Kansas: Johnson - Saturday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed advantages of starting on the pole at Kansas, the passing of Paul Newman, integration of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Tony Eury, Jr. in to Hendrick...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed advantages of starting on the pole at Kansas, the passing of Paul Newman, integration of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Tony Eury, Jr. in to Hendrick Motorsports and other topics.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE OF STARTING ON THE POLE AND STARTING SECOND? "Not a big difference on track, but that first pit stall is helpful. I don't know what the award is for the most poles, but we are in contention for so it is nice to have the pole and have that going for us as well."

WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT SOMEONE WOULD HAVE A SHOCK ISSUE? "I didn't think anything of it; I have seen a lot of progress from the Ganassi guys over the last few months. It is kind of like Christmas. I was disappointed I was second, just a few hundredths off the pole, went back to the bus and was taking care of some stuff and got word that they (No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya) had a problem. I didn't expect it by any means. NASCAR goes through their inspection processes for a reason and they didn't like the shocks? Does anyone know what the official word is on the shocks? I just heard it was rear shocks."

EXCEEDED THE MAXIMUM PRESSURE-IF YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS, YOU ARE PROBABLY WAY AHEAD OF MOST OF US. "Hmm. Ok. Well, if you think back, two or three years ago, they put in this maximum gas pressure for those shocks. We actually won an appeal because there wasn't a rule about this three years ago. So that is similar stuff, I don't know all the details but, I would assume it along those same lines. They were revisiting some of that stuff that was taking place three years ago. It is way illegal in today's world."

IS THAT THE RULE THEY (NASCAR) CHANGED AFTER YOU GUYS WON AT DOVER THREE YEARS AGO? "Yes. I know it was at one point we had an issue where there wasn't a rule about the gas pressure, I think we won an appeal, or something there that went on. There wasn't a rule written for it and after that event, there was a rule written for it. It was one of those deals where Chad (Knaus) was a rule maker."

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO HEARING PAUL NEWMAN'S DEATH? "I just heard it this morning. Shocked and saddened by it. It has been a great friend to Hendrick Motorsports. I have been out on numerous days where he has driver Cup cars. Normally Rick (Hendrick) has a play day and puts a restrictor plate on the car and lets guys go out and drive around with half the horsepower. Numerous times Paul has gone out on sticker tires, the plate off and run really quick laps. I was always so impressed with his driving ability and who he was as a person.

"Also, I didn't realize how special it was at the time until a few months had gone by, but at the CARS debut, the motion picture that came out, I had a chance to interview he and Owen Wilson. Paul wasn't a big media guy. The fact that we sat down and talked racing and I interviewed him was something that was special to me. I didn't realize his health was in question. I mean obviously, he is up there in age. I was certainly shocked this morning to learn about that."

DID YOU HAVE SENSE THAT HE HAD PASSION FOR ALL MOTORSPORTS? "He absolutely did. I guess I had a special view to see him at those Hendrick play days and talk in depth with him about driving cars in general.

"It is so funny, I remember being out there with the CARS thing and they put that fabulous Hudson Hornet body on a stock car frame. We will doing all the stuff leading in to the CARS debut. The only man on pit road with a stopwatch was Paul Newman. He was timing the laps, I was running, other guys were running. Then he got in that car that had no business with that body especially going around that track at speed and he was trying to break the lap times that we were running out there with the school cars and stuff. You could see that spark in his eye. He has a true passion for motorsports in general. I would say more Indy Car and roadracing because that is what he came from. He was a great friend of Rick's and knew a lot more than people probably realize about NASCAR racing."

AS WELL KNOWN AS YOU ARE IN THIS SPORT, ARE YOU IN AWE WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE LIKE PAUL NEWMAN? "Without a doubt. I just drive in circles. It is amazing on multiple levels to think where our sport is and the fan recognition and certainly celebrities and stars from other walks of life. It always impresses me that people know who we are and what we do. One of the funniest moments the comes to mind is that I was at a Vanity Fair party a couple years back and I am standing outside the restroom waiting for my wife to come out and Lance Armstrong walks up. I am like 'whoa, Lance Armstrong'. I introduce myself and he says, oh yea I know who you are champ, nice to meet you. That just blew me away because I think that a cyclist or someone from another sport might not have a clue about NASCAR but they certainly do."

AFTER QUALIFYING YESTERDAY, YOU SAID SOMETHING ABOUT YOU AND DALE EARNHARDT JR HAVING SIMILAR DRIVING STYLES. DID YOU KNOW IT WOULD GO THAT WELL, DRIVING-STYLE-WISE, WITH HIM AND YOU? "I didn't know what to expect. As competitors, we've always had respect for one another, but we've been hard-nosed competitors against one another. I didn't know how it would work on a personal level or a teammate level. I knew he was committed to going fast and at the end of the day, when you ask for a teammate and what a teammate is going to bring to the table, that's what you want and you can figure it out from there.

"We always don't have to have the best relationships and be friends and hang out off the track. But so much more has taken place with both Juniors, Dale and Tony Eury, that it's impressed me and shocked me and I think everyone at Hendrick. Both are extremely talented and committed. Our driving styles look very similar on the data. We were kind of looking for different things and maybe describe things in different ways, but when you just look at raw data, we have very similar techniques."

DID IT SHOCK YOU THAT IT WENT SO SMOOTHLY BECAUSE THERE WAS SO MUCH HYPE ABOUT IT COMING INTO THE YEAR THAT MAYBE THIS WAS GOING TO BE AN ADJUSTMENT? "I'd say hype. And then when you look at Tony and Dale coming over, they've been in a culture of doing things the way they do it at DEI. So it's like, all right, is there anything they can really bring from DEI? Are they going to be willing to learn a new system and operate in a different way and conduct business in a different way? Those questions were out there more than anything. With Tony Junior coming in the fall of last year and then Dale Junior's commitment, that whole process; they were willing to drop everything they've done and learned and adopt the Hendrick way. And I have to give credit for doing that. And they still have brought in their own style and have been helpful, but coming in the most important thing was for them to adopt the Hendrick way and they did that without any problems."

DO YOU'VE SEEN DALE JUNIOR CHANGE? "I can see it. I definitely can. But I know him much better today than I did in the year's past, so my exposure to this side of it has been limited. But I can say from afar it seems like he's certainly more of a Hendrick driver today than what he was when he was at DEI. He's kind of changed in those ways."

HOW IMPORTANT IS STARTING THIS RACE OUT IN FRONT AND IN CLEAN AIR? "At the start of the race it's great. It's nice to be in front. Hopefully we can stay there and adjust on the car all day long and really race with the top four or five cars that are going to be a threat for the victory. When you're back in the back, you end up in false conditions. You don't have as much downforce on the car. When you get to the front, it takes you a stop or two to tune the car in for those conditions. So we're starting up front and hopefully we can stay there and fine-tune the car all day long. We'll just have to wait and see."

DO YOU HAVE A FEEL FOR WHAT JEFF GORDON AND STEVE LETARTE ARE GOING THROUGH AND MAYBE WHAT DALE JUNIOR AND TONY EURY JUNIOR ARE GOING THROUGH? WHEN YOU AREN'T SUCCESSFUL, EVERYBODY SAYS YOU NEED TO CHANGE CREW CHIEFS. YOU HAVEN'T HAD THAT HAPPEN, BUT SO YOU GET A SENSE OF WHAT THEY ARE DEALING WITH? "Probably not. And the pressure that comes with that when those rumblings start, I've never experienced that. Chad (Knaus) and I have not. But we've certainly experienced slow points in seasons and have felt like our world is crumbling, which at times I'm sure they have felt that way too. The end of '05 was a real dark spot for Chad and me. There have been different points through the years that have been tough. I think '05 was really a turning point where we looked at each other and said, "We're going to do this together; win, lose, or draw. We're going to stick together and make this work. If we win, great; if we lose, great. We're going to do it as a team. And that's really helped. And I see that same philosophy with Stevie and with Chad, and that's Rick's mindset too. He doesn't want to make a change and bring in a new set of problems. You do a better job when you understand your shortcomings and you understand your problems and you can get to work in the right areas. So I don't foresee any changes. I haven't heard of any rumblings of changes. I know it's been like an outside thought that's come along, but this car has been challenging. It's been tough. And at times this year the No. 24 has been the best Hendrick car. The No. 88 has been the best Hendrick car. So each team has it and we all have our own styles and go about it in different ways, but those guys, we've leaned on them a lot through the start of the season to get our season off on the right foot. And now we're on to some stuff and hopefully it will benefit them as well."

-credit: gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Hendrick Motorsports