JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the race track at TMS, his relationship with Jeff Gordon, going for a fourth championship, and more. KERRY THARP: Finishing up this morning with our Chase driver ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the race track at TMS, his relationship with Jeff Gordon, going for a fourth championship, and more.
KERRY THARP: Finishing up this morning with our Chase driver press conferences, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Kobalt Tools Chevrolet. Currently our points leader here at Texas Motor Speedway. He's got one win, six top fives, nine top 10s. Three to go in the Chase, what's your outlook this weekend here at Texas?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Man, I'm excited for the weekend. I really have enjoyed this racetrack. We've been very competitive the last two years basically here. Just showing up today, I mean, our goal is to try to sit on the pole. Come Sunday, we want to win the race. The way our mile-and-a-half program has been, we'll be very competitive on Sunday. Finished second in the spring race to Jeff.
So I know the company is going to be strong. My teammates are going to have good cars. We'll just get out there and race for it. I think the track has aged a lot. The bumps are good. The asphalt is wearing out. We're running higher and higher on the racetrack. One and two seem difficult to run on the top and make it work. But things are going well.
Certainly happy with where we are in the points. It's not really going to change what we do over the next few weeks. In my opinion, the only way strategy would come into play in being concerned about finishing in a certain spot would be in Homestead.
So until then, we're going for maximum points every time we're on track.
KERRY THARP: We'll take some questions.
Q: Are you bringing back the car that you finished second here in April or is this the car maybe you won at Charlotte? Is this a chassis you've had success with this year or did you bring a new car out?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't know for sure. After Charlotte, Chad and I had a conversation about bringing that car here. I'm not sure if it made it. Then with that in mind, I'm not sure if that's the car we ran here in the spring or not (laughter).
The COT anymore, we do have a couple cars that we work through, but it's not like the old cars where there's specific tracks that we could take a body to and the body was designed for certain things.
Anymore, I really lose track of what car we take where (laughter).
Q: I want to ask you something that Jeff had talked about at Martinsville. He was asked about the relationship with you in the sense of he brought you long and you've denied him wins and championships. How does that not boil under the surface? His comment was, In 15, 20 years we'll be better friends than what we are even now. He does say that it makes you hungrier, you want to push harder to do everything you can to go out there and beat him, so it's affected our friendship. We're competitors on the racetrack. I'm not going to pat him on the back and say how great he is when I really want to beat him, but at the end of the day I respect him. A lot of people look at the relationship between the two of you as the buddy type. To hear Jeff say that, does that surprise you? Is that an accurate description? How does winning affect a relationship in the garage?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: In some ways it surprises me; others it doesn't. There's no doubt that over the last few years competition has been more intense. We've been racing for championships. It was a lot easier when I was a rookie needing assistance and help. We spent a lot of time together then. I guess we were both single and not married at that point, too, having a lot of fun. So that certainly helped.
But, you know, I think we still have a very strong friendship. He's probably right in the respect that as competitive as we are, what we're racing for, what we're both trying to accomplish in our professional careers, it does strain the friendship side.
I'm not sure if 'strain' is the correct word. There's less focus on the personal side and the friendship side. It's more of a working relationship.
I look to him and give him a lot of credit over the years, how the friendship and the working relationship has worked. As a young guy coming in, I think he being the veteran, the wiser one of the two of us, more experienced, depending on how he handled things would set up how I would react and act myself. I looked to him for so many things. Through it all, there's been a great deal of respect. It's still there today. I guess at some point he's probably right, I think our friendship will be closer when we're both hanging the helmet up and retired and things like that.
But there isn't any issues with our friendship. We're still great friends. Our lives have changed a lot. He's married. I'm married. He has a young daughter he's raising, all that kind of thing, too. I don't think that the competition has been responsible for all of it, you know.
There's just been things change in life, you go different directions, all that. The respect is still there. I think that shows. That's the most important thing.
Q: Could you imagine being a role reversal down the road, if you bring somebody on, he starts beating your tail?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I really do look at those things. I'm well aware that things have gone great for the last three years. I'm obviously hoping for a fourth. But at some point I won't be that guy. It will be somebody else. Somebody else will be doing it. I've always been aware of those things through my career. I've been very fortunate to race with and been mentored by other champions and guys that have been very successful. To watch how graceful they've been, Rick Johnson, Gary St. Amant, Jeff Gordon, there's been a lot of guys through the years that have worked with me. I've been aware of that.
I've always in the back of my mind said, That's how I want to kind of handle things, be and act. I do pay attention to that. I am aware of it.
When that day comes, I hope I can handle it as well as the guys I've respected growing up have, because it won't be easy. Losing sucks. We all hate it.
Q: Three weeks ago at Charlotte, there was a lot of talk about the perfect weekend for you and Chad. Knowing the drive you have, how important would it be for you personally to be the first driver since the Chase was implemented to clinch it before the series got to Homestead?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It would be really nice to do that. I'm not mentally planning for that. I'm still trying to race this weekend and next weekend as if we're behind in points, you need maximum points, because you just never know. I know you guys get tired of hearing this, but anything can happen. I feel if we start focusing on an average position where we need to finish, do some things that are different than what the 48 car does, we will set ourselves up for a problem.
So if things go right over the next two weeks, right now we're in a position where we would be clinched. If we can go out and outrun the 24 and the 5 the next two weeks, we'll let that into our minds then. Right now I'm just trying to keep the blinders on and stay focused on maximum points. I'm certainly not going to do stupid things on track, take a lot of unneeded risk. But I've always been a believer of playing offense. Whenever we have played defense, we've done a miserable job. I'm going to keep playing offense, being aggressive, have the momentum going forward instead of trying to hang on wherever I'm at on track, whatever the points situation may be.
Q: When you look back at this season, how closely your teammate Jeff Gordon has been in the championship hunt, he's had more second-place finishes than I can count. Do you find it surprising the only race he won so far this season was here at a place where he had never won before?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess I haven't thought of it, but I am surprised to hear that. He's only won one race this year? Heck, I would have never guessed that. Yeah, he's had a great year, been up front so much, I assumed that he'd won more races.
What, Mark has five or six, something like that?
KERRY THARP: Five.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wouldn't have thought that. I know it meant a lot to him here to break his streak, to win at this track. As we know, this track has been pretty tough on him over the years. I'm sure he's drooling at this opportunity.
Q: A lot of the guys you compete with for this championship, they're heavily invested in the Nationwide Series or they have ownership interests in national series, the Nationwide or Truck side. You don't have any of that. Does that give you an edge of some sort? Does that allow you just to sharpen your focus on the big prize in this series because you don't have all these other things going on that maybe a lot of your competitors do?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: At times I felt like I may have been missing some opportunities. I think there was a period of time where running a Nationwide car did help the Cup car. Obviously, since we've been on the COT, it's not that world anymore.
There was a period of time where I thought I was missing something, an opportunity there, a chance to be on track more, things like that. But for one, I'm not very good in a Nationwide car. So it's no fun to go run in the car, run 15th all day long, beat up my confidence, then hop in the Cup car and do great with all the extra horsepower. That's one aspect to it. Then the other side of it is, I've never been too interested in being a car owner. I've had a lot of great opportunities from Nationwide, Truck, motocross, rally car, off-road teams. Especially as time goes on, there's more and more opportunities there. I don't want to do something, I don't want to enter into a business relationship or into another part of my professional career in an area that I don't have a lot of knowledge in.
I'm finally good at something. Why dilute that? Why start doing a lot of other things, do it half-assed? I'm not saying in the future those opportunities would be more appealing if I wasn't driving a car. But just right now, man, I'm finally good at something. It's taken me 34 years to get to this point.
I don't want to dilute it.
I like having a little extra free time, spending time with my family, my wife, traveling a little bit, keeping some available kind of mental space so that when I get in the Cup car, I'm not irritated, whatever it may be. I think it kind of helps with the whole mindset I have, as well. I have plenty to do, but I'm not so overworked that I just have a short fuse and things frustrate me, that kind of thing.
So I do also have three, hopefully four years of proving to myself that this formula's working really well and to not change anything. So all those things kind of add up.
-credit: gm racing