NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
AUTO CLUB 400
AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 21, 2014
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S “SPRING IS CALLING” CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed not having a victory thus far in the season, racing at his home track and many other topics. Full Transcript:
EARLY IN THE SEASON, BUT YOU STILL DON’T HAVE A WIN. FIVE WINS AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY TALK ABOUT GOING FOR THE WIN THIS WEEKEND AND HOPEFULLY GETTING THAT SPOT IN THE CHASE:
“Yeah this is a good track for us. It would be great to get the win and get ourselves locked in to the Chase. But I think we are in a good spot, we’ve been very competitive. We have had a shot to win a couple of races. Bristol isn’t our best race track and unfortunately we had that tire issue early, but I still had a great car and a lot of fun in the race. Left there with a very good impression on where our cars are and where we are going with things. We will get out there today and see how things go and hopefully get to that final grouping for a shot at the pole today and then obviously get out there tomorrow and work on our race stuff. All in all things are well and we will hopefully get a win before long.”
LAST WEEK WHEN YOUR TIRE SHREDDED AND CHAD (KNAUS) MADE THE COMMENT ON THE RADIO, SOMETHING LIKE ‘I SUPPOSE THAT IS OUR FAULT TOO’. WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?
“Definitely frustrated and then if you look at how things transpired from there when Goodyear had a chance to respond it was our fault. That is what Chad was preparing us for. That of course it was going to be our fault. I went in the truck and sat down and talked with Rick Campbell and I get along with Rick great and we had a great conversation about the wear on the tire and what potentially could have happened. From a team standpoint we are still very adamant that the wear on the tire was not the issue. A lot of guys had left-front wear and issues with the left-front and some stuff going on there. We are very confident, and the tire was still intact. Just a half inch strip came unwound from the inside corner of the tire and it was some 60 feet long. We laid it out from the front of the truck all the way to the back of the trailer. We could see every wear hole on it. It wasn’t worn out. That is all Chad was kind of referencing is that it would be our fault in the end and it was blamed as our fault.”
DID YOU GET ANY ANSWERS THAT MADE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT IT FROM GOODYEAR?
“At that point there is not a lot that you can do. We just try to learn from it and try to give them the tire and all the information we can so they can make a better product. They tested there in October or something last year and the temperatures were far different. It became apparent to everybody early in practice that the temps weren’t the same and the tire wasn’t acting the same. It’s not an easy job that they have, but I think we can come back with a little better tire there.”
AT WHAT POINT IN THE SEASON DO YOU AND CHAD START TO GET A LITTLE ANTSY ABOUT NOT GETTING YOUR FIRST WIN OF THE YEAR?
“It’s not even close to time yet. When you look at the stats and you have 16 different winners in a year it’s a pretty rare occurrence. I still think that points are every bit as important as they have been until you get to Homestead. Even when you get into the Chase itself the top guy in points will advance in pretty much every scenario or every scenario, even the final one to race at Homestead. So points are still the focus in what I’m looking at. We have been able to win multiple races a year with a certain mindset. I am not going to chase home runs. I’m looking at a smooth and consistent 26 races and when we get a look at a home run we are going to swing for it. But we are not stepping up to the plate every time trying to hit it out.”
THEY MADE THIS RACE SHORTER A FEW YEARS AGO AND MADE THE RACING BETTER. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MAKING SOME OF THE RACING THAT IS 500 MILES AND THE REST OF THE SEASON A LITTLE SHORTER?
“It’s a great idea. Maybe 25 races a year would be really good? 30 maybe?”
ON THE FINAL RESTART WE HAD CONTROVERSY LAST YEAR WHAT IS THE ETIQUETTE WHEN TAKING THAT FINAL RESTART AND KEEPING SOMEONE BEHIND YOU IF YOU ARE STARTING IN SECOND PLACE?
“The final restart it’s all out the window. I think etiquette comes into play earlier in the race and there is a little bit more give and take scenario. But that final restart I’m not expecting anybody to cut me any slack. That is not going to cross my mind with a guy in front of me. It’s out the window and it’s time to get the best finish you can.”
WHAT NEEDS TO BE LEARNED FROM THE TIRE WEAR LAST WEEK THAT CAN CARRY OVER NOT ONLY TO THAT TRACK BUT MAYBE POTENTIALLY TO OTHER TRACKS DOWN THE ROAD?
“I didn’t test there for Goodyear. All I can go off of is just my opinion so it’s nothing to write home about. The thing I can see is Saturday when the temperatures came up the track laid rubber and tire wear got a lot better, especially the left-sides. The right-sides were holding up fine. The left-sides weren’t laying rubber down and you could see that white ring around the bottom of the race track. We were all running so low and it would wear that left-side tire out. The tire was almost rolling up and leaving marbles all around the track except for that warmer Saturday practice session, the second one we had. Come to find out the test session it took a while for rubber to lay down and when the track temperatures came up and the test session heated up the track finally took rubber. There is something in the compound; I would suspect it’s in the compound and the temperature where the track will accept the rubber versus ball up. If that makes any sense at all.”
YOU’VE GOT FIVE WINS HERE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY MOST OF ANY ACTIVE DRIVER WHAT IS YOUR SECRET FOR BEING SO SUCCESSFUL HERE? WHY ARE YOU AND THE TEAM SO GOOD HERE?
“I think our team has done well on kind of low grip level race tracks. This track is in that category and pretty high on that list in today’s standards. That has usually been good for us. Hopefully we’ve got that magic once again. The character in the track continues to changes and the bumps. Last year especially the bumps were as big as I’ve ever seen them. The paving seams are very sensitive to run your right-side tires on. We have seen that in the NASCAR vehicles and also IndyCar. So I think those challenging elements are good for the No. 48.”
I KNOW IT’S EARLY IN THE SEASON BUT DO POINTS MATTER AT ALL ANYMORE WITH THE ‘WIN AND YOU ARE IN’ THING?
“I absolutely care about points. I think that it’s a pretty rare situation to have 16 different winners in 26 races. There will be people transferring into the Chase based on points. Even as you look at three races and how many spots are available on the second segment and third segment the point’s leader or the highest person in points without a win is going to transfer. Absolutely points are still very important until Homestead and then it doesn’t matter.”
NEXT WEEK IS THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF RICK HENDRICK’S FIRST NASCAR WIN. THERE MIGHT NOT BE ANOTHER PRO TEAM OWNER IN PRO SPORTS THAT HAS HAD SUCH A LONG CONSISTENT RUN OF SUCCESS. IF YOU HAD TO EXPLAIN WHAT MAKES RICK HENDRICK SO GOOD AT KEEPING THAT KIND OF GROUP TOGETHER AND HAVING THAT KIND OF SUCCESS WHAT IS IT?
“I think it’s a couple of things. One his love and passion for cars is second to none. He has an automotive empire and then his racing s
tuff. They really play off of one another. I know a lot of other successful business men diversify and have many other interests and things that keep them busy. But Rick is a car guy. I think there is a lot of weight in that. Then the other aspect is the man that he is. People want to work for him and they show up and do the best that they can. They treat our company like it’s theirs. Due to Rick’s personality and who he is as a man. I put it in those two categories.”
AFTER RACE FIVE WE WILL HAVE BEEN TO EVERY KIND OF RACE TRACK. DO YOU GUYS, AS A DRIVER, AS A TEAM, MAKE ANY KIND OF FORMAL ASSESSMENT AFTER THIS RACE?
“We do and we are ready for the next five. We showed up at all, except Daytona, we showed up at four of the five pretty far off, especially off the truck. We didn’t test as often as we would have liked during the off season to understand this new rules package. We have been playing a bit of catch up. So when I look at our progress from Friday practice session to Sunday race or the Thursday that we had in Las Vegas we have covered a lot of territory at every track, Bristol included. The next five are going to be real good races for us. If we can come off the truck how we kind of start a race I think we will be in that race winning window.”
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR WEEK HERE? DO YOU GET TO GO DOWN TO SAN DIEGO? THE GUY THAT WINS GETS BOOED A LOT AT A LOT OF PLACES, BUT THIS IS YOUR HOME TRACK DO YOU KIND OF FEEL LIKE YOU CAN COME HERE AND FEEL A LITTLE BIT MORE LOVE WHEN YOU ARE HERE?
“Definitely and it’s for sure our best souvenir sales if you look at any track. We come home and we see it on all fronts from cheers to licensed merchandise selling at the truck. It’s great to be home and feel that love for sure. This trip out I’ve not been to San Diego. We are going to do that before the Sonoma race when we have our golf tournament. I came out yesterday and did some media in LA (Los Angeles) and took advantage of being out here in this market and just kind of hanging out.”
HOW MUCH OF BEING HOME IS A DISTRACTION? NOW THAT WE ARE FOUR RACES INTO THE SEASON IS THERE ANYTHING THAT HAS SURPRISED YOU?
“Over the years I’ve learned how to deal with being home and family and friends at this point have been to enough races and kind of the shine is off of it. Everybody cuts me some slack. The surprising thing for the year would be how complicated the set-ups are on the car. Some minor changes in the rules, at least in the wordage in the rule book and what we are allowed to do with minimum ride height in that particular area has completely changed how you work on the cars; they are very sensitive and very difficult to get right. That has been our biggest learning curve right now is how to get all your ride heights correct and not have it change the balance of the race car and the set-up of the race car. Because with the front sway bar and geometry and then your rear ride heights and all that whole mouse trap that goes on it gets really confusing and you can create issues. That part has been a big shock to everybody.”
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES