NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 12, 2014
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format strategies, challenges, approachs, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET AS YOU BEGIN PREPARATION FOR THE WEEKEND IN CHICAGO
“I’m excited to get back in the car and get to work. It’s been a much different week for all the Chasers, with the media circuits we’ve been on and two full days leading up to the on-track activity today.
“So, I’m excited to get the racing mindset back to the forefront of my mind and we’ve all said plenty and probably have worn everybody out with our remarks and questions and answers, and now it’s time to get on the track and go to work.”
YESTERDAY YOU SAID YOU WEREN’T GETTING ANY AIR INTO YOUR HELMET (AT THE RICHMOND RACE), BUT THEN YOU SAID YOU WERE GETTING WARM AIR INTO YOUR HELMET. WHICH ONE WAS IT?
“Sorry. The cool box itself has a fan in it; and then there is a fan behind it to help increase the air speed. So, there was some air coming out of it but the A/C portion of it wasn’t working. So when they did a quick check of things at the track initially, with the switch on I’m sure there was some air coming out, but as they got in deeper and pulled the cool box out and tested it, it wasn’t working. Sorry for the confusion on all that.”
HOW DOES YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL, HEADING INTO THIS CHASE, COMPARE TO OTHER YEARS WHEN YOU’VE WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP? IS THERE A YEAR THAT IS SIMILAR, AND THAT STANDS OUT TO YOU?
“I don’t recall exact thoughts. The most current thoughts would be last year’s Chase. And we had a terrible run of races leading into the Chase and then we got off to a good start and obviously won the championship. So, I’m reminding myself of that. I do feel like there were a couple of Chases that we had momentum on our side and we came in and got off to a great start and won championships. So, it really is it’s own world. Just like any other sport when the playoffs start, everything starts over on a clean sheet of paper. I’ve had it work either way where the regular season was beneficial and momentum was on my side and I’ve had it where the regular season wasn’t so good and momentum was against me.
“So, over the ten races, a lot can happen. And this year, with the format changing as dramatically as it has, the opportunity for somebody to stay alive and really; you just need to be hot towards the end, if not really hot in one race. So, we’ll just see how it all plays out.”
YESTERDAY DENNY HAMLIN MENTIONED THAT MINIMIZING MISTAKES WOULD BE KEY TO THE FIRST ROUND AND THAT HE WOULD PROBABLY BE BACKING OFF ON PIT ROAD SPEED ON SUNDAY JUST TO MAKE SURE THERE WERE NO ERRORS. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WILL BE THINKING ABOUT AND WATCHING THESE FIRST THREE RACES?
“Yeah, but you know, that’s just the balance that we’re faced with as drivers and teams. It’s so easy to think ‘big picture’ before an event, but when you get in the car and you know how important pit road speed is, you might forget that you planned on being cautious and you might forget when you’re racing somebody three-wide like oh man, I thought I was going to be smart here. That’s the beauty of racing. We get sucked-in and we race hard and we get all that we can.
“But I really feel that it isn’t any different than the way you’ve had to win championships in the past. You have to battle that fine line of risk versus reward. And with as competitive as our garage area is, you can’t leave a half-second on pit road. You can’t leave a couple tenths on the race track. You’ve got to somehow dial-in 100 percent and no more.”
THIS IS A WHOLE NEW WORLD IN TERMS OF THE BREAKDOWN OF THE CHASE IN THIS 10-RACE FORMAT; SO WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL STRATEGY OF APPROACH AS YOU ENTER THIS THING?
‘I think it goes in multiple directions depending on your races. If you have poor finishes in the first and second races and you’re not looking strong in points, it’s really easy for that third race; you need the Hail Mary to make something happen. If you get off to a quick start and you’re solid in the points, of course you’re going to take an opportunity to win, but you know you’re covering the base on points. I think there are going to be multiple strategies that take place, depending on performance. And then, after three races, you’re going to have to re-rack and start it over again. So, I don’t know. I think that’s what makes it interesting right now is that there isn’t a clear strategy that they can play out. Winning races does, period; but that’s kind of the design of the format to start with. But, I think it would be a stretch if somebody won three or four races in the Chase. That would be really tough to do. So you’re going to have to kind of count on points as well.”
LAST YEAR YOU HAD 7 TOP 5’S AND NINE TOP-10’S AND YOU’VE WON CHAMPIONSHIPS BEFORE WITH FOUR OR FIVE WINS, WILL IT TAKE A PERFORMANCE SIMILAR TO THAT TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR WITH THIS FORMAT?
“It’s hard to say, but I’m counting on it. We’ve seen a lot of strength out of teams and it’s just amazing to me how every year the competition gets more intense and how much more difficult it is to win and really, that average finishing result just keeps getting to a smaller and smaller number. I’m planning for that, and hopefully we can light it up here.”
EVERY SPORT HAS RIVALRIES. DURING THIS CHAMPIONSHIP, IS IT HENDRICK VERSUS PENSKE? IF IT ISN’T, WHY?
“I guess the only twist to that is the Stewart-Haas thing, but obviously they are Hendrick cars. Yes, I would kind of feel that way when I go through my favorites and pick out my top four or fives cars, they are Hendrick vehicles and Penske vehicles.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE CHASE BRACKETS, IS THERE ONE THAT YOU THINK IS GOING TO BE MORE OF A CHALLENGE FOR YOU AND THE NO. 48 TEAM?
“I think just based on the numbers when you get to the end and you have four that transfer to Homestead, forgive me for not knowing all the catchy names we have. What is the one we have before Homestead? Ah, the Eliminator, yes. So, I think when we get down to the Eliminator, that block of tracks, just based on the numbers, there is only four transferring from there; and I am very happy with the three race tracks in that Eliminator round. I think that out of the rounds, that is probably the toughest one. But, you go Homestead and truthfully, that one race…I guess I’m thinking differently. I’m not trying to not answer your question. Homestead by far is the most difficult one. Four guys, equal points. But, as you work through the segments, the eliminator round is really the toughest because there are less cars transferring.”
IF YOU ARE IN AT HOMESTEAD, WHICH THREE DRIVERS WOULD YOU BE MOST HAPPY TO BE RACING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, AND WHICH THREE DO YOU THINK WOULD GIVE YOU THE MOST COMPETITION IN THAT RACE? “I don’t know the stats, but I would want the three worst Homestead averages. LAUGHS…and heck, I might be in that category for all I know. The flip would be the three that have the best Homestead record. The No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) has always been strong there. The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) has been good there if memory serves me right. But, I would just go off the stats. That is how I would play it.”
FROM MICHIGAN TO NOW, WAS THE TEAM DOING ANY R & D ON SETUPS ETC.? “With a new rules package that we have, there’s been a lot of development going on and a lot of looking at our teammates, and what works for there. What showed speed for us. So yes, absolutely. This year I think it has been more of a moving target for a lot of teams trying to find what builds consistent speed in the race cars. So sure, we’ve been experimenting. We’ve been working on things. But, we didn’t consciously look at it and say, ‘Okay, we’ve won a couple of races; we’re going way off in left field and try something different. We’ve just been racing, and trying to make our stuff better. I’m sure there’s been development but it hasn’t been like a conscious R & D effort.
“That would explain the root of your question – some bad results, and maybe not the race wins or finishes that we want. I think we were competitive through most of that stretch; we just had some really funky races. Tires issues, and crashed it at Daytona; just a lot of different things went on. But historically that window of time you were talking about has always been a slow period for the No. 48 for a variety of reasons.”
IF YOU MAKE IT TO THE FINAL RACE WHERE SIMPLY THE HIGHEST FINISHER OF THE FOUR DRIVERS WINS, WOULD THAT BE GREATLY DRAMATIC TO HOW YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAVE APPROACHED IT WHEN YOU’VE COME IN WITH A CERTAIN POINTS LEAD COMING INTO THE LAST RACE?
“It would change that mindset; the energy. We’ve been fast down there. The year that Brad (Keselowski) won (the championship) we were leading the race, and in a position to win and had a series of mistakes that took us out of contention. We had to go down there and race Denny (Hamlin) once and got that done. Last year we ran up front in the majority of the race. Matt (Kenseth) was leading – trying to put pressure on Matt and chasing him around in second spot. I definitely feel like we can go there and win. It’s not Dover for us, just being honest. But it’s still a strong track for us, and we can go down there I think and get the job done if need be.”