Tuesday, September 3, 2002 Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his rookie season and outlook for the Chevy Monte Carlo 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Richmond International...
Tuesday, September 3, 2002
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his rookie season and outlook for the Chevy Monte Carlo 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.
Johnson comes to Richmond and this weekend's race as one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR. For the 2002 season, Johnson is currently 5th in points, just 167 points behind the leader, and 2nd in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, five points behind the competition. So far in 2002, Johnson has earned two NASCAR Winston Cup victories (California and Dover), three Bud Pole Awards (Daytona, Talladega and Charlotte) and recorded 15 top-10 finishes, including five top-5s (Atlanta, California, Dover, Pocono and Chicagoland). His earnings this season are $2,131,360.
ON THE TIRE MISHAP AT LAST WEEKEND'S SOUTHERN 500 AT DARLINGTON
"It was really a freak deal. I don't now how often that has happened. When I was leaving the pit the valve stem rotated around when the tires were spinning and hit my rear tire changer's gun and knocked the valve stem off of the wheel. And that let all the air out of the tire. So it was just a freak deal. There was nothing we could really do about it. We ran strong all day long and I think we probably could have been in the top five if that hadn't happened. But we rallied back to a 9th place finish."
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH FRUSTRATING SETBACKS LIKE THAT?
"Yeah, out of all the things that can happen....you just have to write it off and go on. We had such a great day going. I thought we were going to have a solid day with no problems. But the Winston Cup races are so long, it just shows how right everything has to be to have a good finish or to win the race."
DID NASCAR CALL YOU AND ROBBY GORDON INTO THE RIG TO MAKE SURE YOU WERE ON THE SAME PAGE REGARDING THE BRISTOL INCIDENT?
"Mike Helton and John Darby called us into the trailer and wanted to make sure we weren't going to retaliate. As unhappy as I was about what happened there at Bristol, they wanted us to come clean with each other. If we had retaliated back, it would make it look like we're not professionals and that makes our sponsors look bad. NASCAR just wanted to make sure that we were both leaning that way and that we would leave it on the truck and not take it out on the race track."
IS IT SOMETIMES HELPFUL WHEN NASCAR CALLS DRIVERS IN TO SETTLE THINGS LIKE THAT?
"I think so. The way the meeting was conducted with Mike Helton and John Darby, they talked to both sides and I think the way they handled it was really important and they both did a great job of making sure that they're giving respect to both drivers and it was good."
GOING INTO RICHMOND, ARE TEMPERS LIKELY TO FLARE AGAIN WHEN THE DRIVERS RACE EACH OTHER A LITTLE MORE INSTEAD OF RACING THE TRACK?
"Yeah, it's another short track. But, there are a couple grooves there where you try to find your way around someone. That'll help, but once again you're on a short track."
ARE YOU TESTING AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY THIS WEEK?
"No, we're all done with our tests."
IS RICHMOND A GOOD TRACK FOR YOU?
"Yeah. I'm excited about it. We were racing Jimmy Spencer for a win there late in the race in the spring, and spun out. We will try to keep all the fenders on it and maybe have a win."
ON THE RICHMOND TIRE TEST
"I think there was a debate about whether the tire was an issue or the sealer on the race track was an issue for the spring race there. The way it appears, we had to run the race in the daytime and with all the heat of the cars, the sealer started to pull up and kept us from having an outside groove. The track was dirty on the outside. But now, after the IRL has raced there and after our race there and the Craftsman Truck race and the Busch race, the sealer has been down and the groove is very wide and I don't think we're going to have a problem like we did in the spring."
WITH YOU IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT AND NOW THAT THE SERIES IS HEADING INTO THE LAST STRETCH OF THE SEASON, IS THIS THE TIME OF YEAR WHEN LITTLE THINGS CAN REALLY PUT YOU BACK?
"Yeah, there are so many things that go on. But we've really tried not to pay attention to the points race and just go out for the races. But it's still in your head. After Bristol, we said we weren't going to worry about the points."
LOOKING FORWARD, WHAT ARE YOUR STRONGEST TRACKS COMING UP?
"Well, Dover (where he won in the spring) is a good track for us. I think Kansas City is going to be good for us and of course Lowe's Motor Speedway. There are a lot of good tracks coming up for us."