Darlington: Johnson - GM top-10 interview

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson May 12, 2006 JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS: WHY DO YOU HAVE SUCCESS HERE? "It's a track that I've always liked. I think it reminds me a little...

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10

Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson
May 12, 2006

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS:

WHY DO YOU HAVE SUCCESS HERE? "It's a track that I've always liked. I think it reminds me a little bit of my off-road days. A good advantage of mine is to manage the tires and that's really the bottom line. You've got to really take car of the tires and it fits my style."

ON HIS TEAMMATE JEFF GORDON AT DARLINGTON: "I think it's the same thing. He's very good at conserving his tires. You can't just ride around out there a half-second off the pace. I think the dirt experience that Jeff (Gordon) has had and (Tony) Stewart, myself, (Kasey) Kahne and guys like that (helps). You know how to just get enough out of a tire without killing it and abusing it and that really pays off."

DO DRIVERS APPRECIATE THIS RACE MORE NOW THAT YOU ONLY RACE HERE ONCE A YEAR? "I wish we came here four or five times. It's a great track. I think it's a track that the veterans really enjoy coming to not necessarily the rookies. I think I was one of the few rookies who came here and really enjoyed it and liked the track right out of the box. But the rookie class seems to be amazing everyone in producing it and really have shown a lot of maturity. This is a track where you have to race the race track and drive your car to its potential. You can't be caught up following someone and trying run their line."

DOES RACING ON MOTHER'S DAY WEEKEND POSE A CHALLENGE FOR YOU? "No. I would love to have a day off. I think we all do. We'd like to be home and celebrating Mother's Day with our mothers. We do have Sunday off so that's nice that we have a day off on the weekend."

WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE YOUR MOTHER EVER GAVE YOU? "I should have thought about this coming down here knowing these questions would come. I would really have to thank my parents and my mom especially because I think you are a product of your parents. My parents taught me to be understanding, caring and treat people how you want to be treated. I really think that's the side of my mother that I've picked up and carried on in my life."

SOME PEOPLE SAY JEFF GORDON ISN'T AS COMPETITIVE AS HE USED TO BE. WHAT DO THINK ABOUT THAT? "He's a very competitive man. He's very focused on his racing career. I think he's more focused, committed and working harder than I've ever seen him work."

ON JEFF GORDON NOT HAVING THE SUCCESS HE'S USED TO: "I'm sure it's not easy for him. He's used to regular success, great equipment, and great people around him. He's probably one of the best drivers of our sport so I'm sure it's not easy for him to not have the success he's used to."

ON THE PROBLEMS WITH JEFF GORDON'S CAR IN RICHMOND LAST WEEKEND: "He was devastated last weekend. It was something in the distributor cap. It took him out of the race when he was running really strong. They're working hard to make their cars better. We were just talking a minute ago, he and the team have done so much to be competitive and they're really on the brink of success and literally a two cent part did it. They're doing their job they just need to get some luck back on their side."

ON THE ALL-STAR RACE: "It's really a lot of fun. I think it's one of the few races where everybody can let their hair down. We are there learning and we can carry a lot of stuff from the All Star weekend to the (Coca Cola) 600 weekend but the points really aren't on the line and I think everybody has a lot of fun."

WHAT'S THE ART OF RACING HERE WITHOUT GETTING SUCKED IN THE WALL? "To pull off a pass you really have to set it up and position yourself to get by someone and put the other car in somewhat of a disadvantage. Beyond that, you just have to race your own race. If people are running you down, you've got to let them go. You learn to give and take because you cannot run side-by-side around here maintaining any speed. You've got to execute your passes at the right time and if someone is on you you're better off letting them go so don't sit side-by-side for a lap or two and lose more seconds to the leader." ON THIS TRACK POSSIBLY BEING REPAVED: "Don't say that word. Leave this place alone. Keeping patching it and make it rougher. I think the track is awesome and the reason we have such good racing here. If they repaved the current asphalt and we were running 190 around here, it'd be single file racing. It's not wide enough to run side-by-side. We need the drop off. We need the tires to wear out so that we can race like we do around here."

ON HIS SUCCESS HERE: "I like the track. When I was racing in the Busch Series I didn't have a lot of success here. I was a fan of it and when I came back in the Cup car I started seeing some success. It's a tough track. It really makes you earn your money every lap. I enjoy it."

DO YOU CHANGE YOUR MINDSET AT A TRACK LIKE THIS THAT CAN BE DANGEROUS? "I come here every time and try to get a balance and not get caught up in lap times and try to make my car ride nice and not abuse the tires."

IS THIS A FAVORITE RACE TRACK FOR THE CURRENT GENERATION OF DRIVERS? "I think so. Everybody has a track that they prefer more than the other but I have heard quite a few drivers mention how much they enjoy coming here and racing here. I think it's more because of the challenge you have as a driver here. If you have success it really shows a lot for your driving skills and that you're really on top of your game."

ON TERRY LABONTE MAKING HIS LAST START HERE: "I didn't realize that I guess. I think back to Terry winning the last Southern 500 and how special that was for him. I think I finished second to him that night. I thought with new tires and a short sprint to the end, I might be able to pull something on Terry. He checked out and was gone and left me in the dust. I think back to that memory of Terry."

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO BE CONSISTENT AT DARLINGTON? "I think a couple of things. It's a track I like coming to. The second thing is technology. "The technology on this race track and the mile and a half's, it doesn't really cross over here. The same technology and everything that we're doing won't work here. Our winning set-up has been very consistent and it's always been a very good place for us. I give a lot of credit to the car and what I just mentioned. Beyond that, I've learned through some mistakes here. I had something with Sterling Marlin racing too hard too early. I learned and realized if I run my own race here and deal with my race car and not worry about things surrounding me, you'll have a better day that way. I think that's where my consistency has come from - staying focused on my car. It's a long race. People make mistakes and hit the wall. Somebody is going to be really fast but I need to worry about my car and my situation and forget about everything else."

WHY DOES YOUR TEAM REJUVINATE SO WELL? "I don't have an explanation why. I'm glad that we've been able to produce during tough times especially with the bad things that have happened with our airplane going down. We were able to produce on those days, that day in Atlanta. I don't know why it's happened. I'm not sure why we rebound back like we do. The only thing I come up with is regardless of the situation our guys keep their cool and we maintain. We know our potential and we go out and strive for that. We don't try too hard. We don't throw in the towel. We just go out and give 100 percent and have been able to deliver doing that."

IS IT A RELIEF FOR YOU AS A DRIVER THAT YOU HAVE A CONSISTENT PIT CREW? "First of all, you make sure you don't loose anything on pit road. That's one thing Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and our management and pit crew trainers work on is consistency. If a fast stop is 12.5, we'll take 13.0 all day long instead of a few 12.5s, 12.2s and a 15.0. Our first priority is consistency. From there we really start working on speed and the mechanics of the pit stop to try to get that to be competitive. I think my rookie year we had some issues and had some inconsistencies but since then we've focused on the consistency of our stops and we've been solid ever since."

ON A DRIVER'S ROLE IN A PIT STOP AND BRINGING THE CAR IN QUICKLY: "There are a couple of things. Depending on where your pit stall is you can hustle a little bit more. If you're coming to stop in a certain zone that is being timed, once you cross that line you can really hustle the car because you're coming to a stop. Bringing the car into the pit box with speed is really important and helps the stop. If you have an opening in front of you or not or you're coming around a car, you really have to get the car pointed in the right direction so you're not in trouble.

"That slows down the stop a lot more than you think. If the team has a good eye on the car and it's coming in straight, they know the steps they need to make to be in position for the car to stop at them. If you have to turn around someone and get pointed out, they're almost dancing trying to follow the car and you can easily lose two or three seconds doing that."

WHEN YOU MAKE A MISTAKE ON PIT ROAD OR THE CREW MAKES A MISTAKE, YOU GUYS DON'T SEEM TO ARGUE A LOT ABOUT IT. "I know they are doing everything that they can. I'm confident in them. I know that they don't want to make mistakes. They know that I don't want to make mistakes and that I'm doing everything I can. If I get on the radio after a pit stop and get mad, what good is that going to do me? They're harder on themselves than I can ever be on the radio and that's how I am inside the car. There's a level of respect there that I'm not going to cross the line and disrespect those guys and it goes the other way too."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson