JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the rivalry between Edwards and Busch, his relationship with Chad Knaus, Darian Grubb going to Stewart-Haas, the aggressiveness of Kyle Busch, the weather, and more. ON THE...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the rivalry between Edwards and Busch, his relationship with Chad Knaus, Darian Grubb going to Stewart-Haas, the aggressiveness of Kyle Busch, the weather, and more.
ON THE RAIN IN THE FORECAST: "We'll run whenever we can and our thoughts are really with the people who are affected by these hurricanes that are coming ashore and it kind of makes our racing seem insignificant in the scheme of things. But it's an important week for us. We've got to get it (the race) in at some point so that we can get into the Chase."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE SO MUCH ATTENTION HAS BEEN PAID TO THE RIVALRY BETWEEN CARL EDWARDS AND KYLE BUSCH THAT YOUR SURGE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON IS BEING OVERLOOKED? "I think that both of them have certainly earned the notoriety that they're getting for how fast they've been and the races they've won. They've earned that. They've done a good job with that. Their rivalry kind of started up a little more intense at Bristol and I think they're both much smarter drivers than to let that carry on. And I know that their team owners are, for sure, and they're not going to let it carry on and affect the Chase. We've been doing well. We've been getting stronger. The way you get that respect and send a statement is by winning races. We won at Indy and it took us a while and we won again. And so we're doing the right things but those guys deserve what they've been getting. They've been performing and doing a good job."
WOULD YOU RATHER BE A SECOND-HALF TEAM OR A FIRST-HALF TEAM? "With the Chase like it is, a second-half team, for sure. But this is the first year we got off to a slow start. We typically have a slow middle and then finish up strong. I wish I knew why that trend works like it does. We've worked as hard as we could since the banquet last year and we were just off. We were working in the wrong areas and it seems like now we're running out of things to mess with and on to the right track and finding a lot of speed."
WHAT IS THE MAGIC BETWEEN YOU AND CHAD KNAUS? "There are some common philosophies and work ethic and desires but at the same time, we're worlds apart in our personalities. I think that is helpful and I'm little bit more laid back and he's high strung (laughs) so there is a good overlap there that works well. He typically tries to rile me up and it works at the right times and I'm over there pulling the reigns back on him. So I think we kind of balance each other out. At the end of the day, our feelings don't get hurt over things and we can be brutally honest with one another and just focus on making the car go fast and that's helpful too."
ON DARIAN GRUBB BECOMING TONY STEWART'S CREW CHIEF IN '09, AND THE LOSS OF HIM AT HMS: "Without at doubt it's a loss for Hendrick Motorsports. Darian has been in a managerial roll for a long time and I think he's had his eye on crew chiefing all along and didn't want that opportunity to go away a year or so ago. I'm excited for him and certainly wish him all the best. He's going to do a great job for those guys and it's going to be good for us and the relationship that Hendrick has with Stewart-Haas to have somebody in there that we know and can communicate with and we're talking the same language. So it could be a very useful tool."
DOES THAT MEAN THE BIGGEST HANG-UP BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP IS THERE IS NEVER REALLY ANY LINK BETWEEN THE TWO FROM BEING ABLE TO DECIPHER THE INFORMATION YOU GUYS HAVE FOR THAT COMPANY? "There could be an argument for that. Bootie is so well respected by everyone at Hendrick that I don't want to discredit the communication we've had with him over the years. He's just been a great guy that everybody has had an open book to. And those guys have everything we've got. And I think it shows to how important it is to have the right people all together. And you can have a couple of good guys, but if you don't have the depth across the board, it's just not going to work in today's form of racing."
YOU WENT THROUGH A FEW YEARS TRYING TO GET A CHAMPIONSHIP. HAS KYLE BUSCH GONE THROUGH THAT NOW WHERE HE IS READY TO BREAK THROUGH? "Definitely. I think he's shown that all year long. I've said all along, even when he was a teammate with us, once he figures out how to win a race he's not going to stop, and he's done that. I feel the same for a championship. He's been his own enemy at times with trying too hard and being too aggressive and forcing things. And growing up, like we all have, you run a short format races and everything is set at 100 percent and you go and these long Cup races have a different rhythm to them. I think Kyle is figuring that out and is going to be a serious threat this year and for the years to come in the championship."
IS HE AGGRESSIVE? "He's aggressive in the right way. He can get in there and lean on someone without wrecking them. You can intimidate someone without knocking the side off their car. You can run a fast lap without knocking your own right side off your car. And if you think about how many times you've seen them pounding out the right side on one of his cars (laughs), the guy is just using every inch of the track. When you run out of room and you're only giving yourself an inch to spare, you're going to hit something. And he's learned all that. And he's had great teams that believe in him. And everyone at Hendrick believed in him. Now he's at Gibbs and he's earned their respect and those guys don't care what he knocks off the car. They're going to keep giving it too him and letting him go out there and do it.
"I've seen him racing in traffic and in the past you can count on him being quick but linking together a whole run or multiple runs would be tough and now you can't expect him to make mistakes and overdrive the car. He finds the sweet spot in the car and keeps laying down those laps, lap after lap. I see him more in the consistency on the stopwatch over a long run than anything."
IS THERE SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR LETTING CARL EDWARDS AND KYLE BUSCH HAVE ALL THE DRAMA? "It's not by design. I wish I was in there in that battle at Bristol that everybody was talking about the three cars that were running into each other for the win. It's kind of the way it's worked out for us this year. I do appreciate people, the fans, and everyone respecting what this team is capable of and giving us that credit. But we still have to get out there and get to work and do it. We've been good at times and they've been good all the time. We've got to be more consistent week after week and earn our way into that battle."
WHAT IS THE MARGIN OF ERROR IN THE CHASE? IS IT A FINER LINE THIS YEAR? "You never know. It just depends on the races. Really, it's going to depend on the first four or five weeks and how that goes. In '06 when we won the championship, we were convinced that you had to finish in the top 10 every week in order to win the championship and I left Talladega 180-something points out of the lead and thought I was done, and still came back and won. It was such a weird and a lot of guys had bad luck. Last year, you look at the average it took to win it and it was like a 4.6 or 4.8 to win the championship. So you just don't know until you get into it. I think after the halfway point in the Chase, you get a good feel for what's going to happen. It still doesn't mean that's going to happen, but you have a better idea."
YOU DON'T HAVE TO WIN MULTIPLE RACES IN THE CHASE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP "You just never know. It jut depends. If the No. 18 and the No. 99 are winning every show, you've got to win races. Whoever it may be, it could be the No. 24 or us. It just depends on how it starts off. It all depends on where people finish."
SO DO YOU SEE GUYS WHO HAVEN'T WON A RACE AS BIG AS A THREAT AS THOSE WHO HAVE WON? "Yeah, you'd be fooling to count out anyone in the top 12 with the caliber of race teams you have and the drivers. You can have favorites and you certainly look at the No. 18 and the No. 99 and put them up there. I think we'd be third out of those guys, out of everybody in the Chase. But at the same time, the Chase is a whole different world and you don't know how people are going to react to pressure. You don't know what that average is going to be. You have a couple of wrecks where the top guys get taken out, you look at Talladega and Martinsville and some of these places where bad stuff can happen, it can take a 12.0 average to win this thing. You just don't know until you get going."
JEFF GORDON SAID IF THEY DON'T START WINNING RACES AND COME INTO THE CHASE WITH A 60, 70, OR 80-POINT DEFICIT, IT'S ALMOST INSURMOUNTABLE "I think we all prepare for the worst, so we look at those guys with the bonus points and we look at say, last year's championship or even better than that, is what the average is going to be. With that in mind, you've got to win races. But until it starts, you don't know what's going to happen. So I think the competitive spirit in all of us is right. It's going to be a shoot out to the end. You've got to have your stuff right. You've got to win races. And that's where Jeff's point of view came from. If we get in there and guys are having trouble and he's consistently in the top five and in the points lead, he's going to have a different response at that point. But it's only because he's preparing for the worst."
WHEN YOU LOOK AT YOUR CHASE NUMBERS BACK AT LAST YEAR, DO YOU REALIZE HOW IMPRESSIVE YOU WERE? "It was unbelievable. It really was. To win those four and to have the top threes that we did was unbelievable. We did have a slow summer. And when we got on to some stuff at Fontana and then came here and won and went right into the Chase with a lot of speed and doing the right stuff. I'm hopeful that we're in that same spot again and we're doing the right things and we're coming to some really great tracks for the No. 48 car."
WOULD YOU EVER DO A ROLLING STONES ARTICLE? "Yeah, I think they're a good publication. There are a few of them out there that we haven't had exposure to that I thing would be great."
IS IT RISKY? "Yeah, I mean they're going to ask tough questions. In our sport, with the corporate involvement that we have, you can't worry about yourself all the time. You've got to worry about a lot of other people and it takes certain situations and certain articles to expose yourself to. I remember there was Junior's article in Playboy that he did and it exposed a lot of stuff and you just have to be willing to take that risk and everybody involved has to agree with the risk that can be there."
-credit: gm racing