Chevy Racing–Loudon–Jimmie Johnson

NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY                                                    
JULY 12, 2013
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed competing for the championship, other contenders and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
TALK ABOUT COMING INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE THIS WEEKEND AND COMING OFF OF LAST WEEK’S WIN AT DAYTONA:  “Excited to be here.  This track is challenging for everybody.  Chad (Knaus, crew chief) really likes this race track and the engineering required to get the car to work.  There is very little vertical loading and a lot of lateral loading with the race car and the way you use the springs and shocks and the roll center of the car to make the car work.  Chad really enjoys that exercise.  I feel like last year we were the second best car in both races.  The 11 (Denny Hamlin) had a bunch of speed, but won a few times here and have been competitive and it’s always been a good track for me.  Excited to be back and a lot like the other drivers hopeful to be in the Chase and we look at this track and know that we come back here in the Chase and we need to treat this with a little more care and attention.  If you leave here with a good result, it just kind of checks one of the boxes going into the Chase that you feel like you can be competitive.”
DID LAST SEASON’S CHASE MAKE YOUR TEAM MORE CONSISTENT THIS YEAR?:  “I look at 2011 and think there was more growing that went on over that off season leading into ’12 than what’s gone on from the end of ’12 to now.  We had the speed, we had the tools to win the championship last year.  The year before, we didn’t and there was more going on there.  Last year we had that bad race at Phoenix, but still went to Homestead and were in great position to take care of business and a series of mistakes by our own team so we took ourselves out of it.  That’s almost easier to swallow and deal with than it is being slow.  In a weird way we spent less time focusing on changes that we needed to make and what was going on with our speed in the end result than we did in ’11.  We spent a lot of time thinking about things and knew that we needed to dig in deep and rethink our engineering process, the way we were taking cars to the race track and a lot of stuff there.  I think that this off season was really just a continuation of where we were at the end of last year.  Even though we didn’t get the championship, we had a lot to be proud of over those last 10 races and a lot of speed in our car and it’s just too bad that events at the end on top of the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car really doing an awesome job kept us from winning the championship.”
ARE THERE OTHER TEAMS YOU CONSIDER SERIOUS THREATS FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?:  “Oh yeah.  Without a doubt.  I think there are a few out there that have showed their strength.  The 20 (Matt Kenseth) car is the first car that comes to mind.  Right now we have a big points lead, but that all goes away when the Chase gets here and that changes the game.  Not only that aspect, but we still have a few months before the Chase starts and we know how fast things can change in the garage area and the speed that an organization may have might not be there two months from now.  We’re looking ahead and we’ve been testing and we have a lot of test sessions left on the books that NASCAR will allow us to test at tracks we race at.  All of that has been saved in hopes that we can find more speed and develop our cars for the end.  I am very proud that we started this season a little bit off on the mile-and-a-half and two-mile race tracks and were able to find that speed and get it in our cars.  Test sessions really kind of take you to that next level and I’m happy that we have that room to grow still.”
DOES THE EXPECTATION TO WIN THE TITLE ADD PRESSURE?:  “I don’t know.  I don’t let that outside pressure affect me much.  I rarely recognize it or see it.  There’s more pressure on myself to perform and more pressure that Chad (Knaus, crew chief) has on himself and our team dynamic than anything outside like that.  I really don’t focus on those things.”
WILL YOU EXPERIMENT MORE IN THE NEXT EIGHT RACES OR JUST FOCUS ON WINS?:  “Ideally we need to do a little of both, but we’d be foolish to get too far away from what we’re doing now.  It’s completely working.  Bonus points are going to be everything and we missed out on some bonus points through the year so far.  A little of both and I would say that the closer we get to the Chase, the less experimenting we would do.  You need to hone in and know what you’re going to take to the track and get familiar with it.  I think it’s also important to run well leading into the Chase so that the driver is used to the pressure and running up front, pit crew is when they jump off the wall to the car.  There is just something about that is good for a team.”
ARE YOU AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME OR ARE YOU STILL IMPROVING?:  “I feel I’m a far better driver today than I am from my rookie year, my first championship or my fifth.  Experience is so helpful and useful and important in our sport.  I remember saying in different media situations that I would trade my age for experience any day.  It really does make a big difference.  When you look at the generations before mine in racing, I saw a stat somewhere that the average Cup driver starting point was in the early 30s.  You look at when (Dale) Earnhardt won his last championship and the bulk of his championships he was older and I think the same thing went for (Richard) Petty.  That’s all because of experience.  I feel that I’m much smarter, focused, my talents are refined, I know the race tracks, I know my industry, everything is so much better today than it was in previous years.”
HOW MUCH MORE INTERESTING WOULD A CHASE BE WITH KURT BUSCH IN IT?:  “I think it would be a huge statement.  I’m not sure if it’s going to change much on the track, he is racing for wins now and in the mix each and every week.  To see a smaller team if they were able to make the Chase and fight for the championship, it really highlights NASCAR’s vision or focuses in on the vision that NASCAR has had all along where anybody can come and show up with a race car and race and have a shot.  I think it would be great for the team to make it and I think for Kurt (Busch) to kind of bring everything full circle and to get that done would be really cool for him.”
DO YOU THINK BRAD KESELOWSKI IS LEARNING HOW TOUGH IT IS TO BE ON TOP?:  “Yeah, every champion goes through it to come back and try to repeat is really difficult to do.  When the spotlight is on you when you’re chasing that first championship and you get it, that light intensifies quite a bit more coming back the next year and I know it from my own experience and it’s five times that what he’s been going through.  The little things that we’ve dealt with over the years that he’s living through and experiencing now.  Everything from you have to be careful what you say because many more people pay attention and a passing comment is now a headline somewhere.  A previous year it was at the tail end of an article and didn’t mean much.  Now it’s a headline.  That’s just one example of how things really changed.  I think he’s handled it well.&nb
sp; We all hit bumps in the road and learn as we go down the road.  I by no means am perfect so I understand what kind of things he’s been through.”
HOW DOES JEFF GORDON FIT IN WITH THE TEAM RIGHT NOW FROM A COMPETITIVE STANDPOINT?:  “I honestly haven’t seen a change in Jeff (Gordon) from when I first started and he was off his last championship year to now.  The feel he has for the car, his focus, his involvement with the team, if anything I would say he’s probably more available to his team and around the race shop today than he was when I started.  He used to tease me because I was the new excited kid who showed up and was there three or four times a week.  He wasn’t there that much.  It’s kind of reversed now a little bit in a lot of ways with the amount of time spent at the shop.  That’s all there and I know he’s working hard and I know Alan (Gustafson, 24 crew chief) is working hard on that team.  They’ve been awfully close. He jokes about how many years of good luck that he had and I guess in some ways he jokes that it’s all coming back on him now because he’s had very fast race cars.  Very capable of winning races and fighting for championships, but he’s had some really wacky things happen to him.”
HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL THAT YOUR TEAM IS HOW OTHERS ARE MEASURED IN HOW TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?:  “That’s a big compliment for sure and we’re proud of that.  At the same time, there isn’t a team that is studied more than us so anything we do the others follow quickly and try to take our system or our formula and try to make it better.  We do a nice job though of keeping our blinders on and worried about our car situation and I think in the long run that has been really good for us and allows us to keep evolving.  It’s a smart garage area and people pay close attention to what we do.”
WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR IMPROVEMENTS WHEN YOU ARE ON TOP AND HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED AT THAT LEVEL?:  “I think for myself I know that it’s not going to last forever and when you’re racing the best in the world you always elevate your game and your abilities to stay there.  That’s just kind of a natural thing for myself that I believe all drivers share that same ambition to win a championship.  From the team side, Chad’s desire and his passion for the sport and for fast race cars really does it.  There aren’t big areas to work anymore.  It’s really about, as he likes to say, stacking pennies.  You just continue to find a little bit in each area and keep stacking and eventually it will turn into something.  That’s where I think he’s different than others.  There are times when he’s putting in all the hours, but maybe we’re working in the wrong area and we missed it.  That happens.  Majority of the time though they’ll figure out the right area to work in and where the speed is in the car and we’ll get it dialed in.  I like him wearing a 48 headset and on top of my pit box and it works really well.”