JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the race to the Chase, repaving Daytona, aggressive driving, Danica Patrick, and more. ON THE PEPSI REFRESH PROJECT, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS TEAMMATES JEFF GORDON, DALE EARNHARDT...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the race to the Chase, repaving Daytona, aggressive driving, Danica Patrick, and more.
ON THE PEPSI REFRESH PROJECT, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS TEAMMATES JEFF GORDON, DALE EARNHARDT JR., AND JIMMIE JOHNSON SUBMITTED IDEAS WHICH WERE IMPORTANT TO THEM IN HOPES OF WINNING A $100,000 PEPSI REFRESH GRANT AND JOHNSON WON. TELL US HOW THE $100,000 WILL BE USED "We're so thankful and excited to win this $100,000 grant for the Be The Match Foundation. There are a lot of expenses that go into finding a match and a donor and a recipient and putting everyone together. The $100,000 that Pepsi has put up will go to all the costs associated with that. I'm just extremely excited. I can't thank my fans enough! To be in a contest with Jeff and Junior and to come out the winner based on the fan vote really shows the fan base that we have and I can't thank them enough for believing in Be The Match and supporting Pepsi's great cause. They are going to pass out a lot of money to a lot of worthy charities. Some big; some small. At the end of the day I think it's around $20 million that they're passing out this year. I'm very proud to be associated with them and to be a partner and for Be The Match to win this $100,000 grant."
NEW HAMPSHIRE KICKS OFF THE RACE TO THE CHASE. TALK ABOUT THAT "Yeah, I'm excited to be here. We'll see how things turn out at the end of the weekend. You can come in here and try things or you can come in and just try to refine the package that you have. We have both things in mind. We have a lot of stuff that we want to try here on this flat track and use this as a test session of sorts to make sure we're ready for the Chase when we come back."
HOW DID YOU BEAT JUNIOR IN A POPULARITY CONTEST? (LAUGHTER) "Yeah, that's the impressive underlying note in all this (laughs). I'm shocked, excited, and thrilled and can't thank my fans enough. I have been preaching that I have a strong fan base for a long time and I'm glad to see the evidence."
AT THIS POINT, ARE YOU MORE CONCERNED WITH COLLECTING MORE BONUS POINTS FOR WINS OR ARE YOU FOCUSED ON TRYING TO PEAK LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN IN RECENT SEASONS IN THE CHASE? WHAT'S YOUR APPROACH? "First of all, a few weeks ago I was in a position where points were really important. So I kind of look at it and say you can't take where you are for granted, even though we are second in points. Three races ago we were in seventh and 12th wasn't all that far away. I guess what I'm getting at is a lot can still change and we need to be collecting points and make sure that we're in the Chase. I feel that we're plenty close to Denny (Hamlin) in points and if someone were to surpass where we are, I don't think we'd start with too big of a deficit going into the Chase. And in the end, I think it's more important to win in the Chase than it is to win now. So, if I could pick when I could win my next race, I'd rather it be during the Chase. I think there's a big message in that for points and collecting points when it's really important. For us, we still feel like we need a little bit more speed. So my goal right now is to be smart and try to finish in the top five, learn about our race cars and make sure we're right so we can be winning when the Chase comes around. And if we have an opportunity, like last weekend, to win a race, we'll certainly step up and try it at the point. But I think there is more damage to be done if you're out there driving over your means and the team is looking for a homerun every time you're on the track and you have the highs and lows of yes, success, and then terrible. For my team, I think a consistent mindset is very helpful for us. So, I'm looking more at consistency right now."
YOU WON THE SONOMA ROAD COURSE LAST WEEK, IS IT SAFE TO SAY CHICAGO IS NEXT ON YOUR LIST? "Yeah, Chicago is. Chad (Knaus) has asked me since I won in California for my first race if we could win in his home state so he could experience that. And we have been very, very close. I gave one up to Kyle (Busch) on a restart a couple of years ago. Last year we led a ton of laps but just didn't close at the end. Things got away from us. So I feel we've got a good chance there and certainly hope to. It's nice to cross off these tracks; tracks I haven't won at. I'd love to try to beat Jeff (Gordon) at something and I know he's sitting there waiting for one. If I could hurry up and get a couple more out of the way it would be awesome."
ON AGGRESSIVE DRIVING, DO YOU THINK IT'S MORE ACCEPTABLE IN THE GARAGE NOW? CAN YOU STAY FRIENDLY AFTERWARDS? "I'm sure everybody is really concerned about afterwards. It's a sport. You just go out and you do what you can. I kind of see it as when you've been wronged, and then it changes your approach and how you race people. Some people can re-rack and come back to the same place and for others it just keeps building and building. I think after a season of cars that are very tough to pass, you kind of run into a routine of the same guy being a pain in the butt; then you're like well, the hell with them. Then it starts. And I think we're at that point now. And especially coming off of a road course, I didn't see much of it but I could hear plenty on my radio about what was going on. And I think people are at that point now. There is nothing to worry about really, off the track. If you're going to take someone out or wrong someone on track, you've got to be ready for the same thing down the road and the points and what's going to come back to you. It's awfully exciting. There's plenty to write about and talk about right now."
WITH DAYTONA COMING UP, WOULD YOU LIKE TO WIN THERE BEFORE IT IS REPAVED AND BECOMES ANOTHER TALLADEGA? DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE THE CASE AND DOES IT NEED TO BE REPAVED? "Yeah, from what I understand the asphalt is done. It's time to repave it. So, from the criticism Daytona took with the pothole came up at the 500, they don't have a choice. If everybody was being a little more understanding and thought it would be all right to have potholes to race around and patch things up, I think we could stretch it a little further. But they took it so bad on the fact that a pothole came up during the biggest race of the year, they have no choice. From there, it is going to change the racing a lot. I would assume the bumps will go away and the asphalt will have a lot of grip at first. It will be a much narrower Talladega but a very similar race. The grip level is going to go up a ton. Tire fall-off won't be as bad. It's great for the track owner/operator. The track should last a long time. I think it's odd to say but the paving companies have learned a lot and have made a better race track since the last time Daytona was paved. So, it'll bring speeds up and the aggression will be a lot higher. And I would assume that the end result for the fans is going to be something they enjoy as long as everybody is willing to race in that situation."
WHEN JEFF BURTON WAS IN HERE EARLIER, HE SAID THE TAKE NO PRISONERS ATTITUDE IS MORE PREVALENT AMONG THE TOP 15 BECAUSE YOU'RE ALL GOING FOR CHASE POSITIONS. ARE YOU REALIZING THAT OR DO YOU THINK THAT NOW THERE IS NOT REPERCUSSION FOR JUST RACING, THE MORE PEOPLE ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THAT? "I'm not sure what comes first. But from my standpoint if someone wrongs me, I'm going to equal things out. And to me, some of it is having confidence as to who I am and what I've accomplished in the sport and I don't really need to take crap from people anymore. As a rookie I was very aware of needing to take two or three lumps before I pass one out. So there's something there that I have always maybe been a little different in that respect, but there's a lot of focus on that NASCAR has lightened up with penalties. I don't really think that has a lot to do with it. When I heard it, I thought well okay, maybe now I can get away with a cuss word, but it isn't going to change how I race and how people race me. I just think that it's very difficult to pass. Track position is more important than it's ever been. Guys are fighting for that track position and doing some things that aren't necessarily fair. And it could be the guy passing or the guy blocking and then a feud starts. After a couple weeks of that, you're like the hell with it. I spent 15 laps chasing this guy and he ran me all over last week, I'm sending him. So you send him and then he goes home and he's like okay, when the chance comes back I'm going to send him. And this energy has been created from that. That's my opinion more than the rules have been lightened and you can get away with saying what you want."
HE DOESN'T WANT IT TO BECOME DEMOLITION DERBY. HAVE YOU SEEN ANY OF THAT? "Yeah, and I know when I'm around people I still try to respect them and race them like they race me. And I think you'll see a group of cars race that way and then chaos. And I know when I get around Jeff Burton, I can race him hard. If I run him over, he's going to come run me over (laughs). So there are certain guys you know how to race. I think you'll see a bigger separation in that now. It used to maybe be a group of 10 to 15 cars that would play the give-and-take game and now it's down to three to five. I think the numbers are shifting."
WHAT IS DANICA PATRICK GOING TO HAVE TO DO TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THIS SPORT AND SPECIFICALLY ON THIS NEW HAMPSHIRE RACE COURSE? "It's just time in both cases. To come in and run a handful of races in a year and with the testing restrictions we have, it's going to take even more time for her to be comfortable at this track and in these cars. She's a race car driver. She is capable of being successful in this sport, but it's going to take time. That's the hardest part is to say okay, for the next three to five years I'm going to have to make mistakes, be in the spotlight because she clearly commands a big presence when she's around, and take all the negative with it as she is learning her way. But at some point it'll click for her. I would look at Juan (Pablo Montoya). I think Juan was all in when he came in, on top of being a very talented guy who can drive anything. And he's proven that through all the things that he's raced. You watch other open-wheel greats come in like Dario and he wasn't here long enough to really get his feet under him. Sam (Hornish) has been here for a few years and he is still trying to figure out the difference in the balance. So it's not an easy crossover. And in the end it just takes time."
HOW MUCH RESPECT DO YOU HAVE FOR DANICA PATRICK TO EVEN TRY THIS GIVEN SHE HAS TO GO BACK AND FORTH WITH THE DIFFERENT SERIES? "Yeah, I go and run a few Grand-Am races a year and leave my comfortable world of running up front and having that mindset that comes with it, knowing you're going to be one of the players in the game, to making sure you're not the slowest person on track and not making simple stupid mistakes and spinning the car on cold tires. I mean the whole mindset changes from being aggressive to also being defensive. And it's a totally different way to act on track. I do sympathize with her on the project and commended her for taking the risk and chance and giving it a shot. Hopefully she has the patience to stick it out for a long time and find her way through it all."
LAST WEEK YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TEST AN F-1 CAR AND MAYBE DRIVE AN INDYCAR ONE DAY. IS THAT REALLY A DREAM OF YOURS? "Yeah, I really would enjoy it. The way I grew up, IndyCar racing was really the only asphalt exposure I had as a kid growing up. So I dreamed of racing the Indy 500. I'd go to the Long Beach Grand Prix and hope that I could be on that circuit racing at some point. So yeah, I would love to. My path is clearly taking me in a different way. I think it would be very difficult to get an F-1 test but maybe putting it out there would create it and it could happen (laughs). Even driving an IndyCar, I know the ovals aren't necessarily the safest thing, but just to experience that on a road course would be really good for me. I think that running the Grand-Am car has helped me be a better road course driver and that would be another step of that to see things that even faster speeds, the braking zones, the capabilities of the car, and how it turns in. I think the Grand-Am Series has been really good for me. Going faster yet would make it even better."
GOING BACK TO ROUGH DRIVING, DO YOU SEE THIS CHANGING THE SPIRIT OF THE SPORT? IS IT SPLINTERING NOW TO THE POINT NOW WHERE NO ONE IS RESPECTING ANYBODY? IS THAT ENTERTAINMENT? WHAT IS THAT? "I don't know. I think there are people who tune in just for that and the racing purists really don't appreciate it. I do think that over time people will realize that racing this way is isn't good for them and their teams and their sponsors. At the end of the day when it starts to impact their livelihood, their potential job, it falls into that category of man, this guy has wrecked 15 times this year and we don't car why he's wrecked 15 times but we're going to make a driver change because he can't keep his cool. It'll start changing things at that point. Right now there's a lot of aggression. The road courses typically do that, especially Sonoma where we're going so slow. I would also say that this weekend it's a very difficult track to pass here and we could very well see things continue until we get to a big track and people have a week to forget about being wronged and we can move on from there."
-source: gm racing