Johnson, Edwards - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards November 13, 2008 An Interview With: JIMMIE JOHNSON CARL EDWARDS KERRY THARP: On behalf of everyone within NASCAR, I want to thank you for attendance today and helping us get...

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards
November 13, 2008

An Interview With:

KERRY THARP: On behalf of everyone within NASCAR, I want to thank you for attendance today and helping us get the Ford Championship Weekend off to a rip-roaring start.

We think we have a great program on tap, one that showcases both the exciting present and the proud past of NASCAR. Gentlemen, we appreciate you all being here today very, very much.

Now, at this time I'd like to introduce our very special guest emcee for today's event. Please welcome from Sirius NASCAR Radio and the Motor Racing Network, Mr. Mike Bagley.

MIKE BAGLEY: Thank you, Kerry, and hello, everyone. Welcome to the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship contenders' press conference, here at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Coral Gables.

The 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season has come down to one race and two contenders, Carl Edwards comes into Sunday's season finale, the Ford 400 at Miami Homestead Speedway, trailing Jimmie Johnson by 141 points. Carl described his challenge this past Sunday after the race at Phoenix when asked to assess his chances of a last race come back improbable but not impossible.

Carl is reminding everyone that there will be no quit in the #99 Office Depot Ford Fusion team this weekend, as if anyone thought otherwise.

The #48 Lowe's Chevrolet team meanwhile is on the precipice of history. Jimmie Johnson is trying to become only the second driver in the history of this sport to win NASCAR's biggest championship three times in succession. Cale Yarborough is the only other driver to accomplish the feat. He did that in 1976, '77 and '78.

No matter what happens on Sunday, Carl Edwards has had a fantastic and a dramatic season, highlighted by eight victories, 18 Top 5 finishes and 26 Top 10 finishes. Let's take a look.

MIKE BAGLEY: What's it going to take on Sunday to pull off what would be an unbelievable comeback?

CARL EDWARDS: I'm hoping Jimmie forgets how to drive or has some sort of trouble between now and Sunday. We're just going to have to have great luck. We saw what happened with Jeff's engine last week. If something like that were to happen, we just have to make sure that we're there to capitalize and do the best - Bob and I talked about it this week, and if you were to go out there and have trouble on the first lap, the most excruciating thing would be to finish eighth or ninth and still not go make it happen.

We have to go out there to try to win this thing, and that's our plan is to go lead the most laps and win the race. That's what we're hoping for.

MIKE BAGLEY: Seven victories, 15 Top 5s and 22 Top 10s tell the statistical story for Jimmie Johnson's season, but there's obviously much more behind this remarkable run of success than just sheer numbers. Johnson and his team are winning both races and titles at a time in NASCAR where it's tougher than ever to do so. Excellence does not come easily in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Here's some quick glimpses of the #48's season.

You're very close to an historic achievement this weekend. Your thoughts knowing you have to finish 36th or better in the race Sunday to win your third consecutive title.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We're definitely in a great position, but at the end day, we've still got to run the race and still have to go out and get the points needed to win the championship, so we're approaching it like we would any other race weekend. I do feel less pressure, at least as of now. We'll know about that a lot more tomorrow when practice starts, but knowing that we're in a great position in the points, I feel and hope and think it's going to give me a lot of confidence in tomorrow's practice session, along with Saturday's, to just focus on the right things, worry about the car, and really find the rhythm that way.

I know in the past, we've been here and we've had a decent points lead, and you're still worried about every move you make, every round of wedge in the car, the track bar adjustment, is it the right one, this and that. So I think it should bring a calming sensation to the team, and what we needed. There's a lot of pressure on us and what we hope to do this weekend.

And then really we've got to go out and run 400 miles. I feel the safest place to be would be up front. Our mile and a half stuff has been decent, so if we can get up there and race for the lead would be ideal and lead laps is what we're really after. But at the end of the day, I think we need to be towards the front and just do our thing, do what we do as the 48 team.

KERRY THARP: Mike, thank you very much. We will now move into our Q & A session. I think you all know the drill. If you have a question, please raise your hand, and we'll get over to you with a wireless microphone. We'd like to limit you to one question, so if you have a follow-up we'll certainly try to get back to you as quickly as we can. We've got 30 minutes allotted for this session. Please state your name and affiliation prior to asking your question.

Q: For both of you, in the past some of the championship fights have been very contentious where guys clearly didn't like each other. You guys both have a lot of respect for each other and for each other's race teams. Can you talk about the satisfaction you get racing and beating the other?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: That's the way I've grown up in racing is respecting the people that you race against. There have been times when competitive spirits exist in your heads, and you might not think of things like who's leading at Texas, I wish they'd run out of gas. I know last week when Jeff's engine blew, he was wishing that ours would blow, too.

But outside of that, it's the way I was brought up and I'm sure Carl, as well. You just have a great deal of respect for the guys you race against. I've always been one that has wanted to win races and win championships, not fall into them.

I think this year it's been a challenge from the beginning of the season for us, and we worked very hard to get ourselves in contention. One time it looked like the 18 and the 99, then the 18 flipped off, and these guys have been rock solid all year long.

The thing I'm impressed with is how the 99 team shows up regardless of the racetrack. The mile-and-a-half stuff they've been strong at, but you go to Martinsville, he was running there in the top three all day long; Phoenix, also. So road courses, you go through it all, and they are a very well-rounded team that we know we're going to have our hands full with, and this year has worked out a little better so far for us.

CARL EDWARDS: Racing with people, it's great - the competition is the most fun part of this, and it's great to race with guys like Jimmie and Chad and their whole team, so when the race is over, no matter what happens, you can respect one another, be friends off the track and still race hard on the track. I think it really adds a lot. It makes it a lot of fun. The guys I grew up racing with, that's how we raced, as well.

I feel like if I needed some advice or some help or something like that, I could go over to Jimmie and he'd be right there helping me out, and that's cool. So it is enjoyable. It's more fun to race with folks like that, that you don't necessarily harbor any ill will towards or whatever. But yeah, I was kind of praying a little bit that you'd have the same valve springs as Jeff or whatever (laughter). But it's cool to race with Jimmie.

Q: I want to ask you, Jimmie, last weekend you were calling your crew chief like crazy. This week, what has the week been like for you stress-wise, your third championship on the line? Have you found it any easier, and are you still calling the crew chief every other hour?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I really haven't had a lot to talk to him about yet. Tomorrow is the real test of my nerves and how I manage them when we get on track. Phoenix Friday went well; Saturday didn't go as we had hoped, and I knew that we needed - if we could, we needed to get points on the 99 team at Phoenix because this is really a good track for Roush in general, especially for Carl. I was feeling the pressure, I was feeling the squeeze and was all over Chad trying to make sure we had our stuff right, and we made some really good adjustments and changes to the car.

But this week has been busy. I've had an active week, but it's not been related to the race car yet. It's been nice to be this busy and it's kept my mind off of things. Tomorrow is really the start of the workweek for me, and we'll see how things go from there.

Q: Jimmie, there were some points earlier in the season where you guys were clearly trying to find it a little bit; Las Vegas kind of comes back to memory. How much concern was there then, and when did you guys really feel like you had righted the ship, so to speak?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We were definitely worried at the start of the season. There were points where - trying to be a realist, looking at where we were in the points and the speed that we had, of making the Chase. We turned things around, spent a lot of time testing, and I look back - Chad mentioned Texas and Michigan, and I think those are very key points.

But in my heart where I knew we were back and we were going to be a contender was at Chicago. That's the first time on a mile and a half that we really raced for the win. At Texas I think we ran second to Carl, but they still had us covered by three or four tenths. But Chicago was the race where we went and took the lead from the 18 and unfortunately gave it back to them at the end on the green-and-white checkered. But at that point I knew we were on par and had speed in our cars again.

Q: In the 156 times you guys have raced together in the Sprint Cup series, there's been no time that Carl has made up 141 points on Jimmie, but there was one time that he made up 127 points on Jimmie at Homestead in 2005. So the question would be, coming into this track, knowing that there's been some history here where Carl has made up a lot of ground, does that give you maybe a glimmer of hope going into this thing on Sunday? And for you, Jimmie, with you on the precipice of winning your third straight title, is that sticking in your mind a little bit?

CARL EDWARDS: Have you heard that statistic? All right, good. You'd better be nervous (laughter).

That's good. I mean, this is racing. We've all raced long enough to know that anything can happen. It does make me feel good. That's the short answer. That's a good confidence booster for me.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I forgot what you exactly asked me.

Absolutely. The thing I'm focused on the most is how we could lose this championship, and last weekend we did a very good job of getting some more points to take it out of a situation where if we just weren't running right that the 99 team would have a chance. Now we're in a position where if we make a big mistake or have a parts failure is what it would take.

I feel good about things, but at the same time, I know that that possibility exists. This is motorsports. Things do happen. Like they say in football, you've still got to go play the game. We've still got to go run the race. I know that.

If I can just stay in my routine and approach this race like any other race, I feel in my heart that we'll be just fine and do what we need to.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Cale Yarborough