NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
TUMS FAST RELIEF 500
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 28, 2011
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 MYLOWES CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed Martinsville, the Chad Knaus comment at Talladega, teammates and other topics. Full transcript:
TALK ABOUT COMING TO MARTINSVILLE, A PLACE YOU HAVE WON AT MANY TIMES, AND COULD USE A WIN AT THIS TIME:
“Yeah, definitely, we are really happy with all the tracks left on the schedule, so that we have a chance to win quite a few races that are left, certainly need to in the position we are in, in points, there is no telling what is going to happen in front of us, but we are going to fight as hard as we can for every race win, every point, and just see where we end up. Of course we want to win the championship, but if that door closes on us, we want to finish as high as we possibly can in the points and certainly win as many races as we can, Looking forward to great tracks and ready to get going.”
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THIS CONVERSATION BETWEEN YOU AND CHAD PRIOR TO THE RACE AT TALLADEGA?
“Yeah, looking back on things, Chad ( Knaus, crew chief) explained himself very well this week, and has been more than available to talk though the situation. Everyone is very well aware at the statements he made. The other thing to remember is that car passed inspection multiple times throughout the course of the weekend. At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post-race, he made a foolish statement. That is truly it. At the end of the day, that car passed inspection multiple times at an impound race and was pushed out onto the grid. It was certainly something that we did not want to take place. You can tell from my reaction it was something I had never heard in the car from him before, and it is what it is. The car passed tech at the race track multiple times and people have to build faith in that; Chad and I certainly respect NASCAR and their inspection process and unfortunately it happened for really no reason at all and now we have to put it behind us.”
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION AT THAT MOMENT? “At the moment, I was kind of surprised. As he talked to me he made a reference to covering his bases and I’m like, I am not thinking about that, I am going racing like I always do, so that was that.”
HAS CHAD EVER ASKED YOU ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE?
“No, you can tell by my reaction in the race car that was something I had not heard before.”
KEVIN HARVICK SAID ABOUT THE SITUATION, “YOU DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND WEATHER THE CONSEQUENCES LATER.” WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT COMMENT?
“Yeah, you go racing; you do what you have to do on the race track to win championships. This story can turn in a variety of ways; people are going to make of it what they want to. The facts are, Chad (Knaus) released a statement, and that car passed inspection multiple times at the track and there really is no more to it than that.”
HOW REALISTIC IS IT TO EXPECT PEOPLE WHO HAVE STRUGGLED HERE TO HAVE THE LIGHT BULB GO ON OVERNIGHT AND MAYBE HAVE A GOOD RUN?
“Technology does not change a lot here; I think those patterns stay consistent. Guys that run well continue to show strength and guys that struggle seem to typically do, it has been years past I have had that mindset and I have come here trying to protect the championship, being real close to the lead and we have been able to get points here. Each year this has been a good track for us the reason being is relative to your question. I think those patterns stay really similar.”
DO YOU BELIEVE OR ARE YOU TRYING NOT TO BELIEVE THAT IT IS OVER FOR YOU AS FAR AS THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
“As long as we are still mathematically in it, I’m not going to give up hope. I just never been one to lay down on something or to quit and not try, we have four races left on the schedule, stuff can happen. That window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller especially with these last two weeks, but it is not over until it is over. In racing, a lot of weird things happen and we will just see. If that door or window closes on winning the championship, again I want to finish as high as I possibly can in the points for my team, and for my sponsors. I have been able to be in the top-five in points since I started at the Cup level, I would love to keep that stat alive; so there is still a ton to race for including a championship. We just take it race by race.”
HOW DOES IT CHANGE THE DYNAMIC OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP WHEN YOU HAVE TWO TEAMMATES BATTLING AT THE TOP OF THE POINTS?
“There is a lot of pride for an organization, for those two shops and within the company to have that speed and have a shot at the championship. As time goes on it gets more and more difficult to have great team spirit and you team to be that teammate. I think Jeff (Gordon) and I and even Mark Martin for that matter have handled it as good as you possibly can and kept the open notebook situation going and (being) respectful on track and all those things that you would hope teammates would do. But it is a weird scenario where you have the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other and what got those guys to are where they are today is working together as a team and that is what worked for Jeff (Gordon), Mark (Martin) and I in the different years. There is a battle there but fortunately all that stuff builds to a race and then in the race you are your own independent team. And there still is enough that takes place in the course of the race that an individual team is responsible for, that we have found separation in that. Call a better race, make better adjustments, whatever it is to separate yourself from your teammate, so it is in your mind more, Friday, Saturday, but Sunday when you go racing you are on your own path at that point and things shake out.”
“I can’t say I race my teammates any different. I race them hard but make sure you leave them room and be respectful. I guess the thought of roughing-up a teammate or doing something out of line and collecting both of you would be absolutely ridiculous. So there are something’s there that you have to decide how you want to handle it, and certainly as you engage and handle things one way, chances are you will see him again on the track and the roles will be reversed before the season is over and you might have something coming your direction.”
YOU HAVE HAD A GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH CHAD KNAUS OVER THE YEARS. IT SEEMS A LITTLE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR WITH VARIOUS ARGUMENTS ON THE RADIO AND SO FORTH. AT THE END OF THE SEASON DO YOU MEET WITH CHAD AND MR. HENDRICK AND RE-EXAMINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP AND HOW TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THIS?
“I think that people forget, the past nine years of the No. 48 team being together. Chad and I have always been brutally honest with one another. There has always been plenty said and sure, things have reached different high points and in 2005 we had that infamous “milk and cookies” meeting, but there is no drama there. We have always prided ourselves on being honest with one another; there are times he gets under my skin and times I get under his. That is just pro sports. That is just the way it is. We don’t have anything planned, I don’t have anything in the front of my mind, saying, well, I have to sit down with Chad and talk to him. We are racers. And in the heat of the moment things get said and you have to be man enough to deal with those things when they come from your crew chief or when the crew chief hears it from a driver. There is no issue there.”
CARL EDWARDS HAS BUILT HIMSELF A DECENT LITTLE CUSHION HERE. HE’S 14 POINTS UP WITH FOUR RACES TO GO. WHAT LUXURIES DOES THAT GIVE YOU AS A COMPETITOR WHEN YOU HOLD THE CARDS AS OPPOSED TO WHEN YOU’RE CHASING? CONVERSELY, WHAT’S IT LIKE TO HOLD PEOPLE OFF? WHAT STRESSES DOES THAT PRESENT?
“With protecting, you end up with a slightly different mindset; at least I did. I’m only speaking about my experience. Other guys handle it in different ways. When you’re protecting something, you’re almost in the way of thinking that glass is half full and I’ve got to be careful. In qualifying, I’d better make sure I make a perfect lap. If it doesn’t turn out well, okay then now I’m in traffic and there could be a crash. You start thinking down a negative line of thought. For me, chasing, there was far less negative thoughts in my mind; it was all aggression. Pretty simple; you’ve got to qualify well. If you don’t, well damn, now I’ve got to figure out how to get through these guys. I need to go lead a lap. There is just a small subtle change in how you approach things, but at the end of 10 weeks or four weeks or wherever you are in the Chase, that does add up and kind of has you in a certain state of mind. I had more fun last year chasing Denny (Hamlin) than I did other years protecting something. But I would much rather be in a position of protecting. I want all the points I can get. I’d rather manage my outcome than have to kind of go off and chase it down. So, I’d much rather lead and be in Carl’s position and we’ll have to see what 14 points means this year and how it will play out. We’ve got four races left and we’ll see what everybody has for him.”
WHEN YOU HEARD THAT THE CONVERSATION WITH (CREW CHIEF) CHAD KNAUS AT TALLADEGA WAS GOING TO COME OUT AND THAT YOU WERE GOING TO BE SCRUTINIZED AND TALKED ABOUT, DID YOU WORRY ABOUT YOUR REPUTATION AND WHAT PEOPLE WERE GOING TO THINK?
“That’s a crazy question to ask, man (laughs). Hell no! Everybody in this garage area knows what this team has done to win these five championships. And our car with the success we’ve had over the years has been through the (NASCAR) R&D center far more than any other race car. And when we’ve been out of line, we’ve been put in place. And we’ve overcome a lot over the years. And the success of this race team is due to a lot of hard work and this has no bearing on it.”
GIVEN YOUR HISTORY AND SUCCESS AT MARTINSVILLE, WHEN OTHER GUYS AHEAD OF YOU IN THE CHASE HAVEN’T DONE STATISTICALLY WELL HERE, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS YOUR BEST CHANCE TO MAKE UP SOME POINTS AS FAR AS THE REMAINING TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE GO?
“Historically yes, but with six guys in front of me in the points and I’d say more than half of them look forward to coming to this race track, my real opportunity was last week (Talladega) and our 26th place finish didn’t help me out any (laughs). So, we’re at a point now, with six guys ahead of me, like I was saying earlier, that window of opportunity is smaller. It’s a lot smaller. It’s one thing if there were one or two guys ahead of me, my odds would improve at that point. But it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen and I’ve just got to go out and try to lead as many laps as I can, win as often as I can, and see where everyone else’s luck goes. This, probably in a year, has been more volatile than we’ve ever seen. So, if that volatility stays in play, I’ve got a shot. If Carl (Edwards) runs top five from here on in, then I’ve got no chance.”
AT TALLADEGA LAST WEEK, THERE SEEM TO BE SOME DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN YOU AND DALE EARNHARDT JR. ABOUT WHERE YOU WANTED TO BE ON THE TRACK AND WHEN. IF HE WANTS TO BE UP FRONT AND YOU WANT TO BE IN THE BACK AND THERE IS A DISAGREEMENT ABOUT THAT, HOW DO YOU RESOLVE IT GIVEN THAT THE CARS ARE SO INTERDEPENDENT ON EACH OTHER?
“I don’t ever recall a disagreement. What Junior and I did was in the days leading into the Talladega race, our crew chiefs took the responsibility to call the race and tell us when to go and what to do. Junior and I both agreed that inside the car it’s tough to understand the big picture. And we find that it’s really easy for us to get overly excited and feel like we need to go up in and race. And with the strategy we all agreed to put in play, it was to ride and wait and at the very end of the race, go, and get up in there. And we took direction from our crew chiefs as we were instructed to do and those last cautions really hurt our plan. That’s what really got us. And then on the last restart, we were sitting there in 20-something place with two laps to go. Junior was in front of me and my car was overheating. I’ve got to get in front of him to try to get a push and with two laps; it just didn’t play out as we had hoped it would. But we were just sitting in the cars taking direction.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON LAST NIGHT’S WORLD SERIES GAME IF YOU WATCHED IT, AND PREDICTIONS FOR TONIGHT IF YOU HAVE ANY?
“I didn’t see it and it sounds like I missed one heck of a game. I couldn’t find it. I looked briefly and I couldn’t find it and I went to bed. I had to get up early to drive up (to Martinsville) this morning and that was that. Game 7 will be exciting I guess.”
DO YOU FEEL THE POINT SYSTEM SHOULD BE TWEAKED NEXT YEAR TO MAKE SURE THAT ONE DNF DOESN’T KILL YOU FOR THE REST OF THE CHASE?
“No, I think things are good. I think we, as a group, with input from the fans, want an emphasis on winning and performing. So, the point system supports that on top of the fact that it hasn’t changed dramatically from the old system except it’s a lot easier to follow. So I don’t see any issues. I just wish I had 50 more points than I do right now.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE IF YOU FINISH IN THE TOP FIVE YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO BE EXTRA CAREFUL, EVEN IF YOU WANT TO CONGRATULATE SOMEBODY OR IF YOU’RE ANGRY AT SOMEBODY, NOT TO BUMP INTO THEM; OR IF YOU’RE DOING A BURNOUT, NOT TO HIT ANYTHING?
“I guess so but I haven’t thought about it at all. In my past history of post-race celebrations, I’ve never done anything to be called into question or any of that. I hadn’t thought about it. I certainly hope to win and I guess it would cross my mind to think okay, be very gentle here, park the car (laughs). But I hadn’t thought about it a bit. Thanks a lot (laughs).”
HOW WOULD YOU CRITIQUE THE FOUR OR FIVE GUYS THAT ARE STILL IN CONTENTION DOWN THE STRETCH?
“Man, I know where I am, but I don’t know the spread and I don’t know who is where. It’s funny how you just pay attention to your own stuff and what’s relevant in your world. I know were Carl (Edwards) is and I know where I am. But it’s tough to say. I look at the tracks remaining (on the schedule); Roush cars have been strong on the 1.5-mile tracks for a long time. Carl has steadily gotten more consistent here (Martinsville). Matt (Kenseth), I don’t see this as being one of Matt’s favorite tracks but then I know Tony (Stewart) has had great success here. Kyle (Busch) has been getting a lot better here over the years and been in the top five a bunch. Phoenix is still up in the air. I don’t know how you put in the odds on Phoenix or know what’s going to happen there. Even after being there for two test sessions like I have, I still don’t know what to expect. So, Texas, I don’t know. It’s really tough to tell. At times we see Tony red-hot on 1.5-miles; and on other tracks at other times, it’s cooled off. Kevin (Harvick) has been very consistent. I think Matt will continue to be consistent. Carl will. I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about it until now. But I think it’s going to go down to Homestead. I don’t think anybody will lock it up before then.”
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