JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JOHNS MANVILLE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed tough summer months and performance on 1.5-mile tracks, his mindset during the Chase, his crew chief, Chad Knaus, and more. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR WIN LAST ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/JOHNS MANVILLE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed tough summer months and performance on 1.5-mile tracks, his mindset during the Chase, his crew chief, Chad Knaus, and more.
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR WIN LAST WEEKEND AT DOVER "Yeah, last weekend was great for us. Dover has just been a great track for us over the years. To go there and finish things off as we did was great for the team and at the right time. So, we're very proud of what we did last week but it's a new weekend and a new track and new circumstances and ideally we'd love to do the same thing here but it's going to be a tough weekend. There are a lot of fast cars on the 1.5-mile tracks this year."
HOW DO YOU MENTALLY MANAGE THE EXPECTATIONS THAT ARE ALL AROUND YOU WHETHER IT'S HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS OR EVEN JUST ALLOWING YOURSELF TO THINK ABOUT WHAT COULD BE? "First of all, I've got to really worry about the areas that I control and what I can do; and over the years I've learned that I can stress about the elements that I can't control but I just lose sleep and it doesn't do me much good. I'm in a great position where I can rely on my team and can rely on the resources at Hendrick Motorsports and know that we're going all we can there and that allows me just to focus on my job. It's worked really good for me over the years and I'm planning to do that again this year. And the other part that makes it easy right now to stay relaxed is that we've only had two races in the Chase. You can see in two races how easily you can fall and how easily you can rise and we left Loudon in 25th and then left Dover in second.
"So someone can have a big race this weekend and be right back in the middle of it, on top of the fact that there are a lot of cars very close in points. So, it's just not time to stress in my book yet; and if other people are stressing, great. I hope that they are. But in my world it's just not time to yet."
I WAS AT HOME LAST WEEK IN DOVER AND WAS ABLE TO WATCH DOVER POST-RACE FROM MY TELEVISION AND IT WAS INTERESTING BECAUSE THERE WAS THIS ONE MOMENT WHEN YOU COULD KIND OF SEE THAT YOU LET YOURSELF REALLY ENJOY THE MOMENT AND GET EXCITED. HOW LONG DO YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO CELEBRATE A VICTORY BEFORE YOU START THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO NEXT WEEK? "You certainly try to absorb it and enjoy it. But 42 other guys went home mad; especially the 11 other guys in the Chase that went home mad. And you have to stay focused on your job and I know that (crew chief, Chad) Knaus was there (at the shop) first thing Monday morning and my guys were and they were doing everything they can to be prepared for this weekend. So, you let it in at times. But I guess maybe in our situation, we know that we have high expectations for ourselves. We know that our goals are really lofty and we're going to try to win a fifth championship, so yes we won a battle, but we know the war is still ahead and it's time to look forward and keep doing what we're doing."
YOU'VE DONE THIS FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW. IF YOU STEP BACK AND LOOK AT THE EIGHT RACES REMAINING, IS THERE MORE OF A CONCERN ABOUT SOME OF THE TRACKS LEFT ON THE TOUR, OR IS THERE MORE OF A CONCERN ABOUT HOW WELL SOME OF THE OTHER TEAMS ARE RUNNING? "Really, think it's both. We, on the 1.5-mile tracks, have not been what we wanted to be during the summer months. So for us, Atlanta was really an important race for us and we ran well and it paid off and maybe after this weekend we'll have a little better feeling of where we are on the 1.5-mile tracks and how competitive we are compared to the guys that we're racing for the Chase. But then at the same time, when you look at tracks like Talladega and know the threat that exists there, and then I look back on last year's experience and go to a really good track for us, (with) a really fast race car and qualify 11th or something, and I get crashed on the first lap of the race. So, I guess that's where it comes down to worrying about things that you can control because you can be up all night long for 10 weeks straight, stressing about components, tracks, competitors, and things that can go wrong. You can just lose a lot of sleep over it. So, again, I've said this for years, blinders on and focus on the things I can control and hopefully it'll work out for us."
KEVIN HARVICK AND DENNY HAMLIN APPARENTLY CAME TO AN UNDERSTANDING THIS WEEK. WHEN IT'S TIME FOR A DRIVER TO REACH OUT AND TRY TO DO THAT, ARE THERE WORRIES THAT HE'S NOT GOING TO WANT TO TALK TO YOU OR HANG UP ON YOU AND THE GRUDGE IS GOING TO LINGER? IS THERE A DELICACY TO THAT WHEN IT'S TIME TO BURY THE HATCHET WITH SOMEBODY ELSE? "Yeah, in my experience, I had something going with Ward Burton at Loudon in 2004 or '05 or something like that. I guess it was '03 when we won both events there. We had an issue on pit road with our guys being hit when the No. 24 and the No.15 came into the pit and lost a lot of track position and was coming back through and I got on the No. 22 and spun him out and he crashed. He spent the rest of the afternoon trying to crash me. So then, obviously I knew he was upset. And I tried reaching out to him all week long and I couldn't catch him or he wouldn't take my call and finally I got his cell phone number and when I had his cell phone he answered and didn't know the number code to lock the number, called in and once I told him who I was, I think he was cussing at me. But he went on and on for a minute just yelling and screaming and it's tough to understand Ward to start with, but I believe they were cuss words and he just vented and finally, I'm like, 'Do you feel better? Can we talk about this?' You know, it wasn't intentional and you try to move on. So, there's a wide variety of ways that it can be handled. I guess at the end of the day if you can't make contact with someone, you hope that they know you tried. And you hope that your history with that driver or your reputation within the sport speaks for itself and that you can move through those issues."
YOU SAID YOU WEREN'T QUITE AS STRONG ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS. KNOWING THIS IS THE FIRST OF FOUR 1.5-MILE TRACKS, INCLUDING CALIFORNIA NEXT WEEK WHERE YOU'VE WON MANY TIMES, ARE THESE TWO WEEKS GOING TO BE A BAROMETER FOR THE TEAM? DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF WHERE YOU MIGHT BE OFF, AND IF SO, IS THERE ENOUGH TIME TO CATCH UP? "We have an idea of what's been going on. The weird thing is that although we had a tough summer on the 1.5-mile tracks, we had a lot of speed; especially the first half of the race. So, looking at what we've been doing and the balance of the car and the directions we were working on, there was enough that went wrong that we know not to go down that road any longer. So I feel that we've made a good change. Atlanta went well for us but Atlanta is a pretty unique track with a lot of fall-off on the tire and it's not what we see here (Kansas) or Charlotte and so on. So I'm optimistic and I feel that we've come to a good conclusion with things. But we've got to get on the track and really prove it and be in the hunt. And if you have a couple bad races, you don't know. It depends on what the other 11 guys do. Some may argue it's down to maybe eight guys now. But it just depends on what your competitors in the Chase do around you; and if you have a bad race do they allow you back in?"
ON BEING ABLE TO CHANGE AND IMPROVE DURING THE WEEKEND COMPARED TO OTHERS NOT BEING ABLE TO DO THAT "As a driver you always have to search around on the race track and try to find a line or some type of rhythm that will help the balance of your race car. That's what we do. I feel that growing up on the dirt (off-road racing) really helped me with that skill set. You don't have a chance to come in and adjust on your car or work on it and it a lot of cases on the dirt, especially in the stuff I raced, all you worried about was going in a straight line over jumps. The corners, you had to figure that out as a driver. I think I fall back on that experience a lot. Last weekend was great for our team because last-minute decisions before qualifying gave us the speed we needed to win the race. Decisions that we made Saturday night in the motor home lot working on our race car, gave us the car to win the race on Sunday. So, I'm very proud that amongst the pressure last second, we made the right decisions and made the right calls and won the race. It was a good weekend for our race team; a good lift for us."
FOR FOLKS THAT ARE NOT AT THE RACE TRACK, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE (CREW CHIEF) CHAS KNAUS? AND IS THERE MUCH VARIATION BETWEEN THE CHAD WE SEE AT THE RACE TRACK AND THE CHAD WHO PUNCHES OUT AND GOES HOME? "You talk about an extreme. People want to say that I might be a little closed here and more open in my private life. That guy is all business here and then all fun at home. So he's a man of extremes in that department (laughs). But for people that don't know him, he's just a guy that enjoys working oddly enough and isn't afraid to work. He commits himself to our team and our sport and has done a great job for us over the years. I think he has grown a lot in his role as a crew chief and becoming more of a people person. He doesn't have a filter between thoughts and mouth and laced a lot of guys over the years that have worked for him and has really worked hard on that to communicate better and to be a better leader of the race team and grows a little bit each year. So I've been proud of his progress."
DURING THE SUMMER SOME PEOPLE HAVE SAID THIS MIGHT NOT BE THE YEAR FOR THE NO. 48. WERE YOU EVER WONDERING THAT? WAS THERE A TIME DURING THE BAD MONTHS WHEN YOU THOUGHT MAYBE THIS WASN'T YOUR YEAR? "Yeah, not only this summer but the summer before and other parts of other seasons. There was on year we got off to a really slow start and you naturally think it's not your year. But I think all the guys that have been in the Chase before know that when you go to New Hampshire, whatever that gap is, closes up and you've got a second chance. You may not be starting off with as many points as you want, but you're a hell of a lot closer than you were the week before. So, you find some new life and you get going from that. And there definitely were points this year where we were concerned; and still looking forward there are a lot of good teams. I still have concern. I'm not sure if we'll have enough pace to win the championship. I don't know if the championship is going to be decided on a guy that runs you know a really low finishing average or if it's a guy that's going to be based on consistency because the fast guys have a bunch of issues. You just don't know. All I know is that we're going to show up and do everything we can this weekend to get maximum points and do that again the following (weekend) and just kind of see where things fall."
-source: gm racing