JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his goal of winning a road course race, the season to date, Father's Day, and more. ON RACING AT SONOMA "We're looking forward to the race here. Everybody knows on how much I...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his goal of winning a road course race, the season to date, Father's Day, and more.
ON RACING AT SONOMA "We're looking forward to the race here. Everybody knows on how much I have focused on it and how badly I want to win on road course, especially here. It's time. We're here. I'm excited. I've run two GP races this year to get more experience. We've been testing and doing everything I can to be a better road course driver and to get our cars better and working with Chad (Knaus) and the engineers and talking road course racing. So we'll see what happens. I feel really good about it. I'm not going to let my desire to go out and try to win this race become too intense. I think that I do my best driving when I'm relaxed and having fun. I had a thought today driving in. I drove by the hotel I stayed in when I came out here when I was 15 years old and came to a driving school. It was my first experience on the asphalt. I drove a Formula Ford and had some fun with it. So as I drove by the hotel I thought, 'Wow, I remember staying there.' And then those childhood feelings kind of came back and remembering how much fun I had driving out to the track and the excitement. So I drove into the gates today trying to remember those feelings and look forward to having those in the car and hopefully they will have the racing gods agree with me over the weekend; if I keep that mindset thing will work."
WHEN YOU FIRST CAME IN THE ROOM YOU MADE THE REMARK THAT EVERYBODY KEEPS SAYING I'M IN A SLUMP. IS THAT BUGGING YOU? "I'm just trying to make fun of things. I get accused of being a little intense at times so I'm trying to make sure to laugh a little bit. There is no doubt that the month of May was tough on us. I made mistakes. We had some unfortunate luck. We just had some bad races and it made for a long month. I don't think we're in a slump. We're not where we want to be, but I wouldn't call it a slump. We have a lot of the year left to get our cars where we want them and I think although Michigan didn't finish how we'd hoped and we didn't race as strong as we wanted to, we're learning some stuff in a new direction and new set-ups under the car and I think it's just a matter of time here before we really get that set-up dialed in."
WHERE ARE YOU IN THE SEASON CYCLE WITH THE CHASE VERSUS THE REGULAR SEASON? HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU'RE DOING NOW IS GEARED TOWARD THE CHASE OR BONUS POINTS AND HAS THAT CHANGED OVER THE YEARS? "Yeah, I would say the last two weekends have been more about stopping the bleeding and that would be losing so many points and slipping further and further down closer to that 12th place cutoff. We did a good job the last two weeks in not taking unnecessary risk. I drove within my means and didn't stick it into the fence or anything. So, from that standpoint we are making sure we are collecting points. At the same time, I don't think we've had a race-winning car over the last two weeks; competitive, but I think where I've gotten in trouble before is I could see the front and I felt like I could bridge that gap and find that next tenth or two to make it a race-winning car and I've made some mistakes. So I'm trying to eliminate that. But in general, at some point during the regular season every team is going to struggle some and need to catch up. As much as I hate to live through it right now, I'm excited that it's now and it's not September when we're going through it. So I feel that we have time to find that tenth or two and to take our cars from being a top five car to a dominate car. So, my mindset may be a little different but it's still the same old stuff in racing. We're still trying to find speed and at this point we're playing a little game of catch-up."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES WHEN YOU'VE BEEN TRYING TOO HARD AT ROAD COURSE RACING AND IT'S BEEN DIFFICULT TO KEEP YOURSELF IN CHECK? "Yeah, not only from my own doing, but when you get in the race and at the start of the race, the first 15 or 20 laps there is a little bit of give and take. And then after a while, something happens and one guy screws over another guy and the energy changes. And then everybody you come in contact with is more irritated and by the time you get to the end of the race it is just a cutthroat event. At every braking zone, guys are blocking. If someone is blocked, the guy that's being blocked goes to the turn and says to hell with you, I can just lean on you and spin you out and all the guys outside of you and off they go. So there's an energy during the race that kicks in and I want to avoid that. I don't want to get caught up in that because you get red-faced and focused just on these little battles you see in front of you and around you and before you know it you're sitting in the dirt and tire barriers with fenders torn off the car and something's gone wrong. I want to stay away from that if I can help it and one way to do that is to stay up in the top two or three throughout the day. It seems to be much safer up there, not necessarily give and take, but a little bit more respect with overtaking and some of the things that go on."
ON THAT INTENSITY, HOW MUSH OF A VOID IS IT FOR YOU NOT TO HAVE THAT ROAD COURSE VICTORY? "It doesn't weigh as much as a Brickyard win or a Daytona 500 win or even winning at Bristol to me was more of a resume-builder. This is just an irritation. I know I can do this. I get in other road course cars and I'm plenty fast and competitive. I've run good at times in the Cup car on road courses, so I know I have it in me. I just need to figure out how to do it over the course of 90 laps. So it's more of an irritation. Sure, it would be good for my resume, but it's not like I feel there's a void or something major missing."
YOU AREN'T A DAD YET, BUT KNOWING HOW CLOSE YOU ARE TO BEING A FIRST-TIME DAD, HOW SPECIAL IS FATHER'S DAY THIS YEAR? "I can't say that it means much yet. I guess once I meet my daughter and experience all that, next year will be a whole different situation. Right now, I know it is out there but there is really nothing in my heart pulling me to it unless, she comes before hand, then it will be a whole different experience. We are excited. Yesterday we had an appointment with the doctor and everything is great. We aren't expecting anything in the next couple of weeks to happen. Baby is healthy, Channi is doing great. She is at home. No more traveling for her at this point. We are just kind of wait and see."
YOU ARE THE FOUR-TIME CHAMP, WHEN YOU THINK OF THE PROSPECT OF NOT HITTING FIVE, DOES IT BOTHER IT? "The way the season works, your first goal is to make the Chase to even have a shot at the championship. So, the intensity for the championship hasn't kicked in. The thought of not winning a fifth hasn't entered my mind yet. It is just not that time of the year. Slipping down to a hundred points from that cutoff, that's a place I don't want to be and I need to collect points and be smart. And try to avoid being in a situation where I go to Richmond and I have got to race to have a shot at the championship because Richmond in the spring wasn't, we finished 10th, but it was a fight all night long. So that is my first goal. Once we get there, I think the pressure will kick in and at some point, I know it is going to end. I certainly hope it's not this year, I would love five. But, if I, and I have said this all along, the No. 48 team goes to the track and we do everything that we can and we get beat, we can sleep at night. It is not going to be fun, it is going to suck and the streak will be over but I can sleep because I know we put in 100%, we just got beat. If we make a mistake, if something else happens, we drop the ball, that is going to sting a lot, but at some point, it is going to come to an end and I think that a champion should also be measured not only what he does on the track when they are winning and doing well, but how they handle defeat and how they handle other sides of it. With that prospect out there, I hope to handle it with class and style and move on and come back the following year and try to produce again."
DOES EVERYONE IN THE GARAGE THINK THAT THE ROAD RACES NOW CAN AFFECT A CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORT? "Yes, it could affect the championship and I think the effort has been made for these teams to be better at road course racing. We have a younger generation of drivers that have some type of road course racing background or interest in their minds. Maybe they didn't grow up in the cars, but I think it is a different generation. The older generation was just get out of here and move on, didn't care. I think this younger generation enjoys road course racing. It means more to us."
-source: gm racing