Winston: Jimmie Johnson press conference

Jimmie Johnson Teleconference Transcript Tuesday, May 13, 2003 Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, The ...

Jimmie Johnson Teleconference Transcript
Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet discusses his 2003 season and outlook for the upcoming race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, The Winston.

Johnson currently sits in sixth place in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings (247 points behind the leader) following his 19th-place finish in the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway two weeks ago. Johnson has ranked among the top-10 in the Winston Cup points standings for 44 consecutive races, dating back to the 2002 spring race in Atlanta. Johnson has competed in three races at Lowe's Motor Speedway; scoring top-10 finishes in both races in 2002. He also competed in last year's all-star event, The Winston, winning the race's first two segments.

ON NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR MIKE EASLEY'S CRASH AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY MAY 9 WHILE DRIVING A NO. 48 LOWE'S HOME IMPROVEMENT CHEVROLET WINSTON CUP STOCK CAR "I don't really know much about it. I saw a little bit of it on the news. I was off enjoying 'Mom's Weekend' and started getting a bunch of serious phone calls about loaning my race car to people. I didn't really know what was going on. I'm glad that he's okay. It looked like he was having fun. I really don't have much to add to it other than we have a wrecked race car and that Gov. Easley is okay.

"He was out there doing about the same speed as the Petty Driving School - maybe a little bit faster. Obviously our cars are a little better equipped to run a little faster than what you'd have at one of the Petty Driving Experience classes at the speedway. He wasn't at a race pace by any means, but he was out there going pretty good."

WHAT'S YOUR PLAN FOR THE WINSTON THIS SATURDAY NIGHT? "I'm looking forward to good things at The Winston. Obviously we were very successful there last year. We went back there and tested and I'm looking for great things."

ON THE COCA COLA 600 BEING A VERY LONG RACE "The 600 is the longest one. It's definitely going to be a long day and some guys are going to have an even longer one with doing the Indianapolis 500 along with the 600. It's going to be good for us. Last year I had the race pretty much in hand until the end until I made a mistake late in the race and slid through my pit box. Hopefully we'll have everything cleaned up and be fine."

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT A POLITICIAN DRIVING A RACE CAR? "Really, there's nothing different about it for anyone that wants to take the chance to go to one of the driving schools and experience it. If you go to one of the driving schools, you're running 150-160mph. So what Gov. Easley was doing out there wasn't anything too far beyond the driving school. Anyone can take a driving school - young kids, males, females, and people from all walks of life. I really don't think it's as big of a deal. Obviously it's a recognizable face and name that was in the car. We hate that it got away from him. When you go to the (Petty Driving) Experience classes, they set the car up so it won't spin out. We had a car that was a little bit faster and well set up for Lowe's Motor Speedway and he ended up looping it out and hitting the wall. We wish that it didn't happen, but there are a lot of people from all walks of life taking driving schools and to get that experience in racing and that's all the governor was doing."

WHAT ROLE DO ENGINEERS PLAY ON YOUR TEAM AND HOW IMPORTANT ARE THEY?) "We have engineers working in a lot of different aspects (like) chassis set-ups and development, shocks, aerodynamics, and tires. We have engineers in every department. We're trying to better understand what's going on underneath our race cars. When we have the good days, we want to understand that and make it happen each time and understand why it happens. It takes engineers to understand it. There is so much going on. We're learning how to instrument all these different parts on the race cars. It's a big part of what we do."

DO YOU EVER THINK WE'LL SEE A TIME IN NASCAR RACING WHEN ENGINEERS CALL THE SHOTS? "There is a big percentage of that going on now. The crew chief in some respects is an engineer - maybe not with a degree in hand, but I would call a lot of our crew chiefs engineers now. I think the way NASCAR has the rules to not let computers on the race cars during our events will slow that process down and won't exactly let that happen. But it exists to a certain point now and engineers definitely serve up a set-up and an idea to the crew chiefs and then we try to make it work from there because we're all looking for an advantage."

WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THE 'DOUBLE' LIKE ROBBY GORDON IS DOING BY RACING BOTH THE INDY 500 AND THE 600 ON THE SAME DAY? "I'd like to do it some day but I don't think I would like it the same day as the 600. It's been a dream to drive an open wheel car. I don't know if that event would be the one to do it in - especially with the Winston Cup obligations we have. The Indianapolis 500 I think is every kid's dream to race in."

WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL BELIEF FOR WHY YOU HAVEN'T WON YET THIS YEAR? "It just hasn't worked out for us. We've been competitive. We've been leading laps. We've been up front. For some reason at the closing stages of races, we've had some bad luck. We've had six races out of 11 where with 30 laps to go; something off the wall has happened to us. We've had engine failures to spin outs to being run into - all kinds of different things have been going on for us."

CAN YOU COMPARE THE TWO WEEKS IN CHARLOTTE TO THE TWO WEEKS IN DAYTONA WITH REGARD TO PRESTIGE, PERFORMANCE, AND PRESSURE? "With our All-Star event, there is obviously a lot of money at stake. It's just a fun event without as much pressure, but it's still a race. The guys are working just as hard as they would for a normal weekend. It has a more fun atmosphere to it. It's a very prestigious event with some fun involved. The 600, being the most grueling race we have, you have to do it as well. We've got a good solid two weeks at home for the families to build up for it. For us, being at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Lowe's car definitely adds some pressure. Hopefully we'll be able to win at our home track."

HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO DAYTONA? "It's different. At Daytona, at the beginning of the year, you're wondering what people have and who is going to be strong. On the speedway races, you can always hold back - especially for qualifying. Nobody truly knows what the pole speeds are going to be and who it's going to be from until qualifying starts. There's such a build-up before qualifying - you've got a week of wondering who is going to win the pole. It's just a different feel. At Lowe's Motor Speedway these two weeks, nobody can hold back. So it's a little different - at least from our standpoint as a team."

NOW THAT YOU'RE IN YOUR SECOND YEAR, HAVE YOU FOUND IT EASIER TO BALANCE YOUR PERSONAL LIFE WITH YOUR RACING & SPONSORSHIP OBLIGATIONS? "It's still a challenge. I find myself developing into really having a small business that I have to run outside of the race car. With obligations to sponsors, fans, fan club meetings, personal endorsements, and everything that's going on, I'm kind of in another transitional stage. I need to look at it as a small business instead of just as my life, and set it up with some structure and have an office and some personnel and really handle it like a small business. I'm still learning how to balance it all out. I'm very fortunate to be at Hendrick Motorsports and working with the people that I'm working with to balance these things. They provide me with great resources and great people so that I can get help in all these different areas. I'm learning how to do it day by day. It'll still be a couple of years before I have it figured out."

DO YOU LIKE NIGHT RACES AND IF SO, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF THEM ON THE SCHEDULE? "They're always fun - especially in the summer with the heat issues. At night under the lights, it's cooler for us. More than anything though, it gives us a Sunday at home and that's real important for all the crew guys and their families. We have a lot of young guys on the road that are possibly starting families and buying houses and newly married. It might not sound like a lot, but 14 days really makes a difference for everyone. I'd like to see more night races with Sundays at home."

WERE YOU SURPRISED AT LAST YEAR'S WINSTON THAT YOU AND RYAN NEWMAN, TWO ROOKIES, DOMINATED ALL THE SEGMENTS? "I thought it was pretty cool (laughs). I was surprised with Ryan. He made it in on the last transfer spot on each event and then was able to win the whole thing - the important part. We dominated the first two (segments) and then didn't get back to the lead for the last one. Looking back, it was surprising for the rookies to come into the All-Star event and take all the cash."

CAN YOU USE THE WINSTON AS A PERFORMANCE GAUGE? "The segments in The Winston are long enough that handling and tire wear really comes into play. The players in The Winston will probably be the players in the 600. Granted, it gives everybody time to work on their stuff. If you're not good at The Winston, you go home and improve your program for the 600. I think it's a good gauge and practice session for everyone for the 600."

IS THERE A LOT OF PLANNING BETWEEN YOU AND CHAD KNAUS FOR THE WINSTON THIS YEAR? "Yeah. The second segment - with the fans having the choice of the inversion - you know they're going to invert 10 (spots), the whole field. I think I made it to third or fourth last year and Dale Jr. made it to second. We both started in the last row. If either one of us had been a row or two from that, it would have been fine. Winning that second segment is probably a bad move and a bad thing that we did last year. But it's really hard to tell yourself not to win and to let off the gas and not do what you've been doing the whole time. I hate that part. I'd hope it would change somehow to where you didn't have to sandbag the second event to have a good starting spot for the third one."

WITH HENDRICK TEAMMATES BRIAN VICKERS AND KYLE BUSCH UNDER 20, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEM BEING IN THE BUSCH SERIES AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE? "I thought I was young at 23 and 24 years old when I was in there. I forget that Brian is that young. He's been in the Busch Series for a couple of years running his dad's equipment. He's been out there and doing well. I forget his age sometimes and forget that he missed a (school) Prom or whatever to run in a race. I think it's neat that these guys are mature enough to step in and run well at such a high level of racing. I think it's neat that these car owners are giving these guys a shot. I was coming along and trying to get my opportunities. I feel like things happened real early for me. I wish they would have happened sooner in some respects, but my roads turned out fine in the end. It is amazing that they're able to have the talent and professionalism to handle themselves like they do at such a young age."

WHAT TALENT DO YOU SEE IN THEM? "I've been around Brian enough to learn him and I know his crew chief, Lance, well. I'm most impressed with their communication. Obviously both of them have the speed and they're in good equipment. But it boils down to communication and they have done a very good job of understanding the race cars and making them fast every week. That's the tricky part. I'm not sure Kyle's situation is working out and how all that is developing, but that's the key part. It must be in his blood since his brother is doing well too. They both have the foundation to build on and hopefully over time, they'll be able to pull it all together."

-hm/lowes-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson