JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and talked about never winning at MIS, road course racing at Sonoma, racing in the summer heat, momentum, and more. ON NOT WINNING AT ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and talked about never winning at MIS, road course racing at Sonoma, racing in the summer heat, momentum, and more.
ON NOT WINNING AT MICHIGAN YET: "To be honest with you, I'm shocked that we haven't won here. We've had very good cars and have been in contention a couple of different times. It always seems like there's a crazy strategy at the end that keeps us from winning. It's either a two-tire deal, we've taken no tires when we've had a great race car and been leading and lost to guys that have had tires. We've also lost to fuel mileage before. So it's just a weird finish to this race. In some cases the best car wins here but in other cases it's something strategy-wise that plays out and it just hasn't worked for us here."
DO YOU ENJOY RACING AT MIS? "Yeah, definitely. This track is a lot of fun from the inside white line all the way up to the wall, you can find different lines to run on. It's probably one of the early forms of a progressively banked track and it's worked out really well over the years."
DO YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE ON THE ROAD COURSES NOW? "I do. Sonoma is one of the tougher tracks for me. I love road course racing. I run the Rolex events and do all that other stuff on the side and really enjoy it and run well, but I just haven't figured out Sonoma yet. But this year I'm feeling good about it and we'll get out there and see what happens."
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT SONOMA THAT YOU STRUGGLE WITH? "If I knew the answer, it would be nice. It seems that we can run a fast lap for qualifying and be competitive on the short runs, but keeping the rear tires on the car is the hard part for me. I'm thinking I'm probably a little impatient and burn the rear tires off, so I'll work on that when we get out there and hopefully we'll be competitive in the long haul."
STORMS ARE POSSIBLE TODAY. HOW DOES THAT AFFECT THE SET-UP ON YOUR CAR? "It just depends on how much track time we get. We're used to being in a holding pattern and when we get on track you just get everything that you can at that point. At least tomorrow looks good. So I think a lot of guys will focus on qualifying trim today.
"If there is rain again in the forecast for tomorrow I think you'll see a lot of guys in race trim trying to make sure that they are prepared for the race. And I haven't seen my guys yet to know where we're exactly at and to know their thought process, but we'll get whatever we can today. And the track usually dries out pretty good here. Coming in this morning it looked like there were some clear skies, so hopefully we get on track."
HOW BAD DID YOU STRUGGLE WITH THE HEAT LAST WEEKEND AT POCONO? AS SUMMER GOES ON, WILL THIS BE AN ONGOING CONCERN WITH THE NEW CAR? "Yeah, I think it's something we need to look at. There are some things that the team can to to allow some more air in the car and I think that's a big part of it. I know some people feel that there is a carbon situation and we're getting fumes. I personally don't think that's the case. I had a really tough night at Darlington when the alternator went out. I had to turn my fans off probably 30 or 40 laps into the event. And afterwards I was tested for carbon and all that stuff and I was fine. It was really just the heat. So for whatever reason, this car is holding a lot more heat inside of it and we're not venting it out as good as we did with the old car. So, we've made some changes on the No. 48 car and I'm sure a lot of guys are thinking about it right now, especially with summer coming on. Pocono was warm and more humid than anything. That humidity inside the race car creates its own little climate in there and it just cooks you."
LAST YEAR HMS WAS WINNING EVERYTHING. THIS YEAR, HOW MUCH OF IT DO YOU PUT DOWN TO THE NEW CAR AND HOW MUCH TO CATCHING UP WITH THE OTHER TEAMS? "We don't know exactly what's all going on. We're working really hard to get the big track stuff sorted out. At short tracks we're still as competitive as we were last year with this car. If you think back, last year we ran the old style car on these big tracks and we had it pretty well scienced out. Right now we're just playing catch-up a little bit. There are guys who have figured it out and who are doing a great job with it, and we're working hard to figure it out."
HAVE YOU PLAYED TORREY PINES GOLF COURSE WHERE THE U.S. OPEN IS THIS WEEK? "No, I haven't had a chance to play. I picked up golf back here on the east coast and wasn't out there to really have a chance to play. I watched some of it yesterday and it was interesting to watch Tiger (Woods) come back and see what he's up to. And I loved seeing the fact that he had some double bogies, that's fantastic.
"It makes a terrible golfer like myself feel good that he could have double bogies (laughs). It's a good event and a great community out there. I have a lot of friends that live in San Diego. So I know it's going to be fun."
DID YOU SAY YOU DON'T THINK THE NEW TIRES ARE HOTTER? "I do. They are holding more heat in them somehow. I'm not exactly sure why, but they're much warmer than the older cars."
DO YOU KNOW HOW HOT IT IS IN THE CAR, TEMPERATURE-WISE? "I don't. Our guys put temperature strips on different things and you see some pretty warm temperatures on floorboards and stuff; you could certainly cook eggs on it to say the least. But what happens is that with all the radiant heat from the tubes and steel around you over the course of the race, you just can't get away from the heat. There is very little air coming inside of this car. We're making some changes to get more air circulating inside of the car to hopefully keep that radiant heat down."
WHAT DO YOU DO, DIET-WISE OR MENTALLY TO DEAL WITH THE HEAT? "You've got to stay hydrated. You've got to prepare a couple days in advance. A big part of it is drinking enough fluid during the race. It sounds crazy but you're not hungry or thirsty when you're out there. You're focused on other things. So Gatorade has a really cool in-car system that has been very helpful for us. Last week I drank five liters of Gatorade during the race at Pocono and I was out of Gatorade on the last pit stop. I was just sitting there the whole time forcing yourself to drink. Also eating during the event it helpful so you keep your energy up."
CAN YOU EAT DURING THE RACE? "We try to. They make me eat stuff during pit stops. As they're changing the right side tires they'll set some food in there and I have a little pouch on the side of the door I can put it if I can't get to it, or if I can get it into my mouth before they're around jacking the left side of the car, I'll try to eat it. It's power bars and stuff like that."
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL DIET LIKE PASTA A COUPLE OF DAYS BEFORE THE RACE? "I don't see a lot of people focused so much on the diet side. Diet is a big part of it and carbs are in everything. Hydration and making sure you get the right fluids in you during the course of the race is important."
MARK MARTIN TALKED ABOUT BEING 49 AND BEING IN SHAPE. HOW MUCH PREPARATION BEFORE RACE DAY DO YOU DO TO DEAL WITH THE HEAT? "He's by example. He's in awesome shape. And at 49 he climbs out of the car looking like he didn't even run 500 miles. He's done a great job."
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE STORY ABOUT RACING WITH YOUR DAD? "Really it's growing up and going to those short tracks when I was a kid. I can remember my dad picking me up on Wednesdays from school. His truck would be sitting out in front of the school. He'd pick me up and take me to Ascot or Ventura to watch the dirt cars or whatever it was. My dad was such a race fan. And I really wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for his passion for the sport and the fact that he loved to be around it and watch it so much. I have a lot of great memories sitting there at the race tracks with my dad."
ON THE SUCCESS THAT OTHER MANUFACTURERS HAVE HAD AT MIS "I think there is less of a brand being favored in today's world of racing than there has ever been. I know that the Roush guys and Ford have had a lot of success here. We don't like that being a Chevy team. We want to win in Chevrolet's backyard. But for whatever reason it's worked out that way. I think it's more team-related than manufacturer-related. We're hopeful of getting that Chevy bowtie up front."
ON THE GRANT/NASCAR LAWSUIT THAT WAS FILED THIS WEEK "I was shocked. I was totally shocked to see that. I didn't see anything yesterday on it, so I'm not sure where it is now. I was certainly shocked to see that."
HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED ANYTHING IN THE GARAGE AS FAR AS LACK OF DIVERSITY OR A MINORITY ATTITUDE? "No, I really can't say that I've ever seen any of it. And I don't think it exists in our garage area. Our sport is a big sport and I don't think matters, race or gender. We see it work in the sport every day. So I'm very shocked to see that."
DO YOU THINK KYLE BUSCH HAS WANTED TO PROVE THAT HMS WAS WRONG FOR LETTING HIM GO? "No, Kyle has always been fast and I think Kyle has figured out how to make 500 miles now. If you look at the last couple of years and who has run the fastest lap or who has led laps at tracks, Kyle's is in that top percentage of guys.
"But if you looked at guys that crashed out or if there were such a status, guys would knock the right side off their car. Kyle would go through three right-sides in a weekend; practice, qualifying and then the race. So I think a lot of it is him maturing. He's always had that raw talent but he's now figured out how to make it 500 miles."
DOES HE SEEM BUFFER TO YOU? "Buffer?"
YEAH, HE DOESN'T LOOK LIKE A SKINNY KID TO ME ANYMORE "He still looks like a skinny kid to me" (laughter)
HE JUST SEEMS TO HAVE MORE STRENGTH TO DO WHAT HE'S DOING NOW, LIKE RUNNING ALL THREE SERIES LAST WEEKEND "He's 23? And all that youthful excitement and energy and all that comes with it is great. He's a racer at heart and you can't deny that. That's what's really cool to watch him go through those experiences and try to run so many races. He's doing it because he loves to race. I don't even think he's being paid to run in some of the cars that he's driving, he's just doing it for the trophies and that says a lot."
WOULD YOU DO THAT STILL? "You know there are times when I watch it and I'm jealous; but there is so much that goes with it. If I was just driving the car, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But there's so much more to it. He probably has two to three times as many sponsor obligations to worry about and team members to worry about. It's just a lot of extra stuff. I think there are times when he looks himself in the mirror and says, 'Why in the world am I doing this?' But when he's in the car, I know he's enjoying it."
HAVE YOU EVER EXPLORED GETTING INTO THE NATIONWIDE SERIES AS AN OWNER? "There have been opportunities. There have been conversations and thoughts. But it's just something I'm not interested in being a car owner. I've always been a driver. I've watched car owners and I see how hard they work and how hard it is to manage people and sponsors and keep technology flowing through the company. I just don't think that as a driver, I can spend the time and effort to do it right. It's not a huge goal of mine to be a car owner. I want to be a race car driver and race until I can't walk, but I don't have that burning desire to be a car owner."
DO YOU THINK THAT MIGHT CHANGE? "At this stage, I don't think so. I mean I was questioning myself a few years back thinking maybe that would come along, but especially when you start tearing stuff up and you give your stuff back and you say hey, thanks boss (laughter). That makes it a little easier, you know?"
ON JEFF BURTON'S COMMENT THAT HE DOESN'T BELIEVE IN MOMENTUM AND THAT SUCCESS IS A RESULT OF THINGS YOU'RE DOING RIGHT "I think that you need to create opportunities and a team needs to be prepared. A driver needs to do his part. Pit stops. There are a lot of things there that are dependant upon the performance of the team and what would you do as a group. Luck does come into play from time to time and it may help a guy win a race from time to time, but it doesn't let somebody win 80 races like Jeff has or the four championships. That comes from talent and skill and from everyone.
"The momentum you feel, when you can't do anything right, you feel like it's raining on you day after day, and then when you're on the other side of it and things are working right, the sun's always out and birds are chirping and everything is great and you can't make a wrong move. And even if you do make a wrong move, you can recover from it and recognize, okay, we didn't need to do that and let's go in this direction and everything is a little easier. So I can sense when it's coming, good and bad, but don't know how to created it, good or bad, and don't know how to stop it, good or bad. It's just something that when it's there, you roll with it and hope that if it's on the positive side when it's there that it never ends."
-credit: gm racing