JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed what he expects in Atlanta, how he handles his emotions outside of the race car, what it will take to catch Tony Stewart and ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed what he expects in Atlanta, how he handles his emotions outside of the race car, what it will take to catch Tony Stewart and more.
TALK ABOUT MICHIGAN. "Excited about it. We led so many laps in the spring race and right about this area ran out of gas and didn't make it back around. So we're very excited about things. It hasn't been too much time since we raced here last so I feel like we should be very competitive and race for the win."
HOW DO YOU THINK ATLANTA IS GOING TO CHANGE BEING UNDER THE LIGHTS? YOU'VE WON THERE AND AT RICHMOND, DO THOSE PLACES KIND OF GIVE YOU A BUMP BEFORE THE CHASE KNOWING YOU RUN SO WELL THERE? "Truthfully Atlanta has been tough on us. We've been able to get some good finishes based on Chad's (Knaus) creativity. Last year in the Chase when he put tires on at the end and I was able to driver to second, but before that we were like a 10th, 11th place car all day. So it didn't hurt my feelings to see Atlanta taken out of the Chase then California Speedway put back in. Especially in the fall race we've won the last couple of times there. Hopefully that works with us for the Chase.
"Under the lights the track gains a lot of grip and picks up speed and changes the balance of what we're used to compared to a day race. We've had some races finish up in the twilight and even a night one if I remember right or something and it really changed the balance of our car and we had a hard time getting the car set up right. So I think the night race will throw a lot of challenges at the teams from a handling standpoint."
CARL (EDWARDS) HASN'T WON A RACE YET AND HE'S THE DEFENDING CHAMPION HERE, DO YOU STILL LOOK AT HIM AS A THREAT TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE ANYBODY CAN WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR WITHOUT A WIN? "No, I don't think you can win the title without a win and I still do look at Carl as a big threat. He's been consistent. We all know they haven't had the speed that we're used to seeing and he's still been able to hand tough in the points. Ten races is three months of racing basically plus another month, so three to four months worth of racing a lot can happen. I still think that Carl is a threat and anybody who's in the Chase over a 10-race period of time they can get hot and be a threat. I'm not counting him out by any means."
WASN'T IT YOUR ROOKIE YEAR THAT YOU GOT WRECKED IN BRISTOL AND CAME OUT OF THE CAR AND GAVE ROBBY GORDON THE ONE-FINGER SALUTE? "Yeah, I didn't think anybody was watching for some reason."
YOU NORMALLY DON'T DISPLAY THAT TYPE OF EMOTION OUTSIDE THE CAR IN A LOT OF CASES, IS THAT AS BAD AS YOU'VE OPENLY DISPLAYED AND WAS BRISTOL KIND OF LIKE A MINDSET OF A WARRIOR MENTALITY? "Yeah the old track in general was a dog eat dog world. If you were a half of tenth off and you were on the good side and a half of tenth faster than guys you had a great evening, if you're a half of tenth off you're in everybody's way and every guy that got to you was going to knock you out of the way. I know the fans really enjoyed that from everything I've seen so far but from a racing standpoint its nice going to the track now knowing that you can actually race for your positions. If you don't have the best car a guy has the option of going around and isn't just going to dump you. I like that aspect of it.
"You know I'm plenty animated. I guess from being outside of the car that's one of the few things that's been seen. If you scan the radio you'll hear a lot worse. Growing up there was an incident when I was racing at my local track. One of the fast kids came into town from another race track and he was leading, we went into a turn on the back part of the race track and it was wet and he fell down and I slid in and fell down with him. When I got up he stood on my bike and wouldn't let me get on my bike. He went to get on his bike and I was trying to get my bike up off the ground he kept kicking my bike and tried to kick me off and hit the handle bars and stuff so he could get back on the bike. Well I had enough of it and jumped on top of him and started punching and kicking him at nine or ten years old. The corner worker gets us back on our bikes, we ride we finish the race, we both don't finish on the podium, I come in the pits and jump off my bike and go running over there and make a fool of myself. My dad had a really good way of trying to teach me how to not be a poor sport and through that experience and the talking my dad had with me and how he made me feel and how I looked, you know I came in the pits threw my bike down went running over there yelling and screaming, my dad just helped me understand that wasn't cool. That's not how you handle it and there are ways to handle it. The way I handle situations and talking to people and dealing with people afterwards, and by no means do I back down, but I just do it in the right way and it's just carried over into my professional life. I really enjoyed flipping Robby off that night. I'm sure a lot of people would like to flip him off right now too. When I flipped him off I was thinking in the back of my mind of that moment when I was a kid at the local track. I'm like man that talking that my dad gave me is going through my mind right now and that probably wasn't the best thing to do. So those experiences help me from when I was a kids a being a good sportsman about things are still in my head today and carry through. Some people think it's boring and vanilla but those are the reasons why I act the way I do. Some of you know there is a story from when I was a kid, I kicked my motorcycle. I was riding a bigger bike. I was on 60CC class and I was riding the 80 just for fun and I couldn't pick the 80 up when I fell down. I was too small. So I kicked the bike because I was mad. My dad was watching and said you don't kick your bike. He put the bike in the trailer and I didn't get to race the rest of the weekend for kicking my bike and not being a good sport about things. Those things stick with me today and help me keep my mouth shut and keep me out of trouble in most cases."
ARE THERE TIMES WHEN YOU NEED TO COME UP WITH A FORCEFUL RESPONSE IMMEDIATELY TO SHOW THAT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BACK DOWN? AREN'T THERE CERTAIN CASES WHERE THAT WORKS IN THE GARAGE AND THAT MESSAGE GETS ACROSS A LOT BETTER THAN COMING UP AND TALKING AFTERWARDS? "There is in the public's view. There are guys that are really witty and quick and good at that. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., you know he's not the most social guy out there but he can come up with some witty one-line answers in those moments and he's one of the best at it. (Tony) Stewart is great at it. I'm not so good at it. It's not what I'm good at. So I guess that might be a breakdown in understanding me from time to time. I'm a lot more effective I think with my strategy. When you use the microphone and pop off and say something in front of a big group of people it does nothing but make that guy mad and in the back of his mind he's going to wait for his chance. I feel that the way I handle things is usually more effective."
TONY STEWART IS ON A RUN RIGHT NOW THAT IS SIMILAR TO WHAT YOU'VE DONE IN THE CHSE IN THE PAST, ASSUMING HE CONTINUES ON HIS PACE WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO BEAT HIM FOR THE TITLE? "Just got to out run him. You just got to score more points. You can't count on anyone having bad luck. Tony is very smart. He knows how to win championships. He knows how to win races so it really comes down to outperforming Tony or whoever that guy may be. It certainly looks like Tony is going to be the guy to beat but there is a lot of racing between now and then and we'll just have to see who is on fire. The No. 2 car has shown a lot of speed. I think we've shown it. Look at the No. 42, Juan (Montoya) has been producing some really great numbers. So when you get down to that 10-week stretch you've just go to outrun guys."
LAST WEEK WHEN THE RAIN CAME AT ABOUT 2:20 THERE WAS SOME GRUMBLING IF THE RACE HAD STARTED AT 1:00 IT WOULD HAVE GOTTEN IN, DOES IT MATTER TO YOU IF THE RACES START AT 10:00 A.M. CALIFORNIA TIME OR 11:00 A.M.? "From my standpoint, no. I think we need to start the races early enough so that you can have a rain shower, you can get the track dryers out to dry the track and go back racing and have a chance to complete the event. I was thinking the same thing when I was sitting in my bus knowing we were going to go to our second Monday race. I think that yes it's great to target the perfect time zone, the perfect viewing audience and I understand those factors given a perfect situation but when you race as often as we do and all around the country and weather being an issue, I guess my point of view is from living it just like you do from week to week. We should have raced on Sunday and been home on Monday. So that's where my point of view is leaning right now."
DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE OF HOW MUCH JEFF'S (GORDON) BACK IS BOTHERING HIM RIGHT NOW AFTER THE WRECK AND IS HE MAYBE A LITTLE TOUGHER THAN WHAT SOME PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THE SPORT GIVE HIM CREDIT FOR? "We flew home together and he seemed great on the plane. I think it's one of those deals where you have an injury and anything you do you're always worried about it affecting that area more so he had some concern and felt it in the impact but he seemed mobile and good and fine on the plane. He's dealing with a lot of pain for sure especially I think earlier in the year. They've now been able to really work on some things. He's changed his lifestyle in some ways, seats and all kinds of stuff has been going on. I think he's doing much better now than he was earlier in the year. I can only imagine how hard it would be to be in a car and not be able to push the brake pedal like you need to. Martinsvile, some of the road course stuff, I know earlier in the year was tough for him. He's definitely been dealing with some pain."
IF YOU HAD TO START A RACE TEAM AND RACE AGAINST HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, WHAT WOULD YOUR STRATEGY BE AND HOW WOULD YOU BEAT THE BEST? "Do I want to make money or win races?"
YOU KNOW THE PLACE INSIDE AND OUT, IF YOU'RE JIMMIE JOHNSON MOTORSPORTS, HOW DO YOU COMPETE AGAINST THE BEST? "I don't know if anybody can beat Hendrick Motorsports over a long period of time. The way Rick (Hendrick) has built his organization and the way the people are united over time they will succeed more than anyone else I believe. Granted I'm extremely biased and I don't want to take anything away from the other teams. Roush one year had all five cars in the Chase, they had us beat. There are points where other teams can hit it but I just think over time Rick's ways, the system, what he's built, the people, all of that is just going to consistently keep Hendrick Motorsports at the top. I wouldn't want to race against them."
LET'S FACE IT EVERYBODY TALKS RIGHT NOW, HERE COMES JIMMIE JOHNSON IT'S THAT TIME OF THE YEAR, EXPLAIN HOW MUCH THE CREW AND YOUR SUGGESTIONS THAT THE CREW WORK TOGETHER GET YOU WHERE YOU'RE AT. "It's definitely a team sport and the team has a much broader perspective of what's going on during the race. I'm just in there explaining what I feel and let Chad (Knaus) sort out tire strategy based on lap times, fuel strategy based on all the things that they have to try to figure that out. The technology side I have to count on our engineering staff, Chad's ideas, those guys taking it from a computer and up line it to a race car validating it, there's a lot that goes into it. People that don't believe it's a team sport, it is very much a team sport. I'm just lucky to be the guy behind the wheel on Sunday's driving it. The team is really good. We've got a lot of fight in us and when we get down and we're down laps we've been able to somehow get back in the swing of things in most cases. We've been able to make a lot out of a bad day in the past. So hopefully we can keep that up."
-credit: gm racing