MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
FOOD CITY 500
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
APRIL 13, 2018
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S FOR PROS CAMARO ZL1 met with media and discussed the season to date, the hard work and progress, the newly announced All-Star package, working with younger teammates, and more. Full Transcript:
YOU HAVE TWO WINS HERE AT BRISTOL. WHY DON’T YOU JUST TALK ABOUT COMING BACK HERE WHERE YOU ARE THE DEFENDING WINNER?
“I certainly hope to replicate what we did here last Spring; and even last Fall here we had a really strong race. We were competitive and really were able to knock out top 5 finishes here and gain points and get a nice trophy a couple of times. So, I’m excited to be back. This race track is one of my favorite ones to come to. It’s my favorite race track to watch a race here. I’ve been on the good side and the bad side of things that happen on-track, so it’s hard to say. I’ve joked here in the past that I love to watch a race here and don’t necessarily enjoy driving in a race here (laughs). There isn’t another track in the country like this place to get used to it. So, it really does take reps driving here and running here. Some guys have taken to it really quickly. For me, it’s taken some time and it’s been a crazy journey along the way. I love seeing this place packed and the energy that comes with it. So, I’m excited for another fun weekend.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE ALL-STAR PACKAGE ANNOUNCEMENT THIS WEEK WITH THE RESTRICTOR PLATE AND THE AERO PACKAGE THAT THE XFINITY CARS USED AT INDY LAST YEAR?
“I feel the All-Star race is a great place to test things. And, I’m happy to see NASCAR using that environment and also the speedway allowing that to happen. In talking to the Xfinity guys that ran the package at Indy, I think Indy might serve that package better with the long straightaways to be able to take advantage of the way the aero works on the car, but let’s try. I mean, why not? There’s really nothing to lose. It might not be the package we love and want, but I’m sure it will get us a step closer and we’ll continue to evolve; largely because so many people are willing to take this chance at the All-Star race.”
I KNOW YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE HAPPY UNTIL YOU’RE THE TOP CHEVROLET, BUT CHEVY IN GENERAL HAS HAD STRUGGLES THIS YEAR OTHER THAN AUSTIN DILLON’S WIN AT DAYTONA. HOW HAS THAT GENERALLY PLAYED INTO THE STRUGGLES YOU’VE HAD; OR IS YOUR STUFF KIND OF A SEPARATE ISSUE?
“I don’t know. I mean the first mark as you mentioned is to be the top Chevy and then at that point, I think my opinion would shift or could shift or be allowed to shift, but until then, I feel that it’s something we’re not doing right. We’re not working in the right areas to yield a big chunk of speed that we want to be in that dominant space. We are improving. We’re making it better each and every week. And, I’ve used this phrase many times before but we’re just stacking pennies; and when you start stacking some quarters… (laughs). But, the effort is there. We are such a united team and working as close together as ever. And, I know in time we’ll get there. I want to be there right now and we certainly hope this weekend we can turn the corner. But I think we’re seeing some good steps and some good strides. Friday and Saturday, especially Saturday, went really well for us in Texas, which I think is a good sign. Unfortunately we didn’t have a clean race day on Sunday and had a bunch of different problems that set us back and got us in a wreck. But we’re getting there. And until I’m that lead Chevy, I just need to keep my blinders on and stay within the No. 48 team and make sure we can be the best car that we can.”
ALONG THOSE LINES, THE SHORTCOMINGS OF THE CHEVROLETS AND YOU GUYS TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT, WILL THEY BE AS RELEVANT HERE THIS WEEKEND AT BRISTOL AS THEY WOULD BE SOMEWHERE ELSE?
“I don’t think so. I think, granted the speeds are higher around this short track, but this place is very unique. I think Martinsville is another one that stays more consistent over time and is more of an equalizer than other tracks. So, we’ll see. It’s definitely not a 1.5 or a 2-mile race track where you’ll some of the aero issues come into play.”
IN THE PAST TEN YEARS YOU’VE ONLY HAD ONE SEASON WHERE YOU HAVEN’T HAD MORE THAN TWO WINS. YOU’VE HAD THREE LAST YEAR, FIVE THE YEAR BEFORE, AND FIVE BEFORE THAT. YOU KNOW YOUR STATS. ARE YOU A VICTIM OF YOUR OWN SUCCESS IN PEOPLE EXPECTING YOU TO BE IN VICTORY LANE RIGHT NOW? AND IS IT MADE INTO TOO MUCH OF A BIG DEAL THAT YOU HAVEN’T BEEN THERE IN A WHILE?
“It’s definitely the story. We have high expectations for ourselves, first and foremost; and we think that we should be in a position to win races every year and compete for race wins each weekend. So, I think within that there’s a lot of fair questions being asked. But, I think there is overreaction by fans and media on that last upper percentile of it, especially all the kind and wonderful people on social media and the things that they have to say. But, that’s just kind of why I’ve also mentioned people underestimate how tough this garage area is. And many of the people that are so kind on social media aren’t a pro at anything and don’t understand what it takes to exist at that pro level, and it’s tough. It’s small increments from good to great. And right now, we’ve just been in that good category. We need to be great. We want to be great. Most of it is fair, but some of it is unfair.”
IN THE LAST WEEK, WE’VE TALKED ABOUT TEAMS BEING ISSUED PIT GUNS, YOU’VE HAD SPONSORSHIP NEWS AND IS NASCAR GOING TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY SELL SPONSORSHIPS, AND WE’VE HAD ALL-STAR RULES WITH RESTRICTOR PLATES AT CHARLOTTE. IT SEEMS LIKE THERE’S A LOT SWIRLING AROUND. WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE WITH ALL THIS OTHER STUFF GOING ON? DO YOU PAY ANY ATTENTION TO IT? DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT DURING SIX-HOUR WORKOUT RIDES?
“I try not to think about anything when I’m on the bike. I just enjoy myself. That’s my ‘me’ time. In a lot of ways I’m close to the decisions that are being made and understand it and see the hard work that’s going into this from driver councils and team councils and rules councils and NASCAR. So, I’m very close to it and understand why a lot of the change is taking place and certainly agree with. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. was asking me some questions on a text yesterday and I’m like man, I’m too close to it. You’re a layer removed from where you once were, what’s your opinion? My opinion, I’m so close to it and see what’s going on; and I respect and appreciate all of the hard work that’s going into these decisions and the reasons behind them. I get it and think that everybody is just trying really hard to get things right.”
“Yes. What pops-up in my mind is just the way my days and weeks take place now and thinking about the big picture in the sport. My driver responsibilities certainly take up plenty of time at Hendrick Motorsports and the things that we do, but to be on various councils and to think of things in such a big picture and in so many different ways and so frequently, that part when you’re sitting in two to four-hour council meetings two or three times a month, that’s totally new. What was the phrase you used?
“Overwhelming. Yeah, I’m just sitting there thinking this isn’t typical driver responsibility. It’s a bit overwhelming.”
MUCH HAS BEEN MADE OF YOUR WIN DROUGHT AND THE NEXT WIN FOR YOU IS NUMBER 84 AND WHERE THAT RANKS IN THE SPORT. BUT THE NEXT WIN FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS WOULD BE 250 IN THE CUP SERIES. WHAT SORT OF A MILESTONE IS THAT? WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT THE LONGEVITY AND THE PLACE IN THE SPORT FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?
“First of all, to be here with 83 wins and have a chance to move into number 84; I was thinking about this on my bike ride yesterday, of just how special it is to be in this position and how awesome Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip were in their day; and are, in how much they mean to this sport. Where I sit is just an unbelievable mark in it’s own. And I certainly hope to move past that and move on, but time will tell. For Hendrick Motorsports, it’s very similar but I think on a larger scale. To my knowledge I don’t know of anybody with as many victories. Petty?
“I know that with Truck and Busch and Xfinity and Cup, I don’t know how it all breaks out, but either way, that’s a huge commitment to this sport and this industry and I know we have a big wall with all the Hendrick logos that represent a win, and just stare at 249 victories and the names that are up there on that wall at our team center, it is spectacular. I got 200 for the company. I would love to get 250. It means so much to all the men and women that work at and have worked for Mr. Hendrick to be a part of that. Before I had my full Cup ride, I was there and watched them celebrate the 100th win, just from afar at the back of the room. To see the pride in that building and what it meant to everybody; it just sucked me in and I’m like, I just want to get a win for the company. I want to be a part of this legacy and a part of this history. Little did I know I’d be sitting here with 83, but it just means a lot to all of us at Hendrick Motorsports.”
YOU’VE BEEN A FEW RACES IN NOW, WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITH A LOT OF THE YOUNGER DRIVERS INSTEAD OF THE VETERAN TEAMMATES LIKE YOU HAD BEFORE?
“I certainly miss the camaraderie and friendships and history I’ve had with the other veteran teammates. You also learn set-up styles. When Jeff Gordon thought his car was perfect, I knew I needed two or three changes to get my car to where I loved it; same with Dale and Kasey and so on. That part I am developing and trying to get my arms around and it’s going well. But, I’ve just been really amazed with the sense of feel that my three teammates have with their race cars and can describe that. I’ve looked at William (Byron) and how young he is, I don’t know if I would be that calm in the car to sense those minor details and be able to articulate that to the team. I do miss my friends and do miss aspects of the work process like I mentioned, but these guys are doing a great job.”
WE FOUND OUT THIS WEEK THAT BROOKE AND CHAD KNAUS ARE EXPECTING A BABY BOY, AND BROOKE SENT A FUNNY TWEET WITH ALL THESE SCREENSHOTS AND BABY EMAILS ALREADY. YOU KNOW CHAD REALLY WELL. WHAT SORT OF FATHER DO YOU THINK HE’LL BE?
“I’m excited for him. I can also recall him through my process of being a parent and the sleepless nights and different aspects of parenthood; his curiosity. He doesn’t know yet. He hasn’t been there. I’m excited for him to go through those experiences. He and Brooke are going to be amazing parents. It’s an exciting time for them. I think it will help make him a more patient man. I know being a parent has made me a much more patient man (laughter), so he has that lesson coming, for sure.”
YOUR LAST TWO SEASONS, YOUR STATISTICS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE AND WORSE. YES, YOU WON A CHAMPIONSHIP BUT ALSO YOUR CAREER WORST UNTIL LAST SEASON. HOW MUCH OF THAT IS JUST A PRODUCT OF CHEVROLET FALLING OFF A MARK THESE LAST TWO SEASONS?
“I can’t put blame in one place. It would be unfair to say that it’s a manufacturer’s fault and responsibility. I think there is responsibility in all areas. I think we can all bring more to the table and all do a little better job. If we knew what button to push, we would have kept that five in a row streak alive and kept going. On top of the things that we can control within our own walls as a race team, the product has changed. We’re in different cars; tires change…what other teams do, there’s just a lot going on. But no means am I content with where I’m at and where this team is at in our performances, but we can’t work any harder. Manufacturer. Driver. Crew Chief. Team. Organization. We can’t. We are literally working around the clock and doing anything and everything we can. So, at some point you have to say, we’re all in. We just need time. We’ll get there. We need more from everywhere right now is our approach. There’s not just a silver bullet that’s like okay, boom, if it’s this, then everything would be fine. It’s not that.”
WHERE ARE THE BABE RUTH QUOTES COMING FROM AND WHO ARE THEY MEANT FOR?
“Google search is my friend (laughs). Oh, just digging around looking for stuff. I’ve had a fun approach in the past of finding trolls and singling them out and having fun with that. But I’m like man, there is enough damn negativity in the world. I’m going to take a little shift on it. I thought it would be best to find some inspirational quotes to kind of reflect kind of where I’m at and what’s going on. So, I think that’s been a more mature approach in a sense. I’ve seen a couple recently that I drafted and worked on and saved, where I was going to go back to my old ways. And I’m not saying that I won’t. If I have enough drinks on the flight home, I might. But, I’ve just been trying to project positive vibes instead of falling into that trap of negativity.”
“No, it just happened to be. And I think I used the same Babe Ruth one twice. It was just a damn good one (laughs).”