Bristol II: Johnson - Friday media visit

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with media members at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Bristol, upcoming race at California Speedway, special paint scheme featuring Jimmie Johnson Foundation at Fontana, preparing for ...

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with media members at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Bristol, upcoming race at California Speedway, special paint scheme featuring Jimmie Johnson Foundation at Fontana, preparing for racing in the heat at Bristol, Jacques Villeneuve coming to NASCAR, racing in Europe and the upcoming Chase.

ON RACING AT BRISTOL: "I'm probably a lot like everyone else where we just want to get on the track and see what this new surface is like. I've heard nothing but great things about it. I was encouraged watching the truck race and sitting here watching practice today. It looks like we have an outside lane. I really don't have an opinion until I get out on the track but I have high hopes and it looks like everybody's done an awesome job here to improve this great race track."

ON JACQUES VILLENEUVE RUNNING TRUCKS AND HOPEFULLY TRYING TO GET INTO CUP BY THE END OF THE YEAR: "I'm ashamed to admit this but I had no clue. You just broke news to me. With the week that we had I don't even know when they announced it. I'm encouraged to hear that more and more people are choosing NASCAR and think that NASCAR's the place to be. I think that with Juan Pablo (Montoya) coming in, it's shown the world what NASCAR is about and I was very exited knowing Juan was coming in and now that Villeneuve is looking at coming over or is coming over, I'm encouraged to hear that. We have a great thing here and as I travel and run in these other specialty races overseas, I can see as the years go by and as I participate in these things, I can see how these other drivers start to ask more questions. They're watching the races more and seem more interested and giving us more respect so I'm happy to see that and hopefully that trend continues. He's going to have to learn just like Juan has and Juan's still learning now. I think of (A.J.) Allmendinger and some of these guys.t he cars are different and it just takes a while to figure it out and I'm sure he'll be through that learning as well."

ON HIS FEELINGS OF THE CAR OF TOMORROW NOW VERSUS EARLY IN THE SEASON AND WHAT THE IMPACT WILL BE WITH THE CAR OF TOMORROW IN THE CHASE: "If you get out of the old car and enter the new car, as much as you hate the difference between the two.when we went to Dover, Dover was still Dover and the cars drove in a similar way and the racing was probably a little bit better. I think at Bristol we were all concerned about running here (in March) and still had a good race and the characteristics were the same maybe just slower in speed and performance of the car.

"So going into the Chase with the mile tracks that we have I think we're in good shape as a team at Hendrick Motorsports and for the Lowe's team, so I'm excited about it. I think it's a good mix of tracks and as we move forward I've heard some different horror stories about the big tracks with the Car of Tomorrow and I'm concerned with that but I'm happy to know that we're going to be testing more. I know there's a tire test at Charlotte. We'll be testing Atlanta and hopefully understand the aero balance of the car a little more so we can have good racing on the big tracks."

WILLTHE THREE EXTRA FEET OF WIDTH OF RACE TRACK MAKE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE IN RACING HERE? ARE YOU STILL CONCERNED THAT THIS WILD PLACE AND WILD RACE IS POSITIONED TO HAVE SO MUCH AFFECT ON THE CHASE? : "This track's always concerned me with that. You have so much to lose here if something takes place and from what I've seen so far with the racing it looks like there is an option to pass and hopefully it will be more of a racing track than it will be kind of a contact, bump and run track. If that is the case I think, from my perspective and probably the rest of the garage's perspective, you won't feel like you come in here with as much to lose and it isn't as volatile of a race track than what we think it is now or what it has been until now.

"I'm excited to get out there and see it. I don't know what that three extra feet's going to do. I can only think that it's going to help but so much of that depends on the transitions and how the banking throws you out onto the straightway so don't really have a good idea but again watching the truck race, watching the 77 truck run center.the top of the track from the center off was very encouraging for that transition and that extra room they gave us."

IS CALIFORNIA AS IMPORTANT TO DRIVERS ALREADY IN THE CHASE SINCE CALIFORNIA DOESN'T TRANSLATE WELL TO A LOT OF THE OTHER TRACKS IN THE CHASE? "In my opinion in the way I look at it is you got to get locked in and race in a way to get locked in and that's my goal and seeing where Jeff is at and where the 24 is at, they're more looking at victories and taking a chance like at Michigan they stayed out on tires. They had nothing to lose. If they could somehow get to the lead and win that thing, that's 10 more points on the seeding process. So my opinion, that's the way I'm looking at it. California we don't have a track like that in the Chase. There are some things that you can take over to a mile and a half track from there but the current car is pretty well sorted out so I don't think it's going to be a big technical race for a lot of people. It might be an engine race. I know that some people might.if you are locked in, again, it just depends on where you are. That's a big horsepower track and I know in the past we have taken more horsepower to Fontana when we've had a nice position in the points just trying to see if we can make it live and survive and get some race time on it. But I really think it depends on if you're locked in or not, what type of chances you take."

WITH THIS BEING YOUR FOURTH TIME IN THE CHASE AND STARTING ON TOP, IS IT EASIER THIS TIME? "The new format this year definitely is a little more forgiving for me the way I'm positioned right now but looking at the Chase I think that our team is more confident in what we've been able to accomplish and the fact that we've won a championship that we're in a much better place between the years than we've ever been. We're just more relaxed, more confident and more secure with where we're at and really looking forward to the Chase where last year at this point we had that tension inside of us where we were excited to get the Chase going and we've been close and are we going to win a championship. To have the championship behind us and know that we can do it, know that we have the skills and the team and all that good stuff, I'm really excited for it, excited in a way that I haven't been before going into a championship battle."

YOU'VE HAD THE SAME NUMBER YOUR ENTIRE CUP CAREER. HOW MUCH ATTACHMENT DO YOU HAVE TO IT AND WHAT WOULD IT MEAN IF YOU HAD TO GIVE IT UP? "That's a good question. I've never thought of it to be honest with you because that's all I've had and I've got a few more years left on my contract and I haven't had to think about driving another number. But in a situation if it's referring back to Junior it'd be difficult to leave that. I mean it's your identity and that's kind of the way things work. Probably the number is one of the. maybe the paint color or the number, I'm not sure what would be the most identifiable trademark to a driver, but I think the number is probably number one. So it'd be tough to leave that but I know that with some guys that I've talked to in the past that have changed numbers, that it's a way to start over and there's history with a certain number and it's an opportunity to start over with a new one. And I think with Junior and his fanbase and how loyal they are that it is a good opportunity for him to start over. It's going to slight some of them, there's no doubt about it, especially the p eople with the 8 tattoos. I'm sure they'll not really like this but it just depends. But I really think coming to a new team like Junior is, it's a good opportunity for him to start over, re-identify himself and be at Hendrick instead of being a carryover from another operation."

ON GOING HOME NEXT WEEK AND GOING BACK TO HIS HIGH SCHOOL FOR THE FIRST TIME: "I actually am embarrassed to go back to the school, in a weird way. I remember being a kid being in school and somebody would come to class and we were only excited because it got us out of school and were like 'Alright, we got to listen to somebody talk.' I am excited to go back. I am nervous, I don't know why. I'm just going back to (my) hometown and back to the school. It's hard to explain. Maybe I'm afraid they're going to post my grades for everybody to see or my detention slips. It's going to be fun and I'm happy to see that the school is excited to have me back and from what I understand the students are excited and they're going to do some real nice stuff out there. (I'll) just go back and check it out. I don't know what to expect and I assume it's going to be a little overwhelming but fun at the same time. What's weird too is a lot of the people that I went to school with are now teachers and stuff inside the school so it'll be nice to see a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time."

ON RACING NASCAR IN EUROPE: "My wife Chani and I vacationed there this year, so I would find that to be a very good thing if we could race over in Europe, but with our schedule already and what it would take to get vehicles back and forth, I unfortunately don't think it would happen. I would love to do it and appreciate it, but it would be difficult."

ON LESSONS LEARNED FROM LAST CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENT: (LAUGHS) "Yes, stay in the golf cart - that certainly is the place to be. (CONTINUED LAUGHTER) I am really excited for what we are doing out in California. It is going to be great to get back to the area where I grew up. We had a huge response already in our first shot at doing this golf tournament. We don't know what to expect, but we think we are going to have a great turn out and raise some good money and built at least one home for Habitat for Humanity. If this model works well and the community supports it and we are able to continue this on for next year and the future, we are going to keep doing it. Lowe's has been supportive. They are going to run the Jimmie Johnson Foundation paint scheme on the Cup car throughout the weekend. I am really excited, and just happy to see from Hendrick Motorsports, my sponsors, the community, everybody supporting the vision Chani and I have for the Foundation."

ON GETTING A SPECIAL GOLF CART WITH A ROLL CAGE, SHOULDER BELTS, ETC.: "I wouldn't doubt it. I have seen some designs and photos of golf carts that fans have suggested. There have been surfboards attached to the top of golf carts, with bindings so that I am locked in and wouldn't be able to fall out-or fall off, I should say. (MORE LAUGHTER)

ON HOW REWARDING IS IT TO SEE SUCCESS OF CHARITABLE FOUNDATION: "It has been very rewarding. I heard about dealings that come with having a Foundation, how you are able to give back and how much fan support and the community we would receive as well as our sponsors. But until you live it first hand and you really see how that side of a company, that side of fans where they want to give back and help people, it just hits you in a different way. It is really rewarding and the Foundation does take a lot of work, people want to see that it is important to my wife and I, and that we are really there working on it and leading the charge for it. So, I probably spend more time on the Foundation, thinking about and organizing, Chani does too, than most other things. It is time consuming but so rewarding at the same time."

ON WHAT HAS TOUCHED HIM THE MOST: "To see the spirit, especially in the Make a Wish Foundation, of these kids that are granted a wish. That have been through all the things they have been through, the outlook they have, the perspective they have--you get so caught up in material things -- and when you see someone is struggling and going through hard times, they go back to the basics and simple things and find satisfaction and happiness through all that - that teaches me a lesson. It really is wild to see a five or six year old child that is going through chemo with a smile on their face. They tell you they are a race fan, telling you that you are making their day, whatever it may be, and to see their fresh perspective on life, their different perspective on life, that is really cool. I am not sure it really pertains to just race car driving, more as a person, it hits you hard inside -- like, yes, I am consumed with competition and success and with that comes other great thing s in life--and you start using those as benchmarks for happiness. When you see someone that doesn't have those things and if fighting for their life, the fact that they are smiling and they are happy, it just re-racks your brain and thoughts. It is the simple things like that; it is not always the other things. "

ON OTHER TEAMS GAINING ON THEIR HABDLING OF THE NEW GENERATION NASCAR RACE CAR: "I think that is by design from NASCAR. There are very limited areas for us to work on suspension, on aero. The big teams, especially Hendrick, we able to sort things out and get a good head start, but we are kind of out of adjustments. We are out of areas to work in. The other teams are slowly but surely finding those things and catching up. We don't like it as competitors, but NASCAR is loving it because they are having the competition that they want."

ON CHANGES TO BRISTOL BEING MORE OF A RACING TRACK WITH NEW CHANGES AND LESS BUMP AND RUN AND HAVING FRESH RUBBER ON THE CAR LATE IN THE RACE: "It could. When I watched the Truck race, Mark (Martin) stayed on old tires the whole time and that wasn't encouraging. But, I understand that Goodyear came conservative with the tire that is here and hopefully, after this weekend, we can learn some things that bring a tire back that has some fall off to really promote that and put on good racing."

ON CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY CHANGING BETWEEN RACE EARLY IN THE SEASON VERSUS THIS FALL EVENT: "I don't think it does change as much as some other tracks especially comparing it to Daytona and how different it is there in February versus July. It always seems a little slick and we always end up at the wall regardless if it is the spring or fall race. It is certainly a little hotter. But I don't know why-maybe the temperature swing isn't as severe from the spring race to the fall race that keeps the track a little more balanced. But I really don't know why, or I don't recall it being much different from spring to fall."

ON LOOKING FORWARD TO FONTANA AND RICHMOND BEFORE THE CHASE: "I definitely am. California has been a good track for me. With the things we have with the Foundation car in the Cup race that Lowe's is letting us do, going back home, all the things I am doing around that race, going back home is really cool and special to me. I am running the Busch car and a Cup car; I love the track that is where I won my first Cup race. The groove is widening out, we are getting more competitive racing there. I am excited to go back."

ON HOW DRAINING IT IS TO RACE 500 LAPS AT BRISTOL: "You don't realize it until you get out of the car how draining mentally this track is. Other tracks, you get out, you go to the bus and then work your way home. There is reserves in the tank. You can almost go home and go for a jog, do stuff around the house, bring the bags in, unpack and turn around from the weekend. You leave Bristol, you get in the motorhome and you are staring at the couch thinking that looks like a pretty good option right now. Then you get showered up and cleaned up and head home and when you walk in the house, you aren't concerned with dragging bags in from the car, you are looking at the again at the couch or your bed. You don't notice it in the car, but when you get out of the car, you are spent, you are just done.

"It takes at least a day to recoup. I have been training harder and harder knowing this race is coming and how hot it has been. I am hopeful it is only a day, but, I left here a couple of years ago and I didn't eat or drink properly before and during the race, for whatever reason, was way way down on energy and nutrition. I got home and actually got sick so it took three or four days. But I learned my lesson from that so with the heat, I am hoping to keep it still down to a day.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports