"We are a big family at Hendrick Motorsports" - Johnson

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Chevrolet, met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed his odds in the Chase, information sharing between teams at Hendrick Motorsports and other topics. 

Talk about starting off the chase here at chicagoland speedway: “Just like everybody, all the chasers that have come through in saying that I'm excited to be here.  I’m very proud of my team and what we have done to get to this point.  Now it’s time to put up our best 10 races and I feel confident about things.  I feel good about our team and where we are at.  It’s really time just to get to work now.”

In 2010 going down the Stretch, Texas, Phoenix, Miami you had a crew change.  This year with all four teams in the chase that is not likely to happen again; can you talk a little bit about having the four teams and what it means in terms of strategy going ahead? “That was a unique situation in Texas when we changed crews, with the wreck that the No. 24 had it had them out of position to win the championship. 

Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsport
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsport

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

We needed to spark things off over the wall and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made probably one of the gutsiest calls ever from a crew stand point during a race.  We have made a lot of changes since then and feel like we have back-ups in Lowe’s attire and we wouldn’t need to take such dramatic steps and go get another teammates crew. 

We are a big family at Hendrick Motorsports and I think that year showed how united we all are and how dedicated we are to getting a Hendrick car to win the championship.  When I accepted the championship trophy and went through the whole night we had all those crew members there. 

They were all a part of what took place in 2010.  We really don’t want to be in that position again.  We feel that we won’t.  We have made some decisions to keep us from being in that situation and we will do what we can to help our teammates, but when we get in the race it’s all about what each individual team can do to win.  It’s win a race and get maximum points for themselves.”

A lot of guys asked about the odds of the championship noted that you guys were the favorites far and away and for several different reasons.  What odds would you give yourself to have the opportunity to win a sixth championship? “I don’t know much about the odds.  I looked at that sheet they were talking about the…

you are nine to five in vegas: “I still don’t know what that means.  I see it’s at the top of the list. I was asking (Denny) Hamlin and (Greg) Biffle because they both understand all that stuff and neither one of them could give me a clear answer as to what it really meant.  I see I’m at the top and it’s great to be there. 

I think that it is a tip of the cap from whomever, from the masses, or whatever it is Sportsbook.  I feel that my chances are good, but I think this year it’s just very difficult to say who is going to be hot.  We have seen Hamlin hot over the last couple of weeks.  We look at the stretch from Indy and the races that followed; there were a lot of people ready to hand me the trophy then. 

Now it’s switched to Denny (Hamlin), prior to me it was someone else.  I mean our chances are good; our odds are good, but just like in football or any other sport you have to go out there and play the game or run the race.  That is where we are at.  I do feel good about things.  I feel that we are competitive and we have shown that late in the regular season and that is important moving forward.” 

If you look internally what does your team have? Why do you believe that you guys can win this year’s championship? “I think we have speed in key areas clearly on the race track.  Our over-the-wall group is doing an amazing job.  The strategy and race calling has changed and evolved a bit over the years. 

I feel that we are on top of that and making the right decisions week in and week out.  Those three pieces are key and then the final one I want to add in is we have the experience.  The experience Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and I have together during these Chases and really a lot of core crew members of our team. 

It doesn’t mean that we are going to win the Championship, but experience has meant so much to me in my career and I’ve learned from my mistakes.  I always put previous champions top of the list as a favorite to start off. With the five that we have and the core group that has been a part of all of that, that’s helpful.”

Do you think there will ever be a day when there will be an electric nascar series and if so are you young enough to drive in it? “I don’t believe my age will really work out for that (laughs).  I don’t think that it is out of the question.  Our sport was founded on being a test bed for the manufacturers and if consumer sales are heading that way and it’s important to manufacturers I think there is a chance. 

It’s hard to imagine right now, but what is the world look like in 20 years.  Where is racing in 20 years?  How are we relevant to the manufacturer and the consumer in 20 years?  Those questions are out there and racing is expensive we can’t do it on our own we need to make sure that it falls in line with what the manufacturers need.”

How do you see information sharing changing with all four Hendrick (Motorsports) cars in the chase? “I don’t really see it.  In our debriefs we go through and the crew chiefs talk about what the day was like and what we went through. That is all in the database anyway so they just kind of highlight some areas and then drivers kind of add to and maybe ask a question or two back and forth about something. 

I don’t see it changing a lot.  Maybe those guys feel differently, maybe I just instinctively did something different over the five years of racing with my teammates for championships.  I don’t see it being a lot different and so much of that is due to the fact that the database is there with everything.

I push the button in the car and what I say gets entered in.  Every adjustment we make is entered in.  That has always been there.  It is about the crew chiefs and the engineers to dig through that and find what might work for their race car.  I don’t see it being a lot different.”

Was it different at all in 2007 when you and jeff (gordon) were slugging it out race to race? “It was different you feel the tension at times, rightfully so because we are in the same shop at that point. The No. 24 and everybody involved in that team wants a championship and is well deserving of that and we do too. 

I guess I felt it more just from being around people physically being around them than I did as far as communication changing.  It’s not comfortable in some of those meetings late in the year when you are racing your teammate, but at the same time I’ve been racing non teammates and wondering what are they thinking about right now. 

It is good and bad, but at points there is an advantage racing your teammate because you know what the set-up is, you know what he’s thinking, if he’s confident.  It would help me sleep better at night or know if we need to work harder as to where when I was racing other guys there was always that question mark, are they any good, what is going on.  There is good and bad to both.”

Carl edwards was talking about how it feels weird coming to the track and not feeling the pressure to compete for the chase and the championship.  When does that pressure for you and you think most drivers actually set in? “I think it really steps up today.  Then as the weeks go by where you are at in things kind of cues that up a little bit more it just depends some guys manage it differently and better than others. 

But for me I certainly notice a different here and then if I’m in a good spot and contending it continues to ramp up, even last year I felt a different kind of pressure as we started to slip away and that door starts closing on you for the championship.  There is a different kind of pressure that shows up then.  I have to imagine that every guy woke up this morning and felt a little different when they realized it was Chicago.”

Do you still maintain your personal notebook for each track and how has that helped? “Yes, definitely I go through my notes some weeks in more detail than others and that kind of thing.  Definitely still have my personal notebook and pull through that stuff.

The team does an amazing job of collecting conversations and data from race weekends and I pour through that information as well and know what is going on.  At least last time we were here then you have got to bring in the elements of change from a different tire and rule changes and stuff.  Definitely spend a lot of time studying things.”

Source: Team Chevy Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Article type Interview
Tags chevrolet, chicagoland, johnson, nascar-cup