JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his visit to the White House, his approach to Bristol, former teammates Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch, fuel mileage, and more. YOU'VE CERTAINLY HAD A BIG WEEK. YOU WERE AT THE...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his visit to the White House, his approach to Bristol, former teammates Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch, fuel mileage, and more.
YOU'VE CERTAINLY HAD A BIG WEEK. YOU WERE AT THE WHITE HOUSE WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA. WAS THAT PRETTY COOL? "Yeah, it was a great experience. To have the experience to go up and meet President Bush and then to meet President Obama, it couldn't have been more different. It was much more conversational and comfortable and social and relaxed and it was just a totally different feel. You almost felt like you could leave there and have a beer with the guy, which was interesting. He pointed out a photo on the wall of him and some friends sitting around a table having a beer, which was interesting to me too. He just seemed like a down-to-earth guy and regardless of your points of view on politics and which party you pulled for and voted for, he seemed like a great man and hopefully leads us in the right direction."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS WEEKEND? YOU'RE SAFELY IN THE CHASE. BRISTOL HASN'T BEEN ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE TRACKS. "I'm really excited for this weekend. With the way we ran in the spring, I think we have a great opportunity to win here, our first time. Hopefully we make the right calls. In the spring, we knew we had a good car but we were a little hesitant to adjust on it because things were going so well (laughs). We stayed cautious with the set-up and with our adjustments during the race. We'll be more aggressive this time because of the position we are in the Chase, a lot like we did at Michigan. We rolled the dice and unfortunately it didn't work out. But we'll be a little more aggressive and hopefully have a shot at winning this thing."
MARK MARTIN WILL MAKE HIS 1,000TH NASCAR START HERE AT BRISTOL. WHAT HAS HE MEANT TO THE SPORT AND FOR YOU INDIVIDUALLY? HAS HE DONE ANYTHING TO HELP YOUR CAREER? "Yeah, over the years I've certainly watched Mark and respected him even before I was driving a stock car. I've had a chance to race with him and have learned a lot from racing with him in the Nationwide Series back when I got started. I couldn't really keep up with him, but the few things I saw were helpful and he was approachable. For me as a young driver, I went and spoke to him a couple of times and he was very helpful. And then I raced with him in Cup. And now, to be a teammate with him, he has a different way of going about things. I enjoy understanding how he sees a race track and the set-up and how he drives the car, and at the same time, his commitment to the sport. So it's been neat to see the world as Mark sees it and I've taken things out and tried to apply them to my driving style and my approach to the sport and it's been a good time. It's hard to believe that it's 1,000 starts and I know we all shake our heads with his age because it just doesn't seem to be a problem for him. He's doing a great job."
EARLIER, BRIAN VICKERS TALKED ABOUT KYLE BUSCH AND THAT HE FELT SAD FOR THE ATTITUDE HE HAS. IS KYLE AN EASY TARGET FOR PEOPLE TO TAKE SHOTS AT? "You know (laughs) at times he'll (Kyle Busch) even admit he says and does the wrong thing. His emotions get the best of him. From the stuff that I've read and the things that have gone on in these rooms (media centers on the tour), he is trying to find that balance and he's working on it. So yeah, I think in some ways he is an easy target and he's trying to make those adjustments and trying to get it right. I think we all watch from afar and think that there are some small changes he could make that could really benefit his career and help him long term. Hopefully he can make those adjustments. I've worked with him and still today have a friendship with him and talk to him all the time and I hate to see the struggles that he goes through. He's a very talented driver. In one way I hate to see it, and in another way we don't have to worry about him sometimes because he self-destructs (laughs). So when he gets it right, and he has for periods of time, the guy is on fire and he's tough to beat. For him, as a friend, I certainly hope that he can balance it all out and really enjoy himself. I'm not sure he has as much fun as he needs to at this age and winning as many races and driving three different cars and all that stuff, he needs to be having fun."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HIM IN OR OUT OF THE CHASE? "From a competitive standpoint, out, because he's dangerous. But I think from the flip-side of that, he's one of the best drivers in the sport and he needs to be in the Chase."
DID YOU GIVE BRIAN VICKERS THE NICKNAME 'THE SHERIFF'? "Well, kind of. Yes. Sort of. Yeah, I was more 'Dennis the Menace' that I picked for him a while back."
COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHERE 'THE SHERIFF' COME FROM AND WHY 'DENNIS THE MENACE' AND JUST TALK ABOUT HIM IN GENERAL. HE JUST CAME IN THE MEDIA CENTER AND BASICALLY CHALLENGED KYLE BUSCH TO A DUEL AT 20 PACES. "Brian (Vickers) looks like he's polite and in control and he certainly is, but the majority of his brain is functioning on how can I pull a prank, how can I create some type of issue? He just enjoys being a menace of sorts, in a good way. He's a lot of fun to be around. We've had a lot of great times together. The sheriff thing came from when we were at a friend's ranch in Texas and Brian got into the whole cowboy thing and was enjoying it. He showed up with one of the biggest guns known to mankind (laughter). I'm not even sure what it was, but it had this revolver. And it came in almost like one of those Nokia Power Tool boxes. He pulls this out, and I'm like what is that, and he pulls it out and I'm like, damn sheriff! Okay. And all we're shooting at was like a couple of cans out in a field and he's got this big old gun. So, that's where the sheriff came from."
WAS IT LIKE AN ASSAULT RIFLE? "No, it wasn't an assault rifle; it was like a Dirty Harry gun. It was this massive revolver. And he is a very interesting guy. One day he tried convincing me that we needed to invest in new science projects that exist in outer space and there's going to potentially be an elevator to outer space (laughter) and it would be a good thing to be a part of (laughs). He's been into parachuting. He recently told me that there is a group of people working on parachuting from space and going through re-entry through the atmosphere and coming back in, and that's appealing to him (laughter). So he just comes up with these wacky things and half the time we look at him and think he's full of it. But he really does think about this stuff and is interested in it. So, he's an interesting guy. We have a lot of fun with him and a lot of fun picking on him. We can talk him into anything. If we're off snowboarding somewhere and there's a big jump, it's like hey Brian, go as fast as you can and hit that! He's like, okay. And off he goes. So, it's been fun."
WERE YOU AT ALL NERVOUS BEING A TOUR GUIDE FOR THE PRESIDENT? WERE YOU WORRIED YOU MIGHT MIS-IDENTIFY A SPARK PLUG OR WHATEVER? WERE YOU COMFORTABLE DOING THAT? "Everything took place pretty quickly and I wasn't aware of what was all going to go on. I'm just standing in the hallway and I'm expecting a big entourage of people to walk around the corner. And the President came around the corner with another man and that was it. There was just a hand-held camera and it was extremely comfortable and low key. He made me really comfortable out of the gate. So, I was showing him around and I certainly was nervous at that point, but as soon as we got out to the car he wanted to look under the hood and see what the car was made of and had a lot of questions and it made it really easy for me. And then I had a good time with it. I tried getting him into the car, but he was afraid climbing in he's blow the seat out of his pants and look like a fool all day long (laughs)."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHASE AS IT APPLIES TO RACING AT BRISTOL? TALK ABOUT THE GUYS ON THE BUBBLE RACING AT BRISTOL "Yeah, for them it's a very stressful race. A lot can happen at this track. It's kind of like Talladega in a way. Things out of your control can take place. And being on the bubble at this time of the year is one of the most stressful things. I'm very lucky that I have not been in that situation and certainly hope that I can avoid it through all my years of driving. But for us, we've always looked at Bristol as needing to be really strong in the points because Bristol has been a weak spot for us. Thankfully we've been able to show up here in a good spot points-wise. But for those guys, it's stressful and they're just hoping for the best and hanging on. These next few weeks are really going to be tough on them."
BRIAN VICKERS BASICALLY SAID HE HATED THAT KYLE BUSCH WAS SO ANGRY ABOUT SOMETHING SO SMALL, WHICH PUT BRIAN IN A POSITION TO DEFEND HIS DESIRE TO WIN. KNOWING HIM, HOW BAD DOES HE WANT IT? "First of all, I think after talking with Brian and the incident with Kyle in the Nationwide race, it's more of what was said after the race and the fact that Kyle was upset. They're both going for the win. Kyle's point of view was you should have left it between us and instead, we finished second and third. And Brian's like, I don't care where I'm going to finish. I didn't even know the car was back there, I'm worried about you trying to win the race. So, Brian wanted to win that race just as bad as Kyle did. The thing in Talladega, when the dust settled, Brian was trying to help me get by the No. 8 car. He really wasn't in the right position to win the race and because of the wreck, did (win). I see him just as hungry as Kyle and as me. It's his career. Racing has been his life. He's been very close a lot of times and it just hasn't happened. For Brian personally, I'm happy that he won this race at Michigan and the race that we had in Talladega a few years back is behind us, water under the bridge, because he's been committed to the sport. He left Hendrick Motorsports essentially, asked to be released, and left and wanted to pursue different things, which we all thought he was crazy for doing. And he's made the most of it. He's gone to Red Bull and has matured as a driver and has been part of building a great race team and now they've won a race. So, I think he has a huge commitment and a ton of focus and a great desire to win. I think he was right with that thing with Kyle, after the race, I mean they're both trying to win the race. Kyle was mad that he finished second or third or whatever. It just didn't make sense to me why Kyle was so frustrated as well."
SINCE FUEL MILEAGE MIGHT BE AN ISSUE IN ONE OF THE CHASE RACES, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY THE NO. 48 TEAM IS SO BAD AT FUEL MILEAGE RACES? "Man, I don't have a clue. And it's been something we've always been a lap or two before anyone else, even at a plate track when everybody is running wide open, we pit before anyone else; I don't know what it is (laughs). I guess when I think about it, it could be horsepower-related. And it could be driver-style-related. At Michigan, once we got to the front and on the same fuel schedule as the No. 83 (Vickers), I did everything I could from caution laps to on-track. We backed the pace down a bunch. I was running half-throttle around the race track. And we didn't make it. Mark (Martin) took even more extreme efforts to save fuel and didn't. But then the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) made it. So in our own camp alone, we're a little curious as to why one car, like the No. 24 had great fuel mileage and the other two cars didn't. I certainly was racing for the win but Mark did everything he could to make it, but didn't. So we've got to figure out what's going on there. It could be jetting. We all had the same power plants, obviously, but if you look at jetting and driving styles and also the chassis set-up can dictate the fuel burn as well. Those are the three variables that we're really looking at."
-credit: gm racing