MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 24, 2018
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S PATRIOTIC CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed the 600 Miles of Remembrance program, the hunt for a sponsor to replace Lowe’s, his thoughts on how the 600 has changed over the years and many other topics. Full Transcript:
ON THE 600 MILES OF REMEMBRANCE PROGRAM:
“I think just to sit here and listen to Brad’s (Keselowski) discussion and what he is involved with and knowing that we will all carry names on our cars, for me to have the honor to carry a Lowe’s employee that has been affected with her son, Army Staff Sgt. Francis “Frankie” Phillips IV, being lost, I guess around five years ago now – it is an honor. There is always a lot of pressure to win, but my experience the last few years and being involved representing different individuals on the car has taken that to a new level. To really honor a fallen solider and to meet their families, hear the stories about the individual, it just makes it so much more real. To see the excitement, enthusiasm, and emotion behind the family being here at the race, seeing you at pre-race and hopefully someday and hopefully it’s this weekend, I can experience the joy of winning the race and seeing them in Victory Lane. So, it’s a program I’m very proud of NASCAR to be a part of. I’m very proud of Lowe’s to support and it’s just an honor to have Frankie’s name and names on all of our cars out there through the course of the weekend.”
ANY UPDATE ON THE SPONSORSHIP SEARCH?
“We have six ready to go we are just waiting for you guys to ask us when (laughs). It’s going really well. We will hopefully have something to announce in the near future, but the excitement about the No. 48 car, the multiple companies that are interested and the ideas and the ways that people would like to use us are very exciting and encouraging. Of course, we don’t want to see Lowe’s leave. We have had such an amazing run with them and there is a little bit of fear associated with such a big sponsor and such an integral part of Hendrick Motorsports leaving, but the response has been very strong and very well. When Mr. Hendrick makes his decision and we are able to kind of ink what opportunities are out there, obviously those announcements will be made, but things have been going very well.”
YOU SAID YOU WANTED TO BE INVOLVED WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE BEING ON THAT SIDE OF THE FENCE?
“Yeah, the process is long. A lot of conversing and ideas and you feel like sometimes a conversation with a given company is going in a different direction and then they go and go to work and brainstorm and come back with a new idea and angle. So, it’s amazing how much follow-up is involved and how much collaboration exists through it all. I have enjoyed the process. I’ve enjoyed being involved. I’ve learned a ton. I’ve been able to bring some opportunities to the table through my own contacts that I have and also others have come along through Mr. Hendrick’s network and other networks. It’s been interesting. It’s taken a lot of time and it’s been a fun, new experience for me.”
HOW HAS YOUR PHILOSOPHY FOR STRATEGY FOR THIS RACE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
“When I first started obviously no stages to consider or worry about, so that was way different and you just raced differently. The whole environment was different on the track. The Mark Martin way of working with somebody and let them go, they will let you go and playing that game it’s just out the window now. That is one element and then two, as the cars continue to get faster and faster it’s just harder and harder to make competitive passes. So, those two elements make you fight for track position starting on Friday in qualifying or Thursday, I guess this weekend, in qualifying and carries right on through 600 miles.”
HOW DO YOU THINK SUNDAY’S RACE WOULD LOOK IF YOU USED THE PACKAGE FROM THE ALL-STAR RACE?
“That’s a good question. I know there has been a lot of conversations around it following the excitement in the All-Star race. I don’t know. I feel like the first segment is probably the best indication. Handling still did matter. You could argue that if the teams had more practice time and we could adjust on the cars we could get them to handle much better and stay in tighter group. So, I don’t know. But, there seems to be a very positive response in what was seen in the race itself. I know there is a lot of consideration being put into it and we might just have to try it somewhere to see. That could be the realistic next step to try it at a real points race and see.”
CAN YOU REFLECT ON JEFF GORDON’S CAREER AND HIS RECENT INDUCTION INTO THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME?
“I was so happy that he was in first ballot. His accomplishments we all know on the track and I guess we all know in this room how he was so integral at a point in time for NASCAR to take us mainstream. And really kind of transcended the sport like maybe only (Dale Earnhardt) Sr. had been able to do or Richard Petty in their eras. I think the competition and the rivalry that existed between Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. and Jeff (Gordon) was a big ingredient in that. TV, media, nationwide exposure all worked well in Jeff’s timing and his success and his willingness to be out there and his ability to be out there and carry the sport just took him to all new heights. And then to drive for him, be selected by him it’s been mind-blowing. I can’t thank him enough for the opportunities that I have had. The way it’s changed my life, racing against him, being friends with him, I’m just truly happy for he and his family and I know it’s going to be a big celebration for those guys.”
WITH ALL THE ENGINEERING AND SIMULATION OF TODAY HOW MUCH INPUT DOES THE DRIVER STILL HAVE IN TODAY’S WORLD?
“Drivers have a lot to say with it in our sport because we only get a handful of opportunities to collect real data. Open test sessions are the only time we can collect that data for the vehicle itself and the track. Wheel Force Transducer tests where the manufacturers go run that collects tire data and then you’ve got to marry those two together. When you think about the tracks we test at or are allowed to test at and I think there are probably five open tests a year, I mean we’ve got 23 tracks on the circuit, every winter and summer the surface changes, the grip level changes and before you know it, you’ve got data that is years and years old that you are trying to trust and believe. And then you build your simulation around it. It is a tough environment and the driver is still very much required and the crew chief to have gut decisions made. All other forms of motorsports they are streaming telemetry or can collect telemetry and data every lap of every race and that just makes that world so much easier to make the right decisions. For us, it’s still about the gut decision between the driver and the crew chief.”
ON RACING AT POCONO:
“Driving for Chad Knaus (crew chief) he wants you good in all three (corner), so I can’t just pick one unfortunately. At different years when I look back to the success we have had there it wasn’t just one turn. We were pretty strong all the way around the track. It’s hard to say. Turn 3 seems to be very important and can help with lap time pretty significantly for qualifying and things like that. But, the short time span in-between I know it’s close together, but the races just seem different for some reason. When I first came in I heard a lot of people talking about how things wouldn’t change much between the first to the second race, but for whatever reason through my experiences they have been different races and different set-ups usually required to go get the job done.”
IS THERE A LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT FOR YOU TO GET TO WORK WITH NEW ORGANIZATIONS?
“Yeah at this stage of it. At first, I had to swallow the pill that Lowe’s wasn’t coming back and of course I wanted to finish my career with them, so, now where we are at and that ship has sailed and the excitement of what could be out there, what the options are with the various companies we are speaking to, it is exciting it is fun to look through a different lense and see what opportunities are out there. Also, how I can be integrated into their mission statement in a sense and help them internally, how they are going to market us, how they are going to use us, that is all exciting stuff. We have some great opportunities there to look at.”
IS THIS RACE ANY LESS GRUELING WITH ALL THE ADVANCES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE?
“I can’t say it’s gotten any easier through my career here. We might finish a little quicker some years due to speed, but g-forces are higher, so I just think it all kind of levels out. I’m thinking back to the days when they didn’t have power steering, that might have been a little bit different (laughs). It is a very long and difficult race that I spend a lot of time physically preparing for making sure that I’m right. I treat it a lot like a triathlon with electrolytes and carbs and just the strategy in how to stay fueled and alert through the course of the race. It’s definitely a big day in the office.”