Johnson - Atlanta Saturday media visit

Team Chevy press release

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Atlanta, the Chase, social media and other topics.

Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

TALK ABOUT COMING TO ATLANTA ALREADY HAVING CLINCHED A SPOT IN THE CHASE: “At the end of the day, it takes a little bit of pressure off, but, there are still bonus points available and we still want to have as much momentum as possible rolling into the Chase. We’re somewhat relaxed, but at the same time, we know we need to go out and do our jobs this weekend. We know that this race track hasn’t become any easier to drive around which is a lot of fun to race on and makes for a big challenge for all of us. Yesterday it lived up to its expectations in the practice. Today it will be very slick and tough to learn a lot in today’s practice as well because of night qualifying and a night race. But, we’ll go out there and burn some tires off and slide around.”

WHEN YOU GO VISIT THE PRESIDENT NEXT WEEK ARE YOU GOING TO TALK POLITICS OR JUST GENERAL THINGS? “Years past up there, there really wasn’t a chance to do more than shake a hand and say hello and stuff like that. I can attempt to talk politics if you had anything you wanted me to talk to him about. I can go up there…I’ve seen a lot of opinions of late, especially through social media. So, it is obviously a huge honor to go up. I look forward to D.C. and going through what we do there.”

SOCIAL MEDIA HAS CHANGED HOW WE COMMUNICATE GLOBALLY; YOU HAVE RECENTLY GOTTEN INVOLVED, WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE FUTURE OF IT? “I’m not really sure what the future is. Our world is continually changing and social media fits that desire for a lot of people. Meaning that you have instant access to what’s out there. Instead of us, in the past from the No. 48 standpoint, we would have our Tuesday teleconference and then whatever was at-track, if I was in the media center or interviewed on the grid or something, those were the only touch point fans had. Now that is far different. The world continues to evolve. I was a little late to the social media space, but, I have found it to be a great outlet for me, personally, professionally. Also to have some fun and harass some people, because they certainly harass me on there. It has been a good thing all-in-all. I think that our sport has certainly embraced it and as I look around, it seems every sport, every news outlet, every media outlet, world-wide as you pointed out, everybody is in social media at some level.”

IF SOMEONE ASKED YOU TO COMPLETE THE SENTENCE “ATLANTA IS…” HOW WOULD YOU COMPLETE THAT? “Tough. Really, really tough. The track is easily affected by temperature and then it has a low grip level to start with. Then it is really rough. You have every challenge thrown at you here. You also have downforce, it’s a big thing. And power. It’s always tough to build a balanced car and also have mechanical grip. When you are going this fast on tracks, on most tracks where there is a high grip level, you can make decisions to really go after the aero platform of the car and give up mechanical grip. But here, you can’t do that. You have to find a compromise of your aero balance and your mechanical grip. It is a lot easier said than done. This is a really tough track to get a hold of.”

THE GUYS THAT ARE RUNNING FOR THE $3 MILLION DOLLAR BONUSES, TWO AREN’T SHY WITH THE BUMPERS, BRAD (KESELOWSKI) AND KYLE (BUSCH). DOES MONEY LIKE THAT ADD SOME SORT OF VOLATILITY TO THIS RACE? IS THERE AN ALL-STAR MENTALITY? CAN THERE BE A WILD FINISH BECAUSE OF IT COULD THERE BE INCENTIVE FOR YOU GUYS WHO DON’T QUALIFY FOR IT TO BE SPOILERS? “I don’t think it will cross through the minds of drivers that aren’t qualified. We are out there to race and do what we do each and every week. I think the four drivers that are qualified; it will be top-of-mind for them. The All-Star race pays a million. This is three times that. If they are within bumpers distance of one another, meaning two of the guys are eligible or if it is the guy in second that is eligible and the leader is not, if they can reach them, I’m sure they will. Three million dollars is a lot of cash.”

WHAT DO THE LAST FIVE RACES BEFORE THE CHASE MEAN? WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE BE LOOKING AT BECAUSE YOU HAVE CERTAINLY HAD A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS IN THE RACES LEADING UP TO THE START OF THE CHASE? “I don’t fault anyone for looking at the last five and saying this driver has been hot. They’ve been qualifying well. They’ve been winning races. It’s the obvious. Absolutely they are doing the right things there. That momentum is very very very helpful for the driver, for the team. It helps build confidence. Everything is going the right direction. But, still, and I guess this is where this phrase came from that I mentioned a few times, the final ten is its own environment. It’s its own world. What you did in the first 26, yea there are some small things mentally, emotionally and even with some setups, I guess you have to obviously state that, that you carry into the Chase. You start over and when you start over, it’s a whole new world and everybody is a threat at that point. I think the teams that are strong mentally can overcome a slow five races leading to the chase. If you are an experienced team with momentum, I think you also know, hey just it’s been good, doesn’t mean it is going to stay good.”

HOW DO YOU EVALUATE IF YOUR TEAM IS READY OR IF YOU GUYS ARE IN A GOOD POSITION GOING INTO THE CHASE, OR IF WHEN YOU GET TO CHICAGO THAT YOU’RE THE GUY TO BEAT AND THAT YOU’RE IN AS GOOD OR BETTER A POSITION THAN YOU HAVE IN OTHER YEARS? “Sure. Yeah, I mean we look at the last five too. And then I think when the Chase starts, there is also an element that when racing starts, you’re racing 12 guys instead of 43. And things start to move around a little bit then. And I think you look at five races again into the Chase and see where you’re at. You just try to pick, or maybe break it up into some segments.”

INAUDIBLE “The start? You just go. You come in with all the momentum or lack of. Whatever it is, is what it is. And I think teams, regardless of sport, use momentum how they can to their advantage. That point being if you’re on fire, man we’re hot, we’re good, we’re going to make it work. If you’re not running well; that was then and this is now (laughs). So that’s what a good leader of a team does, is they try to find a way to rally their team members and get them to rally around something and go. And we’ll all be cheerleading our teams and our crew chiefs will be cheerleading the team members and we’ll be doing all that we can. But I guess experience from my standpoint; I’m not going to ride the rollercoaster. I’m not going to let the highs take me too high and I’m not going to let the lows take me to low. I know what I need to do and I know what my team needs to do to win a sixth championship. Fortunately we have a road map that’s worked in years past. And we’ve had to fall on our experience, especially last year, to win the championship. And hopefully we’ll be able to do that again this year.”

YOU HAVE BEEN ON STREAKS LIKE BRAD KESELOWSKI IS ON RIGHT NOW. DO THINGS SLOW DOWN? DOES IT GET EASIER WHEN YOU GUYS HAVE FOUND THAT SWEET SPOT? “Yeah, when you’re in the sweet spot, life is good. You literally want to race every day; partly because you know it’s not going to last forever, and you want to take advantage of it when it’s there. But when you’re in the sweet spot, things seem to slow down; the opportunities are easier to spot, things work in your direction, you’re more balanced mentally in the race and don’t let maybe a bad pit stop bring you too low and take you out of a chance to win a race. There are a lot of good things that take place and kind of stabilize the team mentally when you’re on a hot streak. There’s a lot to be said about that. A calm and composed team usually has a good shot to win a race.”

A LOT OF TIMES TEAMS CAN GET SCREWED UP BY WATCHING OTHERS COMING AT THEM AND SEEING WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING AND THEN TRYING TO DO WHAT THEY’RE DOING. BEING THE LEADER FOR SO LONG, DO YOU HAVE TO TRAIN YOURSELF NOT TO WATCH OR LOOK AT OTHERS AND FOCUS ON YOUR OWN PROGRAM, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE DEFENDING ONCE AGAIN? “Yeah, I think when you get into the Chase, that’s important to do. It’s also the most difficult thing to do because now it’s time to race for a championship. But I can’t say that in the five championships we’ve won, that we were really searching throughout the Chase to find new speed or to find anything. We knew going into the Chase that what we had was what we had. I think in ’05, chasing (Tony) Stewart, we were looking for speed; we experimented some during the regular season because we had a nice big margin and then we kind of got off track throughout the Chase. And you try not to complicate things once the Chase starts. So, staying the course and what got you there seems to be a successful roadmap to the championship.”

YOU SAID THAT EXPERIENCE HELPED YOU IN THE CHASE LAST YEAR. CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW IT PLAYED A FACTOR IN LAST YEAR’S CHASE? “Experience helped me and the team focus on the right things. As you just pointed out, you can focus in a lot of areas. And during the Chase, and especially as it winds down, the brain starts thinking up a lot of stuff; experience over the years has helped me focus in the right areas. And I could have taken a negative turn and thought that we were in trouble and panicked. But from experience, and knowing how to make the right decisions, I stayed the course mentally and focused on the right things and it came through for us. Does that make sense?”

INAUDIBLE “You can choose to look at it two ways, either good or bad. And we chose to look at it as a good thing and an opportunity to improve our race team. And it’s not easy to do. And just like anything in life man, you put 10 people in a room and say something half or I don’t know what the numbers break out to be, but a third maybe see it one way and a third see it another way, and a third don’t care. We just have, through experience, realized what leads to a championship, the decision-making process that leads to a championship. The roller coaster ride I spoke about earlier; and you can’t let the lows drag you too far down and you can’t let the highs take you too far up. There is some balance that you need to maintain that experience has led me to understand what that balance is. It might be difficult for me to explain it, but in time you learn what to worry about and what’s really important for you and your race team.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Tags atlanta, chevrolet, johnson, sprint cup