CHEVY NSCS AT LAS VEGAS — Jimmie Johnson Press Conf. Transcript

[media-credit name=”” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES



American Muscle


MARCH 9, 2012

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Las Vegas, Tuesday’s appeal and other topics.  Full transcript:

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND?:  “My outlook’s good.  Very competitive at Phoenix last week and I think the stuff we learned over the off-season that we had a chance to run at Phoenix will cross over here to Las Vegas.  First mile-and-a-half of the year and we all know how many are on the schedule so our team along with all the others are very focused on this weekend.  Eager to get on track and hopeful to have good speed in the car and a comfortable race car.  I’ve always enjoyed this race track.  I’ve been able to win here a bunch of times. The cool thing for this track in my mind is how hard you can drive each and every lap.  The progressive banking gives us some options to move around the race track and find other lanes to run on.  You have to pull the belts tight and man-up to run around here.  It’s a lot of fun.”

AFTER DAYTONA, HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET A FULL RACE RUN AT PHOENIX TO GET POINTS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM?:  “It was important, but you have DNFs through the course of the year and Daytona, unfortunately, was one of those for myself.  On the other side, I’m not paying attention to it.  Next Tuesday, hopefully our side will be heard and hopefully things come in our direction.  That’s what I’m hoping for, but there’s really nothing I can do for that issue or for that situation.  At the end of the day, I have to get maximum points each and every week and at a minimum, to secure a wild card spot.  Winning at least one race, maybe two races would do that.  That’s my mindset is to go out and win races and then the points will take care of itself.  Right now, we’re in a position that I don’t want to be in, but we’ll climb the ladder slowly.”

WHEN YOU ARE BACK IN THE DESERT, DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE BACK AMONGST YOUR PEOPLE?:  “Yes, out in the dirt.  It’s not a bad thing.”

DOES THE TRACK FEEL MORE TREACHEROUS SINCE THEY ADDED THE PROGRESSIVE BANKING?:  “I’m trying to think of a good answer for you.  This track has always been a tough one, especially turns three and four.  The sun sits on that end of the race track all weekend long, especially during the race on Sunday.  It’s real slick.  One and two is a bit more forgiving, the way the billboards line the outside of the race track, it puts a lot of shade on the track.  I can’t — to me it’s been challenging and was challenging with the old configuration and now, now I think you can drive a little harder so maybe when you step over the line, you lose control of the car because the speeds are up a bit more it seems like.  This track has always been a tricky one in my opinion.  That is I think why I’ve had good success here is that it’s kind of a difficult track and slicker tracks are better for myself and for my driving style.”


“Wow, I guess I hadn’t put much thought into that.  Especially from Danica’s (Patrick) perspective of coming back.  In my mind, she’s been a stock car driver for a while now.  She certainly was here in October when the tragedy happened.  It’s definitely a tough thing to overcome and I’ve been through it before with other friends that I’ve lost in motorsports.  You try to push it out of your mind.  You try not to think about it.  It’s easier for us as stock car drivers to come to this track and certainly we know what has happened and some of us were close with Dan (Wheldon) and it tugs on us emotionally.

It’s easier for us as drivers to say, ‘Well, that was in a different car.  That was in a different style of racing.’  We just go out and do our jobs.  It was a very, very tough situation for motorsports and especially for the IndyCar drivers.  I’m sure it’s hard on Danica coming back.”

DO YOU FEEL ANY CERTAIN DISTANCES OF RACES ON MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACKS MAKE FOR BETTER RACES?:  “I think the racing is somewhat similar regardless of the distance.  From my perspective, a 600-mile race versus a 400-mile race — I’m still driving as hard as I can each segment to make my car right and to be competitive for the win.  I think it’s more for the viewing audience and their attention span.  If it’s on television and what people are watching at home or in the grandstands that are here.  That’s where it really lies and we need to be smart and keep our fan base engaged and have it be the right distance for them so that we have them tuned in like we need to.  The longer the race, the better the 48 has always been.  I don’t know where that endurance part comes from.  I felt in the past that it gives us more opportunities to work on our car and either make it competitive or hopefully separate ourselves and make it stronger than others.  We’ve always had some good race savvy and been able to adjust well to change in track conditions.  I’m not opposed to the long races, but need to make sure our viewing audience is getting what they want.”

DO YOU THINK SOME DRIVERS THINK THE STOCK CARS ARE SO SAFE THAT THEY ARE BULLETPROOF?:  “Man, I don’t know.  I certainly — there’s moments on track that still get my attention.  Sliding down the middle of the race track at Daytona and knowing I was going to get plowed in the door, there was a lot of fear running through my veins at that point. We have raised the threshold for the cars and made them so much safer through a variety of things that we all know.  We do climb in and take a lot of risk because we know the cars are safe and there’s no doubt about it.  I think one area for us to visit in the future and we’re down to real small areas is the area above the driver’s head.  That’s something from an intrusion standpoint and we see it more at the plate tracks where cars go tumbling and if there’s contact from another vehicle — you know it’s a big, open area that is really just sheet metal up there.  A bumper or something could come through there and make contact with the driver’s head.  I was fearful of the driver’s door area and then I lived it at Daytona and firsthand know the work that NASCAR put into the door pad, that foam that’s in there and that structural changes in that area — how strong it’s made the driver’s side of the car.  At times, especially when we go to plate tracks, we have to climb in and feel that we’re indestructible because you know there’s going to be a big wreck and the chances are that you’re going to be in it.  The other tracks you feel like you’re in a bit more control and you know you’re going fast and things can go wrong, but I think we’re wired to forget those things, to be honest with you.”

DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A GOOD CASE FOR THE APPEAL ON TUESDAY WITH NASCAR?:  “We’re prepared and ready and it’s outside of my realm of knowledge.  It’s through upper management at Hendrick — Rick (Hendrick, team owner) himself personally and Chad (Knaus, crew chief).  I’ll be waiting eagerly Tuesday to hear what happens and I know that there’s one step after this appeal process if things don’t turn out favorable for us, we’re ready to go to the next level too because the strength we have in our case and our opinion of the situation.  Tuesday we’ll all know a lot more.”

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE DO YOU HAVE IN RACE PREPARATION WITH THE TYPE OF TIRES THAT GOODYEAR HAS BEEN BRINGING TO TRACKS LIKE LAS VEGAS?:  “The tires really do make a big difference and that’s why when teams are elected to go tire testing, there’s such an advantage in it to get data.  On a tire they can talk about minor construction changes and also compound changes, but those are the only four contact patches the car has to the race track and the springs, shocks, aero balance, structural integrity — all that stuff has to be fed through those tires and how they interface with the track is everything.  All the teams have an open line of communication with Goodyear and with NASCAR and understand the direction the changes are going so that we come to the track as prepared as possible.  It’s still different.  There’s some weeks that you show up and you think you’ve covered all your bases and you’re prepared and that tires won’t be an issue and you’re out to lunch.  Other weeks you show up and you nail it and you have a little advantage.  It is a variable that none of us can control, but it is equal because it’s the same for everyone.  It’s a variable that we deal with week in and week out and not surprised when we come to the race track and hear we’re on a new construction or a new left, new compound, new rights — whatever it is, we know that there’s always some changes going on.”

DOES WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 14 CAR LAST WEEK GIVE YOU PAUSE IN CUTTING THE CAR OFF TO SAVE FUEL?:  “When I saw that it was a Hendrick engine that was off, it did concern me.  I tried to just forget about it and I didn’t see any of my teammates having issues and then my car didn’t have any issues.  When I was made aware of the situation, looked back on it and thought, ‘Man, I’m glad it didn’t happen to our car.’  It just seemed like a random situation and unfortunately one for the 14 (Tony Stewart).  At least we now understand what went on and we can make some changes to the system.”

ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE 20 YEARS OF THE SPONSOR FOR JEFF GORDON?: “It’s amazing.  Jeff (Gordon) has had an amazing career and to have that consistent look and representation from Chevrolet to DuPont, Hendrick Motorsports — he’s had a long term relationship with Pepsi. You go down through the list and it’s neat to see that over such a long stretch of time.  I think it says a lot about everyone involved and the type of people that they are to stay together that long and have such a run.  It’s crazy — 20 years.  I guess I’m already up to 10 or 11 now myself.  Time goes by so fast and after 20 years I know Jeff is extremely hungry for another championship and race wins.”

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