JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MEMORIAL DAY TRIBUTE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his success at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the All-Star incident with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and more. TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK RACING IN THE COCA-COLA...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MEMORIAL DAY TRIBUTE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his success at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the All-Star incident with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and more.
TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK RACING IN THE COCA-COLA 600 THIS WEEKEND "I'm real excited about it and the way the car ran and performed at the All-Star event. I have high hopes and am confident that we're working in the right areas and depending on weather tomorrow and things, I feel comfortable starting the race now if we do get rained out for Saturday's practice, and if not I think we have a few small things to look into. But with the test session we had a month or so ago, and the track time last weekend, we feel real confident that we're in the area we need to be."
YOU WENT THROUGH A FIVE RACE STRETCH HERE WITHOUT A TOP FIVE FINISH. SINCE THEN, YOU WON LAST OCTOBER AND HAD A GOOD RUN IN THE ALL-STAR. HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT WHAT HAPPENED DURING THAT TIME? "I can't remember if you asked me that last week or not. I didn't look into it. I'm not really sure what happened with those five races during the spring race here. I know that in the fall race we've been competitive a bunch. But I don't really have any answers for the spring race. I'm just totally drawing a blank as to why but I know in my mind I come here with positive thoughts and always think we're going to be competitive and have a chance to run well. I'm not sure what happened with those."
ON THE CHANGES MADE DURING THE 10-MINUTE BREAK IN THE ALL-STAR RACE "I would say we probably over-adjusted some for the 10-lap shootout. We wanted to make sure the car was comfortable and secure for a shootout and maybe went too far and got the car too tight. So, we learned from our mistake there. Everything we did before that we had a very good plan in place and it worked out. We just didn't anticipate the track changing that much for the final segment of the race and it kind of hurt us. On top of the fact that we were third off of pit road and you can't take for granted how much better the car drives in clean air and being able to control the start of the race and get ahead and I didn't have that luxury. I was pinned down on the inside in the third starting position and we never really ran long enough to get going and to get situated and get through that. Then the following restarts, again I was pinned on the bottom and pinned on the bottom and finally turned around off of (Turn) 4 just from being trapped down there and Denny (Hamlin) had taken the air off the side of the car. But we learned a lot last weekend to be honest with you. I wish we could have that final 10 laps back again. I think we'd be in good shape."
WHAT WAS YOUR VIEW OF THE FINALE BETWEEN THE NO. 11 (DENNY HAMLIN) AND THE NO. 18 (KYLE BUSCH) LAST WEEK? WAS IT A FAIR MOVE ON THE NO. 11'S PART? DO YOU THINK THAT WILL HURT THEIR RELATIONSHIP GOING FORWARD? DOES THAT IN ANY WAY HELP YOU GUYS? "I saw Denny being very aware of where the No. 18 car was from when we were committing to our lines on the straightaway going into Turn 1, I saw some confusion, not confusion but Denny was trying to be in front of the No. 18 wherever he was to put him in a bad situation for air. And that's what you do. When you come to the closing laps of a race, especially the All-Star race where there's no points on the line and you've got to do anything and everything you can to stay in the lead and win the race. I don't think there's a lot of fault to put anywhere. I'm sure Denny and Kyle living it, have different opinions and point fingers at each other for whatever reason (laughs). But in the All-Star race, you race a certain way there because of what it is. I wouldn't anticipate those guys letting it carry over or letting a situation like that build in a points race. I could be wrong, but just everybody drives so different in the All-Star race and I think that's why you saw the aggressive moves."
ON THE DENNY HAMLIN / KYLE BUSCH INCIDENT LAST WEEKEND, DO YOU CRINGE WITH KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT THOSE GUYS WERE GOING THROUGH? "With the teammate situation, it's so much fun to watch it take place, and to hear what goes on, but when you're living it, it sucks. Everybody wants to know what's going on. But to walk into microphones and think for a few days how you need to handle what you want to say and you say your statements and you don't know how they're going to be received or what people are going to think or what your teammate is going to say or how it's going to be received. There is distraction that takes place. So I'm glad it's not me. It's certainly fun to watch and I know we entertained a lot of people a few races back when Jeff (Gordon) and I were going through our thing, but it's a tough environment as teammates and racing for wins and I guess it shows that it doesn't matter what organization you drive for or who the teammates are, you're seeing what we want week in and week out. We want to win races. You do have things that pop up. I think those instances make a team stronger. A month from now, Denny and Kyle will probably say that they're stronger or smarter or have a better relationship because of it. I know that's the way it's been with Jeff and I."
WHAT STANDS OUT FROM YOUR FIRST CUP WIN? WHAT WAS SPECIAL FOR YOU AND YOUR WIFE? "Now my first win, I didn't know my wife at that time, but the things that I share with her is that when I won that race, I knew I was going to have a job. And I was really nervous coming into this. Everybody was asking who the hell is Jimmie Johnson and why did Rick Hendrick hire him? I was thinking the same thing. But I wasn't going to say it out loud. I'm like now I've got a chance here, I'm going to make the most of it. So to win that race, and to validate the beliefs that Lowe's and HMS and Jeff and Rick (Hendrick) had in me, and to prove to myself that I could do it, there was such a feeling that came from that. First and foremost, I'm going to be around for a while and I've got a job, and it was a big moment to say wow I really could win at this level. I hadn't won much in the Nationwide Series and ASA and all that was leading into it. It was a really big day for me from a confidence standpoint and I feel like I belong to the sport."
DID YOU HAVE FUN WATCHING DENNY HAMLIN AND KYLE BUSCH? WHAT ADVICE TO YOU HAVE FOR THEM? "Sure it's fun to watch; to hear that Kyle parked his car at the back of the No. 11 hauler, and marched up in there and then I heard something about a package being delivered to the media center. I guess that's not from them, but it's a spin-off of all that's around it. It's entertaining. There's no doubt about it that it draws you to it. And again, I'm just thankful it's not me in the middle of it. From a competitive standpoint, I hope they keep fighting. I hope they keep entertaining us because it's a distraction. From a friendship standpoint, obviously the sooner they get it behind them, the better. I want to see it continue on because they're both fast drivers and have a chance at winning this weekend, so I hope it carries on."
BASED ON HIS PERFORMANCE THE ALL-STAR RACE, DO YOU SEE KURT BUSCH AS AN EVEN STRONGER CONTENDER FOR THIS YEAR'S CHASE? "I do. Those guys, even last year, in my mind I felt like the No. 2 is really somebody we need to be focused on for a championship. And I still feel that way. They've been plenty fast at some tracks and then off at others. As they get more time together, they're going to lift the bottom line and be strong at every track they go to. Kurt does things on the track that prove why he's a champion and why he wins races. I think he is a very good talent. I think at times he can get a little heated and that might affect some things inside the team or the decisions he makes on track. But he knows what he's doing out there and does a damn good job. I'm not surprised to see him win and I won't be surprised to see him in the Chase and fight him for the championship."
YOU DID REALLY WELL AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY LAST OCTOBER. WHY CAN'T YOU JUST COME RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX AND DO THE SAME THING AGAIN? "That's the goal coming into it. Things change each year. Technology changes, tires change, the track changes and loses grip every year that goes by. If we showed up with last year's set-up, we'd be 15th or worse. So at that point in time for that weekend, we had it right. We're just chasing that again. Hopefully we can go through that this weekend. It's a long shot, but certainly something we strive for."
-source: gm racing