BEHIND THE HAULER TALK WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 MONTE CARLO SS: YOU HAD A LONG DEBRIEF AFTER PRACTICE. DOES THAT MEAN YOU HAVE PROBLEMS OR IS SOMETHING WRONG? "We just really feel like we have a great package. As I'm growing in my new role in...
BEHIND THE HAULER TALK WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 MONTE CARLO SS:
YOU HAD A LONG DEBRIEF AFTER PRACTICE. DOES THAT MEAN YOU HAVE PROBLEMS OR IS SOMETHING WRONG? "We just really feel like we have a great package. As I'm growing in my new role in a sense as a driver, with more responsibilities, I guess I'm a little slower to make decisions than the rest of the guys. I was just going over information with Darian (Grubb). We're just trying to make sure we have everything where we need it. We're learning a lot with our new package. And I feel good about it. We've had great results.
"We're obviously hitting on something. Darian and Chad (Knaus) and I all recognize it. His goal (Chad Knaus) is to come back and try to expand on what we've done. The team has been through some sort of a transformation. Chad came to me and said the last thing he wanted to do was to come back and mess up what is going on. We want to figure out he can come back and keep this momentum rolling. Chad is still very responsible with this race team. His fingerprints are all over these cars when they come to the track. They're well prepared. It's been Darian's job to refine it from there. It's been going good."
WHEN YOU WANT TO MAKE A CHANGE HERE, DO YOU CALL BACK TO KNAUS AND DISCUSS IT WITH HIM? "No, we don't have time. Everything happens so fast. We're really just working collectively as a group. I looked at the shock guy when we changed shocks. If he's smiling, I know I should be smiling. Chassis stuff goes the same way. It's really just been about feeling each other out and growing with one another."
WHAT HAS GROWN ABOUT THE TEAM THIS SEASON? "Quite a bit. Chad is such a strong leader and so on top of so many departments, we were just sort of delivering information. Now we've been forced to think a lot more and make more decisions independently. The track record has been speaking for ourselves. We've gained more confidence."
WOULD YOU PREFER TO HAVE KNAUS HERE RATHER THAN BACK HOME WORKING AHEAD? "It's such a disadvantage to not have him that ultimately I wish he were here and we need him. But we can't argue the fact that we're all stronger through this. That's the thing I'm happy and excited about. We're all stronger coming into the season.
"I wish we hadn't gone through the negative issue that took place, but we're all stronger so there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel."
SO WHO IS REALLY MAKING THE DECISIONS NOW? IS IT A COMMITTEE THING WITHOUT CHAD? "It depends. There is a lot of time between now and when the car has to roll through tech tomorrow. I just basically do a mental dump now. We take a lot of notes and we'll all get together later on the phone. It's not really one person making the decisions. Chad still is the crew chief and ultimately makes the final decision and it's his leadership that carries through. But at the track during practice, it's just Darian and me."
HOW DO YOU KEEP DARIAN GRUBB FROM GETTING STOLEN AWAY? "I think he has No. 48 blood. I'm not too worried about that. But at the same time, if he has a chance of a lifetime that comes along, as his friend I would wish him well. In some ways I want to be greedy, but at the same time, every guy has to do what he needs to do for himself or his family and to realize his own dreams."
ON NEXT WEEK'S RACE AT BRISTOL: "Bristol is a tough place. A lot can happen. I absolutely stick there in qualifying. So I hope no one reads too much into the qualifying routine there. Once we get in the race and get going, I usually find my rhythm and we'll be fine.
"Bristol...it's a place...you love to go there and you love the excitement, but you're happy to leave. So much can happen. I'm excited to see what the track is like and what's going to take place there. I'm excited in one light, but I'm also nervous on the other side."
WHAT IS YOUR WILDEST BRISTOL MEMORY? "The crash before the green flag came out. Robby Gordon was ready to go behind me. My rookie season...I think I was second in points to Mark Martin. And before the green flag fell, I was turned around and wrecking. This was before the 25-point fine for bad language or gestures and I looked like a fool out on the front stretch shooting him the bird. That would be my wildest memory."