NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
GOODY’S HEADACHE RELIEF SHOT 500
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 24, 2014
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media today at Martinsville Speedway. He discussed his outlook on the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Martinsville’s history in NASCAR, short-track mentalities, readying for 2015 and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
WE’RE INTERESTED TO KNOW YOUR MINDSET OVER THESE FOUR RACES. YOU CAN’T DEFEND YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP BUT YOU CAN CERTAINLY WIN RACES.
The mindset is simple. We want to close out the year well and finish as high as we can in points. We want to win races. That’s what we’re here for. We did not have a good last three races for a variety of reasons. The results weren’t there. Frankly, two of those results would have eliminated us from championship hope (in past years). I felt like at Talladega, we were given a pretty big gift and we came close to taking advantage of that opportunity. We want to do well. We want to win races. At the same time, this does open up an opportunity for us to work on ’15 from a personnel standpoint and even from a 2015 test plan. Obviously testing is gone next year, so anything we can do to work on the 2015 package will suit us well. We’re not slowing down any. These last four weeks are going to be about as busy as any as we’re getting geared up for 2015.”
HISTORICALLY, MARTINSVILLE HAS BEEN PART OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP. AS YOU LOOK BACK AT YOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS, ARE THERE CRITICAL MOMENTS THAT STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY?
“I’d say that in five of my six championships, we got a lot of points on our competitor – whoever it might be. We came out of here smiling. Last year, Matt (Kenseth) finished ahead of us and historically this hasn’t been a Matt Kenseth track, so I was as shocked as anyone to see him finish ahead of me in that race. But I agree. This has been a track that can certainly shuffle the deck. It’s been kind to a handful of guys. With Jeff (Gordon) and the situation he’s in in the points, I’m hopeful he can take advantage of things this weekend and have a good run.”
LAST WEEK, YOU LED THE MOST LAPS AT TALLADEGA. SEVERAL DRIVERS NOTED THEY HAD NEVER SEEN YOU RUN A BETTER RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE. WAS THAT A RESULT OF BEING IN THE NEED OF A WIN, OR WAS THE CAR REALLY GOOD?
“I think it’s mainly on me and the risks I was willing to take – the position I was in and the situation I was in. It’s so hard to look in your mirror for 95 percent of the lap and block people. It’s just not in my wiring and I don’t think it’s really in many. I was more aggressive in the car in blocking, defending and holding on to control of a lane more than I can remember. I certainly appreciate those remarks, and I saw a few myself. Unfortunately in the end, it didn’t work out. I was in the position where Matt Kenseth ended up at the end having to push the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and I needed to beat the 2 and win. On what I thought was the last green-white-checker, I couldn’t see pushing the 2 to the win and me running second. It wasn’t going to do me any good. I made my move to get to his outside and didn’t have any help. If I made a mistake, that was it. I should have pushed the 2. I didn’t know there would be another green-white-checker and that I’d have another shot at it.”
WITH THIS BEING KIND OF THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE (HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS) TRAGEDY, DOES THIS CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE AT ALL WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT COMING IN HERE AND NOT BEING IN THE CHASE?
“Relative to the Chase, it doesn’t change anything. For the four Hendrick drivers, we want to make those families smile. I’ve been able to win here in the fall and know that a lot of people take a lot of pride in that win. It means more to a few families more than it typically would. All four of us are here, ready and willing. Jeff Gordon showed what this race meant to him in the fall a few years ago with the spin with Clint (Bowyer) and myself, and what took place after that. This race means a lot to us Hendrick drivers. With or without the Chase, I want to be in the one carrying the trophy out of here to honor those families.”
YOU WERE REFLECTING BEFORE THAT THE LAST TIME YOU WERE OUT OF THE CHASE WAS 2011 WHEN YOU SAW A NEWS CONFERENCE WITH TONY (STEWART) AND CARL (EDWARDS). BUT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN 11 YEARS THAT YOU’VE BEEN ELIMINATED THIS EARLY. HAS THAT SUNK IN?
“Fortunately or unfortunately, we’re busy and using the rest of 2014 to get ready for 2015. I can say that leaving Kansas and Charlotte… that was when I came to grips with not being a championship contender. You get to Talladega and you’re rolling the dice there anyway with the restrictor plate racing and it’s an all-or-nothing thing, so it put me in an easy position to relax and enjoy the weekend. But it wasn’t fun leaving Kansas or Charlotte. It was relatively dark and not a lot of sunlight floating around. You have that. I truly believe that those moments make you stronger and make you dig deeper. It’s great medicine for the 48. I don’t want to be in this position. But it’s great medicine to sit and watch this championship unfold. It’s going to motivate me, Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and the team – all of us on the 48 team. We’ll come back next year and be ready to roll.
Yeah, the reality of it started sinking in after Kansas – especially with the way that round worked and having Talladega in there. I felt advancing on points was a little more of a longshot.”
HOW BEST CAN YOU, DALE (EARNHARDT JR.) AND KASEY (KAHNE) HELP JEFF GORDON IN HIS QUEST TO WIN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP?
“It’s tough to really help, especially from the 48’s standpoint. We’ve had different setups under our cars throughout the year. We’re relatively far apart on the whole setup side of things. Outside of them painting a 48 car for us and us running it to give them direct info, that’s the only way we can help. Of course I’m going to be aware of where he is on the track and try not to give him a hard time. If there is something with a change we make, I can spend some more time elaborating on how it helped our car and addressed the car. We’ll mainly be there to answer questions. I’ve always won championships by keeping it simple and feel like getting too far away from normal and overthinking things creates problems for me. I’m not sure how Jeff wants to go about things. I wouldn’t be surprised if they keep to themselves and do what they can. That’s what got them in this position and that’s what’s going to win them a championship.”
WHEN YOU FILL OUT A CHASE BRACKET, EVERYBODY HAD YOU, JUNIOR AND ALL THESE BIG NAMES ADVANCING. ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT GUYS LIKE (RYAN) NEWMAN, CARL (EDWARDS), MATT KENSETH AND OTHERS HAVE MADE IT THIS FAR?
“Yeah, my wife and I were talking about Carl and that he’s made it through quietly. It shows that collecting points is still important. We’ve been so focused on winning that there is an argument that overlooked just having solid runs – although we did that in the first three races and transferred with ease. It’s not a bad approach to go out there and be conscious of top-fives, top-10’s and staying alive.”
WHAT ARE YOU LEARNING AND TAKING FROM THIS CHASE?
“It’s hard to call a three-win season a low. But the standards we’ve set for ourselves are our own doing. We’re used to winning a minimum of three races and always competing for championships and certainly top-fives. We just haven’t had all of that. We’ve had some hot spots but the consistency of running up front is something we’ve lacked. We have four races to close out this season on a positive note but then again at the same time making sure we are doing all we can in ’14 to get ready for ’15.”
THE BUMPER IS A TOOL HERE. GIVEN FROM THE OVERFLOW FROM CHARLOTTE AND TALLADEGA NOT BEING A GOOD CHANCE TO PUT THE BUMPER TO SOMEONE SAFELY, WILL THAT CARRY OVER TO HERE? WHAT ARE THE ODDS THAT ALL EIGHT CHASE WILL COME OUT OF HERE UNSCATHED AND WITHOUT A CRASH?
“The chances are low for all eight to come out with straight racecars. Things to carry over. You can put them away but if you’re back racing with that individual and they use you up a time or two, maybe you remember and don’t push the brakes as hard or get on the gas a little earlier than you should have. Those moments seem to surface on short tracks. There’s always a chance for that. And it doesn’t have to be a pre-existing issue. It can just happen over the course of the race. There can be plenty of madness here.”
THE NEW RULES PACKAGE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR A LOT OF THE BLAME FOR WHAT’S HAPPENED TO YOUR TEAM. WHAT PERCENTAGE DOES THAT GET FOR NOT BEING WHERE YOU WANT TO BE?
“It is different. We’ve won some races so we’ve found our way with it. I’d say the 24 has been most consistent. The 4 has been kicking all of us in the teeth week after week with the speed they have. So we’re going about it wrong. We can say that things have changed. But our equipment is still winning races and running fast with other teams. So the responsibility is on Chad and myself. It falls on us and it has to. It’s an area of what I want the car to do and where I’m looking for the car to perform versus how Chad and the engineering group go about giving me that. It’s within that. The thing that has always been our strength wasn’t our strength this year. We have to get back today.”
THE PAIRING OF GREAT DRIVERS AND GREAT CREW CHIEFS IN THE SPORT EVENTUALLY COME TO AN END. DO YOU SEE THE DAY WHEN MAYBE CHAD ISN’T ON YOUR PIT BOX?
“Yeah, that day is out there. I think a crew chief’s lifespan is much shorter than a driver’s. They live in dog years and drivers can carry on much longer. I’ve been accused of being loyal to a fault in the past, that’s me. I have no plans or desires to make a change. When Chad decides he’s had enough of being the guy on the box, it will be his decision to step down. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve made it 13 years in this thing. I want to see it go as long as it can. We’re honest with each other and know each other well enough to work through the bad times. It might not be pretty, and I’m sure you guys have heard things on the radio that got your attention. We’re like family, and we fight like family. We can call each other out on that stuff, and you only hear a piece of it on the radio. There is plenty more that goes on behind closed doors and in meetings. It’s more of a timeframe of when Chad says, ‘I’ve put in my time here as crew chief and I need to slow down a little bit.’”