Martinsville II: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 KERRY THARP: Chad, you're clear down here, congratulations. We appreciate it. Now let's go back to Jimmie Johnson. Who has got questions for Jimmie Johnson? Q: You're talking about complacency, but look back last...

Continued from part 1

KERRY THARP: Chad, you're clear down here, congratulations. We appreciate it. Now let's go back to Jimmie Johnson. Who has got questions for Jimmie Johnson?

Q: You're talking about complacency, but look back last year, this started your four race winning streak that clinched the championship. You're going back to these tracks and you have multiple wins on several of them. How can you not be fairly confident going into those, overconfident?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Overconfident would be a mistake. That's the thing that we really want to focus on not doing and we need to carry the momentum and have it work in the right direction for us and we need to be confident in what we are doing and the equipment we are taking to the track. But we can't be cocky. Cocky, we are going to get our hand slammed in the door. It's just not what we are about and how we operate right.

We are going to go in with plenty of confidence. We feel very good about what we are doing and where we are at right now. But the hungrier we can stay, to go out and have performances like we did this weekend, that's what is going to make this thing right and that's how we would want to win a championship.

So the perfect world is do it two or three more times and just lock it up and go to Homestead and hang out and that would be the perfect world. Is that going to happen? Doubt it. But I'm not preparing for it. We are striving for that but we want to win out and do all that we can, but the guys are (indiscernible) awfully damn tough to beat.

Q: We are all going to write a lot of words about how good your team is and how good you were today, but before you came in, Dale and Carl were talking about how good you are and how good your team is. What does that mean to you when your peers are the ones standing in line and waving the banner and saying how good you are check heck?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: That truthfully means more to me than anything. Trophies are great. All of the different markers that we have out there that show that you've been success, they are all great. But when you walk through that garage area and I might not know the guy's name and it's a crew member on the 83 team or wherever it may be, and you see people and you can tell that they respect you and respect what you've done, there's nothing that feels better. And to have competitors that I've raced with over the years, it's not easy being competitors, and also respecting someone, that means more than anything to hear that those drivers have said those things.

I remember after winning the championship in '06, walking into the garage area in Daytona and guys that I never met before and new on other teams would shake my hand and say: Congratulations, you won the championship, you've done a great job. That means more to me than anything, it really does.

Q: We always hear competitors say that it's hard to stay on top once you get there. Based on your recent success, your team seems to be disproving that theory. Having trailed in the points for much of the year, which was more difficult getting to the top or maintaining that position through the Chase?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Truly getting back in championship form was the hardest for us. We got off to a start we were not accustomed to that start of the season, and that was frustrating. But it made our team stronger and made the relationships stronger inside the team and makes me really proud today to be where we are at knowing that we flat out sucked at start of the season. There were times where we were terrible.

So to fight through that is a lot of fun and I can say that for the first time in my career I feel more comfortable in this position, in leading and being on top, than I ever have. I think that comes from experience and also just being confident in my race team and what we are doing.

If you look at other pro athletes, there are a few that can do it and can stay on top. We all want to be that guy, and hopefully I can do it and I'm trying to do all that I can and I know my team. Is but you watch somebody like Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, you go through guys that have just dominated year after year, it's out there. Some people can do it. And I would love to be that guy in NASCAR racing.

Q: In light of what you just said, have you had a pinch me moment that you're winning and tearing it up every week; does winning races come really naturally to you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wouldn't say natural. I do get more used to the situations from time to time and I think that helps, and the team does, as well, and that helps us from having so many peaks and value he's.

We have to go in this stride and we are focused on next week, and I think that focus really helps us in championship battles. Even when you have a bad week, you learn from it and you stay in stride and stay focused on the next race.

So you know, I can say, at the end of the season, last year for that matter, the fact that we won four races in a row, I remember leaving Phoenix and just shaking my head the whole way home, like I cannot believe that I'm experiencing this.

I can go back through major moments in my career from the Brickyard to the Daytona 500, my first win, those moments have really been there for me.

My rookie season was a special year, to finish fifth in points, win three races, and not win Rookie of the Year somehow which is crazy to me; that was a pinch me year, the first year.

And since then, I'm like, well, I guess I'm awake. Better figure out how to keep doing this.

Q: Earlier in the race, I think you had gotten maybe behind a little bit, we were sitting here watching you and you were three wide against two lap cars and splitting the middle of guys going in the corner, and second and third place guys are struggling and you had a good race car and you're up 150 points; what in the heck are you trying to prove? Last year we asked you the same question in Texas when you were racing Kenseth. Do you just not have a dimmer switch? Are you set on kill all the time?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel that I felt like I was making calculated moves and I was in the right position on those three wides. I feel like maybe I'm crazy, but I feel like I'm doing the right things at that point in time, and it might be risky. But I kind of evaluated the chase going on and I'm in the best position of the three guys that are three wide.

So there's times where you've got to race, and I feel that I've raced people very fair over the years, and people race me back the same way. So I feel like I can get into situations with guys like Kenseth last year where we can run side by side at 190 for five laps and not wreck each other because we have history and respect one another.

I put a lot of faith in that stuff, and I think it speaks a lot to the relationships that I have and the kind of guy I try to be out on the racetrack. Sometime I'm criticized for not being rough enough but at the end of the day, you have to race these guys week in and week out. I have guys, lap cars today, being respectful to me that typically aren't. I had some that weren't which drove me crazy. But you've just got to take your chances when you think you can.

Today I was focused on winning a race. I wanted to win a race and get maximum points and tried not to think about the 31, the 99, the 16. I felt myself looking in the mirror from time to time, and the 16 every once in awhile, didn't see the 31 much and saw the 99. I'm still paying attention to those guys but the more I can focus on doing my teal can trying to get the trophy, the better we'll be.

Q: Would you say you're motivated more by a fear of failure or the idea of winning, and if you would just explain that a little bit?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think in 2005, 2006, that period of time, it was failure.

Now I'm excited about what I think we can do, and that transition has been because of experience and going through this championship battle in the past, and having confidence in myself and our team and not having fear. You hear guys hit golf shots that say, you get over the ball if you have any fear, you'll pull it and pull it in the water. It's the same thing, I don't want to be cocky, but I want to be confident with what we can do and go out and race without any fear and just race and do our jobs.

That's changed a lot this year. I think last year we were heading that direction and then this year, we're certainly in that place mentally.

Q: Not just feeling comfortable in the championship situation which you appear to be, but this seems to be a different Jimmie Johnson, if we are talking about Chad not having fun all year, you've been laughing more and I just think feeling more comfortable about yourself and I don't just mean in the championship situation, because of championship experience?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was worrying about saying the right thing, being the right place and doing all that stuff but I do have a personality and over the years, I've grown more comfortable in my work environment to let that come out. Not like I'm trying to hide anything, but I wanted to do this for a long time and realize that two stressed out guys not having fun is not good for this race team. And so I try to keep my crew guys spirits up and take them out for a beer and have fun and keep them light hearted and that's my job on the team.

Q: Is it the only thing that's going to stop you is if we take every race out here and change it around?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Don't give them any ideas (chuckling) there's still four races, we can have a flat, get a wheel loose, cut an engine, get caught up in a wreck. It's nice to see that we can execute like we feel we can and shown ourselves, like history shows, it's tough to do. And I've never been like this in my career and never had this fortune and been able to do this kind of stuff.

I wish, I hope that we can bottle it up and keep it for many, many more years, but there's something special going on with this race team and just very proud of that and ride the waves as long as it's up.

Q: I wonder if you can talk about the day that Hendrick Motorsports as a whole had.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Good day. Tough circumstances to come back for Rick. It's nice to all four cars run well, so he goes home and knows that we have honored his family and friends in the right way.

Just a great performance. I've always said that I've had better equipment here than what I've been capable of over the years, and I'm certainly doing my part now, and I think Kasey did an awesome job today and same with Junior and Jeff.

It's good when it works like that. I wish these setups, they were much closer here than any other track we run at. I wish our styles crossed enough where we could use and expand that program, but our styles are all different and we end up with different setups trying to get the same result. So here would be the closest that we would ever have the four cars, and it's nice to see all four run well.

Q: You spent a lot of time today racing with Gordon and you had Earnhardt in your mirror. How much give do you have compared to racing with guys like Juan Pablo who you are not affiliated with?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It gets tough out there sometimes. There's sometimes where teammates for whatever reason race me harder than other guys.

I look at Junior trying to win a second race and Jeff trying to win a race, it helps me understand where their mind set is at. We were joking in our debrief yesterday. Junior and Jeff and Kasey all three said: If you're leading this thing, and I'm behind you, be ready, be ready. And I'm thinking about that when the 88 is behind me, damn, I'd better get back. Jeff was wanting to lead some laps early in the race and kind much got me into a tough situation, where I could have lost a bunch of sports, fortunately I didn't.

At times teammates really work well with you and at other times they have had a job to do, as well. I find that sometimes lappers, you mention Montoya, and Montoya has been great to me, and I give him the different respect at different points in time in the races and we trade that back and forth. Tony, today, the 26, as well, guys that I'm catching them slowly but surely chipping away at it, but they just pulled me over and let me go. So I have done that for them in the past. Each situation is different, and it's nice to have friends out there that will work with you instead of guys taking shots at you all the time.

Q: You mentioned you expected kind of at the beginning of the race to see Jeff and Carl there in contention, but did you expect to see Dale in your rear?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, this is one of Junior's better tracks. Before he was a teammate in all of the years I've raced against him, he's done a great job here. I really felt like he was going to be one of the cars to beat today. I was impressed with Carl's effort and know he's been making gains on this track and today he was rock solid all day. I would say he impressed me the most.

Q: Do you have any emotion one way or another going to Atlanta next week, because it will be the last time you'll have a race in Atlanta; they traded with California next year.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Forgot all about that. Luckily we run well at California I had completely forgot about that.

It's going to be nice on the West Coast where it is warm and not freezing in Atlanta and raining potentially. I wish I had something for you but I just have not thought about it.

Q: What do you do with all of the grandfather clocks? You have to have a pretty big house for all of those clocks.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I have some at my office, one at the house, and a really cool warehouse that I've been putting together and collecting I collected my first off road buggy, trying to find my off road trucks that I've raced, I have my Iroq car that I won in, '06 championship car, and I even have a jet ski that I raced back when I was 13 that my brother found and is restoring it.

So I have all of this stuff that I've been collecting over the years and really cool where I've been putting the grandfather clocks so there's room for another one there.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports