JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed throwing a race to help a teammate, momentum heading into the Chase, double-file restarts, and more. YOU ARE LOCKED INTO THE CHASE, GOING FOR YOUR FOURTH ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed throwing a race to help a teammate, momentum heading into the Chase, double-file restarts, and more.
YOU ARE LOCKED INTO THE CHASE, GOING FOR YOUR FOURTH CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIP, AND YOU HAVE WON THREE TIMES AT RICHMOND. AND THOSE BONUS POINTS ARE STILL OUT THERE FOR TOMORROW NIGHT. "All that stuff was really cool but I won a dirt race the other night, a heat race, though (at Prelude to the Dream, Eldora Speedway). Couldn't do anything in the feature, but I'm more excited about winning on that dirt track than just about anything, and the only car to beat Tony (Stewart) all night long (laughs). I had a great time at Eldora. Coming into this weekend, we're really excited about our chances. It's been a great track. We had a part failure in the spring race where we lost the brakes. We were running in the top five at the start of the race and has some brake trouble. I feel that this is a really good track for us to get ten (bonus) points. From the two Michigan races and even a shot at Bristol, we could have 20 or 30 more points here going into the Chase. I'd like to even things up with Mark (Martin). I feel like he'll be in the Chase and I'd like to start up there in that top seed and go for a fourth championship. So we're excited and looking forward to it."
YOU USUALLY GET ON A ROLL THIS TIME OF YEAR. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MOMENTUM OF YOUR TEAM HEADING INTO THE CHASE? "I feel good about it. We've been able to perform at tracks that weren't necessarily our best. We've been running as we had hoped at tracks that were good for us. I really think some of the best tracks over the course of the year at the start and the end of the season, so with the Chase just showing up, I know we've got really good tracks ahead of us. And that helps to get on the roll that we've been able to do the last few years and we'll just see what happens. We've shown we've had a lot of speed in the cars and if we can just minimize mistakes we'll be in great shape."
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF A TEAMMATE THROWING A RACE FOR ANOTHER TEAMMATE TO GET IN THE CHASE, WOULD YOU OR JEFF GORDON BE WILLING TO DO THAT SO THAT MARK MARTIN TO GET IN THE CHASE? DO YOU SEE ANY SCENARIOS LIKE THAT? "I guess it could. I wouldn't say that people won't do it. I just know in the experience I've had at Hendrick Motorsports, regardless of the situation, it's not been discussed or even considered. I think if we threw something for Mark, I think Mark would get out of the car and whip some ass (laughs); he wants to go in there and earn it on his own. I don't think he'd tolerate something like that. Again, I'm not saying that teams aren't talking about it. I know we're not talking about it. But the other part to it is, and I guess this would weigh on my mind, is that I race against these guys every week. And what comes around goes around. You don't want to control fate like that in a sense and I just don't think I could have that on my conscious, you know, just to throw a race for that to happen. I couldn't."
ON THE NHRA INCIDENT "I saw Cruz Pendregon at the dirt race and got a little bit of insight; I didn't really know much about it. When I got to the dirt track, people were all talking about it. So I'm not really speaking from experience or knowledge. But It sounds like it was a heated battle and evidently (John) Force tried to throw the race and if that's the case, you know, people don't want that on their conscious. In my opinion they don't. And people aren't going to tolerate it. You work with these people every week and there will be a way that things kind of balance back out at some point, especially in our sport (laughs). We race each other every weekend and it's real easy to even things out when you need it."
REGARDING DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS, YOU'VE BEEN AMONG THE MORE SUCCESSFUL GUYS IN GAINING POSITIONS WITHIN A FEW LAPS AFTER THOSE RESTARTS. HOW HAVE YOU TAILORED WHAT YOU DO ON THESE RE-STARTS AND HOW SIGNIFICANT COULD IT BE IN THE CHASE? "It's definitely going to play a role in the Chase. I think that your chances really lie in the lane that you're in. If you're in the preferred lane at that particular track, you'd be really aggressive and you get all that you can. If you're not in the right lane, you've just got to minimize your losses and be careful. I feel that at 1.5-mile tracks, there's a lot more at risk on the inside lane. Guys can control the way your car drives and handles on the outside of you. They can side-draft you and really affect you. At Atlanta, even thinking back to some of the other 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks that we have, when you're on the inside, you've just got to be smart and hopefully things get single-file pretty quick and you don't lose too many spots.
"I think my good statistics in that area are because I've been fortunate and been in the right lane more than the wrong lane and I hope that continues going into the Chase because you can't control when you're in the wrong lane. You're in trouble. And I think guys are even paying attention to where they're leaving pit road now and trying to count out cars and doing everything they can to find themselves in the best lane."
NO MICROPHONE "In practice we don't really address it too much. I think we probably could. It just depends on the race. There have been a few tracks where we didn't start off as good as we needed to and we'd see a trend of cautions so we had to adjust tire pressures and things to really perform better on a short run, hoping you'd get another caution within a certain amount of time. So I think we've more adjusted on the fly than really planning for it during practice."
ON THE SUBJECT OF THROWING A RACE, HOW DO YOU DEFINE ACCEPTABLE HELP AND UNACCEPTABLE HELP? "That's a good question. I guess we all know inside, I guess our conscious kicks in, and there is that guide that leads people. You've got guys who are conservative and guys that will push the envelope. But there is a center in there somewhere that we all watch and abide by and you see somebody rough somebody up on the track and you think well, that wasn't bad, that was just racing. And then you see another one and you think well, that was too much. Whatever that sense is, I think makes these decisions for us in the cars and what you're willing to do and not do. You just go out there and see what develops and see what other teams do. I don't know. This is a new topic to me. When I walked in here (media center) today and you guys were talking about it, I hadn't even thought of it. I didn't even know it was in people's mindset, but I guess it is the last race (before the Chase) and it's there. So I'm kind of making stuff up as I go here. We race for every point we can get. And there's something inside of me that I'm going to race as hard as I can and do all that I can, you know? That's just how it is.
"One quick thing also. When it started here, it was about winning the race. If you're running 20th (laughs) and your teammate is behind you and you can use the three points, but if you're leading the race, I'm not pulling out of the way to make sure Mark Martin makes the race if he's in second. That just isn't happening. But if I'm running 20th and he can use the three points, it's like leading a lap so I guess I see what you were referring to as far as teammates will work with one another to lead a lap. But for the win, man it could be anybody, it could even be my mom back there, and she's not getting by (laughter).
ASSESSING YOUR SEASON SO FAR AND HEADING INTO THE CHASE, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO WORK ON TO GET A FOURTH CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think it's just the mistakes. From the pit road stuff, I've made a bunch of mistakes this year like speeding on pit road, and cleaning up our pit stops and things like that. From a performance standpoint I think the equipment is right the engines are right and the cars are good. We have the speed that we need; it's just about not making mistakes. We need to do a better job of that."
DO YOU LIKE THE PLAYOFF SYSTEM? DO YOU SEE ANY CHANGES THAT COULD BE MADE TO IMPROVE IT? "It's worked pretty well for me the last three years (laughs); I don't have any big problems with it. I didn't like the idea of it at first. It took me a while to grasp it. In the end when I look at how it's helped the sport and having a post-season and the interest it brings and how it kind of connects us to other sports and helps the fans and helps the fans out. It's good for the sport overall and it's worked pretty damn good for me the last three years so it's hard to complain."
-credit: gm racing