Johnson, Knaus Tuesday transcript, part 1

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus teleconference transcript May 3, 2005 WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY TO TRY TO WIN THE ALL-STAR PIT CREW CHALLENGE ON THURSDAY? Knaus: Well, the guys have started going through some different practice drills. Obviously,...

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus teleconference transcript
May 3, 2005

WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY TO TRY TO WIN THE ALL-STAR PIT CREW CHALLENGE ON THURSDAY?

Knaus: Well, the guys have started going through some different practice drills. Obviously, the format for that is going to be a bit different. The car is stationary so the guys are going to have to get adjusted to that. We're actually going to start preparing the race car we're going to use. They've got to do a 40-yard push, so seven crew members are going to go out there and push the car for 40 yards. That's one of the deals they've got to try to do once they reach the finals. So, we're trying to get that car to roll as easily as we can make it. We're trying to get every little bit of an advantage as we can out of that. Other than that, they don't have to do a whole lot, because they're going to be doing the same things they do every weekend about 8-10 times. So they practice regularly at the race track and then obviously what we do at the shop in normal practice.

YOU'RE GOING TO RUN BOTH EVENTS (BUSCH, CUP) THIS WEEKEND. HAVE YOU TAMED THE LADY IN BLACK?

Johnson: No. The day that you believe that or felt like you have, she'll bite you. But, I don't think I've tamed her. I've become decent friends with her and we'll just try to keep it that way.

WITH THE TWO WINS AT DARLINGTON LAST YEAR, DO YOU COME IN BETTER PREPARED?

Johnson: I don't think we spend too much time looking at the odds and approaching things that way. I think we look at our past performance and try to see what we can do better. In looking at the Darlington track, it's tough to do better than what we did. But, you know, we just look at it more in that light. To come back and do a better job and try to take it from there. I don't really have a solid answer for your question other than the track itself is so unique. There' s so many different things we have to deal with throughout the course of the day. Pit stops are very important as far as how many times we hit pit road in a Cup race for the cautions. There's a lot of factors that play into it. And it's a place where everyone has to focus on their individual jobs and do that job. If I get too busy racing other cars, you'll make a mistake. If they guys get worried about doing something else on pit road, being the fastest all the time, mistakes are going to be made. So, it's really about racing the track. You hear that old cliche but it's really true. You can have to stay focused on your deal and race the race track.

WITH ALL THE CARNAGE AT TALLADEGA, SOMEONE SAID IT WAS TIME FOR NASCAR TO CHANGE THE TRACK IN ORDER TO KEEP THE PACKS FROM GETTING BUNCHED UP. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW WE CAN DO THAT?

Knaus: You know, it's pretty easy to blame NASCAR. And I think if you look back over history, every time we leave Talladega or Daytona and we do have the "big one," somebody always says it's time for NASCAR to change the tracks. But, you've got to realize that if NASCAR was to change those race tracks, I don't know if we'd have the draw that we do to Daytona and Talladega. So, obviously the things that I would love for them to knock th banking down and make it a little bit flatter. That would be something that would be very unique and something that we could probably adapt to. That's not what the fans want to see. The fans love seeing groups of cars running three and four wide. The only way to really spread out field is to make it where the drivers have to lift. And, it's going to be very, very difficult for NASCAR to do that. So, one of the ways that thay can do that is to increase the horsepower to where the cars go faster. But you increase the rate of lift off for the cars, so you can't do that. One of the things we've talked about with NASCAR in the past is going to a narrower tire. A tire that will give up more, wear up more, get less contact patch to the ground. I think that's something that they can maybe look into that would help that. It's really difficult to say that there's going to be one for sure that that's going to make the cars separate. You know, because we've got some pretty intelligent people that work on these race cars. And whatever the rules are, we're going to do whatever we can do to make the car. Ultimately we'll probably end up in the same situation unless we finally get to a situation to where we can unleash the horsepower and let the cars go out there, because if you've got 800 horsepower and a guy goes into a turn, you're going to make the car have more downforce. He's going to have to lift. Different things will happen. That would be a best scenario.

YOU AND JEFF GORDON HAD A MENTOR-TYPE RELATIONSHIP. IS THERE A POINT WHERE THAT HAS CHANGED, TO WHERE YOU LOOKED AT YOURSELF AS MORE OF A PEER TO HIM?

Johnson: No, not necessarily. I mean, I think there's been some natural evolution that's taken place where our team has been able to provide and help the #24 out. We've learned a lot from them. And then as time's gone by, we've been able to give back. And I think in that giving back thing, we respect each other, we respect each other's team and abilities and that dynamic has taken it's own from there.

HOW MUCH OF HOW YOU DEAL WITH THE PRESSURES COMES FROM JEFF'S BLUEPRINT?

Johnson: Well, I fortunately, see things they way Jeff does and it's one thing when somebody advises you but you see the different light. We kind of look at things the same way and have a similar style. It's been easy for me to listen and take his suggestions and adapt his outlook to my deal. It's just kind of worked well, more than anything.

HAVE YOU PUT MORE OF YOUR STAMP ON HOW YOU DO THINGS AS YOU GET MORE EXPERIENCED IN CUP?

Johnson: Yeah. Everybody has their own style and the last thing you want to do is copy someone. It would be crazy not to take his advice. He's been very generous and helpful to me inside of the car and outside of the car. Everything that he's advised me on, I've applied it to my style and my way of doing things.

YOUR COMMENTS ON THE CHASE LAST YEAR GOT SO MUCH PLAY. IS THAT REALLY THE FIRST TIME YOU REALIZED THAT YOUR COMMENTS DO HAVE AN EFFECT?

Johnson: That changes everyday. Different things that carry and run further and I've thought I've seen it all at different times. But it continues to grow.

IS THERE ONE CHILDHOOD FRIEND YOU LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING WHEN YOU GO TO CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY?

Johnson: I wouldn't say necessarily one person, there's a large group of people I try to get with and see. But fortunately they've been traveling out to races, so it's not so overwhelming each time I go out. It changes each time. A few people make it to races on the east coast, so I'm not too worried about seeing them. And then I worry about the guys that haven't had a chance to make it out. So, it's always changing.

WHAT DID JEFF TEACH YOU ABOUT DARLINGTON?

Johnson: Um, I think so. I honestly learn more from watching him and racing him and kind of understanding the way he looks at things. Darlington is a place where his patience and knowledge really has helped him out in so many ways. And I've noticed that and brought that into my program. Two years ago, maybe, I got into a little thing with Sterling from racing too hard and not being patient. And from that point on, going back to Darlington, I've really watched Jeff and paid attention to the line that he runs and how he approaches the race. When he races and why he races people and applied that to what I do.

WHERE WOULD RANK SWEEPING DARLINGTON IN YOUR CAREER HIGHLIGHTS?

Johnson: It's massive. To be able to win a race at Darlington is a huge accomplishment. Personally, I know it doesn't have the luster of say, the Daytona 500 and some of the other races from an outside standpoint. But when you leave that race track and you know that you won and you were the guy that everybody chased, that means a lot. It's top of the list.

WHAT CAN YOU ATTRIBUTE TO THE INCREASE IN CAUTION FLAGS? ARE DRIVERS BEING TOO AGGRESSIVE?

Johnson: No, I mean that's what we're paid to do, to be aggressive. New rules packages-there are a lot of things that are a little bit different. The cars are a little bit tougher to drive. Everybody's trying hard. I think the competition is a little bit tougher than it's been. A little of everything, to be honest with you.

IS IT OVERSTATING TO SAY THAT DARLINGTON IS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TRACKS? IS THIS ONE OF THE TRACKS THAT NASCAR SHOULD BE KEEPING?

Johnson: No, that's right on the money. If you read between the lines in the comments that were made from drivers and teams and even NASCAR, you know that Darlington is such a unique race track. And from what it's done for the sport, one of the first repaved ovals that NASCAR raced on. It has a lot of history. It's very unique. That's why I think it's still on the schedule. We need to keep tracks like Darlington on the schedule. It might not fit the model for a big race track, big market, things like that. But, it's one of the tracks our sport was founded on and a very tough place to get around. I like that it's one the schedule.

SINCE WE HAVE RACED AT TALLADEGA, CAN BLAME BE PLACED OR SHOULD BE PLACED ON SOMEONE OR SOMETHING FOR ALL THE ACCIDENTS?

Johnson: I think that everybody wants to put blame somewhere-it's just the way that everyone works. I think, when you crash, they show a replay while they're interviewing you, so that you can place blame. It seems to be the new thing right now. Everybody wants answers as to why there's big wrecks. I think that our wreck on Sunday was a racing incident. If you took one of three things out of what took place to start that big wreck, it wouldn't have happened. It's hard racing, you're an inch and a half apart from one another. Cars bouncing all over, they're hard to drive, and it's hard to place blame on it. What took place at Talladega in the big wreck and the one with two to go, it was just hard racing. That's what it was.

Knaus: Honestly I haven't looked at it too close. I know that we got in a wreck with just a few laps to go there. The earlier caution-I didn't see a whole lot to that either. We got back to Charlotte, we're getting things prepared for Darlington. So, all that's stuff really behind us. We don't talk about it and review the accident tapes or anything like that. That's what the fans do and we really don't do that side. I really don't know what happened. It's hard to place blame on anybody when you're racing in a pack that is that close at those speeds. You know, all it takes is one little slip by somebody or a few people and you're going to have a heck of a crash. It's just unfortunate.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE OVERALL FEELING IN THE GARAGE AFTER THE BIG ONE?

Johnson: You know, we weren't in that wreck in the garage afterward to catch that vibe. When I left after I was crashed with two to go, you leave thinking that's Talladega, it's two to go, it's what happens. And a little bit of the interviews that I saw, a lot of the drivers of that same vibe. You can play back last week's race and maybe the last five years worth of races in superspeedway racing and you're going to see the same interviews and the same comments made after every wreck.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus