JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed tires, racing at Indy, momentum and more. ON THE TIRES. "I don't have any personal experience, my teammates were up. The overall...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed tires, racing at Indy, momentum and more.
ON THE TIRES. "I don't have any personal experience, my teammates were up. The overall feeling is that they spent a lot of time and money and effort to get the tire right and they were able to do it. With that in mind I'm anticipating no issues. I'm sure we'll see some tire wear at the start. It's been that way through all the years that I've been here not only last year. Once we get past that initial 30 or 40 minutes of practice I expect the tire to come in and the rubber to go down and the tire be fine."
WITH EACH RESTART YOU WILL BE SIDE-BY-SIDE AND THAT WILL BE A CHALLENGE, IS THERE ANY GROVE YOU'D LIKE? "Until we get into the mix of things and see it's tough to tell. Turn one I think if you are on the inside and you clear someone you'll be in good shape. But I've been on the outside of people in turn two and been able to carry more momentum off of the corner and use that to my advantage down the straightaways. I'm not sure. If you can clear someone through the short shoot I think you'll be in good shape but if you are side-by-side I would expect the outside car to rally back down the straightaway."
WILL YOU BE ON THE RACE TRACK IN PRACTICE ENOUGH TO GET A FEEL FOR WHAT THE TIRE IS GOING TO BE LIKE IN THE RACE? "I think you'll see some teams in race trim and working on the race set ups so we'll be able to get an indication there. But we're going to be in qualifying trim so it will really be one lap. I imagine today we'll only run five or six laps all day long in practice."
SO THAT WON'T TELL YOU MUCH ABOUT THE RACE? "No, not for the race. Word will travel fast through the garage area. Who's been doing long runs, what that window of time is and how the tires looked."
YOU AND TONY (STEWART) HAVE ALTERNATED THE RACE OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, IS THAT SETTING IT UP FOR A JIMMIE-TONY SHOWDOWN THIS WEEKEND? "Man, I hope so. It would be a blast. I know coming to this track that Tony always finds more and I know he's giving 100 percent at every track but he just seems to step it up a notch here each time we come. I know it's going to be a great battle and I assume there's going to be other cars in there as well. It's going to be a great race. I think in between Jeff (Gordon) and Tony and their desire to win here it's going to be tough for somebody to take one of those two down."
PEOPLE ARE LIKE YOU CAN'T COUNT THE NO. 48 OUT HERE, IS THAT TRUE AND DO YOU HAVE THIS ONE CIRCLED THE WAY MAYBE TONY (STEWART) DOES? "For us it's either been in the fence or victory lane. I've hit the wall here a few times pretty hard and I don't want to do that again. You know it took me a while to get the track. It took Chad (Knaus) a while to understand the track. Then in 2006 it just made sense to us and we were fast since then. Hopefully I can apply those things to my driving techniques today. I've been going through my notes and hopefully all those reference points still work the same and the cars react the same and I can go out there and be competitive."
HAVE YOU AND KURT (BUSCH) SQUARED THINGS UP, HAVE YOU TALKED? "No, I sent him a text and tried to reach out to him after the race and haven't heard back. I guess we'll see each other in the garage area."
IF A GUY TEXTS YOU ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO TEXT HIM BACK AND IF YOU DON'T HEAR BACK DO YOU TAKE IT AS HE'S NOT INTERESTED IN HEARING WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY OR SOMETHING? "Yeah, I'm kind of out of the ordinary. Even if I'm right or wrong or whatever it may be I'd always find whoever it is and explain myself if it was intentional or not. Who taught me this lesson was Jeff Burton like my sophomore season. He ran all over me and I was mad and the guys were mad and he walked in my truck and passed all my crew guys and didn't apologize but said look man I meant to knock you out of the way. Just wanted to tell you as a man I meant to do that. And I thought that took a lot of balls (laughter) and it was really respectful in a weird way to do that. So I've always reached out to people and it didn't surprise me that I didn't hear anything back. I'm sure at some point we'll talk. I know at the time the emotions are high and everybody is leaving for an off weekend and all that kind of stuff. We'll see. It can continue on or it can end. We'll find out."
DO YOU THINK YOU'VE RACED HIM OR DONE THINGS THE PAST MONTH THAT ARE WORTHY OF HIM QUESTIONING YOU AS A THREE-TIME CHAMPION? "No and I think if you asked him again today with the emotions gone I think he would change his mind. I've worked really hard to have the respect from all the guys on the race track. I'll take full and total blame for Sears Point (Infineon Raceway). The funny at Sears Point I walked up to him to apologize and take the blame and he's see me mid-interview and kind of backs off his tone and how mad he is at me. Then as I start talking to him he's really chill about it and is like No, I should have let you go it's my fault. I was like don't give me that. I take responsibility and I put us in that position and it's my fault. So going into Chicago I know he was frustrated the fact that we got together again. I got loose and it was a racing thing. There was nothing intentional about it. From the videos that I've seen there may have been enough room for him to not hit the wall but I think he was anticipating me slamming him and him hitting the wall. If he just stopped short of the wall and we made contact, but it was a racing thing. It was nothing intentional."
HOW OFTEN DOES SOMEBODY NOT REPLY TO YOU OR IS THIS THE ONLY TIME THAT'S EVER HAPPENED? "It's not uncommon to not hear back. I don't think a lot of people like talking about it. They would rather bury it and save it for another moment where they can settle the score."
HE SLAMMED YOU A COUPLE OF TIMES THERE, WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT NASCAR DIDN'T AT LEAST ADDRESS THAT? "No, body slamming they typically don't do anything about that. If you were in the corner and turned me around from behind I would see something there. But door-to-door slamming they probably encourage that more than anything."
HAVE YOU GONE UP TO PEOPLE AND TOLD THEM THAT YOU MEANT TO PUSH THEM OUT OF THE WAY? "Yeah I have. I crashed Ward Burton at New Hampshire. It was 2003 when we won both races and the rest of the race he was chasing me around with a shortened race car trying to crash me back. It took me like three days to track him down and plead my case to him and we just had a difference of opinions and it was what it was. We're not always going to get along and the thing that Jeff Burton showed me was that emotions are real and they are there. You may not like someone, you may think someone treated you unfairly but the fact that you get it on the table helps in some weird way. If Ward did everything he could to crash me after that and I saw him and would miss him and I think NASCAR actually parked him at the end of the race because it was so obvious that he was trying to crash me. From then on since I reached out to him and took a few days to track him down, I actually went to his office and then his secretary and finally tricked him on a cell phone call from a blocked number and he answered his cell phone and I made contact with him. From that point on everything was cool. So I learned my lesson back then."
GIVEN LAST YEAR HOW IMPORTANT IS IT WITH THE PRESTIGE OF THIS RACE TO HAVE A GOOD SHOW THIS TIME AROUND? "You know it's really important. I think with Goodyear and the effort they've put in to correct the tire and make a tire that works for this car because it's not all Goodyear's fault. Certainly the tire gave up but the car is different than what we have had in the past. They made a huge effort and spent a lot of time up here testing, a lot of money on research and development, all those different things and knew that they didn't have the right situation last year and wanted to prove to the fans that they could get it right. So I really commend them for their effort."
THERE ARE CERTAINLY ECONOMIC FACTORS, BUT TICKET SALES ARE WAY DOWN, SO YOU THINK THERE ARE SOME FANS THAT WERE JUST DISGUSTED BY LAST YEAR? "There could be. I really don't have a good feel though personally what has led on to that. I know that as the year goes on financially it's just tougher and tougher for everybody so that can play a large part of it. We'll just have to see. Maybe there's some type of scale you can look at verses other events what the decline would be. Even though the Daytona 500 was sold out so that was another big token event that would probably screw that up but I really don't know."
FROM A DRIVER'S STANDPOINT IS THIS A GOOD RACE? "It is when you win it (laughter). It's great then."
FOR 400 MILES IS THIS ONE OF THE BETTER PLACES? "It's tough to pass on. I don't think the track suits a stock car and if you watch the (Indy) 500 it's tough for those guys to pass as well. So from just a pure race track perspective there are better tracks out there for us to race on and put on a better show. But the history of this track and what it means to everyone picks it back up a notch. After now winning at the track there's a lot of pride coming with the fact that it is so tough to pass on. In 2006 we had to come from last to the front and won. That made it even more special. If you have success here I guess you find a way to look at it in a different light."
WOULD YOU BE OKAY IF NASCAR DIDN'T RACE HERE? "I think we need to be here. I really do and not run it through the infield. We need to be on the oval."
WHAT DID YOUR WIN HERE MEAN TO YOU? "To be beat down for the few years that I raced here this was by far my worst track, we couldn't do anything right, we ran terrible, crashed, all kinds of things and then to finally win it and win it coming from the back after the flat tire, it was really cool. There were times I was on the plane heading home and the race was still going on and I though I'm never going to run well at this place. So to actually perform well meant a lot to me."
BASED ON WHERE YOU ARE IN POINTS CAN YOU APPROACH THIS RACE DIFFERENTLY AND JUST COMPLETELY FORGET ABOUT THE CHASE AND DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN? "I don't think so. The way I'm looking at things now, we need to ramp up for the Chase and treat these races leading into the Chase like they are Chase races. Maybe my approach is wrong. I know some other guys probably think it's more important to get wins but there's a rhythm you need in the Chase and I think we're close to it but we're not on it yet. We need to get there before the Chase starts. That's my goal. Chad (Knaus) may make the riskier call or something on pit road but I need to stop making mistakes. I've made more pit road violations this year than any other year and been caught up in some wrecks and caused some wrecks. I just need to tighten up my game as well and really get in that rhythm that I need to be in for the final 10."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MOMENTUM. "Momentum does matter and you can feel it but you can't control it. There's positive momentum that's rolling your way and there's negative momentum that's pulling you down. It's one of the few things that you can't change but you can feel and sense with my experience at least. I think that consistency and running especially the way the No.14 (Tony Stewart) and the No.2 (Kurt Busch) has been real strong and the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) has been delivering, you're going to have to I think the year that Jeff (Gordon) and I battled for the Chase the average finish was 5.0 and you're going to have to be better than that. You're going to have to do podium a lot in the Chase and that's the rhythm I'm looking for and that's what we need to get back."
HOW IMPORTANT IS CONTROLLING YOUR EMOTIONS AND BEING ABLE TO NOT THROW AWAY A RACE IF ITS NOT GOING WELL TO WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS? "It's important. It's one of the things that I've been very good at over the years. This year I've probably been a little more emotional at times in the car than any other year. After those moments I would look back and think that's just not productive. If I lose my cool I make bad decisions on the track, it tears down the team and the energy on pit road and it could lead to slower pit stops or an issue on pit road, so that's something I'd say after Charlotte I kind of had some time and thought about things and just felt like getting caught up in those things were tearing the team down a little bit. I think in general from Chad (Knaus), myself every aspect of it we've been much more positive on the radio and it's been better for us."
KYLE BUSCH SEEMS TO STRUGGLE WITH CONTROLLING HIS EMOTIONS WHEN A RACE ISN'T GOING WELL FOR HIM, DO YOU THINK HE WILL BE ABLE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP UNLESS HE FIXES THAT? "The thing that's dangerous with Kyle is that he can go onto a run and with a 10-race stretch at the end of the season he could link together 10 good ones. It's just short enough to where he can do it. I think the old format would be tough on him but at the same time I think we all kind of frame in what we think of Kyle and what his short-comings would be and then he knocks it down and does something that impresses all of us. I think he's learning a lot. He's young and he stands on the gas which we all know so I've learned to not kind of write him off in certain areas because he delivers. He can really step up and deliver when he needs to."
WHAT WAS DIFFERENT THAT MADE YOU STRUGGLE WITH YOUR EMOTIONS MORE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON? "My personality, I hate conflict. Take it on the chin and just deal with it and absorb whatever. This year at the start of the season I started lashing out more. If it was guys on the track that were getting into me. David Ragan and I got into a slam fest at Darlington which was just not my style and I exploded on the radio and that's just not my style. Then we go into Charlotte after that and I can't remember what happened in Charlotte, I think Chad and I may have been trying to kill each other through the radio and I'm sitting at home and I'm like why I am doing this. Why now? Why is this helpful now? Times where I've just let it roll of my shoulders we've been able to recover faster. If it's an issue on track or with Chad and I we have been able to get our act together and finish strong in a race or rebound into the next weekend. I could sense if I kept that energy level and that attitude it would start tearing things down. We all know that Chad and I have two different approaches to it and it's worked for a reason and I guess I realized I need to go back to the way I've been and that's a better place for us the way we operate."
HAS IT MADE IT A LITTLE MORE DIFFICULT OR CHALLENGING WITH THE SITUATION WITH KURT (BUSCH)? "That's different. Internally with the team and people that I work with conflict is tough to have. Rick (Hendrick) has been very helpful with Chad and I from the conversation in '05 and other things that have gone on really help us not tear each other down. With Kurt it's not family, it's not teammate so it's easy to react a different way when you don't live with the person. But when it's one of your guys conflict in those situations have been tougher for me. Rick is a great people person and keeps smoothing those out and damn near counselor some times. He should have a degree in psychology or something."
-credit: gm racing