Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the final three races of the Chase, why his team performs well during the final 10 races, how pressure suits his driving style and other topics. ON...
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the final three races of the Chase, why his team performs well during the final 10 races, how pressure suits his driving style and other topics.
ON THREE RACES REMAINING: "It's exciting for us. We're right there in the middle of it. We were able take away a lot points from the 24's lead last week. We can control our own destiny and race for this thing. So I'm excited and looking forward to it."
ON THE PRESSURE THAT CHAD KNAUS IS UNDER: "I don't think it's any different than what it's always been and the more simple we keep things, I think the better it is for myself and really anybody racing for the championship. It's just three races. We've been doing this a long time. We're all good at our jobs and really we're equal in the points so it's just three good races. Chad needs to do the same thing he's been doing that put him in this position and I need to do the same things with the car so if we can keep it simple and easy we'll be fine."
WHY DOES THIS TEAM SEEM TO EXCEL IN THE LAST 10 RACES? "I think we respond well under pressure. It's something we've always been good at. And I also think that the tracks at the start of the season and the end of the season are good for the 48 team and that helps us out a lot."
HOW SOON IN THE SEASON DO YOU START LOOKING FORWARD TO THE CHASE TRACKS AND START PREPARING? "They're always out there and coming along. We feel that there are some tracks that help other tracks in the Chase set-ups and even testing, trying to get prepared. So it's always at the front of our minds, the Chase and the races in the Chase. This year we had a slow summer and there was a period of time where I personally was worried about getting into the Chase and we got things turned around and the bad luck to go away and started finishing where we needed to and then got right back into play."
BRUTON SMITH WILL ANNOUNCE TODAY THAT HE BOUGHT NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE BAHRE FAMILY, NEW HAMPSHIRE AND WHAT THAT MAY MEAN GOING FORWARD WITH THE SCHEDULE? "I know there's a lot to be learned today at the press conference but our sport is ever changing, it doesn't matter if it's big companies coming in and merging with team owners, drivers moving around and even the other component of the track. Everybody's doing what they can to grow their business and I think everybody has the same thing in mind as far as growing our sport to the next level. I know Bruton is going to do everything he can, if that is what happens, to maximize the estate and the opportunities that it's going to have."
ON THE BAHRE FAMILY AND THE EFFORTS THEY PUT IN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE: "Unfortunately I haven't been able to get all that close to the Bahres. They are so well respected through the garage area. I have that same impression of them. They've done a great job. They've been a big part of NASCAR for a long, long time and there isn't anyone out there that has anything negative to say about them and that says a lot for them and their reputation."
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CREW CHIEFS FOR THE 24 AND THE 48 TEAMS: "They are certainly different guys. I think Chad's real strong with the technical side. I'm not saying that Stevie isn't but that's where Chad really looks to and wakes up every day looking to find something in the data where Stevie's kind of the opposite. He's good at that stuff but it's not what wakes him and gets things flowing for him. He'd rather get up and deal with the people, and things like that so they do have two different personalities and it works really well in our shop with the two personalities because they're strong in different areas and we don't have a lot of overlap."
ON THE RECENT TOPIC OF IF THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE STRAINS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HIM AND JEFF GORDON AND HOW IT ALSO AFFECTS THE GUYS IN THE SHOP: "I think they're really having a good time with all of it. There are a few guys that are 48 and a few that are 24 just because of the years. Those guys work on the cars on the weekend but for the majority of the team they work on the 24 and 48 all year long and they're busting their butt regardless of the car number. I think they're just happy and proud to be in this position and the two cars they're working on are fighting for this championship."
HOW WORRISOME IS IT TO YOU THAT YOU AND JEFF'S BATTLE CONTINUES AT A PLACE THAT HAS BEEN PROBLEMATIC FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS OVER THE YEARS? "It's really not too big of a deal. Really it's the 07, us and the 24 and where we finish relative to one another. I feel confident we're going to have a top-10, top-15 race and it's just where those guys (finish) in comparison. But to back up a step, we finished second here last fall and in the spring we were running really, really well and had an engine problem that led into a crash. Even though my stats don't show it, I think we're going to perform much better this time here than many people would expect and two. We're really racing the 07 and the 24."
IS THIS PLACE A HIGHER RISK OF HAVING A BAD DAY? "No, I don't see it any more dangerous than other places. I still think Talladega is the worst place to have a bad day, maybe even Martinsville because there's usually so many cars on the lead lap at the end. Here I think pretty much is a standard track, standard risk, (standard) expectations."
JEFF WON AT PHOENIX IN THE SPRING AND YOU RAN SECOND THERE IN THE FALL LAST YEAR. BETWEEN YOU TWO, DOES ANYONE HAVE AN ADVANTAGE AT PHOENIX? "I know it's a track that Jeff really enjoys going to. It fits his style and I think he traditionally has been a little stronger than I have there so I think that's a track that kind of leans in his favor. It's not a bad track for me but I'm going to be really focusing hard on the things I think Jeff does in a race car that works for his style and it benefits him there. I've been trying that and using that to my benefit in Martinsville and I think I'm going to do that same thing again when we get to Phoenix."
IN THE STANDINGS, DO YOU WORK BETTER WHEN YOU ARE CHASING SOMEONE OR WHEN YOU'RE THE ONE BEING CHASED? "I prefer to be in the lead but we always do better chasing. Last year we left Texas with the points lead and were able to maintain to the end. I'm excited and hopefully we can do that again but our team always works better under pressure in chasing for whatever reason."
DO YOU THINK THE CHASE FORMAT AND BEING UNDER PRESSURE SUITS YOUR DRIVING STYLE? "I think so. I think it's more personality than anything. Jeff works better under pressure. I feel that I do the same. Our team does it on pit road. When the pressure's really on.it's not that we're any better, we just operate well in that space and rarely make mistakes. That's something I'm real proud of."
KNOWING YOU PERFORM WELL IN THE CHASE, HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP YOU IN SITUATIONS LIKE HAVING TO CATCH JEFF WITH THREE RACES LEFT? "It really is a big benefit. Experience is everything and I feel that I have a lot of experience and a lot of confidence to fall on because of last year's championship. The guy I'm racing has three more championships than I do so he's more seasoned than I am but I do feel, and I said it before the Chase started, I would favor champions first because dealing with the stress and dealing with all that goes on in the Chase, that's tough to deal with and I've lived it every year and last year was able to get the job done and I know how intense it is and how difficult it is. We're doing a great job. I look at Clint and I don't want to count him out because the guy's been really, really strong and hasn't been letting the pressure get to him so it's not out of the question but experience I always give the way to."
DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM FEED OFF OF BEING ABLE TO PERFORM WHEN YOU HAVE TO? "I do. I feel that it's a characteristic that I'm proud of and I think our team feeds off of it certainly."
DO THE CUP DRIVERS ADD TO OR TAKE AWAY FROM THE BUSCH SERIES? "I think every Nextel Cup driver that's out there has come through the Busch Series and they use the Cup drivers as the measuring stick of some sort, where they were at in their career and if they were ready to move on. I would say it would be a big problem to have these Cup guys if we had 20 cars showing up and going home - or 20 cars going home I should say - but when we barely have enough to make the field, if the Cup guys weren't here the quality of racing that would be on track and the level of racing it wouldn't be good enough for the fans or good enough for television.
"Yeah, I think that a Busch regular should win the championship. I guess maybe that's the incorrect way to put it. I think that a non Nextel Cup regular (should win it). I like the idea of the Busch regulars being able to win the championship and not a Nextel Cup driver."
IS JEFF FEELING MORE PRESSURE SINCE HE HASN'T WON A CHAMPIONSHIP SINCE 2001? "I don't know. If he is he's not showing it. He's such a seasoned veteran. He wants this fifth one bad. I've seen him driving more aggressively, more intense. He wants this more than I've ever seen. I find it hard to believe though that he's under any more pressure. I would take the other three championships under my belt and use that confidence. I'm not sure he's under any more (pressure) than what we're under."
WHAT IS YOUR PREDICTION FOR THE FOOTBALL GAME THIS WEEKEND BETWEEN THE COLTS AND PATRIOTS? "It's going to be a tough game. I'm looking forward to watching it but I think that the Colts are going to come out on top."
WITH THE SPOILER CAR BEING GONE NEXT YEAR, CAN YOU HAVE SENTINEMENT FOR A BODY TYPE LIKE THIS GOING AWAY? "I think so. I really think our cars look good right and now I'm not in love with the look of the Car of Tomorrow. I hate that side of it but racing is always changing and always moving on and there's not much we can do about it except savor these last few races that we have with them."
HOW MANY TIMES HAVE PEOPLE MIXED YOU UP WITH THE FOOTBALL COACH JIMMY JOHNSON? "From time to time. Luckily there's a large enough age gap and we don't look anything alike to where people would draw any conclusions. But I have met him before. I was fortunate enough to go to a championship game last year and spend a little time in the post-game show with him and he couldn't be a nicer guy so I look forward to seeing him here."
ARE YOU A COWBOYS OR A CHARGER FAN? "I have family in Texas and they've insisted that I be a Cowboy fan through the years. Nothing's better than Texas though. I always had a lot of fun growing up in San Diego. My dad and sister lived here in Texas and the rivalry between my aunts and my father, Charges versus Cowboys, was always a lot of fun to watch and pick on each other and what the teams were doing."
PHOENIX ISN'T A SHORT TRACK BUT SOME DRIVERS SAY IT DRIVES LIKE ONE. WHY DOES IT MAKE FOR GOOD RACING? "It's a tough track. It seems like it's more of a single mile track than anything. There has been an outside lane the last few times at different points in the event. It's a lot like New Hampshire. It doesn't look like it but I think the racing and how important track position is and issues like that are more like New Hampshire than anything."
WHAT'S THE KEY TO WINNING AT PHOENIX? "I don't know. I haven't done it yet. Still working on that. Track position is very, very important at the end of that thing."
HOW MUCH AFFECT CAN THE PHOENIX RACE HAVE ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I don't think any more than anything else. It just depends on the race before hand I guess. Right now I'm nine down so we know what's in store. Depending on what goes on this weekend, that kind of carries it more than anything."
ARE YOU A PERSON THAT BELIEVES THAT YOU CAN HAVE BAD LUCK OR GOOD LUCK? "There certainly are things out of our control. I'm not sure anybody does anything to deserve a certain type of luck but I certainly do think, well that was good luck and that was bad luck."
ON HAVING A LOT OF MEDIA ATTENTION RIGHT NOW: "This is what our sport's about. We're going to have our final two races. All the pressure, all the hype, everything's here. It comes with the territory so I'm glad to be in this position."
HOW MUCH LESS PRESSURE DO YOU FEEL THIS YEAR BECAUSE YOU HAVE THAT ONE CHAMPIONSHIP UNDER YOUR BELT? "The pressure is still there but I'm just so much more confident. I feel like I've got a better outlook on the championship battle, the remaining races, how to deal with the pressure associated with it. The pressure is still as intense but I'm much more relaxed going through it."
ON SOME SAYING THERE COULD BE A SECOND RACE IN LAS VEGAS AFTER THE ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT BRUTON SMITH BUYING NEW HAMPSHIRE AND IF HE LIKES THAT PROSPECT: "I don't think that's a bad idea. I think we need to race more on the west coast. It's tough though because we see tracks pick up second dates and the attendance drops. Bruton's a great promoter and I think he's going to be challenged to do that in that market. We've seen it in California, it's off. Vegas has been strong, but we'll just have to see. You look at Bristol, you look at Texas - those are the hardest tickets to get so I hope that we have that problem where the track is sold out and the sport's going in the right direction."
ON WHERE RICK HENDRICK STANDS IN THE HISTORY OF NASCAR: "You look at the years he's been in the sport, the amount of victories he's had, the drivers that have been through Hendrick Motorsports. I certainly think (he has a place in NASCAR's history). He's maybe not a pioneer of racing. He was involved in the '80s which is well into NASCAR's existence already but I think Rick is responsible for the multi-car teams and really making it what it is today, not only with having the first two car team but growing it to three and four car teams and how you're supposed to really run and operate it. I'd hold him responsible for that. I think that he's really led the charts in that. And then as we all know Rick, he's such a generous, humble man. If he's not remembered for anything else but being a great man I know he'd be happy with that."
-credit: gm racing