Johnson -2006 champion's press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Listening to you, is it possible a good thing came out of the fact he was suspended because he had no choice but to pass along responsibility, and you were performing well in the four races he missed? JIMMIE...

Continued from part 1

Q: Listening to you, is it possible a good thing came out of the fact he was suspended because he had no choice but to pass along responsibility, and you were performing well in the four races he missed?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. I think in general through my life, I think everybody listening to this in some way can agree, I learn more from bad things that take place, negative things, than anything else. When things are going good, you don't want to change. When you're faced with adversity, faced with a mistake, faced with doing something wrong, that's when I do the most learning and growing on my own. I think that's definitely happened through my career, from making mistakes on the track, outside the car, personal life, professional life, whatever it may be.

Q: The Driver of the Year committee is going to meet next week to vote on that. I know you're going to be a leading candidate probably along with Sam Hornish, Sebastien Bourdais, John Force, Tony Schumacher. Do you think you've had a better season than those guys and probably deserve to be Driver of the Year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can't say I know their seasons well enough. I've been focused on my stuff. Especially the last few weeks, I have completely disconnected from racing media in general. I just wanted -- I had enough things going on in my mind, let alone reading something on our sport or racing in general. I just stayed inside my own little world, excluded myself from outside information. That I guess kind of answers that. But to be in consideration with those guys, you mentioned the best guys in the country, it's an honor to be associated with them. I can't say that I'm any more deserving than anybody. They've all done an amazing job to be the champion. I certainly hope they all enjoy their championships as much as I'm enjoying mine.

Q: Did losing the championships that you lost help you win this year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. I think going through those experiences got me ready to deal with this year. The slow start to the Chase, the adversity we were faced with, the chaos of the contact with Vickers at Talladega, needing to go on a tear and race our way back into this thing, all of that, you can see different pieces of what we did this year in the Chase, over the last three years of the Chase, four years we've been in Cup, there have been pieces of that in all of those years. I think all of that built up and helped us keep our composure and be smart this year in the Chase and do what we needed to.

Q: I went back and pulled the interview the other day, in 1999 in Memphis, you won the ASA race. We sat down in the pressroom, had quite a long talk. I'm wondering if you could remember back then, would you think that in seven and a half years in your wildest dreams of dreams that you would have been the Nextel Cup champion?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Hell, no. There is no way I thought I would end up where I am. I had dreams and hopes, but to really end up here, it's shocking. I remember back to that day, I remember that being a very special day for me because I had raced on the dirt, won a lot of races on the dirt, and just didn't know how my career was going on the asphalt. There wasn't a lot of guys on dirt on the asphalt yet. I knew that I really needed to shine and do great things if I wanted my career to move on, and winning is obviously part of that. To get that first win was so special to me.

Q: When you look at everything that you have accomplished in just five years of Cup racing, think of it outside looking in that someone else did that, what kind of driver would you call him?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Uhm, I guess I would have to look at it and respect everything they've done and be very happy and proud that that person won a championship. As you pointed out, a short period of time, the big races, all the different stuff that's going on. I look at different guys that have come in and look at Bourdais, look at what he's done in a short period of time in Indy Car (sic), look at different guys that have won, just compete week after week in other forms of racing, just admire what they do.

Q: In addition to winning the championship this year, obviously you won arguably the sport's two biggest events, Daytona 500 and Indianapolis. Last year when Tony Stewart won the championship, we saw so much passion from him after he won the Brickyard. He's from Indiana. Now that you've got those three big trophies in your possession, what's the difference between winning the Chase and winning those two huge events?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The high that you're on from winning a race is short-lived. You go to the next race and somebody else is the race winner. In most cases, somebody else is the race winner. I'm the champion and no one is going to be the champion until next year this time. I get an entire year of riding this high. That's probably the biggest thing. I'm the guy for a year. I'm going to enjoy every damn day of it.

Q: You've talked quite a bit recent days about different people you've learned from as you've come up through the different series. Could you tell me, is there anything specific you've learned from Rick Hendrick during your association with him, how much he's helped you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Rick has such a good approach; very patient is how I would put it. In his position, he can I guess afford to take time, being so well established. I've just respected that and noticed that. Through his patience, the right things develop, good things happen. He thinks through business decisions, personal decisions. He just can handle all the things he needs to because he's patient through it all.

Q: Do you go to him with concerns about stuff off the track? Do you talk business other than racing with him?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Certainly. He has offered up so much help to me. Then as time has gone on, I'm faced with different things; I reach out to him all the time on things, he and Jeff both.

Q: In Toronto you talked about the very rare break in the schedule, you were going to go to Italy, eat some pasta, drink wine, and get away from the grind. Can you talk about how you were able this year to relax, try to get away from the pressure, the grind, what that may have done to lead up to the championship?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: The season is so long, as you know. You almost have to force yourself at times to just take some days off during the season. The way the breaks fall, we have two early, one in the middle, then a long stretch after that. Outside of those three weeks that we have, I find trips to New York City help out a lot. That's why I have my apartment up here so I can sneak up here, get away from things. I don't get to use the apartment as much as I would like to. It works really well for that. We race in some great places as the season wears on. A long trip to Phoenix, Sonoma, Napa is close by, Dallas is a great place. We're able to build in some extra days usually before the event just to kind of get out there, get somewhere and relax and recharge our batteries.

Q: The idea of running some kind of a NASCAR series race in Canada, that is going to happen in Montreal next summer. A comment on that from you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I'm excited for our sport to be expanding into Canada. We have a very successful race down in Mexico. This year coming to Canada, it's going to be great for our sport. I'm hopeful with these experiences in the Busch Series will move over into the Cup Series, we can take our premiere series into different markets.

Q: Must have been nice to put your hands on that $6.2 million check. What is Christmas going to be like in the Johnson family? Are you going to buy yourself anything special this year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's been a popular question. I haven't attached any emotion to a toy or a gift for myself through the season, what I would do. I'm going to rethink this, figure something out. I don't have anything in mind. My wife was asking that on our way back from the track. I'm sure she has her eyes on a few things. I personally haven't thought of anything. Maybe a cool car or something.

Q: Very few get to repeat a number two championship finish. You definitely are an expert there, too. Can you comment on how being an almost champion compares to being a champion?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: There's no comparison. There's a lot of motivation being runner-up and being so close to it, especially sitting through the banquet, all the things that take place during banquet week, watching the champion experience all the great things, sit on stage. I think anybody with a competitive spirit wants that to be them. The last four years watching the ceremonies highly motivated me. I remember Rick and I talking last year during the banquet, saying, This stinks being down on the ground level. We want to be up there on the stage getting all the praise. It's a very motivating experience, to say the least.

MODERATOR: Jimmie, that's it for today. We want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy champion's schedule to join us. Congratulations again. Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and of course your champion celebration, well-deserved, next week in New York.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you. Everybody enjoy the holidays.

MODERATOR: Thanks to all of you for joining us today. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Sébastien Bourdais , Sam Hornish Jr.