Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Richmond–Jimmie Johnson

SEPTEMBER 15, 2016

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Chase Media Day and discussed the loss of Robby Gordon’s father, Bob, his outlook to win a record-setting seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, and many other topics. Full Transcript:

You said his dad gave you…

“In a desert vehicle, a desert car, yes. The Baja 500. I’m trying to think of the year. I didn’t know that I had a motion sickness problem riding in a car. I rode in the Baja 500 and puked literally for 499 miles.

“My dad was in one of the pit stops. We stopped. I’m just covered in vomit. Rags all over inside the car with me. He was trying to pull me out. I wanted to race so bad, I didn’t care how bad I felt. I’m like, I’m staying in this racecar, I’m not getting out.

“I made the race, but it wasn’t pretty.”


“Bob drove half that race. Frank Arciero, he and Bob were always teammates in all their desert racing.”

That’s not the one where you ended up in the desert and they couldn’t find you?

“No, that was years later. So that was probably ’92, Baja 500, that I rode in the Gordon car. Then when I crashed was ’95. Either ’91 or ’92 I rode in that 500.”


“Yeah, then the crash was in the 1000 where I spent the time out in the desert.”

When you look at this Chase, you’re kind of overlooked a little bit. Do you relish that position a little bit, to prove everybody wrong?
“No. Hell, I’d rather be dominating and be on top and be the top pick. I don’t like where we’re at. We’re working hard. There’s a lot of optimism and a lot of great things happening. We just need to deliver consistently and execute at the track.

“The way that the Chase works, if we can run in the top five and stay alive and make it to Homestead, you know, we do have some time to sort things out and get back to where we need to be.”

Question regarding not making it past the second round:

“Well, it’s only two years. Everybody makes a big deal out of I haven’t won a championship in a while. I guess it’s 10 years since my first championship, so there’s only four years I’ve missed. I don’t think that’s too bad of a stat.”

“I guess we haven’t finished the fourth one yet.

“So, yes, advancing, it is shocking we haven’t made it past the second round. I feel like last year we had a very real chance of being at the final four in Homestead. A mechanical got us, which is always frustrating.”

Do you think you’ve run the course with Chad at this point? Do you think bringing in someone new would kind of give the team a spark?

“I really don’t. You know, at times the frustration builds up. You know, there’s aspects there where it’s like, Wow, this isn’t fun and we could do without that. But the crew chief’s job has changed so much anymore, and we do have lots of new blood coming in. We have two young engineers that are growing in their positions just under Chad. Very responsible for what the car is doing. They serve up the ideas to Chad.

“When we were in Michigan, unloaded, top of the board, plenty of speed in the car. It was like, Wow, we all remember how to do this.

“It’s a frustrating journey when you’re off. When you’re on, it’s easy practically. If we were being outrun by our teammates week in and week out, we weren’t the lead car at Hendrick, we’d probably have to look real hard at the relationship between me and Chad.

“But with that not being the case, we’re just frustrated. The things that are seen and heard, the unhappiness is due to the competitive spirit in both of us.

“We don’t want to roll over. We don’t want to be in the position we’re in. I guess that’s where that frustration comes from.

Is it surprising that two organizations – Ganassi and Stewart-Haas Racing – are outrunning Hendrick? They have other parts and pieces. You guys have been the juggernaut for so long, and now you’re being out-paced by those organizations.

“Yeah, it’s a slippery slope. I mean, I think that Gibbs and Hendrick and these bigger teams will really have to think hard about alliances that they put together. The reason being is, you know, using Hendrick and Gibbs as the example, and I’ll use Stewart-Haas as an example for us, they get our best stuff, and they’re not a small organization. They have a huge engineering staff.

“So they take our best equipment, that’s part of the deal, fully refined, what we’re racing, then their engineering staff gets to work on it and make it better. Same thing is going on at Gibbs. They’re providing all that equipment to the 78 car, and they’re smart people. That’s pretty good, but I’m going to tweak this and that, and they make it better yet.

“So I understand the business dynamic, but it’s tricky. It hurts to be outrun by somebody in your equipment. But Ganassi, as well. They’re a big company with a lot of smart people, and we’re handing them a race-winning package that they’re then making better.

“It’s a tricky situation to be in. But from a business standpoint, it’s something that we have to do to keep the size and cover the overhead problem at Hendrick Motorsports.


“I don’t feel like it’s engines. I think it’s in the aero side of things. You know, the gains that we’ve made, we’ve come with a more refined car and a better car aerodynamically. That’s where we’re seeing the speed pick up.

“I do know that the SS hasn’t had any updates to it, where the other manufacturers have had multiple updates to their cars. Hopefully that’s something that we can address.

“But I really feel like it’s in the aero side of things, especially from what I’ve felt through the racecar in these better races that we’ve had.”

A year ago there was the sentiment that, If I can’t win it, it would be all right to see Jeff do it his last year. Do people have the same feeling about Tony? Or different people, different cases?

“Yeah, I mean, for me, I would love to see it happen for Tony. Been great friends with him. I’m not sure that every fan out there loves him or has the relationship that I do with him.

“Chase, I would love to see Chase win a championship. If he doesn’t win this one, he’s going to win one. There’s no doubt about it. I’d certainly go through Chase and Tony as kind of sentimental picks for me.

“After that, I don’t know where I’d go, to be honest.”

Are we seeing the old Tony this year? He seems feisty.

“He’s always been feisty. There’s been more speed in his car, which has been good to see. That’s led to some more feistiness, I guess. But that win in Sonoma, that was a cool moment. I think everybody here can talk to the feelings they had seeing him win. I know I was way happy for him.

“You know, he has that in there. He can do it. We watched him win half the races in one Chase and become the champion. After that I learned not to count him out.”
Correct me if I’m connecting the dots wrong. How easy is it to want to do too much? You commented about making a mistake at Darlington. There have been some pit road speeding penalties. I don’t know if I’m connecting the dots right. Are you trying to do too much or that’s just when things aren’t going well, it hits in a lot of different areas?

“Yeah, I feel like it’s more just trying so hard. You know, getting back into a smooth rhythm, identifying with 100% for myself and the effort I’m putting out, there’s nothing worse than getting passed and going backwards.

“It might seem like somebody’s just letting off the gas, they don’t want to go up there and race. You’re sideways in the car, uncomfortable, hanging on. It’s frustrating. You’re mad. You’re trying to drive through things, so you spin out. You come to pit road, you have a chance to make up some spots. Pushing too hard on the lights, get in trouble.

“I feel like we’ve had to operate and push ourselves really hard since the start of the season to get the wins and to be where we want to be. That just leads to mistakes. It’s hard to stand at the plate and swing for a home run every time. That’s what we’re trying to do, create better cars so we don’t have to do that.

You’re working closer to that margin of error because of the past?


Have the performance be whatever it was?