NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
HOLLYWOOD CASINO 400
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS
OCTOBER 4, 2013
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed racing at Kansas, the new tire, engine wear, keeping an eye on the competition, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
ON RACING AT KANSAS THIS WEEKEND
“It’s always nice to come back to the race track after a good win (Dover, last week). Our 1.5-mile stuff has been good to the No. 48 team. I wish we would have closed a few more wins during the regular season on the 1.5-miles, but we’ve had good speed. Yesterday, after working through the new tire, we had the car more comfortable and got some speed out of it. But I still think there is a lot of learning to do; and truthfully, a lot of evolving for all the teams through today’s practice and then in tomorrow’s practice. The tire acts different. I think its achieving what Goodyear wants to have happen. So, directionally, it’s a good move. But it’s just different. I think it’s going to take us time to get all the speed out of it that we want to have and understanding the tire exactly like we need to. But, I thought yestereday was good. I’m very thankful that NASCAR gave us extra time and gave us a nice headstart on the weekend.”
WITH EVERY POINT MAGNIFIED DURING THE CHASE, HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING? IS IT MORE IMPORTANT THAN DURING THE REGULAR SEASON?
“Track position is so important. So yeah, because things are condensed. It makes your day so much eaiser when you qualify well and have a good pit stall and start up front. At this track, there’s a very good chance there will be fuel strategy and tire strategy coming into play, and that jumbles things up. So, at some tracks you expect it to be a big issue for qualifying to play out and it kind of goes back and forth. But at the end of the day, we all know the importance of it and you want that on your side. It just makes a big difference. If you start deep in the field and you get to the top five and if you have a chance at clean air, it usually takes you a stop or two to get your car dialed-in. Anymore, it takes so long to get to the front that you don’t have a stop or two left at the end to really challenge for the lead from an adjustment standpoint. So, qualifying really important.”
AFTER THE TIRE TEST YESTERDAY, MATT KENSETH SAID HE WISHED THEY WOULD HAVE KEPT THE ORIGINAL TIRE. BUT JEFF GORDON SAID HE REALLY LIKES IT. HOW MUCH OF A GAME-CHANGER FOR THE TEAMS RUNNING IN THE CHASE IS THIS TIRE SITUATION EVEN AFTER A THURSDAY TEST PLUS PRACTICE IF SOMEBODY IS STRUGGLING?
“I think we have enough time to sort it out. From the Hendrick side, when we started, we were kind of split in different areas. I think the No. 24 came off the truck real good. We weren’t very good but we were able to get there at the end. So, I think in time, especially the No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) team and the Gibbs cars, if they’re not happy, I’m pretty confident they’ll get there by race time. It’s just different. And the things that we do and what we expect out of the old tire and what it’s capable of, it’s just different with this tire. And it’s a matter of finding what it likes.”
JAMES HILTON IS RACING IN HIS LAST RACE TONIGHT IN THE ARCA RACE. HE IS 79 YEARS OLD. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO BE DOING WHEN YOU ARE 79?
“Breathing!” (laughter). It’s so awesome. I think Earl is even spotting for him tonight. So, I’m excited for him. Every time I see him out there in that No. 48 it puts a big smile on my face. So, he got the number off to a good start and he’s going to run it well tonight, I’m sure. But, at 79, it’s amazing. He’s truly passionate and loves our sport. It’s nice to see him out there one last time.”
YOU’VE WON 5 CHAMPIONSHIPS AND YOU STILL COME OUT HERE AS COMPETITIVE AS EVERY, MAYBE MORESO. WHERE DOES THE MOTIVATION COME FROM ON A WEEKLY BASIS?
“I think a lot of it is just in my DNA and the type of person I am and the family I grew up in. My parents and grandparents and great grantparents were just all hard-working people. So I think I grew up in that environment and around it. Now, married with kids, I’m much more mature than when I started. There is an element in that that is bringing more focus and more drive. Granted there is less time. I have more things on my plate. But the time that I do a lot to train. The time that I do a lot for working with the team and coming to the track, it’s just much more focused. I think the structure of family and kids and all that plays some kind of role in that, too. It mixes with the work ethic I was raised with. So somewhere in the mixture of those things is where it comes from. But I am happy when I accomplish things. I make lists all the time and I scratch things off my list whether it’s a honey-do list or goals I make for myself. I just have that mindset where I like to work through things and accomplish things.”
LONG AGO, DALE EARNHARDT SR. TALKED ABOUT HOW THE TIRES ALWAYS TALKED TO HIM, AND THAT HE ALWAYS RAN BEST WHEN THE TIRE TALKED TO HIM. THERE WAS A TIME PERIOD WHEN IT DIDN’T. JEFF GORDON AGREED WITH THAT WHEN ASKED ABOUT IT YESTERDAY. WHEN YOU WERE IN THE CAR YESTERDAY, WAS THAT TIRE TALKING TO YOU AS GOOD AS ANY OTHER TIRE BEFORE? OR, HAS THAT BEEN PART OF YOUR STRUGGLE OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS?
“At the start of your question, I was thinking more about the bias ply era. I ran on bias plys in ASA for two years and from then on I’ve been on radials. And on bias ply, there is a big window of grip that you can feel and adjust the car. The sidewall is very flexible. So once you slip the tire, literally the sidewall on a radial is so stiff that once it slips, it stands up. And then the tire has to start over and grip again and let the sidewall fold. That aspect I think challenges all drivers. The radial era, I love watching some old footage and think there is something in my mind of of Sr. at Charlotte smoking the right rear tire all the way through Turns 1 and 2. You cannot do that with a radial tire. That just doesn’t happen (laughs). So, I might not have the best opinion of all that because I didn’t really drive in that era on these tracks. The radial, you feel a lot of grip, but you know right behind that real nice grip level you have, there’s a cliff on the other side.
“So, we all generally drive a little more on edge now and are a little more concerned with what’s on the back side of this. I’m being really greedy right now, what’s next? And that’s just the world of radial tires that we live in. The tire, in my opinion, has a lot less grip that what we had here before and what we’ve been on on 1.5-miles. And that inside edge is a lot harder compound and then it’s softer on the way out. So, where we make our money through the corner, it is a slower tire right now. And that’s the part that I felt yesterday, was just the lack of grip that it had. It was very friendly; it didn’t have that sharp drop-off. But it just didn’t have a ton of grip.”
WAS IT TALKING TO YOU?
“They’re always talking to you. Sometimes you are arguing with them. But when things are hooked-up and rolling; and I think what you’re aluding to, you can feel on a very soft compound. And the tire will really tell you where its grip level is and what you feel. And anymore, the only time you feel that is in a tire test when they try something soft.
“We ususally end up on a much harder compound where, you’re guessing. You think it’s talking to you but you just don’t know. The downside to it is the penalty once you lose control and once you cross that line, it’s really severe.”
KNOWING IT IS STILL EARLY IN THE CHASE, BUT CAN THEY CATCH YOU GUYS?
“I think there is enough racing left. If somebody gets hot and the others cool off. It’s 30-something points back to fourth (now); the numbers change a little when you’re chasing three people instead of one. But if we a
ll start running seventh or eighth and somebody gets hot, they can make up points. I still think it’s possible; largely because there are seven races left. It start shifting dramatically as we get deeper into the season, but with seven left there are still a lot of opportunities for those guys.”
SINCE THE RECONFIGURATION OF THIS TRACK, ARE THE ENGINES WORKING HARDER? ARE YOU TURNING MORE RPMS? IF SO, DOES THAT BECOME A WORRY FOR YOU ABOUT ENGINE WEAR AND DURABILITY?
“Yep, for sure. And NASCAR changed the rear-end gear ratio to help everybody coming here. I think that we could have the other gear with this tire, and the tire doesn’t have the grip that we anticipated. And our max rpm yesterday was quite a bit lower than anyone thought it would be. When we get in the draft, we suck-up pretty hard down the front straightaway to the car in front of us. You just might catch the chip in a race environment, for a lap or two, but in general the rpm is pretty low based on the rule change. And that will help all the engine shops breathe a little easier through the course of the race (laughs).”
WITH JUST FOUR RACES IN, IS IT TOO EARLY FOR YOU TO BE WORRIED ABOUT WHERE THE OTHER TOP CHASE CONTENDERS ARE DURING THE RACE?
“Yeah, you pay attention, for sure. And in the first couple of races, it was real easy to see where the No. 20 (Kenseth) and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) were because I was chasing them. They were up front. Last week I didn’t find myself too worried about it. I knew they were going to have a great day and they both finished in the top 10. But I guess it’s not that point of the year yet where you’re totally worried. When you get to Homestead and Phoenix, you are looking at the scoring pylon whenever you can and are really focused on where they are. Not so much just yet because there is a lot of racing left.”
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES