Wednseday, November 12, 2003 - Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet, discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. IS IT A MUCH BIGGER...
Wednseday, November 12, 2003 - Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet, discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla.
IS IT A MUCH BIGGER DEAL TO FINISH SECOND IN THE POINT STANDINGS THAN SAY, FOURTH OR FIFTH? "Yes. If you look at it financially, the difference from second to sixth is around $800,000. You might have to check that figure. But that's one thing. And we set goals to try to do better than fifth place where we finished last year and to finish in the top three. It's important to meet those goals to build for your championship year next year."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOUR TEAM TO FINISH OUT THIS YEAR AND DO INTO THE OFF-SEASON ON A HIGH NOTE? "It's so important -- especially when you've got a long one coming up like we do when the bodies have to be cut off of every single car we have and we have to start over again. So there has to be some momentum to get through the winter that's coming up. It's very important."
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO STAY IN THE TOP 10 IN THE POINTS FOR SUCH A LONG PERIOD OF TIME? "I think being in the situation I'm in -- driving the Hendrick Motorsports cars -- it what has put me in that position. From the competitive side, the first two or three races are the key ones to be doing that. Luckily we've been able to finish well at Daytona and Rockingham and Atlanta or Vegas after that. Just being in great equipment -- stuff that doesn't fall apart and that's competitive."
IN YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR 2003, DID YOU SEE YOURSELF BEING ONE OR TWO SHORT STEPS FROM THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP? "I had hoped we might be in a position to possibly win it based on our rookie year when we led the points and were a part of that whole battle. But a realistic goal that we set was to try and be in the top three. Hopefully we'll be able to do that."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR 2004? "With the way these last two years have gone, we're setting our expectations high and want to win the championship."
WHAT KINDS OF SPEEDS ARE YOU EXPECTING AT HOMESTEAD? "Wicked fast (laughs). I don't know. I'm looking forward to hearing from the Busch guys today on what it's like. I'm not really sure. I've heard 188 and 189mph from some people. I think it's going to be pretty quick."
LAST YEAR YOU SORT OF FELL OFF AT THE END OF THE SEASON BUT THIS YEAR YOU'VE DONE JUST THE OPPOSITE. WHAT KIND OF FOCUS HAS THAT TAKEN? "I think the majority of it is experience. Last year, none of us had ever been in a situation where there was so much pressure and so much on the line. I don't think we knew how to handle it or how to deal with it. During the off-season last year, we sat down and tried to learn from our mistakes and recognize some things that if we were in that situation again that hopefully in '03 it wouldn't get to us. We are in such a better mindset this year as a team. And we really made an effort over the winter to not let it happen and it hasn't. We're very happy to be in this position this year."
BRENDAN GAUGHAN, IS LEADING THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES AND IS ALSO GOING TO RACE IN THE BAJA 1000. DO YOU MISS SOME OF THE OFF-ROAD RACING YOU USED TO DO? "I definitely miss it and would love to do it. If I was fortunate enough to be in a 20-race schedule, and still lived on the west coast where off-road racing is, I'd definitely be doing some. But with our schedule and being in North Carolina, it's just impossible."
DO YOU THINK IT'S PRETTY AMAZING THAT GAUGHAN HAS MAINTAINED A CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMANCE FROM LAS VEGAS INSTEAD OF MOVING TO NORTH CAROLINA LIKE MOST STOCK CAR RACERS? "Yeah, I give him and his team a lot of credit in a lot of ways. Being in Las Vegas and putting together a championship caliber team that's won a lot of races is amazing in its own. Brendan and I started racing together about the same time in the Mickey Thompson Stadium Racing Series. We've raced with each other throughout our entire careers. To see how far he has grown and what he's able to do behind the wheel is incredible. I'm happy for him and proud of him. Hopefully he's the champion."
THAT LAST STEP TO NUMBER ONE IS A HUGE STEP. IT'S NOT JUST A MATTER OF MOVING UP ONE PLACE OR A MATTER OF TRYING A LITTLE HARDER, IS IT? "No, it takes a whole year. You have to come out the first race of the year and have things go your way. Matt Kenseth has been fast and he's been consistent, but he's also had a lot of fortunate breaks like flat tires coming at the right time and things like that. He's had a lot of things happen for him. Everything has to be just right and everything has to be just perfect. Hopefully everything will be lined up for us next year."
SO IN ADDITION TO SKILL, DOES THERE HAVE TO BE LUCK? "Yeah, as many races as we have and for as long as they are, skill and talent is the majority of it. But you've got to be lucky when you're dealing with 42 other cars out there and all those variables."