JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his focus in preparation for the Chase, the upcoming first Chase race at New Hampshire, year-end pressures, and more. YOU HAVE WON HERE THREE TIMES AND I BELIEVE THREE OUT OF...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his focus in preparation for the Chase, the upcoming first Chase race at New Hampshire, year-end pressures, and more.
YOU HAVE WON HERE THREE TIMES AND I BELIEVE THREE OUT OF THE LAST SIX TIMES WE HAVE RACED HERE, SO YOU HAVE TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT TOMORROW NIGHT "Yes, I do but those three wins were three races ago and the last three times we have been here it's been quite a bit of a struggle. This track has always been that way for us and its been on or off. And at the spring race we salvaged a decent finish out of it and had some good moments to the night where we were a top-five car but never really had the speed we needed so we have been working on some stuff here and I believe we are a little bit smarter in general coming back to this track than we were here in the spring.
"And we are certainly optimistic because the 24 car put up a great performance throughout the spring race and we have come back here similar to him and have expanded on the baseline setup that they had in the springtime here so we'll see."
IN FOOTBALL, COACHES TALK ABOUT NOT OVER-THINKING THE BIG GAME. CAN YOU AND CHAD (KNAUS) NOT FALL INTO THAT UNFORTUNATE HOLE JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN THERE, DONE THAT? OR CAN YOU JUST APPROACH THE CHASE LIKE ANY OTHER SERIES OF RACES? "No, we definitely can and I think the things that I have said through the last four Chases kind of speak to our mindset and are relative to your question and I always profess and have tried to live through the world of not over-thinking. It's very, very easy to do and I know I gave bland, boring comments through the end of the last four Chases but it was the truth. I just want to focus on my job and not over-think things. If you get caught up in what everybody else is doing, you are not spending the time on your program that you need to.
"Even during the course of the race, if I see someone in the points that I am racing driving away from me......if I start worrying about him, I am not focused on my car. If you are focused in practice on the timing board and sheet and who is where........you know, there are just countless examples of it.
"The way we have won these last four championships is that we ran our Chase, and we ran our race each and every week and didn't pay attention to our environment. Hopefully we can do that again and the last four seasons we have been faced with a lot of adversity and the times when we just focused on our team.......those moments helped us grow as a team and really helped separate ourselves in the Chase. From a positive standpoint where we were with a big point lead and were crashed in Texas last year, all the way to a bad experience.
"Well I guess that was kind of a bad experience too as we had a nice points lead, but I think all the way back to 2006 and we were crashed at Loudon right out of the gate and then again in Talladega and we thought we were out but we were just focused on our team and things came back to us. So I guess the long answer to your question is, absolutely, you can over-think it."
WHAT HAVE YOU GUYS DONE ALREADY TO PREPARE FOR THE FIRST CHASE RACE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE? "New Hampshire has been on everyone's mind at Daytona. Everybody knows that that race is coming and that is when the Chase starts and everybody hopes to be one of the twelve drivers in the Chase. As you start to lock in and know that you are going to lock in, you really draw all attention to that race and then all the races following. You start getting into Dover and looking into your set-ups for Dover and start to work on all those races, so we are in that category and we have been looking at Loudon and we feel very confident with the Loudon race track because we won there in the spring and we had a very dominant car throughout the day so its top of mind for us too and we have been doing some testing too and I think the performance we had in Atlanta was a great step for this team at the 1.5 mile tracks so hopefully we have got momentum and performance coming at the right time."
THERE WERE EIGHT RELATIVELY SHORT CAUTIONS AT ATLANTA LAST WEEK BUT IT TOOK NEARLY FOUR HOURS TO RUN THAT RACE. IS IT TIME TO LOOK AT MAYBE SHORTENING SOME RACES ACROSS THE BOARD? OR WOULD THAT BE TAMPERING WITH TRADITION? "At the end of the day, it really depends upon the viewing audience....the people in the grandstands and the people at home. It did seem like a long race but as a driver Atlanta is such a fun track to run that you don't really mind a longer race. Now other tracks like Pocono take some criticism for being a long race but at the end of the day it all boils down to the fans and what their viewing attention span is. And we need to be really aware of that and adjust to it. We have adjusted everything else to try and make our show better from different race cars, to moving the schedule around, and a variety of things so if we need to look at the race distance in the future I would not be against it."
YOU TALKED ABOUT 2006 AND HOW YOU CRASHED AT NEW HAMPSHIRE AND TALLADEGA AND THOUGHT YOU WERE OUT OF IT. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW MOMENTUM HELPED YOU GUYS PULL OUT OF THAT AND CREATE RESURGENCE AND MAINTAIN IT AND SUSTAIN IT AND HOW HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT THROUGH THIS DYNASTIC RUN YOU HAVE BEEN ON? "Dynastic, now that is a word. (laughs). It's hard to remember all the emotions back at that point in time but when I look back on it now, I would say that was a year or a Chase where our momentum was taken away from us and it kind of pulls back into the other question where, can you over-think things?
"We were pretty much down and out after the first race and felt like the way the season had gone up to that point, that a top-ten average was going to win the championship and it's been that way since, and actually a top-five finish has kind of been needed to win. So we could have easily given up or taken a negative approach, sour grapes, or whatever it was to look at it not the right way. But we didn't and we stayed in our world and kept it simple. And we tried to collect points. And we kept fighting through and every event. And then just maybe when we probably had some good things going for us, Talladega happened and knocked us back down. So momentum was really against us in the 2006 season and it took other teams making mistakes to let us back in. At times you think the Chase is a given that certain drivers are going to perform week in and week out and it's a two-guy breakaway or a single car breakaway. You just don't know. You've got to go run the race. When you have 400 or 500-mile races, all the variables in moving components to a race with all the other cars and your mechanical issues and flat tires, you just can't give up and that was what 2006 was about for our race team."
SO WAS 2008 WHEN YOU HAD MOMENTUM? "Yeah, we were rolling in '08. With Jeff (Gordon), right? With Jeff and Carl (Edwards); both of those years we were rolling. We had momentum working for us. I giggle about it now and am still thinking about it because I can't believe our team in those clutch moments delivered time and time again. We had to because we were under such pressure from both Jeff and Carl in those two separate years. I was even shocked in victory lane as I think back and maybe some of my comments then were, 'I can't believe we're doing this.' It was a really, really cool experience."
GOING INTO THIS CHASE, IS THERE A SIMILAR FEELING THAT YOU HAD WITH THE PAST FOUR CHASES? "Yeah; we have been slow through the summer months going into the Chase before. Last year, I remember being completely embarrassed and disgusted with how we ran in this particular race and formed some negative thoughts going into Loudon and thought well, the shot at the fourth (championship) won't be there. And we got into the Chase and we had a good run at Loudon and went to Dover and won and things started really clicking for us. I'm using my past experience to remind myself that those 10 races are different than the rest of the year. And the fact that the points start over basically, and we're all so close. There is a great opportunity for all 12 guys. And then those 10 races put stress and pressure on teams that they aren't used to experiencing. Certain teams handle it better than others. We have done a good job with that over the years and I hope that we can do it again this year."
DO YOU FEEL JUST AS GOOD GOING INTO THE CHASE THIS YEAR AS YOU HAVE THE FOUR PREVIOUS YEARS? DO YOU FEEL A LITTLE BIT MORE VENERABLE OR MAYBE NOT? DO YOU THE EXPECT THE 'BOYS HAVE AT IT' WILL CONTINUE AND BE AN ELEMENT OF THIS YEAR'S CHASE? "Yeah, I think the Boys Have at it is a part of it, but I think the aggression is coming from the fact that it is so tough to pass in these cars. After 26 races of dealing with things and small little riffs developing and intended contact and a variety of things, everybody is kind of at wit's end. It can make for a very exciting Chase with double-file restarts and three attempts at the green-white-checkered. I think that will be a storyline at some point is the aggressive driving changing the dynamic of the Chase at some point. That certainly can.
Regarding my emotional status going into the Chase, I've been on a high and I've lost. In 2005, I thought we had it all going for us. We got into the Chase and the No. 20 (Tony Stewart) out ran us. I've been in other positions in the summer months where we've been absolutely terrible and have come along and won the championship. So through the last seven or eight years of doing this, I'm just not getting involved yet. After Loudon, I'll get involved. I just can't carry any baggage over from the first 26 (races) into the final 10 (races). At least that's what I need to do. If I were (Kevin) Harvick I would probably be on the other side and say hell yeah, I need to carry this momentum and how great the team is and then you try to carry it in. But each team has their own agenda on how to motivate their guys and how to be mentally going into the Chase. For me, it's like yes we've done well and we know we can win races. But that was in the first 26. The season starts over now at Loudon. Let's go to work."
RELATED TO THE BOYS HAVE AT IT, IS THERE AN EXPECTATION ON YOUR PART THAT IF I'M A COMPETITOR AND I'M ANGRY AT YOU, WHAT I CAN OR CAN'T DO BECAUSE YOU HAVE MORE ON THE LINE, OR IS IT THAT I CAN JUST BE THE WORST HUMAN BEING EVER AND TAKE YOU OUT AND YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO WAIT AND GET ME WHEN IT HURTS ME THE MOST? "I've always felt that if you feel you've been wronged, you have that opportunity to settle the score and it's always been there. The racing has been more difficult, so there's been a lot more contact, not necessarily intentional, but a lot of guys have been mad at me, think about (Jeff) Burton at Charlotte. Kyle (Busch) didn't try to rip the valve stem out of his tire, but he did and Burton was ticked, and told him about it. So that type of stuff I think is more prevalent now. When you're really mad and somebody's wronged you, you're going to settle that score. That's not changed. The thing that's tough in the Chase is when two guys have their issues and it collects innocent drivers coming through. That's the part that really sucks if you're really caught up in it. If you're one of the two guys, you know its coming. You know what you have to lose and you're very nervous if you're someone who has a lot to lose and you think, man was it really worth it? And then the guy who has the score to settle will just smile and wait for his chance. That's always been there regardless of a Chase format or the old championship system. That part's always been there.
"There has been more aggression but I just put it in a different light. It's just because it's so tough to race. You can hold a guy up as long as you want. If you just want to be that big of a jerk, you just drive his line and take the air away, or trap him down on the bottom. You can hold someone up as long as you want. And that's a product of this car."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE UNDER THE RADAR NOW OR AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT LESS THAN THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON WHEN YOU WERE SORT OF THE TARGET?" "No, with the situation we're in, if we're running well, there's going to be pressure to keep running well. If we're not running well, it's the question of what the heck's wrong with the No. 48? Either way we're in the pressure cooker and that's fine. I've always wanted to be in this position and out of the success over the last four years, really since we've been in the Cup Series and not finishing worse than fifth in the points, I'm very aware of that and will take the pressure however it comes."
-source: gm racing