Rockingham II: Jimmie Johnson press conference

Tuesday, October 29, 2002 Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his rookie season and outlook for the Pop Secret 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race next weekend at North Carolina Speedway ...

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his rookie season and outlook for the Pop Secret 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race next weekend at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, NC.

For the 2002 season, Johnson is currently 3rd in points, just 150 points behind the leader, and 2nd in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings. So far in 2002, Johnson has earned three NASCAR Winston Cup victories (California, Dover and Dover), five Bud Pole Awards (Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Richmond and Talladega) and recorded 20 top-10 finishes, including six top-5s (Atlanta, California, Dover, Pocono, Chicagoland and Dover).

WHAT'S YOUR MINDSET AFTER A DISAPPOINTING RUN IN ATLANTA LAST WEEKEND?

"We've just got to go to each race and do as well as we can. We can't control our own destiny now. Before Atlanta, we could look at maybe getting 20 points per event and maybe putting ourselves at the head table (at the NY awards banquet), but I think Tony (Stewart, point leader) is going to have to have a bad finish or a failure or something like that for us to be able to win the championship.

"So, it's a bummer at this point to admit that and to look at that, but we can't take anything away from the year that we've had and we've still got a chance at finishing up the year real strong and even an outside chance at winning it. We'll just try to run as strong as we can at every event from here on out and see how it shakes out."

WHEN YOU GET OUT OF THE CAR, OBVIOUSLY YOU'RE UPSET. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR THAT TO WEAR OFF?

"You get out (of the car) and obviously you're disappointed and you're bummed. But when you give 100 percent and everybody around you gives 100 percent, you can't dwell on it too long. We did everything that we could. It just wasn't our day. Sometimes you have that. You hate to have it happen with four races to go at the end of the season (while) competing for a championship, but what do you do? That stuff happens."

IS ROCKINGHAM A TOUGH PLACE TO GET AROUND?

"Yeah, it's a tough place. It's got a surface similar to Darlington. Tires go away fast so it's hard to get a good feel for what to adjust on the car because the conditions are changing every single lap. It's a fun track, a mile track with a lot of banking. I'm looking forward to going there. We had a crew member, David Bryant, struck on pit road there earlier in the year and we had a lot of confusion in the pit when that happened and ended up losing a lap. That's why our finish looked so bad there. But I think we have a shot at running in the top 10 on Sunday."

HAS JEFF GORDON GIVEN YOU ANY ADVICE GOING INTO THE LAST THREE RACES OF THE SEASON?

"No. We talk all the time, and discuss things, but it's just the same stuff in racing that you grow up doing. Jeff and the whole No. 24 team have been leading more by example than by sitting down and having one-on-ones with us explaining how to compete for things."

WHEN THE TV CAMERAS SHOW SOME DRIVERS TALKING TO EACH OTHER, ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT RACING OR OTHER THINGS?

"Usually you'll ask a couple of questions about how the car is handling or how they think they're going to run, but we don't get too in depth from one team to another. Shortly thereafter, we're talking about something."

DOES THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN YOU AND CREW CHIEF CHAD KNAUS MAKE FOR A GREAT RACE TEAM?

"I guess so. We communicate well. When I'm trying to describe the car, there are a lot of adjustments that can be made, but I've been able to say things that he can understand and he is able to work on it and adjust on it. So, it's a real important part of the sport. Communication is probably the biggest part of the sport and we've been able to do it real well."

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT SEASON, ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR AREAS AND OR TRACKS WHERE YOU WANT TO IMPROVE?

"The place that I was looking forward to getting some more experience at was Martinsville. And we came back the second time and were real competitive. So I haven't put a lot of thought into that. On the road courses, I was pretty timid. I think we've made some gains on our braking systems that we've run on some of the short tracks that will carry over to the road courses and that'll help us there. With my off-road racing background, that should help me on road courses, but I was just a little timid this year. I'm looking forward to going back next year and collecting more points."

WITH THREE RACES LEFT AND 150 POINTS BEHIND TONY STEWART, IS THERE MORE PRESSURE ON YOU NOW?

"When you're coming down to the end and this is what you're been racing all season for, the pressure's there. We've tried to not put a lot of pressure on ourselves throughout the season. In the middle part of the season, we put the most pressure on ourselves. We learned some lessons from that. And now, the pressure's on and there'll always be pressure in some form - regardless of where you are in points or in your career as a driver or a team. It's just something you get used to. We're just going to attack the rest of the season and see where it all falls out. And however it falls together, we've had a season that's been incredible and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

HAVE YOU AND CHAD KNAUS LOOKED AT THE NUMBERS AND WHAT YOU'D HAVE TO DO TO WIN THE TITLE NOW?

"Before Atlanta, we talked about it. But now, there isn't any number crunching that's going to work. It's pretty simple. Tony (Stewart) is going to have to have a bad day like we did to put us back in it (points chase). We just need to go out and fight hard and try to stay ahead of Mark (Martin) in points and try to beat Ryan (Newman) in the Rookie of the Year battle. If we get thrown a bone and Tony (Stewart) has some bad luck, then we've got our race for the championship back."

AFTER A DISAPPOINTING RACE, HOW QUICKLY DOES THE TEAM RE-GROUP?

"It (disappointment) lingers and it changes from week to week. But when you give 100 percent and come up short, it's just one of those things. We all tried as hard as we could. We just had a bad day. It's just unfortunate that we had a bad day at the end of the season when it's so important to collect points, but that's just how it is. It'll sting for a couple of days but we've got to switch our minds to Rockingham and go there and do as well as we can."

-hm/lowe's-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson