JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed racing at Dover, start to the Chase, Rick Hendrick as a mentor and motivator, sports psychologists, being a favorite for the championship and other topics. TALK...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed racing at Dover, start to the Chase, Rick Hendrick as a mentor and motivator, sports psychologists, being a favorite for the championship and other topics.
TALK ABOUT YOUR START TO THE CHASE AND EXPECTATIONS THIS WEEKEND AT DOVER: "I am excited about the start we have had in the Chase. Great race last weekend with the No. 16 car. Great points day for us, led a lot of laps. Did all the right things so we excited about how things have started. Still know there is a lot of racing left and a lot of teams that are in contention for this thing. We will just take it as it comes. It is too early to get too excited about things.
"This weekend is going to be a big weekend. It is a dangerous track, a lot can happen. We saw a huge pileup on the backstretch here last year that took out a lot of good cars, it was in the spring. There are some concerns here, but this is a great race track for the No. 48 team and we are looking forward to it."
TALK ABOUT YOUR OBSERVATIONS OF HOW RICK HENDRICK DOES THINGS AND YOUR THOUGHTS OF WHAT HE DID WITH DALE, JR. ON THE RADIO LAST WEEKEND AT NEW HAMPSHIRE: "One thing with Rick and I think it is what has brought him to where he is today in motorsports and in business, is that he is a people person. He understands what makes people tick. Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) sat down with Rick a long time ago and said, "I want to win races, I want to win championships, I want to be at Hendrick and that is where I think I can do it. I want to come in and do anything and everything you think I need to do to succeed." Over the year I think Rick and Junior have built a great relationship and I think the conversations everybody heard on the radio and what they saw was that strong relationship that Rick and Junior have and they can talk to one another with that openness and that blunt, truthful, whatever it is. They can hit each other head on with it. That is what makes Rick so different. You might hear things you don't want to hear, he might challenge you in ways that you don't want to be challenged but that is what Rick Hendrick is good at doing. He is good at finding things in everyone and trying to make you stronger in those areas. It is just Rick doing his thing and I have had plenty of conversations with Rick where I didn't want to hear what he had to say. I know Chad (Knaus, crew chief) has. I know we have both been in the same room as you pointed out with the milk and cookies thing. There was also a pork chop meeting that took place where Rick had a pork chop in his hand one time with his son Ricky and Lance McGrew, he was so mad, he was flinging the bone around and the meat went flying off all over the inside of the truck. So, there is a pork chop meeting. When you get to a pork chop meeting, you know it is pretty bad. I think milk and cookies is a step before that. Rick is just good a bringing the best out of people and really coming to your level. He can kind of morph in to whatever personality is there and really talk to you in a way that makes sense."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT KYLE BUSCH WENT THROUGH LAST WEEKEND: "That team is strong and if I was on that race team and in Kyle's shoes, I would find every positive throughout the course of the season and rally my team around that. And know that there are nine to go and say all the positive things that you need to say. At this point, there is no telling if that is going to be the fatal blow or not. If you look at '06 when we won it, everybody had trouble, we crashed at Talladega that late in the season and came back and won. You just don't know yet. Those guys, they are smart. They have a great race team and they have the ability to climb back from that. So, we will just have to see what takes place. I can speak from experience, there is not a worse feeling than to leave Loudon knowing you are starting the Chase and you are that far behind and you have had a terrible day. It makes for a long couple of weeks."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SOFT SPOKEN RICK HENDRICK THAT WE USUALLY SEE? "Rick has worked really hard to be where he is today. He is extremely humble. You may not see that intensity because he is just a good Southern man, he wants to say and do the right thing. If you look at Jeff's (Gordon) perception, my perception and Rick's it is probably in the same category. PC, say the right things, do the right things more than not. But there is a much different side of Rick. It is not that it is a bad side by any means. It is just there is an intense desire to win and he may say some things and do some things that you wouldn't expect because he has that burning desire to win. As I was pointing out earlier, he can morph in to whatever personality he needs to connect with that person. It has made him successful in business and in motorsports. If you look at all the drivers he has had over the years, Tim Richmond. He found Tim and brought Tim along and we all know how crazy Tim was and he found a way to connect with Tim and bring the best out in Tim. You at Gordon, guys like Nadeau, you look at Joe Nemechek, you look at Vickers, myself, I mean you look at all the drivers, there are a lot of different personalities in there. That is what Rick is so good at is connecting with people and bringing the best out in them. He is doing that with Junior. Next year he gets to bring Mark (Martin) in. I doubt that Mark needs much, but Mark is going to need something. There is a part of Mark that Rick will make stronger and better. That is what Rick does best, finding that and building that area."
WHAT ABOUT DALE, JR. SAYING HE HAS TO GET MAD TO GET UP ON THE WHEEL, DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT HE IS SAYING THERE? "When I get mad, I make mistakes. When I get mad, I push too hard and just do a lot wrong. So I am kind on the other way, where I need to take a deep breath, control myself, control my emotions and just find the rhythm. Every driver is different. Every driver is motivated by different things. That is why I don't say a lot of the radio because I am internalizing things and taking a deep breath and just finding my rhythm because if I get mad and I let myself get mad, I am junk for a pit stop or two. I just can't bull it back in, so I am on the other side of that."
HAVE YOU EVER USED A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST AND HOW DOES THAT HELP YOU AS A DRIVER? "The team has. I have certainly taken some interviews and found out my personality type. Chad's done a lot of work in understanding, there is another system I can't recall the name of it right now, but... If you look on our pit box, there is a chart with everybody's name and a color and there looks like there is sometime of graph on there and it points out the different personality traits that you have. The whole team has been through this course and we know that some guys are dominant, some guys are passive, some guys are aggressive and there is a whole way to interact with one another. We have gone to great lengths to understand this stuff to help with communication between the team. I have had it available to me to use for my driving stuff, but I really haven't pursued it too much. I have participated with the team to understand Chad and my guys better, but not to really help me inside the car."
HAS UNDERSTANDING THAT SORT OF THING AND WHAT RICK TALKING TO YOU HELPED YOU GOING TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL? "It has. I can say, through the race team, there are colors that come with this program that we are on and see a lot of red. Red is like the dominant aggressive personality. Every leader in our organization is red. So, you see some trends in that. Then you look at the engineers and they are blue, so you are like, all right, two different personalities so how do those guys interact. A red will run over a blue and blue is kind of more passive and laid back. So you have to find a way to communicate between those two and we have used that tool to communicate better internally in the race team. What is weird is that I am a red as well; we figured I would be blue. There are a couple of other colors. When we got the results a couple years back, it was interesting to see that we were both the same color. It helps us. There is a whole list, it is kind of funny to have all these bullet points, this is how you make one made. This is how you get along with one. You look those things and think 'Yup, I know I can say something along those lines and make them mad.' It just helps put it in perspective. It is a small tool, it doesn't make the car go much faster, but in today's world where a tenth of a second is a lot, if you can communicate a little better, it is going to help."
WHAT THE NO. 48 TEAM THE CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBER TEAM OUT OF ALL THREE HENDRICK TEAMS; YOU ARE THE GUYS THAT EVERYONE SAYS ARE REALLY THE FAVORITES? "I don't have a good answer for you. I'll just sit up here and BS you through the normal lines of good team, good this and strong. I don't know why at the end of the season, it comes together. If you look at trends, we are better in longer races, we are better at more challenging tracks. When the pressure is on us, we don't make huge mistakes, at least as of yet. There a lot of things we do good in those moments. That is really the area I look to. But if we look back two, three races ago, before California, clear favorites were Carl (Edwards) and Kyle (Busch). Then after the last few races, we have become more predominant. What I am getting at is it changed in a hurry and it can change again in a hurry. You can see the No. 20 go on a tear, and the No. 20 all of a sudden be a clear favorite at the half-way point of the Chase. Or the No. 16 with his run last week.
"As I keep saying, I am scared of everyone and I am trying to stay focused on everybody, but I find confidence in knowing that we are going to go out and give 100% and not trip over our feel. We are not going to do stupid things. I think at the end of the day, that is what we have done best. We find a sweet spot and we stay in it. And that, hopefully, is what we continue to do."
HAVE THERE BEEN TIMES WHEN YOU HAVE THOUGHT PEOPLE SHOULD BROADCAST YOUR RADIO COMMUNICATIONS? "There are plenty of times, after you say it, you realize how many scanners are up there and then you think of Track Pass and everybody that is listening and you think 'That was not good'. This year at Las Vegas when we were so bad, I think I told Chad I would pull it down pit road and let him have a shot at it, it was so bad and we were arguing so bad on the radio. We said a lot of colorful things on the radio. After the race, we had a huge event for Lowe's that took place and they had a 1,000 people in this tent outside afterwards, all their store managers. I walked in to that event with my head down, feeling terrible about the race and I walk in the door, I see kids and lots of people in Lowe's attire. They said man, it sounded rough today on the radio. It hit me then, I felt so guilty that I said all the things I did on the radio; that put it in perspective more than anything. Usually you get done with the race and you are off to home and you forget about things. But after the race, to go in to a tent full of diehard Lowe's fans and employees, it really hit me hard. I wasn't bad before, but since then, I am like, if I can't get out of the car and look a kid in the eye, I have a problem with that. I still say plenty of colorful things, but it is in my head more than it has ever been. I am thankful that the fans are understanding that it is a competitive sport and there are a lot of things said on the radio, kind of under the helmet that some people don't need to hear and it may offend some people. But, it is a competitive sport, our butts are on the line and there are things that come out. If you put a camera down there on the field for a football game, you are going to hear some colorful things, I am not trying to justify what we say or do. But you say things in a competitive sport that you probably don't want to some times."
DO YOU THINK OF HOW IMPRESSIVE THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THREE STRAIGHT TITLES WOULD BE? "I know it is out there, I have thought about it some, but it is not there yet so my mind hasn't really worked on it too much. I can imagine and think what it would be and how great that would be, but I just haven't let my mind go there yet. Until we are in the hunt, I am trying to avoid it as long as I can, because then there is pressure that comes with that and worrying about doing that and trying to put myself in the history books. The longer I can keep it out of my mind the better and let me focus on the things I need to."
WHAT IS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR TEST PATTERNS AND JEFF GORDON'S TEST PATTERNS? DO YOU TEST MORE THAN HE DOES IN THE SEAT? "Yes, this year I can say it has been the most I have ever tested in this sport. I think we are up to 19 test sessions and we still have some more out there to hit. I agree that switching from the old car to this car is as challenging as the change from bias ply tires to radials. The problem with this car, it's not just the tires, that is just one element.
"You have two bump stops, the spring combination that goes with it. Less downforce, higher roll center. There are probably five or six issues with this car that are tough to sort out and it has taken us a long time. Chad is really aggressive with testing, engineer based, all of those different things that come along. For the majority of the season, we just worked in the wrong area. I could feel what was going on. I could tell them how bad it was, but we couldn't fix it. So in my opinion, there is a bit of a fixing problem right now. They are working really hard to understand it. Jeff can feel what is going on, he knows what is going on. Stevie (Letarte, crew chief) can understand what he is saying but it is finding the right things to massage that they are struggling with right now. You only find that by being on track.
"I don't know that number that Jeff tests. I know that Tuesday he was in Kentucky testing again. I would say his numbers are higher. I don't think they have tested as much as we have this year though."
-credit: gm racing