Tuesday, March 18, 2003 Part 1 of 2 Jimmie Johnson , driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his 2003 season and his outlook for the upcoming Food City 500 in Bristol, Tenn. Johnson is currently 7th in the...
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Part 1 of 2
Jimmie Johnson , driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his 2003 season and his outlook for the upcoming Food City 500 in Bristol, Tenn.
Johnson is currently 7th in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings (156 points behind the leader), following his 27th-place finish last week in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway. Johnson has ranked among the top-10 in the Winston Cup points standings for 38 consecutive races, dating back to the 2002 spring race in Atlanta.
WHEN YOU ARE INVOLVED IN A CRASH OR HAVE MECHANICAL PROBLEMS AND KNOW YOU CAN'T WIN, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU FINISH THE RACE?
"You just try to get what you can. The races are so long and people still end up having trouble. You just try not to lose any more laps and it usually ends up that there's somebody on your lap (if you do go a lap down) that you're still racing. So you still find yourself in a battle somewhere."
AFTER A GREAT RUN IN YOUR ROOKIE SEASON, WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THIS YEAR?
"More of the same. Our crew has stayed together and we've been able to work during the off-season and make everything better than we had last year. With more experience, we're hopeful there will be more of the same."
AFTER YOUR CONTACT WITH STERLING MARLIN AT DARLINGTON, WERE YOU CALLED TO THE NASCAR TRAILER AFTER THE RACE?
"Yes. We just had a conversation with John Darby and looked at some videos (of the incident). They were just trying to make sure that everyone understood that it was just a racing incident. They wanted to have that conversation then and there and just put it to bed. So we looked at the video and discussed it. We all agreed that it was just a racing incident."
WAS THE NO. 40 TEAM THERE TOO?
"No, it was Chad (Knaus) and I and John Darby."
SO THEY WEREN'T TRYING TO PUT YOU AT FAULT, THEY JUST WANTED TO CLEAR THINGS UP?
WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED WITH THAT ACCIDENT?
"I just made a mistake coming off of Turn 4. I was kind of mad at myself for not racing the race track there. That's one of the most important lessons - I've crashed there before racing too hard - and it happened to me again. It's one of the tracks where you cannot pay attention to who you're around. I got caught up in racing too hard too early. I just lost some traction off of Turn 4 and ran out of race track and pinched the No. 40 (Sterling Marlin) into the wall and crashed him and myself. It was just a racing mistake on my part."
WAS A LAPPED CAR IN FRONT OF YOU A FACTOR TOO?
"It was so crazy on that restart. Some guys decided to pit and other cars didn't. We chose to pit and there were a lot of good cars stuck back in traffic. We were all trying to find a way through. There were some close calls prior to that. That was actually a mellow thing that ended up developing and still ended up causing some damage. But like I said, I'm mad at myself for racing so hard so early. I should have known better. I should have just relaxed and raced the race track and I would have been fine."
IT SEEMED VERY HECTIC FOR THE FIRST 100-MILES OR SO. WERE A LOT OF GUYS IMPATIENT?
"Yeah. I was on the radio telling Chad it was like a boxing match out there. Everyone was fighting so hard for every square inch around the race track. Everybody was in the mood to race Sunday morning and I think it took its toll on a few guys, including us."
ANY PARTICULAR REASON FOR THAT? WAS IT BECAUSE THE TRACK WAS GREEN?) "I don't know. I don't think so. I think that track promotes it. It's so narrow. When you have people on different pit cycles like we saw happen there, even though a car only has four or five laps on the tires, it makes a big difference. You have such a difference in speeds from the new tires to just slightly used tires, it just promotes it (impatience)."
ON GOING TO BRISTOL NEXT WEEKEND
"It's a place where you seem to either have a really good day or a really bad day. And we hope to go there with the Lowe's Monte Carlo and have a really good day. The race track is obviously exciting and doesn't need any introduction. Everybody knows about it. Everybody knows what a crazy race track it is. It's a very hard race track to get around and be competitive. Times are so close in qualifying and the cars are so equal, that if you're five-hundredths off, you're in the way. And if you're five-hundredths faster than anybody, you're the car to beat. So it's a very weird race track and a hard race track."
CAN SOME GUYS HANDLE THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF BRISTOL BETTER THAN OTHERS?
"It's a challenge to control it all. When you're making 15-second laps and you've got guys beating on your bumper and a lot of chaos going on, you have to make a conscious effort to stay in control and keep your mindset where it needs to be. It's a challenge. It's tough. It gets the best of everyone. You'll see things come out of people that you never expected. That's what everyone loves to see. That's what makes it Bristol and that's why the grandstands are sold out."
SINCE WE ARE ON THE BRINK OF WAR, IS YOUR RACE TEAM DOING ANYTHING TO PREPARE FOR IT IN TERMS OF TRAVEL OR PARTS ETC?
"We're all talking about it and paying close attention to it and wondering what's going to happen. I think everyone in the country is doing that. But I don't know of any travel changes or anything like that yet."
WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS POSSIBLE WAR?
"I'm scared - just like everyone else in the world. We need to find a way to capture these people and end terrorism. But at the same time, it's just such a fine line of what's the right thing to do. It's a tough decision. I don't know how or what the right thing is to do. I just hope that it all works out in the end."
ON THE FACT THAT RACING USES A LOT OF FUEL BUT THAT IT'S ALSO A GREAT PASTIME FOR PEOPLE TO THING ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN WAR
"It's a great form of entertainment. I think NASCAR does one of the best jobs out there of any form of entertainment to show its support for the United States and our armed forces. If you've ever been to one of our events and seen the presentation we have prior to the events and the presence we have from all forms of armed forces. It's quite an amazing thing to see. NASCAR is 100 percent supportive of our country and whatever we need to do.
"We have run a Power of Pride slogan on our race car in the past and will have one in the future through Lowe's. We will be announcing a program soon. For the past three years we have been doing the Power of Pride program with our special paint scheme. Last year we raised over $6 million for 9/11."
ON THE ISSUE OF CUTTING SPEEDS & USING SOFTER TIRES
"There's a debate out there on the ways to cut speeds. Where Goodyear is positioned is that these cars are building so much downforce and they're going so fast that we need a hard tire to support that. They've gone through spells where they've had a lot of right fronts blowing. Goodyear doesn't want to be in that position. They want to build a safe tire. They are friends with the drivers and teams too and they don't want to see anything happen to them. If NASCAR is able to take away the downforce then that is going to mean slower speeds. And then we could start looking at a softer tire.
"My opinion on it? I haven't driven the cars with low downforce and softer tires like they had 10 years ago. I don't really know what the difference would be. So, I'm really out to lunch on it to be totally honest with you (laughs). I've been very successful with the package we have now and I would think we would be successful with whatever package they throw at us."