Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Indianapolis–Jimmie Johnson

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
BIG MACHINE VODKA 400 AT THE BRICKYARD
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 7, 2019

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1, met with media and discussed the recent progress of the No. 48 team, his approach to racing at the Brickyard in order to transfer to the Playoffs, the shortened weekend schedule, and more. Full Transcript:

IF YOU HAD TO GO TO A VENUE AND BE RACING FOR YOUR PLAYOFF HOPES, IS THIS ONE THAT YOU FEEL RATHER GOOD ABOUT CONSIDERING YOUR PAST HISTORY HERE? HOW AWARE DO YOU WANT TO BE DURING THE RACE ON SUNDAY OF THE OTHER THREE COMPETITORS’ POSITIONS?
“I don’t mind coming here at all. I love the history of this track and love being here. Making a lap here is really special. It’s a place that drivers all aspire to come and compete. But, if I could pick a track, it would probably be Dover. So, it would be different if I had a chance to pick myself. I love it here. It’s a great place. The car is real fast and we’re excited about the weekend.

“Of course I’m going to be aware and of course I’m going to be fed information. So, we’ll just see how it unfolds. But, it’s pretty simple with just a couple of guys to worry about. And, I know that I need a lot of points in one afternoon. So, we’ve only discussed about how fast we’re going to be and how aggressive we’re gong to be. Hopefully we have a victory and just eliminate any need for points. We know that the best plans don’t always play out, so we’ll see. But, there will be some information coming in at times. But, hopefully we have a fast enough car that we won’t have to worry about it.”

WHEN CHASE ELLIOTT WAS IN THE MEDIA CENTER EARLIER, HE WAS SAYING HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS FOR THE ORGANIZATION TO GET YOU INTO THE PLAYOFFS, AND HOW IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO HAVE SPEED OFF THE TRUCK, WHICH IS LOOKED LIKE YOU DO. WAS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT THE PREPARATION THIS WEEK AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS THAT WAS ABOVE AND BEYOND IN TERMS OF HELPING YOUR EFFORT? AND, DID YOU DO A MOCK RUN IN THE FIRST PRACTICE SESSION?
“Yeah, we did a mock run at the end. Our last lap I think was a mock run. I think we were ninth on the sheet with that lap time. There has been more preparation, but it really hasn’t been because of the week. It’s been since Cliff (Daniels) took over as crew chief. There are more hours and more time…. We had a Saturday night race recently and they were asked not to come to the shop and it’s not just Cliff alone, but the energy and the brotherhood inside of the No. 48 team and how bad the guys want to perform. They are there when they don’t need to be. They’re there when they’re asked not to be (laughs).

“So, it’s pretty amazing to see the time and effort. And all of that has added up over the last couple of weeks, where our guys have been able to spend more time on the car that we brought here. So, it’s hard to just look at any given week and say hey, we’re going to do more because you don’t have the time. The truck’s got to load and leave and all that stuff. But, weeks back, things started clicking, which have allowed really every car that’s gone to the track in the last three or four weeks to have more detail and more time spent on it.”

IN A LOT OF WAYS, DOESN’T IT JUST SIMPLIFY WHAT YOU NEED TO DO….IT’S JUST WIN OR ELSE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IN A LOT OF WAYS NOT CALCULATING THE POINTS, BUT YOU CAN REALLY SIMPLIFY IT BY JUST WINNING THE RACE?
“Yeah, it would be a heck of a story to tie Jeff (Gordon) with five (wins) here and to come through a drought and all the things that we all know. You guys (media) had to write about it and talk about it. To have all that come to a conclusion and lock myself into the Playoffs would be one hell of a story. Hopefully, that is the story.”

EVERYTHING YOU JUST SAID ABOUT CLIFF DANIELS AND THE TEAM, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’RE IN THE RIGHT SITUATION NOW. BUT SEEING THE SUCCESS THAT WILLIAM BYRON AND CHAD KNAUS ARE HAVING THIS YEAR, DO YOU WONDER WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN HAD YOU STAYED TOGETHER?
“I know what we had. We had lightening in a bottle. We had 14 out of 17 years that were just out of this world. We had a great run. There is no doubt about it. But, unfortunately, just where our relationship went in the final couple of year, we weren’t bringing the best out of one another. And that’s why we had to change paths. I still think Chad Knaus is the best crew chief to ever walk through the garage area. I do. I am his biggest fan and proponent and I think William is a great student for him to teach and evolve as a driver. So, I’m happy for them. Of course I want to beat them. Of course I want to outrun them. But, that’s Chad Knaus and he knows what he is doing. And, he is developing William at a rapid rate and they’re doing a great job.”

DO YOU LIKE THAT IDEA THAT THERE’S A REGULAR SEASON CHAMPION AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT KYLE BUSCH GETTING THAT AND THE BENEFITS OF THAT?
“Without a doubt there needs to be a regular season champion. I was part of a group that was pushing for that years ago. I was joking then, even if you just get a coffee mug that says ‘Champ’ on it would be well worth it. We love those things to fight for and work for. And it felt kind of empty when all of a sudden the Playoffs started and we didn’t crown a champion for the regular season. So, I think NASCAR has done a great job with that. They should triple the purse. That would be nice (laughter)”

HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT IF YOU GO FOR STAGE POINTS OR IF YOU GO FOR STAGE POINTS, YOU KNOW THAT ALL THE OTHER GUYS YOU ARE RACING WILL DO IT AND YOU JUST HAVE TO PRETTY MUCH PLAY TO WIN?
“I don’t think you’re going to win from 20th. So, you need to have a fast car. You need to be in the mix. You need to run up front. And if you run up front, I think you’re going to get plenty of stage points and then have a shot to win. So, I think we need to be a dominant car and we need to be up front all day long to have a shot to win the race.”

WITH BEING A DOMINANT CAR IS BEING A TEAM THAT EXECUTES FLAWLESSLY. LAST WEEK, THERE’S NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO WHEN SOMEBODY WRECKS IN FRONT OF YOU. BUT, WAS LAST WEEK THE FIRST TIME MAYBE IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS THAT THE ENTIRE TEAM WAS PUTTING TOGETHER A RACE?
“We’ve had plenty of bad luck, that’s for sure. I think Bristol, the race itself, was going well and we had good stops, but it’s tough to go back through each one of them. I’d say one easy one that stands out would be Chicago. We finished second or third there and that was a good one. Last weekend we did perform well through practice and qualified well and ran well. We’re getting there. What I have learned through this two or three-year drought and difficult time, is just how important the team is. I’ve known it. I’ve lived it. And, I’ve been the beneficiary of some amazing teams. And, I just didn’t realize how fragile it was until I got involved and had to start building that and help select the right people in place to build that team. It’s been an interesting journey. And through it all, I’ve learned a ton. I really have. And, I think we’re in a spot now that everybody can see where the hard work has gone and that we’re starting to show up and perform.”

WITH THIS WEEKEND’S SHORTENED SCHEDULE, DO YOU HAVE TIME TO GET EVERYTHING TOGETHER? DO YOU LIKE THE CONDENSED SCHEDULE?
“We feel like we’re on the edge of enough time at a lot of tracks to get the work-side done. So, I’d rather be in the pit stall right now working with my guys; I was in the middle of something before I had to come over (laughs). But, this is a unique schedule, and qualifying tomorrow is a different challenge. If somebody does have a problem and gets in the fence and has to go to a backup, it’s going to be a Chinese fire drill. But, we’ll just kind of see how it turns out. I am in favor of trying different schedules and trying to figure out how to maximize what’s best for both competitors and fans alike. So, we’re trying something new here. I can’t recall qualifying on race day except for Pocono maybe a year ago or something like that? It’s different. If it’s received well, than we’ll adjust, for sure.”

BEYOND THE CHAMPIONSHIPS AND ALL THE RACE WINS, I REMEMBER WHAT YOU PULLED OFF AT HOMESTEAD A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHEN YOUR CAR WAS PULLED OFF THE GRID JUST BEFORE AND YOU WENT OUT AND WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP. DO THINGS LIKE THAT HELP YOU IN TERMS OF YOUR SENSE OF CONFIDENCE BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH A LOT OF OBSTACLES YOU’VE HAD TO OVERCOME?
“Yeah, for sure. Experience helps. I have been able to work through some really tough situations and come out on top over the years. There are no guarantees on what happens here this weekend, but I do feel like if that opportunity presents itself, the experience I have will help me stay calm and help me do the right things in that moment. So, it helps me sleep better, absolutely, knowing what I’ve pulled off in the past. It helps with my confidence rolling into this weekend.”

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