JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with media members at Richmond International Raceway and talked about racing at Richmond, the All-Star race, burnouts, what his mother means to him and much more. Full transcript: YOU...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with media members at Richmond International Raceway and talked about racing at Richmond, the All-Star race, burnouts, what his mother means to him and much more. Full transcript:
YOU AND CHAD (KNAUS, CREW CHIEF) WERE MEETING INTENTLY, IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG? "Just trying to make sure we do all the right things. With the evolution this year of the cars, we're just trying to make sure. We had such a great base line last year, we don't want to talk ourselves into some stuff that we thought would work well this year and not have it pan out. Good practice and now we're just trying to be smart."
HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU WITH THE SUCCESS YOU EXPERIENCED AT THIS TRACK LAST YEAR? "Last year was much needed for us at Richmond. This track is so difficult for myself to figure out and Chad to find the right set up for me. It was nice last year to have the two victories much more than what we expected. Obviously we come back and want to do that again. We're focused on top fives and if you're in the top five, especially on a short track like this you have a shot to win."
ON HOW MUCH THAT SUCCESS HELPS HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT'S RACE. "At times success really helps a team and other times it will pinch you into a corner and you're afraid to make changes because it worked so well last year. So that's what we're taking a little extra time with today. We have confidence coming in here but we've been bit in the past by being over confident and we're just trying to be realistic and smart about the adjustments made to the car leading into the race."
WHAT MAKES RICHMOND UNIQUE FOR YOU? "I guess it's one of the very few d-shaped, ¾-mile ovals that we have. They've done an amazing job with the transitions into the corners so you can run side-by-side. Yes, you're a little tight especially off of two but it's kind of what a d-shaped race track will deal. They've done a great job working this track and it's always been one of my favorites for fans and drivers for years."
IS THERE REALLY AN EDGE COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND, WHEN YOU SWEPT LAST YEAR? "We have some confidence but every year is such a new year and really even during the season from the spring race to the fall race so much takes place. I feel like we had a really strong practice, especially in race trim. We were very pleased with the car. I like to stay a little hesitant, it keeps me on my toes and it keeps the team on its toes. We don't have much extra patience that way but I feel like we'll be in great shape."
THEY HAVEN'T PAVED THE TRACK HERE IN FOUR YEARS, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT'S GOING TO BE ANY ADVANTAGE OR DISADVANTAGE? "I think that for our cars the older the surface the better. The track is really holding up well, there aren't a lot of bumps. Doesn't seem like the asphalt is pulling apart, but the asphalt is losing grip and I think that's a good thing for our stock cars. It allows a second and third lane to come into play and be useful to put on great racing. I think this track has held up over time, they just need to leave it alone. It's done a great job for us."
THE ALL-STAR RACE IS JUST A COUPLE OF WEEKS AWAY. YOU HAVE TWO WEEKS IN CHARLOTTE, IS IT LIKE A VACATION BEING HOME FORTWO WEEKS? "No, not for me. Being the Lowe's driver at Lowe's Motor Speedway is pretty busy for me. It's that way for a lot of the teams. You're able to sleep in your own bed and enjoy that, but that's a hometown track. There's just a lot going on. All sponsors, NASCAR, Sprint you know everybody involved does whatever they can to really blow out being at home and everybody does a great job. It's an active week, two weeks for us. On top of that, with all the testing we have now with the cup car, additional two days, the Nationwide test that's coming up for myself and then we're trying to get prepared for the road course events coming up. We have some road course testing coming up leading up to All-Star week so this month is really, really busy for this Lowe's race team and I assume it's that way throughout the garage."
ON HIS FAVORITE MOMENT IN THE ALL-STAR RACE. "Winning. Nothing better than winning knowing that you got that million dollar check and I've been fortunate enough to do it twice."
WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING IN THE FORMAT? "I liked it when we had a band playing during the first intermission that was cool. Outside of that I think it's a great format. You're always trying to wonder when that inversion is going to take place and how that's going to work out. That's part of the fun of the All-Star event. I think when it boils down to it you have the best cars racing for the win each year."
ARE DRIVERS A LITTLE DIFFERENT IN THE ALL-STAR THAN THEY ARE ON A NORMAL WEEKEND? "Yeah, I would say so. Especially in the closing laps if you have a shot at the win. It's not a point's race and it is for a million bucks so I see people a lot more aggressive at that point. When we show up to the track, it's such a great warm up to the 600. It's typically our first time on track with whatever tire and configuration we have that year with the car and this will be a COT there so I think that week will be pretty important for all the teams to work out some more development stuff."
KYLE BUSCH IS REAL HOT RIGHT NOW IN ALL SERIES, HOW DOES A DRIVER GET THAT HOT AND HOW DO YOU STAY THAT HOT? "My own experience, it's difficult to understand why I'm hot and you don't know how to hang on to it. There's a feeling that you have, there's a level of communication that exists within the team that are some of the things that stand out in my mind. You don't how or when to bring that up and how to keep it there and maintain it. It's just one of those things that comes and goes and working with Kyle (Busch) the last few years, I know how talented of a driver he is regardless of what he's driving. He can be in a go-kart, lawn mower, race car or whatever it is and the guys gonna be fast so I have a ton of respect for him and I think he's doing a great job in all three divisions."
WHAT MAKES A GOOD BURNOUT? "I don't want to give away my secrets because I think I have a pretty good burnout. Brake is important. You need to on the cool down lap make sure you get all the front brake in the car and as many gears as you can grab. The faster those rear tires are spinning the better. First gear you're all over the chip and I've blown an engine messing around that way, so if you can get into second or third gear you're gonna have a lot of smoke."
DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE ANY BURNING RUBBER ON THE TRACK OR IS IT LIKE ALL SMOKE? "I've thought the Jack Sprague burnout here was one of the coolest, where the rear tires were on fire. I've tried that a couple of times but I've actually blown the tires out in the process and then as you bring the car to Victory Lane NASCAR is looking at you like why are you blowing the tires because it does damage to the car and I feel bad for my crew guys because as those tires come apart it rips the body apart and everything underneath it apart. So I've given up on trying to light them on fire just with all the damage it does."
CAN YOU IMAGINE GOING TWO YEARS IN THE CIRCUIT WITHOUT A VICTORY? "Especially with all this attention, It's got to be tough, it really would be tough. I can tell you that when people ask you what's your favorite part of the year, what's the most important thing you cheer in, my opinion it's been that first win. The first win of every year just does so much for the team, so much for the driver mentally, that it's important. That's just looking at one win a year. I can't imagine how difficult that would be to go multiple seasons, shoot a career for that matter. Some guys have been putting in their time for a long, long time and don't have a win. So I'm very fortunate."
DO YOU THINK IT'S HARDER TO WIN A RACE NOW WITH ALL THE TALENT AND TECHNOLOGY? "NASCAR works hard to make it tougher and tougher every year to break away. That's what's kept our sport in business so many years. It's not like F1 where one team develops and advantage and then runs off for four or five years and wins everything. It's the way our sport is by design and makes it awfully difficult week in and week out."
ON PREPARING FOR A LONG RACE LIKE THE 600, IS THERE A DIFFERENT MIND SET? "I don't really treat it much different than any long race. I've had some bad luck at the start of some of those events, thankfully it's been a 600-mile race. I think I passed Bobby Labonte coming to the checkered one time. If it was a 500-mile race that would have never happened because we had some difficulties. The long races really suite the 48 team. I think the challenges from day to night help us. We usually do a good job staying on top of that. I think that our team is well prepared, I'm well prepared physically and that all shows up in a 600-mile event too. It's really one of our strongest races on the calendar year in and year out."
OVERALL, WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT THE LENGTH OF THE AVERAGE RACE? "In the car it goes by so fast, that's it's tough for me to think that much needs to change except for Pocono. Pocono feels like it's a two thousand mile race. Then talking to friends that are there four or five hours watching the cars run, from the outside perspective I think they could be shortened up in some respects, but inside the car it's amazing how fast 500 miles goes. It's gone before you know it."
TELL US ABOUT THE GOLF TOURNAMENT YOU WENT TO THIS WEEK. "From my standards I did well. I really did well. I scored three points for the team throughout the day. I had a chance to score a couple more but had a tough time with a put that I was way short and got a good heckle from the gallery on it. It was really a lot of fun. I can say I had the most fun I've had playing golf. The whole pace of the day was set by the first tee box and I actually hit the ball well in the center of the fairway and at that point all the nerves kind of disappeared and I went okay I'm gonna be all right today and have some fun with this."
WAS THAT THE WACHOVIA TOURNAMENT? "Yeah, I played in the Wachovia pro-am on Wednesday."
WHAT PARTS OF YOUR GAME TO YOU NEED TO WORK ON? "Everything (laughs). I'd say probably putting has been where I really need to focus. In the driving range you work on different aspects but never go to the putting range. I mean I missed a four footer that for my handicap would have been an eagle, would have been a par at the time, but an eagle for our team which would have put us up near the money. To finish each score and totally dropped like a four footer so I need to go to the driving range.
WHO WAS THE PRO? "Mark Wilson was the pro."
WITH MOTHER'S DAY NEXT WEEK, TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR MOM AND THE INFLUENCE SHE'S HAD. "My mom's been a big part of my racing career especially when I was a kid. She's been to so many races over the years that she doesn't come that often anymore. Had enough days in the traffic and stands and all that stuff. My mom's been the glue in our family holding everything together and has really taught my brothers and myself how to be compassionate and caring people. She's a special lady and I certainly appreciate everything she's done."
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU AND JEFF GORDON HOOKED UP AND BECAME FRIENDS? "I guess it was 2000, my rookie season in Nationwide. I had some different things going on with the team I was driving for and sponsorship was leaving and I needed some advice. I had other manufacturers approaching me, other sponsors, other drivers at it to switch from the team that I was on and I went to Jeff for some advice. He listened to my story and gave me some advice. He let me know there was a potential fourth car starting up and Hendrick and they were considering me as one of the drivers. That was the last thing I had ever expected. I didn't know Jeff before that. Never met him until that day so it was quite an eye opener for me, a shock to hear what came out of his mouth and within a month I would say because that was in August, by September I had a signed contract with Hendrick and have been there ever since. It was pretty special to have all that take place in my rookie year in Nationwide. My best finish was a sixth and just lucky they saw whatever it was and gave me that chance."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUNG DRIVERS GOING TO DRIVING SCHOOLS AND PAYING FOR IT TO GET INTO THIS SPORTS. "It really just boils down to seat time and however anybody can go about getting seat time is a very important part of the process. There's so many guys that put the time in and get the seat time, but no one knows about them or no one can see them drive so there's a balance there where kind of on the quiet side you need to log laps and understand what's going on, understand the race car. Then once you start having some success you need to be out in front of the scouts and the different people on these teams that are looking for a driver.
"I think there was a craze a few years back where every team had a development driver and program but it's expensive and it's tough to put millions and millions of dollars into a 16 or 18-year-old, develop him and bring him along. We've had some struggles at Hendrick's trying to find that and bring that along. I encourage kids to get an early start but I don't think they need to be worried at 18 that they haven't been noticed yet. I think early 20's is a good time. I didn't really make it into cup until I was in my mid 20's and I certainly got my chance and it's worked out well."
HIS THOUGHTS ON WHY HENDRICK AND CHEVROLET HAVE NOT BEEN AS DOMINANT THIS YEAR AS LAST YEAR. "It's the fact that the Car of Tomorrow has been run on all the race tracks. If you look at a lot of my victories last year, at the start of the season they were on the 1.5-mile and two-mile tracks and that was with the old style car and we've just been working hard to understand what this car needs on the big tracks. My teammates have gotten off to a little better start than I did, then I came on at Texas and ran well. I think our short track program has been on par. Bristol, I was more competitive than I have ever been. Martinsville, Jeff and I were up front and very competitive, so short track stuff has been right. We're just trying to develop the bigger track stuff."
LAST WEEK, WE REALLY DIDN'T SEE A WHOLE LOT OF YOU, WAS THERE A REASON FOR THAT? YOU KIND OF HUNG OUT IN THE BACK, WERE YOU PLANNINGON MAKING A CHARGE? "Oh yeah. I just didn't need to be up there yet and got there probably eight laps too early. Almost timed it right, but will be smarter for the October race."
-credit: gm racing