Richmond: Jimmie Johnson press conferece

Jimmie Johnson Teleconference Transcript Tuesday, April 29, 2003 Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond ...

Jimmie Johnson Teleconference Transcript
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Johnson currently sits in fifth place in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings (207 points behind the leader) following his 16th place finish last Sunday in the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. Johnson has ranked among the top-10 in the Winston Cup points standings for 43 consecutive races, dating back to the 2002 spring race in Atlanta. Johnson has competed in just two races at Richmond International Raceway and has yet to score a top-10 finish. He finished 31st in this race one year ago and 13th there last fall.

AS THE SEASON PROGRESSES, ARE YOU MORE PATIENT OR MORE AGGRESSIVE?

"Throughout, I've become more patient. But more things keeping happening to us like Sunday, so it might appear differently. I don't know what's going on there. But it seems like I feel like I'm more and more patient."

WITH ALL THE DEMANDS THAT COME WITH BEING A WINSTON CUP DRIVER, DO YOU DO ANYTHING TO SAVE YOUR ENERGY?

"You just try to pace yourself. You learn how hard you can push and work the schedule to where you feel it's not going to be too tough on you because it (the season) is so long and there is so much traveling. As you gain more experience, you understand how to set your schedule up more than anything."

ARE THE LIGHTS GOOD AT RICHMOND AND HOW DO THEY COMPARE TO OTHER NIGHTTIME RACES?

"Yes, they're good. I've never noticed anything different or wrong with the lights there. To be honest with you, I don't know. Night racing is a lot better visually for us, period. The surface your racing on is lit up so it's the only thing your eyes really have to look at. So it seems like your vision is a lot better at any night race."

DO YOU GET ENOUGH TIME FOR YOURSELF DURING THE SEASON, AND WHAT DO YOU DO TO MAKE SURE YOU GET SOME?

"No, you'd always like more. But in the scheme of things, compared to my crew guys and the guys behind the scenes, I get more than they do. I usually get a day off here and there, but the guys have to go back to the shop and work. Those are the guys that really work the hardest. I'd always like to see a little more time off for everyone so we can spend a little more time with family."

HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR DOWN TIME?

"Just getting caught up with life. If I get a lot of down time, I try to travel somewhere and relax. But more than anything, it's paying bills and doing laundry and getting caught up with life."

WITH KYLE BUSCH JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, IS THERE A SPECIAL GAMEPLAN FOR THESE YOUNG DRIVERS MOVING UP AND ARE YOU GOING TO BE A MENTOR FOR HIM?

"There isn't any direct conversation taking place to make sure I'm willing to do it. It's just something that you help out when you can. I've been trying to be there for Brian Vickers as much as possible. Hopefully as time goes on, I'll be able to form a relationship with Kyle. But for the young guys - especially like Kyle's situation - he's extremely talented and is being given a great opportunity with little pressure to develop his style. He's so young, but he'll have great equipment and a great environment. It looks like the trend is getting younger and younger to try and spot these guys to get them in good equipment and start teaching them the right things early. From what I've seen so far, I think he'll do really well."

DOES THE TEAM HAVE TO PROTECT A YOUNG GUY LIKE THAT?

"Yeah, I think there are a lot of people that can step in at different levels to protect him from managers, crew members, other drivers on the team - there are a lot of things out there to deal with. I think it's an advantage in some ways to get an early start. You don't have to have the pressure on you all the time and have to perform right now and have to say and do all the right things immediately. You can go out there and learn the ropes. Hopefully these young guys will be on the conservative side of things and start learning how hard they apply and where they can push. That's something Brian Vickers is doing really well and I'm sure Kyle will do also."

HAVE YOU SEEN KYLE BUSCH RACE AND DO YOU THINK HE IS AS TALENTED AS EVERYBODY SAYS HE IS?

"I watched him in the ARCA race and any one who can rival (Frank) Kimmel like he did and beat them all day long is doing a good job."

WITH THE NASCAR SCHEDULE UNDER REVISION, WOULD IT BE A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE ALL THE WEST COAST EVENTS GROUPED TOGETHER?

"If they do that, the only one who might stay out there during that time would be the truck driver. We'd have to send another transporter out with back-up cars and spare parts and pieces while that truck was out there. There is no way the crew would stay out there for several races in a row. We'd be flying guys back to the shop to get work done and then fly them back out again."

IS THE CURRENT SCHEDULE THE ONLY WAY OR THE BEST WAY?

"I'm not saying it's the only way, but they've got a tough job on their hands to try and make the schedule easier in a lot of aspects. Grouping them together might look good on the surface, but teams will be commuting back and forth anyway. There is too much work to be done."

DO YOU AGREE WITH BOBBY LABONTE THAT THE FIRST 10 RACES OF THE SEASON ARE A GOOD INDICATOR OF HOW THINGS WILL PLAY OUT, AND HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED BY ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THUS FAR?

"I think it's fair to say that. There's obviously a lot of racing left and a lot of things can happen. But I think we all have a feeling of who's going to be there week in and week out. We've been to short tracks and speedways and it seems that the top 10 or 15 guys seem to rise to the front at all those tracks. I think it'll be another interesting year in the points battle. I think seven or eight cars are going to be able to hang there all year and compete for the championship."

WHEN YOU'RE SO CAUGHT UP IN YOUR OWN PROGRESS, HOW MUCH ATTENTION CAN YOU PAY TO THE WAY OTHER DRIVERS' SEASONS ARE GOING?

"You pay attention to it. During the race, you look at where other people are at and who is having trouble and where they finish and obviously to the points."

HAS THERE BEEN ONE SPECIFIC THING TO CAUSE YOUR TEAM TO BE BETTER THIS YEAR OR THAT HAS MADE THE TEAM MORE COHESIVE?

"We started off the season high in points but we've been having some weird things happen to us when we're running strong at the end of the day. Other people have had trouble as well, but we've been able to stay in there. Hopefully we'll be able to clean up our game at the end of the day and finish where we worked for all day and actually be in there competing for the championship. Right now, we're just kind of hanging on with all the troubles we've been having. Being consistent always brings in the points. We've been consistently in the top 10 and top 15, but hopefully we can raise that to top five's pretty soon."

DO YOU THINK CHAD KNAUS HAS A BETTER HANDLE ON THE NEW MONTE CARLO NOW?

"The more time Chad has to work on these cars, the smarter he gets. He's got an incredible mind. He has all the tools to figure stuff out at Hendrick Motorsports. It's just a matter of time before he figures things out."

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT THEY'VE DONE WITH THE SET-UPS THAT HAS MADE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE IN THE NEW CAR?

"Yes, we've definitely learned some of the tricks. There are a few things that we do differently on the '03 car than we did on the '02 car. So we're definitely learning what it wants set-up wise and even aero-wise. It is a little different - not huge - but a little different."

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR CREW AND YOUR PIT STOPS?

"Yeah, the pit stops have been great this year. The guys have been working hard. We've made some changes and everybody has been working really well together. It's been a very positive thing for our team."

ON THE PRESSURE SURROUNDING GOOD PIT STOPS FOR THE CREW AND THE DRIVER?

"The pressure never goes away. Any team is under a lot of pressure. We practice as much as we can. Some of the races when we travel to the west coast or when we test makes it hard to practice. But that what makes a good race team. Teams can overcome not getting any practice and being worked to the bone and even rebounding from a bad pit stop when a lug nut falls off and being able to put the lug nut back on the wheel during a stop. That's what makes a good team. In the Busch race last Saturday, I saw where one of the lug nuts fell off of Matt Kenseth's left front. The tire changer was able to try to get it back on there. I don't know if he did it or not, but I saw a highlight of it. That's what makes a good race team and good pit stops is when you're able to recover from a lug nut falling off or a jack dropping or something like that and not lose as many spots. Everybody can roll off a 13 or 14 second pit stop at home - and that's what everybody is doing. But when you're under pressure and jumping over the wall and it's game time, that's what makes the difference."

HOW DOES THE DRIVER HANDLE THE FRUSTRATION OF A BAD PIT STOP?

"There is nothing that I can say that can help in that situation except something that will support or help the guys. Whoever had the trouble in the pit stop is beating himself up and is criticizing that stop so much already, there isn't anything I can do to help. So I just try to encourage them and tell them not to worry about it. I just try to keep some perspective. To speak out or yell is really not going to do us any good."

-hm/lowe's-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers
Teams Hendrick Motorsports