative with it, but when we race 36 times a year the champion needs to reflect what the season is about."
-source: gm racing