Michigan II: Johnson - GM Top-10 interview

GFS Marketplace 400 - Weekly Top 10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson., No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS ON BEING GOOD AND BAD AT DIFFERENT TRACKS IN THE CHASE. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE DIFFERENT TRACKS? "I think the two tracks in the...

GFS Marketplace 400 - Weekly Top 10

Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson., No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS

ON BEING GOOD AND BAD AT DIFFERENT TRACKS IN THE CHASE. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE DIFFERENT TRACKS? "I think the two tracks in the Chase that I get nervous about are, there are actually three, the two mile tracks with Phoenix and Loudon. We've been able to run fair there but not fighting for the win and that's a very strong track for the 20, 29, 31 - a lot of these guys that I think are going to have to race for the championship. Those two tracks hopefully we can find the speed that we need and be up there and earning the points that we need to. Then I think the other one that everybody is worried about is Talladega. Outside of that, I feel like I have a great car. I can win at Talladega. The other eight tracks outside of those two miles are very good tracks for me. I personally think the Chase helps me and helps the 48 team. They're all really good tracks for us. Out of the 10 there's only two that give us a little bit of grief."

YOU'RE STRONG AT MICHIGAN, DOES THAT HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE? "Well it's a different set of worries. I feel like we're going to have the speed and be able to compete for the win but the unknown of crashes and losing points, that's the real thing in the Chase that we're worried about and that's why Talladega is such a nail-biting experience for everybody."

THE ROUSH TEAMS HAVE STRUGGLED THIS YEAR EXCEPT FOR MATT KENSETH. DO YOU THINK BEFORE THE YEAR IS OUT YOU'RE GOING TO HEAR FROM THOSE GUYS? "Well I think that Roush is definitely a very strong organization. Those of us that have been around the sport for years know that people come and go in cycles. It's not that they plan it to be that way or want it to go that way. Certain teams hit on certain things that fit their driving style. Organizations find speed that take them to the top of our series. Things come and go in waves and there still a lot of racing left and Roush is a very competitive company and in my opinion, a dangerous company for the championship. They are a very, very strong organization. Having as many races as we do left, it's within their reach to find what they had last year at this time. Between all five cars dominating week after week, I think they have that ability. I think Gibbs has that ability. I think Childress does and I think Hendrick does. I think your champion will come out of those four companies. It's just a matter of which team gets everything working right."

ON THE LUCKY DOG RULE: "I think any rule gets questioned at some point. Last week with Kyle (Busch) I'm sure some people feel like that rule is getting abused. There's other weeks where that rule is very fair and it does its job. When you have 38 races a year I think it's hard to make rules that consistently do the right thing time after time. As a whole, that's a good compromise of situations to give somebody their lap back. Thinking of safety, competition, teammates cutting favors to people, if you think back to the days where we didn't have the lucky dog you just had to hope you're friends with the guy leading the race and for him to cut you break and let you get your lap back. Today that doesn't take place. I really think the lucky dog situation is the right compromise."

SHOULD THERE BE LIMITS ON IT? "I don't think so. Then we'll just argue the point of why it was two and not three. It is what is. If we could stay on the road and not have so many cautions then we wouldn't have to worry about the lucky dog situation."

LAST WEEK HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS RE-SIGNED CHAD KNAUS. BEING THE WINNINGEST TEAM IN THE SERIES THIS YEAR, DOES THAT ADD TO YOUR CONFIDENCE HEADING INTO THE CHASE? "We were all operating under a contract that had two years left on it. Lowe's came in and put their situation together with Rick (Hendrick). Then I was next in line. Then Chad (Knaus) was able to get his piece put together right there before Indy. It does give us confidence. I think it's rare in our sport for a driver-team combination to go as long as ours has, plus to have a sponsor, driver, crew chief and team locked up for as many years is as we all are. I think that's rare. It sends a message through our industry that we're all for each other, with each other and we're a great team and that we think we'll be that way for a long, long time. It does give us a confidence on that side. But the fact that our contracts still had two years to go on them, we were never in an uncomfortable situation. It was really like 'Wow, they think a lot of us to be able to re-sign Hendrick, myself and Chad to that.' It was more of a pat on the back than anything."

ON WINNING BOTH THE DAYTONA 500 AND THE BRICKYARD 400: "It's been a great experience. I really think once the year is over I'll have some more time to reflect on it. You're only as good your last race and I finished 17th last week. The highs of Daytona seem like they were last year or maybe two years ago for that matter. It seems so long ago. Then (came) the emotions from the Glen that have played over. They weren't good ones. I think once we get through the season I'll have a chance to look back. Right now our eyes are on the championship, for me to do what I can in the car to be a champion and for the team to develop to be a champion as well."

WILL YOU DO ANYTHING SPECIAL GOING BACK TO YOUR HOME AREA IN CALIFORNIA? "There are really a few cool things going on. I believe I'm going to go out and do the (Jimmy) Kimmel Show. I'm going to go on a little fishing trip actually before we get to California with some friends, go up to Alaska and do some fishing. I'm going to come down and do Kimmel and then go out to the race track. It's a big weekend for myself and Chanda. We have the Jimmie Johnson Foundation car that's going to run on Saturday in the Busch race. So with that there's a lot of great things going on with the coin that fans can buy at JimmieJohnsonFoundation.org or actually make a donation and receive the coin is what I should say. There's been a lot of planning, a lot of different things going on with that event and trying to raise money for our foundation and the Victory Junction Gang camp where we're building a bowling alley. It's going to be a very busy weekend for me especially Saturday with all the great things going on, driving the Busch car and promoting our foundation. Then as we get into Sunday it's going to be business as usual and worrying about a championship."

ON IF HE HAS BEEN TO ALASKA: "Well actually I was pretty young. I think I was just getting out of sixth grade. I went up with my parents to visit my grandparents. I used to fish up and down the West Coast all the time and spent some time up in Alaska with them. I was so young and barely remember the experience. I'm really looking forward to this. It will be a good time."

HAS IT HELPED YOU THAT YOU'VE HAD A BUBBLE MENTALITY, THINKING THAT NOBODY HAS REALLY BEEN SAFE IN THE CHASE? "I don't think you can put your guard down at anytime. Granted we're in a safe situation in the points but I'm really looking at who's been earning the most points over the last 10 races, who that is and what they've been doing. We've been right there with those guys. The 29, 31 and 5 have been very strong so we're looking at a couple of other races for points inside the overall transferring situation to get into the Chase. I keep saying it, I think this year's Chase is going to be extremely exciting, extremely competitive and really interesting for the fans."

IS THERE PRESSURE AS THE LEADER? "I don't think pressure falls into that. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I do think it's the point leader's role to try to keep the 400-piont gap there. We put a lot of other pressure on ourselves worrying about other things. That's just kind of a bonus where it needs to take place. Whoever the points leader has been, it's been their objective to try and keep it a 10-man race. I can remember from the first Chase that we had through last year, that was a pretty good talking point that everybody wanted to keep it a 10-car race instead of possibly more."

WHAT DID GOING TO RICHMOND DO TO ADD EXCITEMENT TO THE CHASE? "Again, it just depends on where you are in that whole thing. Going into that race, there's so much more pressure that the race in Richmond feels like Homestead. You're shot to be a champion relies on that race for some of the guys. With the way it looks right now, there will be four or five guys where that race is really important to them to get in the Chase. That pressure and all that is there. It wakes me up usually to say 'OK, here come those 10 races where this is going to be what you experience every week.' It gets me prepared. People that are safe in the points know to buckle down. I saw some of the biggest smiles last year outside of the car where guys maybe didn't have the best race that night but they beat their competition and made it the Chase. They were so relieved and happy to have a shot at the championship. There's going to be a lot of emotion. It's hard to say if it will be all excitement or negative emotion but there's going to be a lot going into it and it gets everybody ramped up for the final 10."

DO YOU PLAN ON PARTICIPATING IN THE CAR OF TOMORROW TEST? HOW MUCH INTEREST DO YOU HAVE IN HOW THE TOYOTA CAMRY PERFORMS? "I've been in the Car of Tomorrow up at the Milwaukee Mile. I drove it some up there. I think Jeff (Gordon) is slated for this test. They're planning on putting me in at a later date. So Jeff will be there.

"Toyota is going to come in and be competitive and I think it will be fun to see them on the track but our rules are so limited. There's only so many areas that you can have freedom to explore and develop. I really think Toyota is going to come in, they're going to be right on the mark and be competitive but it's not going to be a runaway situation like some people fear. Our rules don't allow us to really advance in technology. It's designed to keep things fair and leave it in the drivers hands and crew chiefs hands. Even GM teams like ours, we have a lot of technology that we're sitting on that we would love to go race against Toyota on and see who has the best manufacturers support and who has the best teams but our rules limit that to keep it in the drivers and crews hands."

WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF THE SITUATION WHERE JEFF GORDON PUSHED MATT KENSETH? WAS THAT UNUSUAL? "I was shocked a lot like everyone else that Jeff came out of the car with the fire in his eyes that he did but at the same time he was pretty upset with what had happened. He went from running inside the top five to losing a lot of points. Today he could have used those points. It would put him in a safe situation in the Chase. I think then he knew how important that race was and that top five and I think all that emotion built up and we all saw that on television. I'm sure it will be played a few times leading into the race Saturday night."

WITH JEFF TRYING TO MAKE THE CHASE AND MATT ALREADY BEING IN THE CHASE, DOES THAT MAKE FOR SOME INTERESTING TIMES NEXT WEEK? "It's really tough to say. The longer you are in this sport and especially someone in Jeff or Matt's position, there's nothing to come from it to sit there and continue and keep a rivalry going and messing with each other. Jeff is hopefully in the Chase. If they have bad blood they're going to hate seeing each other on the track. If Matt does something to Jeff and Jeff doesn't make the Chase, Jeff doesn't have anything to lose so Matt's going to have to deal with him for 10 races. I think those scenarios run through everybody's minds and it's just best to bury it and move on. If they get in the race and somebody roughs somebody up, I think your short term frustration shows up and people start doing things then but I don't think Jeff or Matt would carry anything into that race based on what went on at Bristol and Chicago."

ON GOING TO BRISTOL: "I'm ready for it. I'm ready to have it behind me. That race is a great a time. I love going there and I love watching races. I even enjoy being in the race but you never know what is going to happen. It's a lot like a plate race. I look forward to being in the helicopter leaving that race hopefully with a lot of points and heading back to Charlotte."

IS IT HARD TO BELIEVE WITH ALL THE PARITY TODAY THAT CHEVY HAS WON THE LAST SEVEN RACES? "I didn't notice that. I have to give Chevy a lot of credit for it. They've spent a lot of time developing the new car, the new body for this year. I've got a great support staff that works with the teams. They're always trying to develop new things in the engine department but the key is getting it approved by NASCAR. We have a lot of changes that we would like to make but getting it approved is the hard part. Within the rule system they've done a great job supporting the teams like we need it. Another brilliant move on they're behalf is the relationships they've built with the top teams. I think in the early days they recognized the power teams and knew how to support them and keep them in their brand and supply them with the right tools to go out there and win races. I think there are a lot of levels to why Chevy has been so successful in our sport since the beginning of time. I think the stats favor Chevy with wins and Manufacturers Cup and all those different things. I really think one, it's technology and two, it's the relationships they've built with teams and drivers over the years."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Teams CIP