JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Mark Martin joining HMS, the economy and how it affects NASCAR, and more. Full Transcript: YOU'VE HAD GREAT SUCCESS AT DAYTONA. COMING UP ON TUESDAY, YOU WILL BE SPEAKING AT...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Mark Martin joining HMS, the economy and how it affects NASCAR, and more. Full Transcript:
YOU'VE HAD GREAT SUCCESS AT DAYTONA. COMING UP ON TUESDAY, YOU WILL BE SPEAKING AT THE NATIONAL PRESS ASSOCIATION IN WASHINGTON D.C. IT IS QUITE AN HONOR TO BE CHOSEN TO DO THAT. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE YEAR, AND WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO GET ANOTHER WIN? "I think our chances are good. We had a good practice yesterday but it's so tough to tell. I think track position is really going to be the most important thing. And I don't think two tires are going to work. I think it's going to boil down to if it's a caution, where your pit road selection is, and if you're in that first stall, you're going to be golden. But if you qualify up front and you're counting on green flag stops, you don't want the first stall because you can't get back up to speed. So I think the last pit stop or two is really going to set the field for track position. You may be able to pass a few guys from there, but track position is really going to be a big part of it. If you have the No. 88 or No. 24 or the No. 20, it's going to be really tough to pass them. Those guys are really good at what they do. I really think it's going to boil down to pit stops at the end of this thing that's going to win it."
NOW THAT IT'S OFFICIAL, WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO HAVING MARK MARTIN AS A NEW TEAMMATE? "I think Mark is going to do a lot for that No. 5 team. His knowledge and enthusiasm at his young age to still be in the car and to build a race team (grin) and to do all that he does, he's a special man and I'm very proud to have him on board at Hendrick Motorsports. And I look forward to not only what he brings to that No. 5 car, but also his mindset on the sport and the way he sets up his cars and what he looks for. There is a lot that we're going to learn from Mark. And I'm really looking forward to the relationship and things getting started there."
SUCCESS SEEMS TO COME IN BURSTS AT THIS LEVEL. ARE GOOD RESULTS MOSTLY THE RESULT OF HARD WORK MEETING GOOD LUCK, OR HARD LUCK OVERCOMING BAD LUCK? "I think hard work keeps you in the game, but there certainly are races where good luck sets you apart. The No. 18 had a very fast car at Sonoma but if you didn't catch the cautions right being on pit road, there's not a chance you would have won it. Certainly luck is a part of it and it's not taking anything away from the performance those guys had there, they drove a fantastic race and won the race. Hard work keeps you in the game. Luck sets you apart on those few times a year where it comes into play and you need it."
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF ATTENTION ON DRIVERS AS FREE AGENTS. HOW MUCH CAN IT AFFECT ALL FOUR TEAMS WHEN YOU BRING A NEW DRIVER IN LIKE WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH MARK MARTIN? "The departure of a teammate and somebody new coming in does do a lot internally to the organization, especially when you have somebody like Casey Mears who is so well-respected from everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and from my standpoint, such a close friend. There is nothing easy about that. And I don't think the decision was easy for anyone. There were circumstances and pressures coming from other areas that kind of made this come along. Now that we have a new teammate, when you look at teammates you can have and who is going to bring something to the table, and Mark Martin is that guy. Mark Martin really can bring a lot and will help soften that transition in. We all know how pleased he is to be a part of the company and how happy he is to drive good race cars. You hear his interview and he says it all the time after a race how happy he is to be driving whatever car that is and the man really means it. And that type of sincerity and his commitment to the sport makes those transitions easier than in most cases."
WHEN YOU LOOK AT MARK MARTIN AND HIS PHYSICAL FITNESS, IS IT AN INSPIRATION? HE'S A BIT OF A FREAK IN TERMS OF HOW HE WORKS OUT (LAUGHTER) "He is (laughs). I think he's an inspiration to all of us. And I think he makes a lot of us realize that trying to hang it up isn't going to be easy. I remember talking to Rusty Wallace about it and Rusty was kicking himself as it was getting down to the final races that he ran. When I saw him and he was on the TV side and the first six months into the season, he was going crazy. I've also talked to Darrell Waltrip about it and Mark gives a lot of us hope that one, if you take care of yourself you're going to be successful in this if your mind stays sharp and if you can just keep your body with you, you can still make it. And at the same time it also scares me because I don't know if I'm going to be able to let go."
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE SPORT IS GOING RIGHT NOW? WHAT'S GOOD AND WHAT'S BAD? "Everybody has just had great things to say about everything all year, so I don't have much to say (laughter). Thank you. I think we have done a good job and put on great races at the tracks where we ran the Car of Tomorrow last year. I think tracks where we have not raced (the COT) at and now we're coming to the second time, I'm hopeful that we put on better shows. There is a lot that we need to learn with this car. I think the No. 48 team itself is an example of how things can change. We were successful last year. We came into this year on the big tracks and we've struggled. We've made progress with this car on the big tracks, speaking for myself and the team, and I think everyone is. And as we come back a second time, I'm hopeful that the 1.5-mile stuff improves. I think in general we're putting on great shows. There's a great product.
I hope the economy hits bottom and turns around and comes back, and we're able to get the attendance and souvenir sales and all the things that make our sport thrive. When I think about that, I also think about the sponsors who are involved and the economy needs to turn around to help them out. Lowe's is an amazing company, but the economy needs to turn around to help them out. When you're in a bad economy, it's just tough on all the sponsors. And our sport is driven by sponsors. So we're fighting some elements as a sport that's out of our control. I think for how strong our sport is, it shows that we do have a good product and we do a good job each week even though we may be our harshest critics as times. We have a great program on that here."
IF THE ECONOMY DOESN'T TURN AROUND, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT NASCAR CAN DO? "The biggest thing we can do is try to show a return on investment for our sponsors. It doesn't matter if you are a track operator or owner or a race team owner, you just have to show a return on your investment. I think our loyal fans continue to do that. But I feel very lucky to drive for someone like Rick Hendrick who finds way to do business to business deals with his sponsors to keep them in the sport and to keep them around so when their board meetings take place and they look at their NASCAR program, they see it as an asset that they need to keep and don't need to cut it. But it's tough. There are a lot of things out of our control that dictate our NASCAR sponsorship stuff."
WITH DARIO FRANCHITTI'S CAR BEING PULLED LAST WEEK, HOW TROUBLING IS THAT TO YOU? "I think it reflects how tough this environment is. I hate to see it, a top profile driver and top profile team. It really shows how lean it is out there right now. Hopefully things turn around quick for us. I'm sure Chip was in a tough position to continue to run three cars and possibly turn the other two. Or, do you run two and hope to turn things around and have a lot of success and bring new sponsors in to run the third team again in the future. I feel lucky again that I'm where I am. Rick does such a great job and can offer other things to these sponsors that just what takes place on the race track. And I think that's something that really sets Hendrick apart in these tough times."
WHAT FUELED YOU TO GO INTO CHARITY WORK WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED YOUR FOUNDATION? "Growing up, there were a few team members and teammates that I had that had been through different situations that brought my eye to the charitable world. One thing that I think really helped me at a young age was in the Mickey Thompson Stadium Racing Series, they would take a couple of drivers from each division and we'd go in a daily early and go to a local children's hospital. And that experience at a young age, kids didn't have a clue who I was, but they knew who Ivan Stewart was and Walker Evans and these top-named guys who were there, but to watch these kids smile and to see the impact we could make even just walking down the hallways, opened my eyes to it.
I've supported a lot of different charities growing up. What really brought it all together was Kyle and Patti (Petty) sitting Chani and I down and talking to us about it. They said hey, you guys are doing a great job but it if you want to do more, this is how you do it. When they kind of laid it out for us, it made a lot of sense. We hit the ground running. It's been extremely rewarding. At the same time, we're in a high profile situation where you have to run a first class operation and we spend a lot of time with the foundation. We really do. It is extremely rewarding. But it certainly takes a lot of hours to do it and you've got to be committed to running a foundation. That's something that we're willing to step up to the challenge and have done a good job with that. But you can't go wrong. Even it it's at a local level or supporting something that you're close to, to a national level and things that we're trying to do. It all makes a difference."
-credit: gm racing