Johnson, Martin, Hendrick - NASCAR press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Jimmie, I thought you said something interesting just a little bit earlier when you said you're on the verge of maybe also wrapping up the points under the old system. Is that something in the past three years has sort...

Continued from part 1

Q: Jimmie, I thought you said something interesting just a little bit earlier when you said you're on the verge of maybe also wrapping up the points under the old system. Is that something in the past three years has sort of eaten at you? Is it something you feel like you need to do in order gain some of the respect from some of the people who think you haven't won it under the old system?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, not necessarily. I've said all along that I feel that the old system is kind of the toughest way to win a championship, and I wish I had won, just to say that I had won. You talk to Gordon, he says just the opposite. So it's a matter of opinion. Drivers all have different opinions and impressions of it. So that's really all it is. I wish that I had. I feel like I'm very fortunate to say in 2004 I had a real good shot at winning the championship. Same with '05. I think back to really each year we've led the points at some point. So it's more looking back, saying, We had a chance at a few more of these things.

Q: Mark, at Phoenix you said something I thought was interesting about how you think there's a little piece of Rick or Mr. Hendrick, as you call him, in everyone at the Hendrick organization. Can you speak to that a little bit more? Jimmie, could you also talk about that?

MARK MARTIN: Well, I know that Rick handpicks his people, and he probably picks people that have the capable people skills to do each job. But to me it seems like it's more than that.

You know, when I deal with everyone there, no matter what it is, everyone that works there that I have dealt with on a personal basis had a little bit of, you know, the little qualities of being interested in doing a better job. What is it, how can we do this better? There's just no arrogance. Just good communication and people skills.

Just to tell you something. I went to the shop, you know, quite a bit after we made this deal, some before the season ended and some, you know, after the season even started this year. My wife, I'd come in after being there, and she'd say, You're always smiling when you come back from that shop, you know. I said, Heck yeah, you would be too. It makes you feel that way. I'd just come back from being there with a permanent smile on my face. It's good people with great attitudes. Everyone there has treated me, you know, like gold. It's been amazing, the respect that I've been shown there. It's very humbling.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: To kind of expand on Mark's thoughts, I think relative to Rick, the company and stuff, but just to add to something Mark was saying and came up in my mind.

Over time, I've been able to be a part of a few big decisions at Hendrick, even starting with who the crew chief was going to be for the 48 car. Now we look back and it's pretty easy. The decision at the time, Chad Knaus was working for Melling, it was a tough decision to make. Rick had to make a decision on bringing me in. Rick has had to make a lot of decisions for a variety of employees at every level. Somehow, some way, what he possesses in connecting with people, looking for the right skills, the desire, the drive that an individual may have to perform well and do well, there's something that he can see and recognize. I think it speaks volumes to the company and the success of the company.

He can pick something up, pick something out, know how to weave it into a group of guys that are all very good at what they do as well, kind of piece everything together.

Again, I don't even know if this comes close to answering the question you asked, but he has a great ability. We talk about people skills. We all know and respect him and enjoy what he's about. But there's something he can see and pick out in people and make stuff happen. I think over time, over 25 years of building this company, finding the right people, massaging all the details, we've been able to put ourselves in these positions.

Then if you look at the challenges we've had, the plane going down, key personnel that were on that aircraft, the backups that were so well-trained, had these qualities in them to step up and keep the company moving forward, it's amazing. It's all on his gut reaction and feeling of what he needs to do with the company.

MARK MARTIN: I want to add one more thing, too.

You know, I've said this once before, but I've never known an organization that wants to win for the boss. It feels like to me they want to win more for him than they even do for themselves. You know, that's just a testament to what a guy Rick is.

Q: Watching that videotape, it had the emotion of One Shining Moment. Mark and Jimmie, do you allow yourselves to feel the emotion right now or if you sort of have to cut that off, not allow yourselves to get emotional over it? And for Mark, are you doing hundreds of laps in your head before you go to sleep at night, as well?

MARK MARTIN: I've run some laps (smiling). He's not the only one.

Q: Do you have to kind of not allow yourself to feel the emotion of this at this time?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me personally, I left Talladega with emotion and felt very good about things, that we missed the big one. Damn if we weren't in the first caution on the third lap at the race in Texas. So I am out of emotion. There is no emotion. It's all business. It's about showing up tomorrow, putting in the best lap I can, driving the car as hard as can I on Saturday, making sure the car is set up right, and doing my job on Sunday. I am not allowing my mind to slip any. It's not that it slipped after Talladega, but it was hard to look at a 184-point lead and have something positive come through my mind. Lap three it was gone. It was like, Wow, I'm not going to let that happen again. So it's all business this week.

MARK MARTIN: Pretty much the same thing for me. You know, I have focused the same every race all year. I'm excited about going to Homestead because I can't wait to go to work with my team, to compete in each practice session, and to compete in qualifying, and compete for the race. And if we do a good job, then we'll do well.

I'm not looking over my shoulder or looking ahead, either one. Definitely, you know, I'm sure that we could wind up fourth in the points, which is something no one has even considered. But I'm not thinking about that. I'm neither worried about that or Jimmie. I'm excited about going to work and competing in every event there, which to me a practice session is one. I try to win those, too. Every time I strap in that racecar, I'd like to be the fastest dude out there.

Q: Mark, throughout your career you've been Mr. Clean. I think that's probably something that you take as much pride in as much as anything you've done. You race people fair and clean. Do you see that you've passed that mantle along to Jimmie? He's considered for the most part to be a very clean driver.

MARK MARTIN: No, but he is that way. I don't really think that he got that from me. I might have had some influence on some drivers out there today, but I'm not sure that, you know, Jimmie and I were ever close enough for my style or my logic or my thought process to really influence him.

The thing is, if you go out there and you race people the way you want to be raced, and you do a really, really good job, you don't have to use a mask and a gun. That's not how I want to come out ahead, with a gun and a mask, you know. I'd rather go out there, work hard, earn it.

Q: Jimmie, Chad said the other day that he might have underestimated Mark a little bit, especially through the grueling Chase. Was there ever a point where you had that same feeling?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I can't say that I did. Mark and the team showed so much before the Chase started, that I knew. First I was really excited to get the 5 car in the Chas, e. Then once I watched them overcome the points deficit they had, lock themselves in, I realized, Man, we're going to have our h, ands, full. That's who we're going to race for the championship.

I've known all along. I'm really impressed with, the 5 team, how they started the season and where they ended up. If you really look at what they've accomplished in a year's time, they had some unfortunate things take place at the start, they rebounded. They've won a lot of races, a lot of poles. It's all in 10, 11 months.

Next year, I mean, this year they're already this competitive, next year it will be real tough.

Q: Jimmie, Mark, you guys have probably been asked this question many, many times: How does it feel to be in the position you are in right now? I want to know, looking into 2010, after this weekend, the two of you on very special ground right now being that you have the chance, Jimmie, to go four in a row, and Mark, you might win the first one, the two of you being where you are right now, what does it feel like with this chance for 2010, no matter what happens?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I can't tell you that I've thought about it yet. I've been so worried or so focused, you know, on the job at hand, worrying about a championship for this year, that I haven't thought much about next. Very secure in, you know, my job, sponsor, Hendrick Motorsports, all those aspects. I guess in a lot of ways I don't have to stress like some other guys may stress about, is the sponsor coming back, do they have a ride next year, what that may be.

In general, there isn't much there because of the security that Rick provides for us. I feel that, you know, we'll be a contender again next year. Look forward to it then. But today it's just about, you know, this weekend and the 400 miles we need to run on Sunday.

MARK MARTIN: You know, I just have exceeded I think my expectations. The race team has done everything that I knew that they could. I just didn't know, you know, if I could -- I really didn't know if I could compete against Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. coming into this season, for sure. But I knew that I was going to give it everything, my whole heart. But I didn't know for a fact that I could measure up to those guys really in their prime.

I will say that I knew how good Alan was. I watched close for multiple years I've watched him close. I listened to him and Kyle on the radio. I've been a fan of his. I think, as Jimmie says, it's really, really special to see those guys. They showed what they could do with Kyle Busch, Kyle, at an early stage in his career. I think that Kyle got a lot of the credit for what they were doing because of his talent, and now this is the year that they really had a chance to shine, Alan and that group, especially after, you know, having a tough time last year, for them to come up and show everybody that not only are they a great race team, but they can give the best in the business a run for their money, it's huge for me. I'm very, very proud.

Q: Jimmie, obviously it's not a bad thing to be known as a three-time champ, possibly a four-time champ. What else do you want? What else matters to you? What else beyond this weekend and this sport? Is there something within the sport or beyond that matters that's going to drive you beyond this weekend, beyond this year?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, we're going deep (laughter).

I've wanted my whole life to be able -- to be a champion, to compete against the best drivers in the world. With what we have going on in our sport, the competition, I don't see where else there is to race. You know, this is it. This is home. Hendrick Motorsports is home.

Of course, I want to be successful and win more races and contend for championships, that kind of thing. But it's really kind of what it is. I mean, on a personal note, you know, my family life and being at home is very important to me. I'm enjoying that, all that that has to offer, friends, that kind of thing. But the schedule being as busy as it is, there's not a lot of time for that. I'm not at a point where I'm craving that time, and I wish that I had it, because I love my job and I love what I'm doing.

Racing's it. It's all I've ever done. I'm glad it's worked out because I don't know what the hell I'd be doing otherwise. I'm finally good at it, and I want to keep it up, I want to keep it going.

Continued in part 3

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus
Teams Hendrick Motorsports