Jimmie Johnson teleconference Tuesday, October 18, 2005 Jimmie Johnson ...
Jimmie Johnson teleconference
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe's Chevrolet
RE: MAKING A RUN LIKE 2004 SEASON IN THE CHASE
Yeah, I would love to have that happen. I'm not sure if it will. I didn't think that anybody was capable of it last year and we were able to do it. We have great tracks coming up for us and it's really anybody's championship at this point. I think after five races, I'm shocked just like everybody else just how close the championship race is and I think that over the next five, it's only going to be more interesting, more aggressive, more stress and pressure. It's going to be right down to the very end, I think.
TO WHAT EXTENT ARE WRECKS A PART OF THE APPEAL OF NASCAR?
Well, it's part of our sport. It's kind of like going to a football game and you hope to see a big hit through the night or a big tackle or something that comes up. I think that it's part of the theater that's involved in our sport, it's a part of what draws fans in. If we're out there in go-karts running 10 mph, they wouldn't be watching. It's part of the risk. Of course, I don't want anybody to crash, I don't want to crash, but we've made a lot of gains in the safety department so that we are having wrecks and everybody is walking away, so there's a lot of pieces to that pie and everything is working well right now. We don't want to see issues like we had Saturday night. I don't think NASCAR, drivers or owners of teams, as a race track, tire company-any of those people-want to have something besides racing causing the crashes.
ARE DRIVERS STILL ANGRY ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT WENT DOWN ON SATURDAY?
I think that one of the good things in our sport is that there's always next weekend. You could see some lingering effects at the start of the next race weekend, but it disappears. Everything that I've seen or read based on Saturday night's race, all the drivers and owners and everyone recognizes the hard work that went into having a good race and a safe race and no tire issues, but they popped up. I thought that there may be a bloodbath in there for someone and it's really been a decent situation for everyone afterwards. I'm proud for everyone in handling it they way they have.
IS THAT A GOOD THING THAT THING SOMETIMES THINGS GET SHOVED OFF THE RADAR SCREEN BY SOME OTHER CONTROVERSY AND THEN IT CHANGES?
I think there's so much that goes on during our races, with 43 different teams, different suppliers and manufacturers and everything takes place. I'm sure each week there's quite a few things that would have been good stories that get pushed to the side. I'd rather have those stories come back and not have a controversy on tires, track or all the accidents that we had.
RE: OVERCOMING PROBLEMS AT CHARLOTTE AND STILL WINNING, IS THAT MOMENTUM AND LUCK?
Yeah, momentum is an important thing and we're happy to be winning already again in the Chase. Last year we won four, this year so far, two. So, it's coming at a good time. We had a slow couple of months before the Chase started and we definitely have things going in the right direction now. It's tough to carry momentum from a mile-and-a-half track to a half-mile track. It's totally different. Luckily for us, it's a track where we've won at before and we know how to race there and what to do. I feel very good with all the races in the final ten. Phoenix is our only week spot there, I think, and we're going to be testing there, so hopefully we get everything under control and win the championship.
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN SOMETHING LIKE THIS, WITH A DIFFERENT CONTROVERSY EACH WEEK?
No, I haven't. There's so many different stories taking place. Through every different form of racing that I was in, through my career, I thought, wow, this is bigger and better and there couldn't be anything more intense or more looked at than this. As I kept climbing the ladder I realized that everything else was kind of small and really from the Busch Series to Cup, it increased tenfold versus what I was experiencing on the Busch side. There's a lot of attention and a lot of people watching. It says a lot about our sport and the growth of it and the fanbase of it. You've got 43 independent teams doing their own things and at the end of the day, really only one person is happy. So you've got a lot of stories throughout all of that.
IF YOU WERE BETTING, WHAT WOULD BE THE CONTROVERSY AT MARTINSVILLE?
I think that Martinsville is a place where contact is going to come into play. Tempers are going to be high, like at a place like Bristol. There's a lot on the line for the Chase and it's a track where you can never get away from lapped cars or cars that you're racing. So, the potential is there to have contact and problems. The track, since they've resurfaced it, it's really a single-file track on the bottom, and the way you make a position is by somebody making a mistake or you help them make a mistake.
YOU'VE SAID HOW HARD IT WOULD BE TO REPLICATE A 4-OUT-OF-6 RUN LIKE LAST YEAR? HOW DID THE TRAGEDY FROM LAST YEAR CHANGE FROM THIS YEAR? WOULD REPLICATING LAST YEAR'S STEAK BE HARDER WITHOUT THAT TREMENDOUS FOCUS, OR EASIER UNDER HAPPIER TIMES?
I don't know. I would think it would be easier under good times than bad. There was so much going on in everyone's mind. So much pain last year with the tragedy. We didn't even want to go to Atlanta. We had to, but we didn't want to go there. The race weekend wore on and the first day was tough and the second day was a little bit better and the weeks to follow were that way, too. It did, at the end of the year, give us a lot of pride to know that we went out to Atlanta and we were able to win at Martinsville. That we honored our friends as a team and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports really performed. Had two cars on the last lap at Homestead with a shot at winning the championship. So, it's more pride than anything. The four races we won-I couldn't believe it then and there have guys that have been on different steaks this year where they have won quite a few and it's not impossible, but when it's going on, you know the hard work the team has put in that has gotten you to that point, but you don't know how long it's going to last or how long you're going to keep it or how to keep it. You just hope for the best and that's kind of where we are now-we're kind of hitting our stride at the right time and hopefully we can rattle off a couple of wins. If not, top 5s at this point. I still feel that it's about not losing the championship, versus winning it.
WAS LAST YEAR'S STREAK MORE 'IN SPITE OF' THAN 'BECAUSE OF'?
Yeah, I think it was tougher times for us.
RE: LOOKING BACK AT THE TRAGEDY REGARDING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ONE YEAR AGO
Yeah, definitely. We went back in the spring, all the emotions came back. We went back for the test last week and you can't help but think about it. And Atlanta's going to be the same way-pulling into Atlanta. Just it's hard to forget those things. One thing that I feel that's coming up is the families that are dealing with this one-year anniversary. It's going to be so tough for all of them and I know they all do different things to help the anniversary pass. And with as little pain as possible. Another person I'm going to be thinking of is Brian Vickers. It's his birthday. The plane crash was on his birthday of all things. So, as a teammate and friend, to be there for him as well as the other people that lost loved ones on the flight.
HAS HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS RECOVERED FROM IT?
Yeah, I think that, as a testament to the people that were working here, they made sure that their departments were able to run in advance and find new things. Without them being an eagle watching over the top of everything. So, definitely we wish we had everybody back. There's no doubt that we've lost something. But the people in place did such a good job of training their team that we've been able to move along, win races and still vie for a championship.
RE: LAST WEEKEND IN CHARLOTTE. WHAT ABOUT RESTRICTOR PLATES?
I don't think so, because the restrictor plate honestly would slow us down and then at that point, we wouldn't need to let off the gas. At that point, it would punish the tires just as hard, if not harder. If they put just a little smaller plate, or I guess it would be a big plate, where there was a small change in performance on the engine. I think it would have been tougher on the tires because everybody could have flat-footed it then. They would have had to slow down the tires quite a bit to take tire temp out of them.
WHAT ABOUT PUTTING DOWNFORCE IN THE CAR?
You know, he brings up a good point and I think everyone right now is searching for an answer. I hear good arguments on both sides. That's a good perspective to look at. The way the track was before, it was really abrasive and it would wear the tires out. Even though we were having these tires problems, tires weren't wearing. They were just holding a lot of heat in them. And then eventually the rubber would start to pull apart and rip apart because the tire was so hot-it wasn't wearing. So, whatever we need to do to get them to wear. If Humpy is going to repave it, I told him right before the race, I said, you need to find some time of mix we had at Darlington-and his eyes about popped out of his head-and I said, listen to me, in my opinion, the tires need to wear. We need to have fall-off. We need to make handling important. And that's how we're going to have side-by-side racing, when you have a big speed dropoff. And there's enough room on the race track to run side-by-side. Two nights ago, the speeds are so high that you just don't have enough room around the race track to run next to each other.
LOOKING AT THE POINTS WITH YOU TIED WITH TONY, BUT HE'S IN THE LEAD BECAUSE HE HAS MORE POINTS THAN YOU, I GUESS THAT REALLY ANSWERS THE QUESTIONS OF CONSISTENCY BECAUSE SHOULD THE SEASON END THIS WAY, HE WOULD WIN THE CHAMPIOHSHIP
Yeah, it's good point. One thing I was thinking about is the fact that our championship is based off of a ten-race schedule. And the fact that the tie-breaker would be based off the entire season, I kind of question that a little bit and wonder if it needs to be a tie-breaker based on the final ten instead of the whole season. So, that will give somebody something to write about and talk about. And that's a question I'm going to talk to Mike and get what their point of view is. It's been a long season and at the end, the numbers are overlaying and you've got two guys who have been able to win a lot of races but also show consistency, so this year it's been a good year. I think it's tough from year to year to have the stats stack up like you'd want. Like Matt (Kenseth), a couple of years ago won it by winning one event and took some criticism for winning with only winning one event. But, he earned it and he did his job. So, this year at least people will look back and say that it was won on hard racing.
RE: MULTI-CAR TEAMS. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET ALL THE TEAM CARS RUNNING THE SAME?
It's tough. It really is tough. There are so many people on payroll. So many different personalities to worry about. And on top of that, you go hire crew chief and engineers to go advance the cars. So, you've got at least one engineer and then a crew chief per team, and everybody has good ideas. Everybody thinks of different ways to do things. It's the team owner's job to try to find the best things that are being provided, and then make all the teams run them together and Rick (Hendrick) really started that trend and does the best job with it. In my mind, there is some sort of cap out there right now where a team owner can only own two vehicles. And, Rick Hendrick owns the #24 and the #5. Papa Joe owned the #25 and now his wife does. And Jeff Gordon owns the #48, so I don't know how they're going to police this, one. And two, we kind of have something in place to protect that and granted, there are ways around that, but what is to stop an affiliation with another team. Say, Hendrick Motorsports has an affiliation with MB2. Where is the line going to be drawn. This is the question I have. Five cars that Jack has, he's done a good job. He's worked hard to put that stuff in place and he's done a good job. I don't have a huge complaint. I know it's tougher for the smaller teams, but right now if you limit Jack Roush and couple of other teams down to three, you might not have enough cars in the field.
RE: FEELING AROUND THE TEAM LAST YEAR AS SUCCESS BUILT AROUND THOSE VICTORIES?
Well, we were working through our pain and tragedy and really we felt that we didn't even stand a chance to win the championship. It was about rebuilding for the next year, fighting our way to victory lane again and once we did that once, it was just, we're here to win races. The points-there's no way we're going to win this championship, let's just win races. And then we show up to Homestead and we're like, well, actually we can win the championship. So, it did build a lot of confidence and taught us a few lessons about our sport and how difficult it is and how things can change in a hurry, for the good or the bad. It gave us experience and taught us a few lessons.
RE: CHARLOTTE. RESURFACING-DOES THAT MAKE SPEEDS GO HIGHER? WHAT IS THE GENERAL EFFECT OF RESURFACING?
No, it's not an automatic fix. Somebody was touching on it earlier with Chicago-we had some problems right rear was blistering tires as well. Some of the faster tracks that we run out there. There is a potential for tire issues and again I think that it's the sustained speed that you have. If you look at Atlanta, it's been the fastest track, but it's abrasive. You have a huge drop-off in tires. The speeds, you know, you lose a second or two seconds on a run. And it's because the tires are wearing down as the tires are sliding across the road, it's peeling off the rubber and changing the performance of the car and then the driver senses it and he can't go as far. With the tire we have now, it doesn't peel the rubber off. The performance does not change. So you keep running harder and harder and now the tire is holding all of that heat in it. And that heat makes the tire fail. So, resurfacing can help it, if it's done in the right way, but it's hard for a track owner to say, okay, I'm going to resurface my race track and I'm going to put something that looks like 20-year old asphalt down. Everybody is going to think I'm crazy, but that's where you have the best racing. That's where the tires aren't an issue. We'll go to Atlanta and you know, you can hurt a tire at any track. But at Atlanta, you don't hurt tires, because you have to slow down.
RE: HOW DOES THE EXPERIENCE OF THE HECTIC WIN PATTERN FROM LAST YEAR PLAY ON YOU AND YOUR TEAM
It's just confidence-it helps build confidence and helps us believe in ourselves and in our team and to stay focused on what the job is that we have to do.