Johnson will be happy with a top-3 finish at Loudon

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed Denny Hamlin’s strength at NHMS, the possibility of having a bad race in the Chase, the No. 48 team being the “Gold Standard” and other topics.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

(IN REFERENCE TO DENNY HAMLIN’S TWEET DECLARING HE WOULD WIN THIS WEEKEND AT LOUDON) HAVE YOU GONE INTO A RACE WEEKEND KNOWING/THINKING YOU WOULD FOR SURE WIN? “I don’t know. I haven’t yet. In a team atmosphere and getting your guys fired up and living the moment and emotions rolling. I’m not against the statement. You certainly put yourself out on a limb if it doesn’t happen and draw a lot of attention to yourself during the weekend. If you back it up you are going to look like a super hero.”

MOST PEOPLE CONSIDER HIM (DENNY HAMLIN) A THREAT HERE CONSIDERING HOW WELL HE RAN IN JULY: “Yeah he was really strong here in July. In my mind I’ve kind of put him down as the favorite and I know that we were awfully strong too. We had I think an issue with … what happened… there was something happened and we lost track position with a caution coming out and we pitted or something, but I feel like we will be up there in the mix. We keep getting top three’s in this stage of the game and I will be really happy.”

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO GET THAT SUCCESS BACK HERE AND GET BACK IN VICTORY LANE HERE AT LOUDON? “It’s so tough to pass and such a short race that you’ve really got to come off the truck your first laps on and just fine tune. Qualify well and then stay up front, clean air is so important here. I know it’s odd with it being such a small track, but having clean air and the whole race track to run your line creates a really fast lap and you can kind of control the race at that point. The last thing that is a part of all that is when the cautions fall; this track can really be challenging from a fuel mileage stand point. We have seen plenty of that. First and foremost you’ve got to have a great car. I think if you have a decent car you can play the fuel game and have a shot then too.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN WIN HERE ESPECIALLY SINCE YOUR TEAMMATE (KASEY KAHNE) DID IN THE SPRING? “Yeah I really do. This is a great race track for us. I feel like all the tracks that are in the Chase are strong for the No. 48 team. I’m certainly excited to be at this part of the season.”

HOW MUCH OF A FACTOR IS KASEY (KAHNE) RIGHT NOW AND A THREAT TO WIN THIS THING IF HE DOES WELL HERE AGAIN? “I feel that Kasey (Kahne) is a definite threat. When you look at his performance over the course of his career I would say the end of seasons have been very strong for him. He has usual won, won a couple of times at that point. These tracks are good tracks for him as well. This is kind of Kasey Kahne time as well.”

IS IT POSSIBLE TO WIN THE CHASE AND HAVE ONE BAD RACE? “It is possible, but you really put the control in the other 11 Chasers hands and they have to have a problem too. We look at what I did in 2006, I think we had two DNF’s (did not finish) maybe three bad races, but definitely two DNF’s. Others made mistakes that let us back into it. If it’s that type of year sure, but at this point everybody is really afraid of a poor finish. You just don’t know until you get to race six or seven kind of what the deal is. You don’t want to be behind chasing at that point.”

DID YOU KNOW YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON THAT WAS FURTHER BACK THAN SECOND AFTER ONE RACE THAT HAS EVER WON THE CHASE? CAN SOMEONE ELSE DO THAT? “Absolutely it is definitely possible. I think as tight as things were starting this Chase there wasn’t a very big points spread from first to fourth or fifth, something like that. Definitely that stat can fall for that reason and then its racing. I was just talking about 2006, we had two DNF’s (did not finish) and still came back to win the championship. Every year is different, you don’t want to be behind at this point and we will know a lot more race six or seven kind of what it is going to take. Right now my mind set is top three’s, if we can keep knocking out top three’s and then get to race six or seven, see what we’ve got to do then we will be in great shape.”

LOOKING AT NEXT WEEK BRAD (KESELOWSKI) AND DENNY (HAMLIN) HAVE BEEN PRETTY OUTSPOKEN ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY ARE DREADING DOVER. I WOULD ASSUME YOU HAVE THE OPPOSITE VIEW? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU GO IN THERE WITH A LITTLE BIT OF AN EDGE? “Well I do, they are both great drivers and great teams. They have the ability to figure out that race track. I know from my own experiences tracks that were hard on me I was able to figure it out over time and learn how to win at those tracks. I’m not ruling them out, but when I look through the Chase tracks there are certain guys I expect to be strong at whatever race track. At Chicago, I felt like the No. 2 was going to be strong and he certainly was. Here I kind of look to the No. 11 and what he did in the spring. Next week I feel like the No. 24 is going to be a big threat. He got off to a bad start at Chicago. You start playing these little, not games, but you start thinking through who you feel you are going to have to race, what track and what might be your strong tracks versus your weak tracks. I feel like next weekend is a good opportunity for the No. 48 on a lot of the field, a lot of the Chasers to get some points on them.”

IS DOVER ALWAYS YOUR KIND OF ACE IN THE HOLE IN THE CHASE? IT SEEMS LIKE WHEN YOU HAVE GOTTEN OFF TO A BAD START BEFORE THAT PLACE IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE WHERE YOU KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO COME OUT OF THERE WITH A LOT OF POINTS RIGHT? “Yeah, so far it’s been a great track for us. The thing there that is tough and we have been very fortunate to miss it, if something happens we know it’s a self-cleaning track and you get torn up pretty bad because you are going so fast. If we can run up front and kind of control the race and control who we are racing around I feel we can make up a lot or hopefully distance ourselves. I want to come out of here with the point’s lead and hopefully we can distance ourselves from the guys.”

HOW DO YOU CONTROL THAT RACE? IS THAT JUST STRATEGY WITH CHAD (KNAUS, CREW CHIEF) OR JUST THE FACT THAT YOU LEAD SO MANY LAPS? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? “Running up front, the top three, top five especially early to midway through the race are just generous to a large degree and not pushing the issue. When you are back in 15th, 20th, it’s cut throat. At a track that fast a small mistake happens it could take you right out of the race. Running up front you really can have the best chance of controlling your own destiny.”

WILL YOU BE BRINGING THE SAME CAR TO DOVER THAT YOU WON WITH IN THE SPRING? “It wasn’t torn up and we didn’t have any damage so we should be able to take that car back. I’m not sure what Chad (Knaus, crew chief) has slated, but I wouldn’t expect us to take another car there with it winning there in the spring.”

WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN WITH BRAD’S (KESELOWSKI) PROGRESS AS A COMPETITOR LIKE LAST WEEK WHAT YOU SAW FROM HIM? “He certainly has a great feel for the race car and can lead his team to make the right adjustments. That is key. I think the relationship he has with Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) is a big part of their success too. People at times under estimate the power of the people. The power of people that work on a race team and it’s key to have that driver/crew chief pairing. Brad and Paul are a great example. We look at (Dale Earnhardt) Junior another great example of that. They are going to be tough down the stretch I know it.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR TEAM BEING CALLED THE “GOLD STANDARD” IN RACING BY MR. PENSKE LAST WEEKEND FOLLOWING THE RACE AT CHICAGO? “That is a huge compliment from Roger (Penske) I didn’t hear that. With his experience in motorsports, business life, all that to get a compliment like that from him is an honor to be honest with you. I have looked up to him for years and years. My childhood idol Rick Mears raced for him. I always had that dream of racing at Indy for Penske, just Penske period. I’m very happy with the compliment and hopefully we can maintain that gold standard and keep it going.”

Source: Team Chevy Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jimmie Johnson , Rick Mears , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Article type Interview
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, johnson, nhis