JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Martinsville and the importance of winning the pole, future goals, Mark Martin's championship hopes, his success, and more. AT MARTINSVILLE YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Martinsville and the importance of winning the pole, future goals, Mark Martin's championship hopes, his success, and more.
AT MARTINSVILLE YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? "Yeah, it's certainly a great track for us. The way we ran here in the spring, and really the last few times here, we're very optimistic about our car this weekend. Practice in race trim this morning was really good. We didn't spend a lot of time in qualifying trim. Unfortunately it doesn't look like we're going to start up where we wanted to, but it is what it is. It will hurt us on pit road for sure. But I really think the way the car is going to be and how well I can work traffic here, it shouldn't be too big of a problem. We'll take our lumps in qualifying and go on."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF STARTING ON THE POLE, DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER TRACK THAT'S YOUR FAVORITE AS FAR AS THE NUMBER ONE START SPOT AND PIT PICK? "It's such an advantage at a lot of the tracks. Dover is huge. Indianapolis is (because of) the way the timing lines work out. California Speedway, I think we all saw it, with Denny (Hamlin); they'd come in third or fourth and the camera line was just a few feet outside of the first pit box and that was a huge advantage to those guys there. But here, it's like one of those tracks, I'm not sure it's the most important one, but there are three or four where it's really important to have that first pit stall. You can count on two or three positions each time. And if you come in, in the lead, you've got that extra time to slow things down during the pit stop and have the guys be in more of a rhythm instead of forcing the issue. The other aspect to it is that you avoid a lot of the chaos on pit road and that's important here too."
AS YOU'VE BEEN JUST TEARING IT UP FOR THE PAST THREE OR MORE YEARS, DO YOU SENSE THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER DRIVERS IN THE GARAGE HAS CHANGED AT ALL? "I've worked hard to build a lot of friendships in the garage area. I can't say that it's changed much. We're all very competitive and there are certain sides of everyone's personalities at the race track, where it's competitive. But when you get away from the track, and I'm thinking of the event we had with our (Jimmie Johnson) Foundation recently; Kurt (Busch) and I couldn't stay away from each other earlier in the year and had some heated moments and we sat back and had a blast at my charity event. We're getting along in a friendship standpoint. It's tough at the track. So at the track, to answer your question, in some ways yes. But I think that the way I act and how I respect the other drivers has maintained a level of respect amongst all of us. And away from the track, we seem to all be able to separate it once we get outside of the garage area."
YOU HEAR TALK THAT THE FANS SOMETIMES GET TIRED OF ONE GUY WINNING. JEFF GORDON WENT THROUGH THAT AND MAYBE YOU ARE NOW. DO YOU EVER GET THAT SENSE FROM THE DRIVERS THAT YOU'RE JUST WALKING ON AIR AND THAT THEY ARE FED UP WITH YOU WINNING ALL THE TIME? "Maybe not fed up. I certainly hear the comments. From my standpoint, we're working so hard and we've been able to pull off some really cool things, but other people seem more confident in our abilities than I do at times. It makes me laugh inside when I see that at times. But you just never know. We're out there doing all we can each week. I pick that up from time to time with the guys, but in the end I'm really just trying to focus on trying to do my job and not spend time worrying about what other people are thinking. If I'm worrying about what other people are thinking about, I'm not worrying about my race car. At the end of the day I need to keep my blinders on and stay focused on my job."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MARK MARTIN AND WHAT HE'S BEEN ABLE TO DO THIS YEAR? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MAYBE BEING THE GUY TO KEEP THE SENTIMENTAL FAVORITE FROM TAKING HIM HIS FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think the world of Mark. We've had a very good respect and friendship over the years and it's only grown since we've been teammates. If I'm not the one winning the championship I want Mark to win it or Jeff (Gordon) to win it or (Dale Earnhardt) Junior to win it and have it stay in the family. I certainly root for him if I'm not having the day and the same for Jeff. I have not thought about being the guy who could take away someone's opportunity. I'm only worried about doing my job and trying to win my fourth championship."
WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST COMPARISON YOU'VE HEARD OR READ OF YOUR TEAM TO OTHER SPORT'S DYNASTIES OR DOMINANT ENTITIES? "I can't say I've been paying attention enough to know. I have really disconnected from, especially our media and the coverage, and if there have been any comparisons made, I'm just totally separated myself. I'm not sure. One of the coolest moments I've experienced was last year after winning the championship when I walked into ESPN and Mike Ditka was walking down the hallway. And I made a comment about I wasn't sure how I ranked and wasn't sure if what we'd done should be considered a dynasty. And here's a man that I've obviously respected and knew who he was and didn't think he knew who I was, and he came down the hallway and said, 'You better believe that you're a dynasty', and gave me some cool props at that point so I kind of fall back on that one."
YOU ARE SO HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE GARAGE AREA. WE'VE ALL WATCHED YOU FOR EIGHT YEARS NOW. YOU ARE BETTER AS A DRIVER THAN ANYBODY ELSE IN THE GARAGE RIGHT NOW. YOU MIGHT WIN OR PROBABLY WILL WIN YOUR FOURTH CHAMPIONSHIP, WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? ARE YOU JUST GOING TO KEEP WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS AND MAKING EVERYBODY ELSE LOOK DEPRESSED? "I wish it seemed that easy. To operate at this level is so tough to do. We've had different cars and tires and so many situations; and technology changes every year. People change, and we've had personnel changes and we've talked over and over how hard it is to get the people right and how important the people are. With all that in mind, each year has flown by much faster than I realized. My goals really stay the same. This is where I want to be. I love driving for Hendrick Motorsports and I'm very proud and happy to work with Lowe's and (Chad) Knaus and the guys that we have and I just want to do more of the same."
WITH AS WELL AS YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN RUNNING JUST HERE IN THE CHASE LATELY, DOES A DAY LIKE TODAY IS IT A LITTLE BIT OF A DOWNER? "I'd say that the biggest downer for me is I ran two laps that I thought were good enough for the pole and then I heard the time afterwards and I was like what? So to feel like everything was right, the car handled right and to not be any faster I was like wow. I sat and thought about it a while, pit stall is out the window. We're going to kind of be in a bad situation there but I know how good the car is and there's going to be tests throughout the championship and how we react and how we handle situation and this is one of them. I think it speaks to what we've been saying all along and that's this thing is far from over and we've got to go out there and earn it. We didn't do the best job today but we're going to have to do a really good job on Sunday to make up for it."
YOU'VE BEEN SO CONSISTENT AND DOMINATE AT MARTINSVILLE OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, WHAT TYPE OF FINISH WILL YOU HAVE TO HAVE SUNDAY TO WALK AWAY SATISFIED? "Truthfully there are two answers to that question. One would be my own personal goal to win the race. We've had so much success here that wearing one hat I look at that answer and say that's it the other answer would be ahead of the No. 5 and the No.24. Wherever that is would be pretty good. So we'll just see what happens and if I can't get my first goal under control hopefully I can beat the No. 5 and the No. 24."
HOW DO YOU GET RIGHT TO THAT EDGE AND NOT GO OVER THE LINE WHERE YOU PUT YOURSELF IN A BAD SPOT? "That's the hardest thing we do is walking that line. If I look at Matt (Kenseth) and also look at the situation with Jeff (Gordon) last weekend in both cases I was inside of them, got loose, and had to tell myself hey man think of the big picture, fell back behind and found my next move and got by them. Over the year, and I hope to keep it up, I've been able to methodically find a little bit more each lap and get to the point where I'm uncomfortable and the car is at its grip level and stay there. Flirt with that line but no step so far over it I can't save it. That's something I've done well over the last years and something that I'm personally very proud of and hope that I don't lose that touch because it is such a fine line. As you can see last week inside of Jeff I got really loose and had to catch it and save it and fall back behind and regroup at that point."
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THAT HAS TO DO WITH MONTOYA'S SUCCESS "Yeah, it does. I really think that's the toughest part. One we've kind of watched it from afar and maybe thought of it in a different way of Juan saying he's been conservative. I've been joking with Juan saying you're just racing the right way, you're not being conservative. You can't run 500-mile race after 500-mile race at 10 tenths. You can't do that to your car. You can't drive it that way. You can't treat the other guys on the track that way. You have to race smart and push when it's necessary. Nobody is going to hand you anything. You have to go out and really fight for it but you have to drive within reason. That's the way you collect maximum points. There's a few examples of it this year. Maybe not viewed at that way but I kind of look at Juan finding that sweet spot now and understanding how to do that. It's something that Mark (Martin) has always been able to do. Jeff (Gordon) has always been able to do and I've been getting much, much better at it especially the last three years."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON MARK MARTIN AS WELL AS HE'S BEEN PERFORMING IN THIS CHASE AND ALSO YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOU POTENTIALLY STANDING IN HIS WAY IN WHAT MAY BE HIS LAST GOOD SHOT AT WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP. "I think we kind of answered this one earlier but you must not have been here. As far as me potentially being the guy I'm just out there doing my job and worrying about myself. If I'm the spoiler I'm going to be very proud of being the spoiler because I've earned it and I've had to beat the best in the business. That's really the way I'm looking at it. Mark's been a great teammate and we still have five races to go and anything can happen. He's 90 points back but man you can lose 160 or 165 in a race weekend. It still isn't over. Mark is going to fight until the very last lap at Homestead the same with Jeff. (Tony) Stewart is right there. It's going to be a long five weeks I can tell you that much."
-credit: gm racing