NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
FEDEX 400 BENEFITING AUTISM SPEAKS
DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MAY 30, 2014
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed his thoughts on the races coming up in June, qualifying at Pocono and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND AND YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE RACE:
“Just looking to expand on a great performance last weekend. We are coming to my favorite race track and by the stats probably our best track as well. Excited to be here, look forward to getting on the race track and seeing how this new rules package works here. Over the years we have been able to adapt to a variety of generations of car and hopefully we can adapt quickly to what is needed here and what the set-up needs to be to get around the ‘Monster’ once again. Looking forward to the race on Sunday.”
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE NEXT STRETCH OF THE SCHEDULE WITH THE LACK OF 1.5-MILE TRACKS AS FAR AS DRIVERS THAT HAVEN’T WON YET THIS YEAR? ESPECIALLY WITH THE WAY THE CHASE RULES ARE SET UP THIS YEAR. IS THAT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DRIVERS THAT HAVEN’T WON WITH THE UNIQUE TRACKS COMING UP TO WIN THOSE RACES?
“I would say outside of the two road course races your favorites would still be your favorites. I think the road course races open it up to a lot of drivers. You naturally think of the road course specialist, but guys like myself and Kasey Kahne have won in Sonoma too. Sonoma I think really opens the door for a lot of people. Fuel strategy can play a role in there and really take it into somebody else’s hands that is willing to take a big risk. But Michigan, Pocono, Indy, I just feel like your teams that are running well now will prevail at those tracks. I think who runs well at Pocono will naturally run well at Indy. I think Michigan, even though it’s a two-mile track, it still fits kind of a mile and a half style set-up. Should be a familiar face there and I am kind of lost for the other tracks we are going to. I guess New Hampshire is out there at some point which is an important race with it being in the Chase so right now with how tough it’s been to understand the new package I think whoever is strong now will continue to be strong. We are deep enough into the season where people are kind of on their course and have the set-ups that they think is best under their car. You won’t see a lot of change I don’t think. Everybody is kind of locked in I guess with their speed.”
WAS IT IRRITATING TO YOU WHEN MATT KENSETH DROVE YOU LOW ON THE BACKSTRETCH AT THE END OF THE RACE AT CHARLOTTE LAST WEEK? IS THERE ANY KIND OF UNWRITTEN RULE BETWEEN DRIVERS OF AT WHAT POINT IN THE RACE IT IS OKAY TO BLOCK OR NOT TO BLOCK?
“When it comes to the end of the race everything is out the window at that point. I don’t expect somebody to be polite and courteous and give me all kinds of room. I hadn’t been run down the straightaway low like that before, but once we got low enough where I kind of knew ‘this is about as far as I want to go’ Matt (Kenseth) kind of held his line at that point. We were about off the track, but again its racing. It’s the end of the (Coca-Cola) 600, it’s the end of the race and you expect people to race you real hard. If it’s right one your quarter panel or your door through the center of the turn whatever it may be. I wasn’t totally shocked and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to go by the No. 20 car. There was no way that was going to happen. The unwritten rule is really fall into the line of contact and where somebody bumps you. Going into the corners that opens up a can of worms and usually leads to some hurt feelings and pushing and shoving if not punches thrown, especially in the old days. Contact through the center of the corner or off or even some bumping down the straightaway is fine, but the big unwritten rule is contact on corner entry.”
AS A PAST POLE WINNER AT POCONO HOW DO YOU THINK THE NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT WILL PLAY OUT THERE AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS 11 RACES IN ON THE NEW FORMAT?
“Qualifying there it’s such a long lap that you usually end up kind of out of grip by the third turn. You leave pit road you’ve got a long way to get around, you get up to speed and then complete that long lap that we might see a fair amount of fall off in speed. Just due to the tire getting more miles on it than what you would normally have. That is kind of my first question that I have is how much fall off will there be. But it’s the same for everyone and there is enough room on that race track you should be able to get a clean lap and not have to worry about traffic. I think the format will work well. If you are fortunate enough to time it and get a tow down the front straightaway when somebody is finishing their lap and you are getting up to speed that could be beneficial for you. There are a couple of things there to think about and I think it’s such a big track it’s tough to see it all from a fan perspective. But inside the car and the challenge that the crew chief face there is a lot going on around that race track. I know it’s Chad’s (Knaus) favorite race track to go to because all three corners are different, the loading is different, the banking is different, there are a bunch of tools and options to adjust the race car all the way around the track. That is what Chad really enjoys about that place.”
WE HAVE HAD SOME MOISTURE HERE THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS. HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO CHECK OUT THE TRACK AND SEE IF THAT IS GOING TO BE A FACTOR AT ALL?
“With the Trucks being on track they will have it dusted off pretty good for us. I feel bad for their first 10 or 15 minutes of practice. The dirt that it has drug across the track makes this place pretty slick. Those guys are putting up with it right now and it will be in good shape once we get out there.”
YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS AT DOVER IN THE PAST WHAT DO YOU KEEP DOING TO ADJUST TO THE DIFFERENT AERO PACKAGES THAT NASCAR PRESENTS AT THESE TRACKS?
“Really at the end of the day there is a feel a sensation I look for to get around this race track. We all have a feel and sensation we look for it’s just if it yields the speed and fits the track. Everything has worked well for me, for Chad, for the team, our equipment; it’s just been a very strong track for us. Over time as things change I just pay attention to the feeling I’m looking for and we are able to work through whatever challenges are thrown at us with different tires that are brought in and also generations of car. This is still the Gen-6 cars, but a different rules package under it. Regardless of change there are just some tracks that work well for you and you are able to still find that feeling you are looking for regardless of circumstances.”
WHAT IS THE MOOD OF THE TEAM WHEN COMING OFF A WIN?
“Coming off a race win, the Monday to Friday routine is very comfortable and nice. Everybody is smiling and has a spring in their step. But truthfully, when we get here and check in, last week seems so far away. And then here, in an hour or so when we get on the race track for practice and NASCAR’s timing and scoring goes hot again, it’s completely out of your mind and you’re focused on the present. There has been a lot of pressure and expectations put on us as a team and a lot of things written about us and the long winless streak, but that pressure that people might see and suspect that might be wearing on us is nothing compared to the pressure we put on ourselves as a race team. We expect a lot out of ourselves. We feel like wins have gotten away from us this year that
we weren’t happy about and we also feel that there are tracks that we went to where we just had poor performances. So, the win is great, but we kind of hold ourselves to that standard and we’re coming to one of our best tracks and the expectations are very high for this weekend.”
LAST SEPTEMBER YOU BECAME THE ALL-TIME WINNINGEST DRIVER HERE. LAST WEEK YOU BECAME THE ALL-TIME WINNINGEST POINTS RACE DRIVER AT CHARLOTTE. DO THOSE RECORDS MEAN ANYTHING SPECIAL TO YOU OR IS IT JUST ANTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE?
“No, no, they definitely have a ton of meaning. When I look at the people that I’m tying or have the opportunity to beat for those great titles, it’s the heroes of our sport and the guys that are put in the Hall of Fame. When you look at their stats and what they’ve done for our sport, household names, it is no small feat to tie or have the opportunity to beat these guys for races won at any track.”
WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PRESSURE YOU PUT ON YOURSELVES, CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC AS FAR AS TEAM MEETINGS OR DO YOU GET SNIPPY WITH EACH OTHER OR WHAT IS THE KIND OF PRESSURE YOU GUYS PUT ON YOURSELVES?
“All the above. Depending on the day and the point of the day, it changes. But, to start the process, the amount of time that’s put into our race cars and the set-ups and the preparation that goes into it that starts the week; and then as the weekend unfolds, if you have speed and you’re okay, it’s easy to not be snippy and to maintain whatever mindset that works but still eye on the prize. If you’re not where you want to be, especially (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and my group of guys who spend so much time to come to the race track and to be prepared, that in a way their feelings are hurt. It’s not fun to work so hard and then to be on the right side of the board in practice or qualifying; to not make it to the second round of qualifying. That stuff just eats us up because we work way too hard to be in that position. The sport isn’t easy. This garage area is so tough and strong that it happens. And when it does, you’ve just got to pull your boots up and get to work and work harder.
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT WAS IT THIS WEEK AFTER THE WIN IN CHARLOTTE?
“It’s been good. There’s certainly been a little spring in everyone’s step. And then really expanding on the sensations I had in the race car during the events and what I liked about the car and what I didn’t like about the car; going through practice and qualifying and practice and the race, and seeing what put speed in the car and what took speed out of the car. And really trying to help last weekend’s performance plow a road for us in where we need to go with this new rules package.”
WHEN YOU GO OUT FOR A RUN AT THE RACE TRACK, KIND OF LIKE YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME, IS IT DIFFICULT WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER RACE FANS AND THEY WANT YOU TO POSE FOR PICTURES OF GIVE THEM AN AUTOGRAPH? IS IT HARD TO COPE WITH THAT?
“It depends. Most of them have got to catch me first and they’re usually not sober enough or in shape enough to do that. Do, it just depends. I’ll get up early at sunrise, that’s usually the most fun. You run up and down Talladega Blvd. Texas is good for it. There’s a variety of tracks where an early morning run is more entertaining than it is a workout. You see people halfway in their tents and still passed out in lawn chairs and all kinds of good things. In the afternoons, I’ll run this afternoon, usually people see me coming, they think; and as they go by they’ll say, ‘Hey Jimmie, is that you?’ And I’ll wave and give them a thumbs-up or something and keep on digging. Guys on bikes and golf carts can run you down. But they’re usually pretty good about it.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THIS STRETCH ON THE SCHEDULE, CHARLOTTE, DOVER, & POCONO, YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS AT THOSE TRACKS. IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR REASON SINCE THOSE TRACKS ARE ALL SO DIFFERENT?
“That’s a good question. They are totally different race tracks. I’d have to say they’re probably the most technical tracks we go to. Set-up is key. Communication between driver and crew chief is key. At Charlotte and Dover you have such loading characteristics, as you’re on the straightaway and kind of lunge off the corner, that you can draw some similarities between those two tracks. Pocono is so different. I don’t even know how to even draw a parallel other than it’s tough to get around. Dover isn’t easy. Charlotte isn’t easy. And neither is Pocono.”
WE’VE JOKED ABOUT YOUR LONG WINLESS STREAK. FOR YEARS IT WAS JIMMIE WINS TOO MUCH AND THEN IT BECAME WHY HASN’T JIMMIE WON THIS YEAR? AFTER CHARLOTTE, WHAT HAS BEEN THE FEEDBACK ON SOCIAL MEDIA FROM FANS AND COMPETITORS?
“I think a lot of joking about the long winless streak being over. That’s been the common theme among friends and social media and about. So, I’m just having fun with it and trying to remind myself that it’s a backhanded compliment, I guess, that we have done so well as a team and been fortunate to win a lot and win often, that we put ourselves in this corner. So, I’m glad I don’t have to answer those questions any longer and we’re looking forward to winning again soon and especially later in the year, winning often.”
YOU HAVE EIGHT MONSTER TROPHIES FROM DOVER. DO YOU HAVE THEM ALL IN ONE SPOT OR SPREAD OUT; CONSIDERING THEY ARE ONE OF THE LARGEST TROPHIES YOU CAN WIN?
“They’re all in one spot. I have a great man cave. It’s a big warehouse and I have a huge bar that I restored and it’s got a big top shelf on it. And I think five of them are up there. And then others are scattered about through this kind of pub area that I set-up inside my warehouse where I have some old cars and stuff that I collected. They stand out. They’re a big trophy and they certainly draw a lot of attention.”
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES