JIMMIE JOHNSON NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with media and discussed road course racing, keeping cool in the heat, road racing with the ringers, the stretch from now to the Chase, and much more. WITH SO MANY ROAD COURSE REGULARS HERE, HOW DO...
JIMMIE JOHNSON NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with media and discussed road course racing, keeping cool in the heat, road racing with the ringers, the stretch from now to the Chase, and much more.
WITH SO MANY ROAD COURSE REGULARS HERE, HOW DO THEY COMPARE WITH THE CUP GUYS WHO HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH THE NEW CAR ON THIS TRACK? "I love the fact that they come in and run in the Cup series. But if you look at the victories, and who the victories have really gone to, the Cup guys hold their own. They really are competitive. They've won the majority of the races. I love the fact that Scott Pruett and a lot of these guys who have this road course background come and run. I've learned a lot from them personally. I think the Cup regulars do an awfully good job and have been carrying their weight."
DO YOU THINK IT HELPS MORE NOW WITH THIS NEW CAR? "Helps the regulars?" YES. "Yeah, I would say it certainly helps the regulars with the car like it is. It's much less of a vehicle than what we've had in the past. It's a tough thing for these road course guys to come in and really feel the brakes and the weight of this car and the way it reacts. So I think it's more difficult now than ever for those ringers to come in."
SO FAR, SO GOOD, WITH THE CAR INSPECTION. NOT SO LAST YEAR. HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE WILL IT BE FOR YOU NOW TO BE ABLE TO PRACTICE? "What do you think? (laughs) I mean, yeah, definitely. Being on track is going to be nice today. It just comes with the territory and you have stuff that takes place at different tracks. Last year we had some stuff take place here that we weren't really sure about and I think a lot of people in the garage area don't think should have taken place, but we took our medicine and made the most of it. We won the championship last year. And we'll move on."
EVEN THERE ARE ONLY TWO ROAD COURSE RACES ON THE SCHEDULE, THE TEAMS PUT A LOT OF EFFORT INTO TESTING. WHY DO YOU PUT SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON IT? "It's really because everybody is doing it. If you don't take the time to go out and learn how to make the cars better and make the drivers better, you're going to be behind. And everybody is doing it, so you just need to out of circumstances. The other part of it, I know for myself and the No. 48 team, is we want to win on a road course. We've been close at Watkins Glen. Sonoma has been tough for us. But it's a goal that I have personally and so does the team. We're putting a lot of effort into it and hopefully it pays off this weekend."
JEFF GORDON SAID THIS COULD BE A PLACE THAT WOULD TURN HIS SEASON AROUND. HOW MUCH EMPHASIS IS HE PUTTING ON IT THIS WEEKEND FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE? "I really do agree with that. A victory can change momentum and get things going in the right direction, and the No. 24 car was off to a great start at the beginning of the season and had a couple of tough races and now it seems like they are getting good finishes and getting things together. But they can turn a lot around here with a good finish. I look at the No. 20 car and think that they can pick up much-needed momentum because they've been right there and have been very competitive and fast and had some things not go their direction and a win here could really set that off."
ON NASCAR PUTTING HEAT MONITORS (SENSORS) IN SOME OF THE CARS "Yeah, I'm excited to see what's going on. We've been through some testing to make sure the levels aren't too high in the car and my stuff all looked great last weekend. We've known this car is hotter. We saw some of that last year and as the summer months are coming along, it's really showing up. So I'm happy to see the open-mindedness that we have with it. Just last weekend alone, we made a lot of gains on our own to help bring the temperature down in the car and it really made a difference. So, that's good stuff."
WHICH WINE IS BETTER, CHILDRESS' OR GORDON'S? "Man, I haven't had Gordon's wine. Is that wrong? He's my car owner. I've had his white, but not his red. I've had Childress's red. So I haven't paired up the two on either side to pick a winner there. But Richard gave me a nice bottle of red when I won the Daytona 500, so I think he's ahead of Jeff right now."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE STRETCH BETWEEN THE 600 TO THE NEXT OFF WEEK TO POSITION YOURSELF FOR THE FINAL RUN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Yeah, the big goal that I have each year is to go into Richmond locked into the Chase, so you don't have to go through the stress and all that takes place at Richmond. In the past, Richmond has been a really difficult track for us. We needed to do that (laughs). Last year we ran better at Richmond and that helped. Points matter. They do matter all year long, but now there is more focus on it. In our position, we've pulled away from that 12th mark a little bit and we need to keep that distance. This is a track where we can hopefully open that gap and separate ourselves from those guys. I'm excited about the weekend. Today I woke up extremely excited to go road course racing, particularly at this track. And that's one of the firsts. I usually pull into the gates here a little nervous about what's going to happen and how difficult this track is. But I've been working hard on becoming a better road course driver in these Cup cars. I've been great in other road cars, but these Cup cars have been tough for me to sort out. I look forward to changing that this weekend."
HOW MUCH DOES YOUR TRADITIONAL SUMMER PERFORMANCE ROLL AROUND IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD? "It doesn't until we're in the middle of it. And then we look back and we say you know what? This usually is a tough month for us. But this year has been different than any other year we've had in Cup. So hopefully the summer goes by easily and hopefully we win some big races, especially the Brickyard 400, that's one I'd love to go back and win again, and roll into the Chase with good momentum."
CONSIDERING YOU'VE WON THE LAST TWO CHAMPIONSHIPS, HOW DIFFERENT IS IT FOR YOU NOW WITH WHERE YOU ARE IN THE POINT STANDINGS? "I'm in a comfortable spot. So that's a good position to be in. But from the last two years, I just know how the season ramps up, especially when you get inside the final ten. It's its own even. As that final ten wears on, the guys who are running for the championship just focus on each other. Right now it's a little bit more relaxed. It's more about getting all the elements of the team put together and hopefully you're where you need to be for the final ten."
ON THE DRIVER'S MEETING WITH NASCAR LAST WEEK AT MIS "There are two sides to every story. NASCAR certainly sat us all down and had a talk with us. I'm excited that they've started that process. I think there is a communication breakdown between the drivers and NASCAR. Hopefully that's a sign of more conversations to come where more voices can be heard and we feel like they're heard. I'm excited about the meeting and look forward to what can come in the future from that."
IS IT A DIFFERENT MESSAGE THAN WHAT THEY SAID AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR WHEN THEY WANTED THE DRIVERS TO BE A LITTLE MORE VOCAL? "I'm usually not one who is out there saying too much. So the message at the beginning of the season, I didn't feel like they were really speaking to me. And then as they sat down and talked to us last week, I think we all as the drivers and as a group feel we have a voice.
"We understand that if there are 43 different opinions, NASCAR is going to have a difficult time trying to understand who has the right solution or what opinions to listen to. But I think the bottom line is we have some good insight to help move the sport along and put on a good show for the fans and put on a better show for the sponsors. We just want out voice heard and I think we're heading down that road."
IS THERE ADDITIONAL PRESSURE ON YOU RACING WITH ALL THIS ROAD RACING TALENT, OR DOES THAT MAKE IT MORE FUN? "No, if you look at the winners, it seems like the Cup regulars win these things more than anyone. I know there is going to be a lot of great road course guys that are here and I enjoy seeing those guys and am certainly friends with them.
"And in fact I'm kind of excited they're on our turf because I run the Rolex 24 and they're faster than me there. So it's nice to come here and then be faster then them (laughs). I'm looking forward to it and hope that we can get this Lowe's car in victory lane. We've been working very hard on improving our road course program."
CAN YOU STILL LEARN THINGS FROM THEM? "Without a doubt. Every time I'm around those guys, they're so fluid and so smooth and so precise with the car, and that's something you really need to do. And on a normal oval, you pit whenever the caution comes out. Here, you're stuck on those tires so you need to be nice to them and treat them the right way. The road course veterans really show that discipline. I try to bring that into my style."
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO WORK ON THE HEAT IN THE CAR FOR THE DRIVER? "We still had some room to move air inside the car for the NASCAR rulebook. So we have more vents coming inside the car just trying to vacate the heat and just get some air moving inside the car. That's really what we did at Michigan that helped out. I know NASCAR is looking at some solutions. They've done some carbon monoxide testing to make sure the carbon levels aren't too high in the car. And they're taking further steps to look at the heat and recognize it. We saw early signs this last year. But when you don't run it on a full time basis, it's hard to really understand the differences. It's a different car and a little different environment inside of it.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO BE COMPLETELY SUITED UP IN THAT CAR? "The first 20 minutes is really the toughest; I'd say the first and the last (20 minutes). Until you sweat enough and saturate the suit, then the air that does move through the car when the suit is saturated you have a little bit of an air conditioning effect that takes place. But the first 20, and then at the end of the race you're certainly tired, but until you sweat enough, which is kind of gross, but until you sweat enough, it's just not comfortable in the cars."
KYLE PETTY SAID IF GOLF WERE TO LOSE TIGER WOODS, IT WOULD STRUGGLE. HE ALSO SAID IF NASCAR WERE TO LOSE DALE EARNHARDT JR., THE SPORT WOULD NOT STRUGGLE. DO YOU AGREE? "I would disagree. I would think it would parallel in some ways. If you're a fan of golf, you respect Tiger and you watch Tiger. If he's gone, you're still going to watch golf. The diehard Tiger fans might not be as interested, but they're golf fans and they're going to watch. I think Motorsports is the same way. Every sport needs their heroes, they're marquee guy, and probably what Kyle was speaking to is that Tiger has everybody covered by so far. And in NASCAR, you don't have that gap from first on down. So I do agree with the fact that there's going to be great racing and great competition and the guys you'd expect to win up front racing for it. So I guess there are two ways to look at it."
WHAT HAS DALE EARNHARDT JR'S WIN LAST WEEK DONE FOR ALL OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "We were very proud that he wanted to come to Hendrick Motorsports and be a part of what we have there, and work with us. With that, you see somebody who wants to be there and somebody who wants to win and you start living those emotions with that person. He and Tony Jr, have been close. They've helped us out in a lot of ways with our set-ups and we're just all really proud of what they did and the fact that they got that monkey off their backs. We've seen throughout the year that they've been close a couple of times, and I don't think this is the last victory for them."
HOW WOULD YOU HANDLE NOT WINNING IN 76 RACES? "I'd be ill (laughs); there is no doubt about it. And I've only won one this year. At the same time I look back and my Cup crew has been far more successful than anything else I've ever done. I've had those lean years and certainly those lean years have made me respect the success I've had now. I just hope that success continues."
-credit: gm racing