NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jimmie Johnson July 28. 2009 An interview with: JIMMIE JOHNSON HERB BRANHAM: We've rolled up the road to Charlotte. We have three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Thanks for joining ...
NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jimmie Johnson
July 28. 2009
An interview with:
HERB BRANHAM: We've rolled up the road to Charlotte. We have three-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Thanks for joining us, Jimmie. It looks like your usual second half roll is happening right now. Would that be an accurate assumption as we come out of that great win at Indianapolis?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, in some ways. We were able to deliver and get the win. But if I really look over the last couple months, we've led the most laps and have been in position to win races a bunch. Unfortunately, have just not been able to come home with the trophy.
Very proud of the team and the fact that we were able to stick around all day long and put ourselves in contention at that last restart and get the victory.
I feel like there's three or four that really got away from us. Wish I could have those back. But moving forward, we're only getting stronger as the season develops. The team is getting better and better. I think our equipment is where it needs to be. I certainly hope to put up a great fight for this fourth championship.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll go to the media for questions for our champion.
Q: You're having another good season, coming off a win at the Brickyard, second in points. As you look back over the last three seasons, competing for a fourth one, is it almost a surprise to you how well you do and how well your team does year in, year out so consistently?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, in some ways I am shocked and surprised. I know all the work that goes into it. On that front, we work very hard to be competitive. But it still surprises me. , When I look at the 99, the 18, different teams that have been very strong in certain years, then things kind of slow down for whatever reason, it's really tough to tell why or what it is.
Our guys work really hard. I can't explain it. But I'm glad it's working for us like this. We'll just keep working hard and hopefully it will stick around.
Q: Many fans are now calling you a history maker. First was Cale, now you kissing the bricks back to back. You have a chance for the fourth-in-a-row championship. No one has been able to do it yet. You're sitting second in the points. How do you feel as a team of getting that done?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel good. The victory this last weekend is helping that a lot. We've been so close to winning races, but there's nothing better than pulling into Victory Lane and closing the deal. I look at Michigan. I look at Pocono. I look at Sears Point. New Hampshire we led the most laps. Just been a lot of races where we've been fast. I feel very good about what's been going on.
But to close the deal and to win a race just takes the confidence to the next level for the race team. It puts at ease some of the different emotions that exist inside everyone's heads on our race team. We have a confidence and presence that we know we can do this.
There's still a lot of racing between now and the Chase and then when the Chase starts it's a long 10 weeks. I know we've got a lot of challenges ahead. But I feel very good about where we're at. We'll use the momentum from this win to get our heads right and be prepared for the Chase.
Q: You're heading into Pocono, one a couple races there, you've never had a DNF in your career there. Does it hold something special knowing you're going to a track you have such great success at?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I know we won a couple races, but it's been tough on us since I guess the 2003 season, whenever it was. We've been getting closer to winning a race there. I think the spring race we were in contention and running second at the end, ran out of gas.
I'm excited coming off of Indy. Those tracks are somewhat similar. We'll see how it works.
Q: Jimmie, before Juan Pablo's problems in the pits, you weren't right up there at the front. What got you there? Was it just the way you drove or was it the pit crew? How does that have you set up now for Pocono this week?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, we started 16th. There weren't a lot of cautions to have a shot on pit road to makes up spots or on restarts to make up spots. Once the race got going, it was really tough to pass anyone.
It just took a lot of work from me on track and then the few opportunities we had on pit road we were able to make up spots there as well under the green-flag stops. It was just a long, steady grind. Luckily it was a 400-mile race because we finally got to the top two or three there on that last restart. With Juan's problems, it allowed us to start on the front row and have a shot at Mark.
Juan's misfortune gave me an opportunity. Our car was fast, one of the few cars that passed a lot of vehicles all day long. With that opportunity to start on the front row, I was able to make the most of it and get by Mark.
Q: How do you see yourself set up for this weekend at Pocono?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We should be good. We were just there a month or so ago. We're competitive. We're making some small adjustments from that setup and should be just fine.
Q: Many drivers have that favorite track and the tracks they don't like to run at. Can you tell the fans how a driver fires himself up for the various tracks? How do you set your mind for the different tracks?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There's certain tracks that just work for you. You just show up and everything works well and you're fast and it fits. Then the tracks that don't, I personally like that challenge, like to find out where I'm weak and why I'm weak and be better at that stuff.
The tracks that we have coming up we're pretty good at. We've been able to get Bristol squared away, at least in the spring race, hopefully that goes better for us in the fall race. Sonoma has been one of those tracks for me, too. We ran in the top five this last time there. So I do have those tracks and I'm working on them and I enjoy the progress that I'm making.
Q: Jimmie, recently a TV commentator mentioned when you came into NASCAR you seemed to skip learning curves. Do you feel your career was absent a learning curve or you leaped over normal learning curves it takes at that level?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I tore up a lot of stuff. I still tore up my fair share in my rookie season. Fortunately I've been better at that.
I'm very blessed because my entire career I've had to work so hard to separate myself to be noticed. Grew up on the West Coast, racing first motorcross, then off-road trucks, found my way into a stock car. First time I drove a stock car was I guess in the fall of '97. My first full season in a stock car was '98. I really haven't been driving on the asphalt that long, especially if you look at when I started in Cup.
But those years that were quiet, those two years in ASA, the two years in the Busch Series, I tore up a lot of stuff. The learning curve was very steep. Luckily it was under the radar, without the national exposure. If I think of somebody that's really dealing with it well and has a lot on his plate would be Logano. I knocked down all my walls without people really knowing or caring who I was. I came to the big stage. At that point there were some people saying, What are these guys doing bringing this guy in? What is Jeff doing hiring Jimmie? Rick as well. I was ready to go, showed up, and did my part. I give Joey a lot of credit for growing the way he has, winning the races he has. He's going at it a different way. He doesn't have an option. It's the cards that were dealt for him.
I'm very happy with the road I was able to go down. So happy to be peaking in my motorsports career at this part of my professional life at the highest level. I've seen a lot of guys peak at the Nationwide level, or maybe it's a level before. I feel very fortunate to have it all come together at the highest level.
Q: I wanted to ask you, do you ever take a moment or two to kind of reflect on how things are right now? You're really positioning yourself to not only be a champion but also be one of the absolute greatest this sport has ever had. Do you Sunday night allow yourself to reflect on what you've done in such a short amount of time really?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, it's been a wild ride. I definitely take time to think about it. I don't think it's my nature to think long about it, really focus on it too much. This week has been a great week, even though it's been a couple days now. I'm enjoying what went on at the Brickyard. We just had a big function with the race team, luncheon, all four teams, drivers, crew chiefs, all the employees of Hendrick Motorsports, we spent about two hours having lunch, telling stories and stuff.
To win a big race and then see all of these men and women that work their butts off to make our cars go, celebrate that with them, has made this victory even more special.
But looking forward, the less I let in my head the better. I don't want to think about these things. I just want to go out and drive and do what I know how to do. I'm better at reacting than thinking. I joke around with it a lot. I'm not good at thinking. I'm better when I strap myself in that car, go out and do what I know how to do. The distance between my ears has caused problems in the past, and it does to everybody, especially with the pressure of the Chase. If I can keep that stuff out of my head, not think about what could be or what I could do for myself and my career and status, the better I'm gonna be.
Nobody will be offended if I dodge questions and try not to let that stuff in my head. It's what I'm trying to do to stay focused on what I do best.
Q: A lot of people talk about the similarities between Indy and Pocono. Do you agree with that? Are there similarities? Is that just all hearsay? Is there something you can carry over from the race at Indy into Pocono this weekend?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: The tunnel turn is similar to a lot of the turns at Indy. Turn three, the overall principles that work in turn three, also apply to Indy. But the thing that's changing is how rough turn one is. As time goes on, the bumps are getting bigger and bigger there. The springs and shocks we need to run to get through those bumps are much different than the Indy setup now.
We had a planning meeting this morning with the setup of the car, what we're gonna do. We just can't get to certain levels of spring rates and shock combinations and sway bar combinations because of those big bumps in one. So it's changing. I think we really have to look at our Pocono race in the spring versus the race we had at Indy for a setup.
Q: Are you going to be using the same car that you used at Indy at Pocono?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. We're going to hang on to that car and use it in the Chase. It worked out where it debuted at Indy. We know it's a good car. We're going to hang on to it for the Chase.
Q: Wondering if you look at the history and the correlation between winning at Indy and winning a championship. You've done it twice. It's been done a bunch of times. What is it about that particular correlation of winning that race and going on to winning the championship down the road in the same season?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: A lot of people have been talking about it and asking that question. I'm not exactly sure why. But my two cents on this deal is that Indy is so tricky to figure out, that the team that is on top of their game can win Indy and be competitive at Indy, they're also the team that is on top of their game and can be competitive during the Chase and on the wide variety of tracks that we run at.
Indy throws a lot of curve balls at you. There's nothing else like it out there. If you can sort it out in the few hours of practice you have, be competitive in the race, you're on your A game and you're gonna be good for the rest of the season.
I know there's a great tradition there. I certainly hope I'm not the guy that screws it up.
Q: A lot of people talking about Hendrick dominance today. Can you talk about exactly why you think Hendrick is so dominant and what effect the satellite teams have had on the continuing or escalation of that dominance.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, we're still developing the relationships with Stewart-Haas. For a lot of years information has been going, not much has been coming back. But with how strong Tony has been running and Ryan, there's more information coming back. The fact that Darian is there, understands the Hendrick system, that's helpful as well.
I could say that for us we've been working more with the 5 and the 24 on their setups than really any other car out there, within our group. But we just had this big luncheon I was talking about. At the end of the day, the common message from all of the drivers, crew chiefs, Rick, I look to Rick's point of view, and also Mark, because Mark has been with another race team, Mark's message and Rick's was everybody has the same technology. The big teams have access to the same stuff. But what makes the difference is the people. Rick works really hard to let his people know they're important and they're the reason why this company is successful. To leave that building and feel all the pride, the desire to win from all of our employees, I think makes the difference.
We work hard, but so do a lot of other teams. I think at the end of the day, the respect and relationship that exists inside these walls at Hendrick Motorsports sets us apart.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to our three-time champion, Jimmie Johnson. Best of luck this weekend at Pocono.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thanks, everybody. See you there.