CHEVY MENCS AT FONTANA: Jimmie Johnson Press Conf. Transcript

by Official Release On Fri, Mar. 15, 2019

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
AUTO CLUB 400
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 15, 2019

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1 met with media and discussed recent rule to enforce pit road speed during qualifying, social media, fitness, and more. Full Transcript:

YOUR CREW CHIEF SAID LAST WEEK THAT WE’VE GOT A WAYS TO GO. HOW FAR DO YOU HAVE TO GO? DO YOUR TALENTS AT THIS RACE TRACK STILL OVERCOME ANY WAYS TO GO THAT YOU GUYS HAVE TO ACCOMPLISH YET?
“I think last weekend showed that if we have a mistake-free race that we can run in the top 5 and in the top 10 and how last year went, that’s a step in the right direction. So, we do have some pride in that. Clearly we’re putting a lot of time and work and effort to get better. So, it’s nice to have those better funs. But it’s not where we want to be. It’s not where I want to be, or Mr. Hendrick or Kevin (Meendering) or this whole team. We’re trying to celebrate the small victories but at the same time if you look at the speed that the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) had on the field and his ability to pass, we want that. And we’re not going to stop until we get that.”

WHEN YOU COME HERE, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE’S A LIGHT HERE AND A POSSIBILITY BECAUSE YOU’RE REALLY GOOD HERE?
“Yeah, I think so. There are tracks that a driver can make a difference at. Dover has always been one for me. This track has been one. The one thing that is so different right now is we’re back to a package we’ve run two other times this year. We’re on a high wear track. I look at Atlanta. It did not go well. Atlanta is similar to this place. So, I’m hopeful that we’ve made our car better since Atlanta for this type of environment. That’s what I think the whole Hendrick Motorsports crowd is focused on right now.”

WE GO TO MARTINSVILLE NEXT WEEK. THERE WAS A LOT OF DEBATE IN THE JOEY LOGANO MOVE AT THE END OF THAT RACE. HAS CODE CHANGED AT ALL SINCE WHAT HE DID THERE OR DOES EVERY DRIVER HAVE THEIR CODE NO MATTER WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DO?
“The code has definitely changed. People reference the code a lot. But, I think ultimately whatever code exists is between the two drivers. And that same code might not exist between driver C and driver D or driver A and driver D; it just changes all the time. When I look at it, sure it was a very aggressive move and Joey knew what he was doing to get that win and I’m sure we’ll expect the same to come back from Martin (Truex, Jr.) at some point. But the car is finished. In my eyes, sure it was aggressive but it could have been a lot worse.”

DOES THE FACT THAT YOU HAVEN’T WON IN A WHILE CHANGE YOUR CODE AT ALL?
“Without a doubt. And, I’m not into crashing cars. I’m not into crashing other people for the win. So, moving somebody out of the way for a win is the way you need to race. And then the thing that I find so funny is people want to say that NASCAR has lost its character and that drivers are scared and they won’t move somebody out of the way; and then a guy does it and you have this backlash. So, I don’t know.”

BUT DON’T YOU HAVE TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE NOW? ISN’T THAT THE DEAL? ISN’T THAT WHAT IT’S GOING TO BE?
“Yeah, you do. We’ve always been aggressive but for me, aggression has changed to short run. And it’s been heading that way for a handful of years now. When I first started, you absolutely had to be aggressive. But, it would wear your car out. It would wear your tires out. There are other elements. And you’ve spent 450 miles playing a chess game and respecting on another and then was all out and restarts didn’t matter as much. Now, restarts are everything. When you get close to somebody you have to capitalize and get by and not lose momentum. As soon as you loose momentum, you literally just stall out wherever that is in the running order. So, I think we’ve always been this aggressive but it’s just changed to different parts of the run and different parts of the race.”

NASCAR WILL NOW HAVE A SPEEDING LIMIT ON PIT ROAD FOR QUALIFYING. THEY SAID IF IT DOESN’T WORK, THEY MIGHT HAVE TO CHANGE IT AGAIN AND THEY ARE TRYING TO FIND A WAY IF THE TEAMS WILL BUY INTO IT, THAT THEY CAN GET IT DONE AND THAT PEOPLE AREN’T GOING CRAZY ON PIT ROAD AND WAITING AND THEN SPEEDING. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THE NEW RULE?
“It’s a logical rule change. It’s just kind of weird timing in my opinion. We’re packing our bags and getting ready to head to Fontana and we’re five races into the year and rule comes. I’m like what? Why didn’t we start the year like this? Again, it’s a logical rule. I still look forward to speaking with them today and trying to understand if it’s just to keep the cars at a controlled pace where there are men on pit road walking, or are they trying to create something different and keep us from maybe leaving the end of pit road in these big groups together. Depending on what their intentions are, I think there are a few ways to look at it. If it’s just to make pit road safer, let’s create a zone and make some visual cones and references up for the drivers and turn those segments on. I totally get it. It’s just going to be silly if you’re at the end of pit road trying to get into a whole and you’re time isn’t going to count because you went over the speed limit. I think the way I’m going to prevent doing that is I‘m going to go down past the last orange line and sit. Well, at Martinsville, you’re sitting on the race track. At different tracks that line is at a different spot. Understanding the intentions of this rule is going to be beneficial for everybody and we can adjust it.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE AT LAS VEGAS, ESPECIALLY IN THAT LAST ROUND WHERE YOU WERE THE SECOND CAR UP CLOSEST TO PIT EXIT AND YOU KIND OF POSITIONED YOURSELF BY THE NO. 8 AND THE NO. 3; AND THEN WHEN EVERYBODY STARTED TO SLOWLY TAKE OFF THE NO. 17 AND THE NO. 22 AND THE NO. 42 BLEW PAST YOU ON THE INSIDE. WHAT WAS THAT SENSATION LIKE ON PIT ROAD AS YOU WERE TRYING TO POSITION YOURSELF AND GUYS WERE FLYING BY YOU ON THE INSIDE?
“From a safety standpoint, I felt really comfortable with it and knew what was going on. And I rolled off and went hundreds of yards down pit road and we were in a safe spot. So, that felt like fair game to me and I was completely fine with it. I can understand if that’s all taking place and there are cars parked and men walking around trying to service the cars. So, I didn’t have a problem with it. And I could see what was coming. My spotter was telling me. I knew I didn’t want to be the first car in line. So we were all playing that game of trying to get somebody to roll and then fall in behind him.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN? WHAT DID YOU DO RIGHT AND/OR MAYBE NOT DO RIGHT WITH HOW YOU PUT YOURSELF IN POSITION FOR THAT QUALIFYING RUN?
“Ultimately, your lap time comes from closing a gap between you and the car in front of you. I wasn’t willing to play the game to be the last car in line and we saw two cars miss out on being able to start their lap. I think we all understand that risk. But for me, I think I didn’t manage the gap large enough and the timing of the second lap. I slowly closed-up to the car in front of me and halfway through the money lap, I was to his bumper. You’ve got to figure out that gap and start closing from the time you start your money lap to when you finish and I just got to the guy’s bumper a little too quick and ended up I think 9th or something.”

WHY WOULD A DRIVER BE PUSHING IT ON PIT ROAD DURING QUALIFYING?
“In most circumstances, the spotters are trying to put us into holes on the track and you don’t want to impede somebody that’s on a run. So spotters have visual marks, the drivers are used to seeing something in the mirror and when they’re told which car to follow, we start rolling off of pit road and try to get up to speed to fill that gap. The other piece to it is that we need every foot of race track to get these cars up to speed to do our qualifying in one lap. So, if you can leave pit road as hard as you can, that also helps. You have those two elements that you’re trying to play.”

NASCAR SAID ABOUT THE SPEEDING PENALTIES THAT THIS MIGHT NOT BE THE END OF FIXING IT. WE’D LIKE TO HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO GET IT RIGHT. WE MIGHT HAVE TO CHANGE IT AGAIN AT TEXAS. WE WANT IT TO BE ORDERLY. BUT WE DON’T WANT TO HAVE ABOUT 15 PENALTIES DURING QUALIFYING. THEY DON’T WANT TO OVER-MANAGE IT. HOW WOULD IT WORK IF THEY HAVE TO FURTHER ENFORCE IT?
“I understand everything they are saying. Unfortunately somebody is going to get in trouble. And that’s the only way we’re going to kind of figure this thing out. So the impact of that and who it is; if it’s a top driver, it’s going to be bigger than if it is a back-of-the-pack guy. I’m happy to hear this isn’t set in stone. I just want to make sure I’m not the guy making these early mistakes.”

THE QUALIFYING LINE-UP IS BASED ON A RANDOM DRAW. WHERE YOU ARE ON PIT ROAD. THAT CAN IMPACT HOW MANY CARS YOU’RE BEHIND TOWARD THE FRONT OF THE LINE OR THE BACK OF THE LINE. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT’S NOW A RANDOM THING? SHOULD IT BE LOOKED AT? IS THERE A BETTER WAY OF DOING IT? IS THERE AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE IF YOU’RE FURTHER BACK AT A TRACK WHERE DRAFTING MATTERS?
“I haven’t thought about that one. “I guess things happen that force you to roll. Like if you leave your box and you’re forced to roll in some fashion it could play a role. But right now, we all go down, reposition, leave a gap between us and the car in front of us, leave the center open. And then you wait for your crew chief’s strategy and time when he wants you to go and then wait for the spotter to kind of coach you through it. One thing that I think we could do is to make sure the cars are positioned early enough on pit road so there’s a generous area before the pit out line. And then where the race cars are, make those segments hot to make sure that we’re not speeding through the area where crew members are out working on the car. We shut the car off and coast in. So, when you get back to pit in, which is fine, but we’re going to have to start the car. And here you’ve got three-quarters of a mile that’s you’re going to roll. We’re going to have to start the car back up and make sure you’re going pit road speed. It’s going to be very easy for somebody to think they’re coasting at 55 and not be. So, there just seems like there could be some silly penalties and I think if we condense the area and give the drivers some visual cues they will prevent mistakes. But, I’m starting this weekend. Every time I go down pit road, in or off, I’m doing pit road speed. I’m just going to try to retrain my brain today and not get in trouble.”

DO YOU NORMALLY CHECK YOUR PIT ROAD SPEED DURING PRACTICE OR DO YOU DO IT ON SATURDAYS?
“Saturdays.”

ARE THE SOCIAL MEDIA PEOPLE GETTING TO YOU ABOUT THE MARATHON? YOU ARE QUICKLY ANSWERING THEM IN A CLEVER WAY, BUT YOU’RE SENDING A MESSAGE BACK
“I’ve seen it for years. And, what’s so funny is when I was winning championships and races it was because oh, he’s in good shape. And then whatever happens and you don’t end up as dominate as you once were, it’s oh, his focus isn’t in the right spot. Social Media for me is a place to share what else I do with my life. I’ve seen it long enough and at times I engage that I was just in one of those moods where I felt like I should engage once again.”

THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS AT MARTINSVILLE HAVEN’T BEEN JIMMIE JOHNSON-TYPE FINISHES. WHAT HAS BECOME THE CHALLENGE OR WHAT HAS NOT BEEN THERE THAT HAS BEEN THERE IN THE PAST WHERE YOU HAD THAT DOMINANT RUN. I KNOW THINGS CHANGE OVER TIME.
“I showed-up at Hendrick with cars and set-ups that just did everything you wanted them to. Rules packages have changed quite a bit since then. And, we’ve just lost our advantage. When I look at our problems in the last couple of years, we’ve said a lot about aero and think that aero is a big piece of it and I don’t disagree. In fact, I don’t know what it really is. When we go to a track where mechanical grip matter, like Martinsville, and we don’t run well, it is mechanical grip too. So, times change. We’ve got to re-think things and re-build things. We’ve put a lot of effort in and it’s just frustrating to not get the results as quick as we want, but we’ll head their optimistic once again and with a lot of new stuff on the cars and see if it works.”

WHAT DOES A MARTINSVILLE CLOCK MEAN TO YOU AS A TROPHY?
“It’s probably one of the top three or top five trophies any driver wants to win. Mine, I’ve got a great collection of them and they mean a lot to me and they always catch people’s eye when they see them. So, I’m very proud of them and hope to get more.”

IS YOUR HOUSE BIG ENOUGH TO PUT ONE IN EVERY ROOM? WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM?
“No, I have a cool man cave with all my stuff in it.”

DO YOU EVER SET THEM TO CHIME OR DO YOU JUST KEEP THEM QUIET?
“No, they show-up kind of unwound and I’ve just left them that way.”

HOW WILL THE WIND AFFECT YOU GUYS TODAY?
“Gusty wind is always a problem. If it stays steady, we kind of adjust to it and take it from there. This lower horsepower package, it it’s a tailwind I can see it speeding us up and being a little bit more fun on corner entry. And then the headwinds are going to feel like Superman.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE IN THE CENTER OF THE CORNER, THERE’S MORE G’S OR POUNDING ON THE DRIVER. WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THAT NOW?
“So, like at Vegas, I guess our corner speed was a little bit higher but it was tough to feel it. We’re so used to working the pedals and being very concerned about your arc into the corner. How you work the pedals and the arc into the turn makes either easy or difficult and your heart rate follows that and your stress level through your body follows that. At Vegas you’d get all the way to the center of the turn and you’re like oh, I guess I am going kind of fast. And then you’re off the corner and you’re like, well. The only place that got my attention was for about four car length’s worth in the center of the corner. And it was all pretty calm. And if you look at like my Strava account and follow my heart race, at Vegas it was like 120 or 125. Last weekend in Phoenix, having the power that we’re used to having, the whole corner you’re on edge and the stress level and g-forces are higher and I averaged at 155 beats a minute. So, it’s a good 30 beats a minute from 500 horsepower to 750 horsepower.”

BACK TO SOCIAL MEDIA, PEOPLE ON YOUR TEAM SAY YOU’RE JUST NOT ROCKED EASILY. DO YOU THINK SOMETIMES THEY’RE JUST TRYING TO ROCK YOU AND WOULD THERE EVER BE A TIME THAT YOU WOULD SNAP AND JUST TELL THEM TO TAKE A FLYING LEAP OR SOMETHING? IS THAT JUST NOT YOUR PERSONALITY?
“Well, I think that’s what I have done. It’s not that I’ve snapped. But you see a common theme or thread and then some things really just don’t make any sense. If any of those people making remarks about my commitment to fitness actually lived a committed life to fitness would understand the worth ethic and dedication that it takes to be good at something, would realize that what I do there is just something that builds me into who I am for what takes place in the race car. It’s more training for the mindset in the race car. It just takes a focus and commitment to do that that I love and makes me a better person and dials my focus in harder. That hard work and discipline and work ethic goes hand-in-hand. You can’t be a couch potato and a great race car driver. I just don’t think that’s the case. It’s not what makes me work. So, there are keyboard warriors and occasionally I’ll see enough of it and make my remarks. Again, that’s not me snapping, but that’s just me saying shut up. I mean seriously.”

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