Jimmie Johnson Teleconference Transcript Tuesday, May 27, 2003 Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet, discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover International ...
Jimmie Johnson Teleconference Transcript
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet, discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Johnson currently sits in fifth place in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings (247 points behind the leader) following his victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Sunday. Johnson has ranked among the top-10 in the Winston Cup points standings for 45 consecutive races, dating back to the 2002 spring race in Atlanta. Johnson has competed in two races at Dover International Speedway scoring victories in both races there in his 2002 rookie season.
ON THE RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE EXTENDED SPONSORSHIP WITH LOWE'S HOME IMPROVEMENT WAREHOUSE
"Actually, we have been working on that for a few months. But now it's all put together and finalized and the timing of the announcement works out to make the month of May and incredible month for me, for Hendrick Motorsports and for Lowe's."
GOING INTO THE RACE LAST WEEKEND, DID YOU FEEL THAT EVERYTHING WAS IN PLACE AND THAT YOU WERE GOING TO BE ON A ROLL?
"You never know what's going to happen. I'm very fortunate to drive this Lowe's No. 48 car and to know that every week, every track that we pull up to, that I can be a contender and that we have a shot at winning. That's a rare feeling that only a few guys in the sport have and I'm one of those guys who has that opportunity. Obviously, we ran really well at The Winston. We were probably the fastest car out there. And then in the 600, we were fast in practices and one of the cars to beat the whole time. Coming from the back was going to be a challenge, but we felt we were going to be one of those guys (to have a chance of winning) if we used our heads all day long."
WHICH IS THE MOST CHALLENGING RACE TO WIN - THE DAYTONA 500 OR THE COCA-COLA 600?
"I'd have to say the Coca-Cola 600. The type of racing that goes on in the Daytona 500 doesn't really involve a lot of handling. It's a big mental game and sort of a chess game in how your position yourself. It's pretty mentally taxing on the driver. From that standpoint, it's hard to really pick between the two from my seat. But as a whole, it's what the team has to do and what the car goes through, I'd say the 600 is the tougher one."
ON WALKING OVER TO THE NASCAR TRAILER TO CHECK OUT THE RADAR ON THE FINAL RAIN DELAY AT THE COCA-COLA 600
"I stood out on pit road for a while and was talking to Matt Kenseth and a couple of the guys. I wanted to go back to our transporter to get my focus where it needed to be because I thought we would possibly go back to green and I didn't want to get caught up in the idea of winning. I headed back to the garage and I know they have a radar screen on the side of the NASCAR trailer. It hadn't been updated for a while, so I stepped inside to see what the latest update showed and as I stepped inside the front office, they congratulated me. It was quite a surprise. When you win a race, typically you're out on the race track and you're in front of the fans. So it took a while - until we were in Victory Lane - to let it sink in and realize what we had accomplished because it wasn't the standard ceremony of taking the checkered flag and all that."
WHAT DID MICHAEL WALTRIP HAVE TO SAY TO YOU AFTER THE RACE?
"Oh yeah, he's a comedian. He came over to me and started asking me if I felt bad because the race was rain-shortened and we started giving one another a hard time. At the Daytona 500, I don't think he felt very bad about the rain coming and taking the trophy home."
HOW DO YOU DRIVE A TRACK LIKE DOVER AND CAN YOU DESCRIBE A LAP AROUND IT?
"Dover is a concrete race track with a lot of banking. It has really severe transitions from the straightaways into the corners that make the track probably one of the most challenging ones we race on. Both ends of the race tracks are very similar in the way that you drive them and the shape of them. It's a rhythm race track. If you can just pick up that certain rhythm and you can hit your marks, you're going to have a good lap around there. The center of the corner is probably 20 feet below the elevation of the straightaway. So as you enter the corner, you drop off - kind of like a roller coaster ride - down into the center of the corner. You start to make the corner, and then as you come up onto the straightaway, you climb back up that hill onto the straightaway. So it makes for an interesting lap."
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE SPOTTERS AT DOVER?
"They're important everywhere. At Dover, when somebody spins out, they come back down the track - even on the straightaways. So it takes a little bit of experience on the spotters' part to know what's going to happen with wrecks. In some respects, it's a one-groove race tracks early in the race. It takes a spotter who knows the give-and-take game to give you a head's up that somebody is getting impatient behind you. Spotters are very important and it's important to have one that you trust and believe and share the same style with. I'm very lucky to have one of the best."
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RUNNING ON CONCRETE AND ASPHALT AND DOES IT AFFECT THE CAR'S HANDLING?
"It makes a big difference. When you initially turn the wheel, the response you have is a lot more positive on concrete than it is on asphalt. Also, the way the asphalt is laid is in a much different manner than concrete. Concrete is basically poured in squares. You can feel all the seams just like you would on a concrete section of the Interstate. You can hear your tires making that repetitive noise as you cross each seam. That's the same way it is in a race car - but our cars are so much more sensitive to those seams and cracks that it really bounces the car around."
WHAT CAR ARE YOU PLANNING TO TAKE TO DOVER?
"The same one that we dominated with there last year."
CAN YOUR EXPERIENCE AT DOVER LAST YEAR GIVE YOU A BETTER PUSH AT YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP RUN?
"I think so. Every team looks at the calendar and hopes that the tracks they ran well at previously will be the same ones that they can be contenders on again. We knew that Lowe's Motor Speedway was one of those tracks that we knew we would hopefully get some good points. With the success we've had at Dover, we have that same mindset. One thing we're trying not to do it to get too caught up in the pressures of repeating the wins and all that. So, we're going to go up there and do what we can. Every week, we've been competing in the top five and hopefully at Dover we'll still have the magic there and be able to pull into Victory Lane again."
ARE THERE ANY UPCOMING TRACKS THAT YOU'RE NOT AS COMFORTABLE WITH?) "The tracks where I feel I will be a top 10 contender instead of a top 5 contender are the road courses. Last year, we ran in the top 10 at both road courses, but I wasn't racing for the win. This year, we're making an effort to get me some more experience (by) testing some different tracks that aren't necessarily NASCAR tracks, but ones that I can get some more road course experience."
ARE YOU GOING TO DO A COMBINATION OF VIR AND CAROLINA MOTORSPORTS PARK?
"Yeah, we had a VIR test scheduled but unfortunately rain kept us from going a week or so ago. We're hoping to go next Tuesday if the rain holds off."
WHICH HAS THE MOST PRESSURE: LEADING THE POINTS OR CHASING FOR THE POINTS?
"I would say leading the points. One thing I've got to give credit to the whole No. 17 (Kenseth) team. They don't seem like they're paying any attention to the points and it's way too early to do that yet. They're still racing hard for the win. Matt Kenseth is aggressive and you can see it on the track. That's the key. It's arguable whether or not the No. 40 (Marlin) started to be protective as the season went on (2002). In some cases it looked like it and others it didn't. But you can't blame a team for trying to be conservative and trying to protect what they've built all year long. As the year wears on, that's going to be the challenge for whomever is leading the points - to try and stay aggressive and not let the competition catch you and get an advantage on you."