Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet. April 30, 2002 Moderator: Yancey Casey Guest: Jimmie Johnson - first Winston Cup win Part 1 of 2 YC: Great. We'll open it up to questions now. Q: ...
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse
April 30, 2002
Moderator: Yancey Casey
Guest: Jimmie Johnson - first Winston Cup win
Part 1 of 2
YC: Great. We'll open it up to questions now.
JJ: Thank you.
Q: I'm writing a story about Chad Knaus for tomorrow, and I guess when you look around on top of the fit boxes, there's usually a lot of gray hair out there. What is it about Chad that's allowed him to work his way up there so fast?
JJ: You know, I think Chad and I feel like we're on the same page right now as far as we have put into this career of ours chasing this dream, and didn't know what was going to happen with this opportunity. We both felt lucky to have it and just didn't have a clue what was to come. It's turned out more than either one of us could ever imagine. I'm personally extremely proud of him the way he's organized and brought these guys together and put this team together in a short period of time.
He's in a big company with a lot of people surrounding him giving him advice and pointing him in the right direction. He could have easily taken team managers, engineers, Robbie Loomis, a lot of different people the wrong way, and didn't use all this information and these resources to his benefit. But he has, and he has done an awesome job, and not to mention he's doing an incredible job setting up the race car. The way our communications come together it's just been awesome.
Q: Now, was he part of the operation last year when you guys did a couple of races, or did he come here?
JJ: No. Ken Hauser did it, and he's working on the `92 car. I think him working at Hendrick in the past was a huge thing. It was why he came back, and Brian Wyfal was really in favor of bringing Chad into this position. As time went on, Robbie Loomis, and as it made its way through Hendrick, everybody starting agreeing more and more. I finally met with them last December and finalized it then.
Q: So I guess he made a pretty good impression the first time around when he was part of Jeff's crew.
JJ: Yes. You know, I think they saw all the core things that you need to have to be successful. You know, he had left to pursue being a crew chief. The results he had were good, but not to what we've been running here lately. They knew there was going to be some strong points that they could take from him as far as aerodynamics and a lot of different things. So it's a long story, but it was just a long thought-out decision that there was just so many positives to bring them onboard on paper that the decision was made and now it's been grouped together. It looks like it was a no-brainer, but it's just hard to understand at the time what's right and the way the management at Hendrick nailed this one.
Q: Thanks. We'll see you at Richmond, man.
JJ: I appreciate it.
Q: Congratulations on the win and also on being so polished. It's hard to imagine a rookie being as polished as you and Kurt Bush second year. All of you are doing a good job on that front too. I had a question about obviously there are a lot of other Chevrolet guys that aren't doing very well at all, including your teammate.
Is Jeff going to start using some of the chassis ideas that you guys have? I talked to Robbie Loomis and he seemed to be a little reluctant. Obviously you're probably a little braver right now than Jeff is on some of these things that people have to do. What's the status for inside Hendrick Motorsports on all the stuff that you guys have learned and obviously works very well?
JJ: Well I can say we're not extremely far apart chassis-wise. I mean, we have the same chassis, same bodies, all that locations, and all those technical parts there are all the same. Now the spring and shock combination has been a little different at times. What we're seeing is in the past you'd think you're way off in left field if you finished from first to fifth. Well now, everybody's learning this aero stuff.
The race this weekend, Jeff was close, but maybe 100 pounds different. The right front spring was the biggest difference, and it just takes a little bit to make the car off. Chad's definitely very aggressive with this stuff, and he's been able to prove some of his theories and ideas. As we continue to test and have that data to look at from my driving style to Jeff's to build that confidence into the setups and to make sure that we're not going to shoot ourselves in the foot here, and not just because of our driving style that I'll set up work or something. So we're still evaluating it, learning it, and trying to see how Jeff and I drive similar so we can make the setups work the same for one another.
Q: Can I ask one dumb question? Whatever you guys are doing, whether it's bump stops or whatever all that stuff is, it seems to work everywhere, or else you guys have something on each track that works differently. It's just like one super idea, like soft something or other or hard something or other that hey, it works, it works, it works? Or is this like one track? You've got one thing that seems to work in another track. Hey, this seems to work.
JJ: No, it's really one thing. A couple of things, but it's going back to the basics. You need the car as light as possible, the weight to the left. You need to pay attention to aerodynamics, and your center of gravity height. So I mean, it's just really utilizing the basics and pushing them to an extreme.
You know, the setups are extreme, and it makes more sense on paper than say it did on the racetrack ten years ago the way the setups are going in racecars these days. I think that's why you're seeing guys like myself and Newman and some of these other younger guys running so well is we've got crew chiefs that are setting it up on paper and looking at these other aspects of it. We don't have as a crew chief or as a driver 20 years of experience. No, that won't work. You've got to have this spring here or that spring there. So I guess we just don't know any better, and it's working.
Q: That's cool. Good job, man. Keep it up.
Q: Jimmie, do you have any plans to do the Baja 1000 again?
JJ: No. My last experience down there, I waited two days before anybody found me. I would love to go back in being in an off-road truck again. That's the most fun I've ever had in a racecar in my life. The way the schedule is, we're so busy as it is, I don't really feel like tackling a month worth of pre-running and going down for the race and everything that it takes to do it. I just couldn't put in the right effort. So I'd love to go test one and drive a truck again, but I don't have any plans right now to run anything like that.
Q: Thanks, Jimmie.
JJ: You got it.
Q: Could you explain what happened the last time that you spend two days out in the dessert?
JJ: Yes. It was at the `95 Baja 1000, and I crashed in San Javier, which is kind of in the mountains down in the Baja peninsula. The way the aircraft follows the race trucks, it was nighttime so aircraft was down and we were so far away from the asphalt road there was no communication. I went off the road, wrecked it pretty bad, and by the time we had radio communication that could be established again, the race was so much further down the course from us they didn't know where we were.
I had to wait for the race to end and for them to start back-tracking and hunting around and looking for us, and then they finally found us two days later. I guess they found us about a day/day and a half later, and it took us a long time to get the truck back in action and drive it out to the asphalt and put it on the trailer.
Q: So did you have to catch snakes and cook them over a fire or something?
JJ: No. We had some stuff on the truck and other people were, you know, the race was still going on. We were leaving the race actually and other people were coming by and throwing us up some granola bars and different things. So I mean, we weren't at the Ritz by any means, but we had food.
Q: Cool. Thank you.
Q: I just want to follow up on something you were talking about earlier. There's been a lot written about the youth moving, but it continues as it perpetuates itself it seems every week. I wonder if you could go into a little more detail on what's happening there.
JJ: In which aspect, do you think?
Q: Well, I mean in regard to what's feeling this youth movement. Why is it so constant? I mean, it's not just a one-week thing. It just seems to be growing.
JJ: Well, I think we're all in great equipment. We all have had, I mean, I've got 21 years of racing experience, not in these cars, not in this form of racing, but I've been racing for 21 years. I know Kurt Bush is in a similar situation and Mack Kensa, Jr., there's just everybody. We've got a lot of years at our young age of racing experience. Then when you're putting this quality equipment, it's a recipe for things to happen. It doesn't mean that it will, but I don't know. I think the biggest thing is we're just a lot more mature racing-wise at a younger age than people might expect.
Q: Just to follow up on that, one of the veterans said that with all the new aero packages and the new equipment, a lot of the older fellows are younger in regard to having to learn everything all over again. Whereas you young guys are coming in knowing it pretty well. Is that a factor?
JJ: Yes. I mean, the stuff that was done ten years ago, we're doing completely the opposite nowadays to get the same result, and that's hard to think about and hard to imagine. I can say from my two years running ASA, you know, running short tracks, that I picked up some habits and some things. Right rear spring, freeze the car up. That's just how it is.
Well, on these big tracks, right rear spring usually tightens you up now, because it holds the spoiler in the air and creates much more down force. So it's just hard to get away from stuff that you've been successful with in the past. The younger crew chiefs and drivers maybe are a little more willing and don't know about better. You know, there's probably a couple of things going on there to attribute to it.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: The three years prior to this year, our rookies won a race. Did you feel like you had to win a race this year?
JJ: No, I didn't at all. I hoped that I would, and I was completely blown away that we have. I remember watching Tony Stewart and Dale, Jr., Mack Henson, Kevin Harvick, this entire rookie crops coming through the last few years, and every single rookie raised the bar over the previous rookie, or group of rookies. And I thought how in the world am I going to do this? I'm going to be the exception. I'm going to be the one that doesn't win a race. You know, you don't know what to expect coming into this, and I am just blown away that we've been this successful in our rookie season. It's just mind boggling.
JJ press conference Part II