NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
5-HOUR ENERGY 400
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MAY 9, 2014
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed not having a win in 2014, the potential to change up the All-Star format and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO YOUR FANS WHO MIGHT BE CONCERNED THAT YOU HAVEN’T WON YET?
“Until we are not locked in I mean there is nothing to worry about. Where we sit in points right now we are locked in. Of course we want to win; we want to win every race we go to. We have been in the ballpark and have been very close to victory a couple of times and it got away. Yes, there have been some poor performances. We are trying to raise that. I don’t think that we are where we want to be as a team right now, but we have had a few looks at wins and I know we will get a few more. We just need to capitalize on that. If not, points still matter. There is a bigger window to make the Chase today than there was last year. Last year was 12, this year it’s 16. I don’t think there is anything to stress out about yet.”
TALK ABOUT THE SPIN LAST WEEK AND YOU AND CHAD (KNAUS) AND THE TENSION OR HOW YOU GET OVER THAT.
“Really last week was just plate racing. We had a very fast race car and felt like a car that I could create opportunities to pass and win. Was very pleased with how the day was going. We got caught up in the first big wreck and did some damage to the car. After that the second wreck was me spinning out. I’m still assuming with the right side damage we had on the car that was a big factor as to why I just spun out. We fixed the car from there and I was racing through the field again. I got clobbered at the start/finish line taking the white flag and broke the right-front suspension. So it is just plate racing. It’s easy to write it off as to plate racing when the championship is not on the line at Talladega. When we go back in the fall it’s a much different race for us all. Our big thing is lets at least see the white flag. If we make it to the white flag we are happy. Dale, Jr. has kind of instilled that in our race shop. We saw the white flag so I was cool.”
“We are going. I mean Chad (Knaus, crew chief) isn’t happy unless we are winning races we all know that. He certainly has had some sleepless nights. We tested last week at Nashville. We are working hard. Chad doesn’t have an outbound filter. When he hits the button or when he speaks there is nothing slowing down his honest opinion. 13 years of working with him it’s family. That stuff doesn’t bother me.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WAY BRAD KESELOWSKI WAS RACING LAST WEEK AT TALLADEGA? I WANT TO GET THE VETERANS PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT THE CODE IS AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT DID TRANSPIRE THERE:
“It’s a tough position to be in. You have to think being six laps down you are not going to get back on the lead lap. There is an opinion you are on the race track you deserve a right to go race regardless how many laps down you are. I’m sure that is probably a smaller percentage of people have that opinion. It’s very easy when you are caught up in that wreck is to go ‘why were you racing, you are six laps down’. It just depends on where you are. If you are a No. 2 fan or Brad (Keselowski) you are probably over here. If you are one of the drivers’ the fan base that was caught up in the wreck you are probably in the majority in thinking it wasn’t right to race then. Six laps down, me personally I would have just been riding and tried to save our race car from getting torn up. Just sit there at the back of the pack.”
FROM A RESPECT POINT OF VIEW DOES BRAD NEED TO EARN MORE RESPECT NOW BECAUSE OF WHAT DID TRANSPIRE? OR IS THIS JUST WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE?
“Nobody intentionally tries to crash and take out other race cars. I personally think that what happened in Talladega just falls into that restrictor plate bucket that we just kind of overlook a lot of things that take place at plate tracks. Then you move on and you go to a normal downforce track and race. Yes, cars were crashed, but it’s not like, just using Brad as an example. It’s not like he went into the corner and just dumped somebody and there is going to be retaliation for a move like that. It is plate racing and you just again throw it in the plate bucket and move on.”
WHAT ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM DOING TO GAIN ANOTHER VICTORY IN THE ALL-STAR RACE AND USING THAT RACE TO HELP YOU IN THE COKE 600?
“We have been able to get the All-Star portion under control the last few years. We lacked a little bit in the 600 although we still had decent finishes. You race that is the fun thing about it. You don’t have the pressure of championship points or now a race win to make the Chase weighing on your shoulders. You can be more aggressive with set-up’s. You can be more aggressive with the engine package. You can be more aggressive with how you drive, pit stop calls, going over the wall, just all those things. It just gives us a chance to be freer with decisions that we make. That is fun. The big prize at the end of the day it’s one of our best paying races and mama can buy a lot of shoes after you win that race (laughs).”
ONCE A TEAM REACHES A CERTAIN LEVEL OF SUCCESS AND YOU GUYS HAVE OBVIOUSLY SET THE BAR REALLY HIGH. WHAT ARE THE DIFFICULTIES AT MAINTAINING THAT SUCCESS?
“Successful teams can sometimes be their own worst enemy with expectations that are set in that respect. We have been through dry spells before. A 10-12 race dry spell isn’t a very long one period. We have set an expectation that is less than that. I get it. I understand if we didn’t have any looks at wins this year I would have a much different opinion. I still feel that we are extremely competitive and I feel as an individual I’m a better race car driver today than I was last year. I just keep learning more and experiencing more and add that to my repertoire of things to do. Our team is as strong as it has ever been. Our teammates are all running very well this year.
“Our relationship with Stewart-Haas those cars are quick. Everything is there we just need to own this new rules package and find the No. 48 set-up in it. That is what we are searching for. Some tracks we have been close others not so much, but our drive to compete it really exists within Chad (Knaus) as an individual and me as an individual. That hasn’t changed one bit. We are still as hungry as we have ever been. There is no guarantee that success will be as it was in the past, but we are going to show up and give 100 percent each week. I know we will win our fair share of races. We will make Chases and certainly be a threat for championships.”
TALK ABOUT THE FIRST TIME NIGHT RACING AT KANSAS, WHAT APPROACH AND WHAT CHALLENGES IS THERE ON A TRACK FOR THE FIRST TIME AT NIGHT?
“We know we are going to pick up grip. Some tracks lean towards more front percentage. Other tracks it’s more rear percentage. Don’t know why, but the balance changes. Some tracks we know as the night wears on you are going to get looser. That is probably more of the standard, but there are a few tracks that go the other way. We will kind of take our best guess moving forward and look at past notes and when the track surface is cool where the balance is. Through our day practice sessions take that into consideration as we set-up for the race. We are back on a tire that
we are familiar with. The new surface has had a few races on it, so I don’t think there is going to be any big concerns or questions pop up.
“It’s just about sorting out the new rules package and getting to work. I think night racing is great for our fan base. It’s tough for the teams and drivers because we are so used to a Sunday format and what happens. We sit around a lot in the morning. The crew goes to work and the drivers sit and wait and then it’s finally time to go. If the fans are smiling and hopefully they will show their support by coming out and tuning in Saturday night on television.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO POINT’S RACE?
“There are instances where you are wrecked and you work hard to get your car back on the race track to advance ahead of other people that crash or break or pull out so you are trying to get every point then. If you are protecting something you can point’s race at that point and maybe give 98 percent instead of 100 in a situation. I still think that is pretty rare, especially with the Chase format at the end of the year. You need every point you can get if it’s even leading a lap. I would say it kind of really fits the back side and when you have a crash or some type of mechanical it’s important to get back out on the track to get every point you can then and kind of slow the bleeding down for that weekend.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THE ALL-STAR FORMAT? HOW THEY MIGHT CAN CHANGE OR IMPROVE IT TO CREATE MORE LAST LAP DRAMA?
“If they have us run the first two segments going the correct direction and then the final segment we run backwards (crowd erupts in laughter). That is about the only thing we haven’t tried. Every year it’s a different format. I don’t know, but that could work. Or we just run the short track, the small track. Run the first two heats on the big track and then run the small track at the end. Or the road course, hell, shoot us through the road course. I mean it hasn’t been from a lack of effort. I can’t think of the 13 years I’ve gone in racing the All-Star event there has ever been the same thing each year. I respect and I say all that not trying to knock the track or the format, but we try. There is unfortunately a level of competition that there are some facts that the fastest always finds its way to the front. We also know that the faster we go the harder it is to pass. Charlotte is a very fast race track so the groove gets narrower and narrower so there are some things we just can’t overcome I feel. Unless we mix it up and run it backwards or run the short track.”
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES