Team Chevy press release
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed his mindset as the Chase is approaching, his mental and physical mindset going into this year’s Chase verses the past five seasons, being more emotional and much more.
WHAT’S YOUR MINDSET RIGHT NOW AS YOU ARE GETTING CLOSER AND CLOSER BEFORE THAT CHASE STARTS? “I think regardless of what any driver or team has accomplished in the past, you’re always focused on where you are today. The success we’ve had over the last five years doesn’t guarantee anything for this year’s Chase so we’re living in the moment, we’re living in the now, worried about what we need to do today to win races. When I look at this weekend’s race and the success and speed we’ve had here over the last two or three years. I’m excited to come back and excited to be here. I feel that we will qualify well and have a shot at winning the race. I’m excited, I would love to have another win for the bonus points and also what it does for the team moral, the confidence it gives the race team moving forward. Any momentum you can build now is very helpful in the Chase. I say that in the back of my mind. I think of years where we’ve entered the Chase pretty far off, much further off than what some critics say where we are now and we still won the championship. So it’s not that you have to win but there’s nothing bad that comes from it and we’re here to win the race this weekend.
WHAT IS IT GOING TO MEAN FOR THE SPORT TO PLAY IN FRONT OF A FULL HOUSE HERE THIS WEEKEND? “It’s important everywhere we go. The spring race here was an eye-opener for everyone and really it’s been going on for a while. The track owners, the sport, the drivers, everybody is trying to understand how we can create a better value for the fans. I see a lot of tracks I’ve been in partnerships with where we’ve made opportunities available for the fans, for kids, I’ll be doing a question and answer thing that is relative to a ticket package tomorrow for the race here. I’m proud of the tracks and I still think there is a long way to go and some tracks just aren’t familiar with the way that times are now and we’re almost educated them on what’s a good value and how to go all about it; how to use social media, how to really reach the fans and create a value for them to come out to the track. I think everybody is focused on it and knows that if there aren’t eyeballs on our sport we’re not going to have the success that we need. The sponsors aren’t going to be here and our sport won’t be as strong as it needs to be. Long answer to your question but happy to hear that we’re near capacity and hopefully we get there before the start of the race tomorrow night. Moving forward I think there are new things coming, drivers, the tracks, everybody involved is trying to reach out the fan and make sure they have the best experience as possible.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE CHASE IS IT AS SIMPLE AS A FORMULA, AS CONSISTENCY IN THE FIRST 26, TURN IT ON FOR THE LAST 10 AND THOSE ARE THE ONES THAT TRULY MATTER? “It can be and over the last five years people have used that formula if you will to put with our championships and that we’ve have kind of had that approach. I’ve always sat up here and said we’re giving 100 percent every week and its more coincidence and it really is. We all sit back and look at an average finish over the Chase races and say you need to be better than that and do that to win. We all know that but doing it is a totally different deal and it’s very difficult to pull off. So we do look at those markers and I think any good team sets goals and expectations and you rally your team around it and put that yard stick out in front of the team and say we need to do this to be in contention and you build around that. So we are all doing it but who can really pull it off is really where the magic is.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE NO. 18 OF KYLE BUSCH AND WHAT HE WAS ABLE TO DO LAST WEEKEND AND THE RACES WE HAVE COMING UP BEFORE THE CHASE, DOES HE SEEM TO BE PEAKING RIGHT NOW AT THE RIGHT TIME AND DO YOU LOOK THAT YOU CAN POSSIBLY HAVE THE POINTS LEAD GOING INTO THE CHASE? ‘We’re all looking for direction as who the standout favorite is going to be and it’s just tough. Before Kyle’s win everybody was talking about Brad (Keselowski) and people are still talking about Brad. I’ve seen some things where we’ve kind of been floating back to the top as a favorite but no one knows. Those 10 races are so different than anything else we do. The points are on top of one another and the wild card guys coming in can be the favorites. You just have no clue until we get in there. But Kyle is fast and he always has been and we’ll just have to see how those final 10 play out.”
AS YOU COMPARE THIS YEAR TO YOUR LAST FIVE FROM A MENTAL AND PHYSICAL STANDPOINT, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COMING INTO THE CHASE WITH WHERE YOU WERE, AND HAS FATHERHOOD CHANGED YOUR APPROACH AS TO GETTING READY FOR THE CHASE? “Physically I feel great and ready, prepared; mentally has been challenging at times through this year trying to find speed and in years past when we’ve been off I think in 2008 we were able to go test and sort through our problems and it’s been a very tough exercise this year without testing to develop our cars and find the speed. Where the real brain teaser comes into play is we haven’t been happy with our performances each and every week and the consistency we’ve had but we’re second in points. We’re doing fine and once we get to Richmond start over with a clean sheet of paper, don’t carry any baggage into the Chase and look at those 10 races as a whole new season and go at that point. This year has been odd for everyone. Guys have been warm for a period of time, no one has really gotten hot and stayed hot and I think this year’s Chase is up for grabs. It’s going to be an interesting 10 races.
“When I look at fatherhood and being prepared it is so tough being away from family week after week. Here through the summer my wife has had some plans and my wife and daughter have not been at the track and that’s been tough mentally, I was sitting in the bus at night. It is such an amazing experience and I want to spend as much time with my daughter as possible and now as we are getting close to the Chase there is more work around it all and more time away from home so I’m hurting a little in that front where I want to be around and she’s developing so much but at the same time this is what the whole year is about and it’s time to get to work and focus on it. We’re working hard to keep the family together as much as we can here through the Chase so I’m buttoned up top to bottom mentally and we can go racing from there.”
AFTER THE NEW HAMPSHIRE RACE LAST MONTH YOU WERE CRITICAL OF YOUR TEAM SAYING THINGS NEEDED TO GET DONE HEADING INTO THE CHASE, WHERE ARE YOU GUYS AT AND WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE? “After the frustration we had through the race there and stuff on pit road and even coming from a strategy point we sat down and made some adjustments over the wall. We’ve worked harder yet, didn’t know if that was possible, but the reps. If you look at the Truck race we had our guys crewing a team, if you look at the Nationwide race our guys have been crewing the No. 38 team, so we’re developing these young over the wall guys and giving them the reps they need. So we’ve made up a lot of distance on pit road in a short period of time. We’ve seen this ability in these guys otherwise we wouldn’t have made the decisions we made to start them and work with them. We’re getting close and I’m very proud of the progress that we’ve made there. From a pit calling strategy for these races, track position as we all see is so important that, I think we had a risk reward thought process, it’s just changed, its moved. I mean there is a lot more risk taking place at the end of the race and trying to stretch fuel mileage and worrying about two tires verses four, so the game has changed there and I don’t think we were on top of that change as much as we have been in the past. We had so much success doing it one way but it moved and we needed to catch up with that and we’ve done a very good job of that here of late. You look at the call that Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made at Michigan to give us the lead, that’s the type of risk you have to take now to have a shot to win a race.”
HOW COMFORTABLE IS THAT FOR YOU, HOW DO YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR MINDSET? “It’s tough and I don’t want to confuse Chad or influence his decisions and I’ve always been that way about pit calling. He’ll ask me every now and then and most times I say hey buddy that’s what they pay you to do. They have such a better perspective of what has worked and they are also scanning other teams and have an idea of what the masses on pit road are going to do. It’s a concern for me in the back of my mind when we’re approaching pit road; am I staying out, coming in, two, fuel only, I’m stressed at that level but the engineer and the crew chief, those guys are stressed to the max every pit call especially at the end of a year. And I would say not only for the No. 48 team but for every team. Everybody is making very aggressive calls.”
THINGS HAPPEN SO FAST HERE CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT PATIENCE IS AND IS THE TYPE OF TRACK WHERE YOU LOOSE YOUR TEMPER QUICKER THAN YOU WOULD SOMEWHERE ELSE? “Patience is definitely important but there’s a fine line because the leader comes so quick and if you’re deep in the pack you’ve got to go. The leader gets you before you know it. To stay out of trouble patience does factor into that but to me it’s really being aware of your surroundings. You can watch guys in front of you and how hard they’re racing and almost anticipate when something is going to happen, so looking ahead and looking wide and being aware of what’s going on around you is really important.”
TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP HOW VOLATILE CAN YOU BE, CAN YOU HAVE THAT AND MORE OF THAT AND STILL PULL OF A CHAMPIONSHIP? “Sure, it can be won any way. I guess if you go back through the champions of our sport and you would probably look at a Bobby Labonte or Dale Jarrett and think low on the volatility level and you look at Earnhardt he’s probably at the top. There’s a lot of years he really just didn’t give a rats whatever. What was going on was taking care of issues at will all the time. It can be won any way. There’s no set format for it.”
I THINK YOUR CREW CHIEF SAID IF YOU WERE ABLE TO BE MORE YOURSELF AND LET THAT COME OUT IT MIGHT EVEN HELP YOU, DOES IT HELP YOU TO HAVE MORE EMOTION NOW? “I think letting those emotions come through does more for public view and perspective of our sport than anything. There is an environment that exists on the race track and we as everyone knows we all police that world with our helmets on and inside our cars in a certain manner. When you get out of the car, our sport from Sunday to Sunday especially the first few days of the week, if you watch any of our race shows or listen to your show on Sirius, it’s about who said what. There’s a whole thing building about the tempers and who said what and how they did it and what went on that’s entertaining to watch and be a part of, so that side is probably what Chad was speaking to. I’ve always taken the high road. I’ve always been concerned about what went on on the track and not what took place off the track. I still for a large degree am focused on that. Through being involved with social media and being more connected to the fans there’s this side there I needed to have a presence and defend myself and defend my fan base and speak my mind when need be.”