NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
FOOD CITY 500
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 16, 2012
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Bristol, his most memorable win at Auto Club Speedway, his love of photography and other topics. Full Transcript:
YOU HAD A GREAT RUN LAST WEEK AT LAS VEGAS; TELL US ABOUT BUILDING ON THAT MOMENTUM AS WE HEAD INTO THIS WEEKEND AT BRISTOL: “The way things went at Phoenix and the speed we had in our race car there and then to take that to Las Vegas and have a really good chance at winning a race; it says a lot for the work we have done over the off-season. We come to Bristol and one thing about Bristol is that things don’t change all that much here. We do have some new stuff to work through today, which I hope will bring some speed. But the set-up we’ve worked towards and had the last five or six times here has been really competitive. We have led laps; I think we won a pole once. Either way I feel really comfortable about this weekend’s race. I am very excited to be at a short-track.”
WITH THE SITUATION WITH CHAD (KNAUS, CREW CHIEF) AND NOT KNOWING WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO KNOCK DOWN SOME TOP-FIVE’S AND GET THE TEAM ROLLING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? “We have really tried to rule out the reality of what could be there if Chad (Knaus, crew chief) does have to sit out. I have looked at it more about 42nd in Daytona is not the way you want to start. Either way it is really kind of the same. We either are down a ton of points or some points depending on what happens whenever the next appeal takes place. Race wins, I think are premium and top of mind right now. I think all drivers look at the Chase and think if you can win two or three races, the points are what they are; the wildcard can carry you in. We want to win races and get as many points as we possibly can.”
WHAT ARE THE BIG CHANGES FROM CARBURETORS TO ELECTRONIC FUEL INJECTION (EFI)? “The pre-season testing that has taken place and even the open test that NASCAR held last year. We worked through a lot of issues. It was one thing to get the car to run correctly on the race track in race conditions, it seems to be a smaller concern at this point and really a smaller window to work in from the calibration stand point. What’s difficult is through the garage area and on and off of pit road and the other out of sequence demands you put on the EFI. That seems to be where we are spending a lot of time now. We were able to get things right on the dynos and with the open testing we did last year. Some of the little details now are noticeable, but each week we continue to make it better and better.”
I KNOW YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS IN THE INDYCAR SERIES. THEY ARE STARTING THEIR SEASON NEXT WEEK. DO YOU HAVE ANY EXPERIENCE ON DEALING WITH WHAT THEY ARE DEALING WITH GETTING BACK IN THE CAR AFTER SOMETHING TRAGIC HAPPENS LIKE WHAT HAPPENED LAST OCTOBER (DAN WHELDON’S PASSING) AND HOW YOU DEAL WITH THAT. HAVE YOU TALKED WITH ANY OF THEM AND HOW ARE THEY DEALING WITH IT? “It is tough. One thing that a lot of those drivers have or two I should point out. One is some time and two is they aren’t going back to the same track. I lost one of my closest friends, Blaise Alexander, at Charlotte. The next day at 9 a.m. I was in a race car on track looking at his marks into the wall and was faced with that reality all weekend long. There is no way around it. It is extremely difficult. It just sits in your mind. You try to shake it off, but it’s still there somewhere. Again, they fortunately do have some time on their side and not going back to the same race track right away. It’s going to be tough they are going to race with heavy hearts for sure and I would imagine the race would be in his (Dan Wheldon’s) honor and some stuff like that. But hopefully a lot of the pain is behind them and they are able to be in the happy space and tell great stories about Dan (Wheldon) and go down that road instead of the hurt being upfront.”
ARE YOU ANY MORE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEXT TUESDAY’S APPEAL THAN YOU WERE LAST TUESDAY? DO YOU GIVE ANYBODY ANY EXTRA RESPONSIBILITIES THIS WEEK THAT THEY WOULD HAVE NEXT WEEK IF SOMEBODY IS OUT? “No, we haven’t made any changes at track or the way we go about things. I’m definitely disappointed in what happened last Tuesday. I have hope that this next appeal will be heard and we will have a different outcome. There is no telling how it is all going to shake out.”
WITH THE APPEAL PROCESS DOES THAT HELP YOU AS A GROUP WEATHER YOU WIN OR LOSE YOU HAVE AT LEAST HAD SOME TIME TO GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW AND GET THINGS LINED UP IN CASE YOU ARE WITH OUT CHAD (KNAUS, CREW CHIEF) AND RON (MALEC, CAR CHIEF)? WOULD THEIR LOSS BE MORE OF A BLOW TO THE TEAM THAN EVEN THE POINTS? “To be honest with you we haven’t worked on the back-up plan. We’ve had a lot of faith with what took place and felt like last Tuesday things would be overturned. We were shocked with the penalties to start in the beginning. We haven’t made any changes. We do have depth in our organization. We feel like if this next appeal, things don’t change, we are not overly concerned because of the depth we have, but still we know how important this sport is along the lines of chemistry. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and I have a great chemistry. Ron Malec (car chief) for that matter, the way Ron runs the team. If things stand it will be a huge blow to the team. I feel like we can work through it and still have a chance to win races, but it would be very difficult. Then you look at the points that are lost. 25 points is a big number. It puts a premium back on winning and then you don’t have your crew chief and car chief so winning is going to be that much more difficult. It’s a double edge sword. It’s not an easy deal to go through that is why we are fighting these appeals like we are.”
LAST WEEK AT LAS VEGAS THEY HAD AN OPEN PUBLIC DRIVERS MEETING. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON HOW DRIVERS MEETINGS ARE NOW? ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ATTENDING OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT GO BACK TO WHEN IT WAS JUST DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS? “I understand the access that we want to give our fans. I get that part and it’s helpful, but in a big setting like that, for what that meeting is designed for, it’s probably not ideal in my opinion. I think that the drivers meeting needs to be more intimate. It needs to be an area where drivers, crew chiefs and NASCAR officials can talk about some things. It would be a little tough there, even knowing that it is televised, I wasn’t aware of that. I didn’t know that was taking place until last week and I was like ‘really that’s going on’. I just feel like, that is what that meetings for, we need an opportunity to sit there and have open communication weekly. With all the eyes it limits that ability I believe.”
HEADED TO FONTANA NEXT WEEK I GUESS THEY COULD CALL YOU ‘FIVE-TIME’ THERE. WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE OF THOSE VICTORIES AT FONTANA? “For sure my first win. That was everything to me and my career. I knew driving Jeff’s (Gordon) equipment that if I didn’t win after he came off a championship season and basically handed me his cars that I was going to be in trouble. So to win in my 13th start 10th race of that season that is my most memorable win period.”
WHAT’S NUMBER TWO OF THE WINS AT FONTANA? “The loss to Kevin (Harvick) is really at the forefront of my mind last time we were there (laughs). I would have to say winning the first time with the Jimmie Johnson foundation car. To build our golf tournament and raise so much money for the area and for the different things that the Jimmie Johnson Foundation participates in, to have that type of exposure and the victory lane shots that I have with the foundation paint scheme is really cool.”
GIVEN WHAT HAPPENED LAST TUESDAY, HOW WOULD YOU GAUGE YOUR CHANCES THIS TUESDAY? “I don’t know. I’m optimistic. We clearly feel we have a point to make and that is why we continue to go through the process and appeal this thing. We certainly hope that this next and final step our argument is heard.”
GIVEN CHAD’S HISTORY ARE YOU AT ALL CONCERNED THAT THE ACCUMULATIONS OF HIS RUN-IN’S WITH NASCAR MAY IN SOME WAY HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON YOUR LEGACY IN THE SPORT? “I really don’t. You all know that there is not a car more scrutinized in this garage area than the No. 48 car. It’s been that way for the last decade. By no means do I think it hampers it at all.”
JEFF BURTON SAID THIS RACE TRACK REALLY SHOWS A DRIVERS TALENT THAT AN AVERAGE DRIVER CAN’T WIN HERE. IS THAT TRUE? IF YOU LOOK AT THE GUYS WHO HAVE MULTIPLE WINS HERE WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT A DRIVERS TALENT AT THIS TRACK VERSUS OTHER TRACKS? “When you win here you have done something right. It’s such a demanding track. It is a very unique race track and there is a certain driving style that works here and really a set-up. Once you get it. You can hang on to it for a period of time. It is fun when its right and it doesn’t take much to go from being fast and having fun to slow and hating life. A tenth of a second would be too generous a half a tenth is really the difference it makes in what your mood is and the experience you have here at the track.”
MR. HENDRICK SAID HE’S BEEN HAULING THESE 200TH WIN HATS AROUND FOR A WHILE NOW. IS THERE ANY COMPETITION BETWEEN THE FOUR HMS DRIVERS AS TO WHO CAN GET MR. H HIS 200TH WIN? IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S A BIG DEAL TO HIM
“It is a big deal to him. We haven’t had a lot of bantering between the drivers, but we know how important it is to Rick (Hendrick) and the company. We know that he hauls those hats around to remind us of that. And before each race he says something like, ‘Are we going today?’ and gives you that look. And we certainly want to get there for him. I thought we had a really good chance last week but unfortunately came up short.”
DID YOU LOOK AT THE DATA DO YOU THINK THESE APPEALS HEARINGS SHOULD BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC? IF THEY HAVE OPEN DRIVERS’ MEETINGS, WHY NOT OPEN APPEALS BOARD MEETINGS?
‘I’m not even in the appeals board meetings (laughs) so I don’t know what goes on in them. It’s not something that pertains to the driver, so I don’t know what goes on. Sounds like everybody (media & fans) had a big time in the grass (lawn in front of the R&D Center) waiting for the decision, from what I heard.”
ON NASCAR MAPPING, DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM TONY STEWART’S DATA?
“I did look at Tony’s data and definitely have a direction and know what’s going on. It’s a complicated thing that I’m certainly not going to share for the world to see. But I’ve got a clear direction of where to work.”
ON BRIAN VICKERS, HAS NOT BEING IN THE CAR TAKEN A TOLL ON HIM? CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT THAT WOULD BE LIKE TO NOT HAVE A RIDE COMING INTO A SEASON?
“Yep, it would be tough. It’s one thing when there was a medical situation that kept him out of the car. And then to come back and have the team shut down so late in the season for him to really not be able to get in line for a quality seat and make something happen. I know it’s been difficult on him. He’s got a great opportunity here with MWR and hopefully he can make the most of it.”
“I think what hurt him more than anything was the timing when Red Bull decided to pull. Things seem to start earlier and earlier every year and in August we start hearing about teams moving and drivers changing. So I think by the time they shut down it just really didn’t help. It was so late in the season that he was in trouble to get a quality ride.”
YOU HAVE BEEN POSTING PICTURES ON TWITTER WITH INSTAGRAM, IS PHOTOGRAPHY A HOBBY OF YOURS?
“I’ve always been into photography some and I’ve bought cameras over the years. But the stuff that I’ve posted on Instagram; it’s all through my iPhone and different apps that I’ve downloaded. I enjoy messing with it. It’s funny to hear people searching for editing stuff that I do and just really all the basic stuff. I really enjoy Instagram and taking photos. It’s grown into more of a hobby; especially now that I’m a father and I’m trying to capture more pictures of my daughter. I’m taking a lot more pictures.”
HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD A PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?
“I’ve had it for a long time. When I was a kid going to the races with my dad, I’d buy those little box cameras at the time and I was out there taking all these cool angles and photos and was really disappointed in the quality of my work after that. But I can go back to when I was seven or eight when I was first interested in it. I’d say what really queued-it-up was a Safari that I took in 2004 or ’05 and I bought all my equipment and took thousands of great photos then and that kind of started it.”
YOU MENTIONED LOOKING AT SOME DATA THAT TONY STEWART HAD. IS THERE A LINE THERE? DALE EARNHARDT JR SAID HE DIDN’T THINK TOO MUCH SHOULD BE SHARED. IS THAT A CONCERN OF YOURS THAT TOO MUCH WOULD BE SHARED? HOW DO YOU DRAW THE LINE?
“There are only a couple of channels to really look at on there. And in a situation like what we have at Hendrick, from the inception or start of Stewart-Haas Racing having that relationship with Hendrick, we’ve been sending information back and forth. It’s designed as a two-way street. So, it’s good to have that. Amongst those six cars, that’s the way it is. That’s the way it works and I’m sure it’s the same way through Roush and their satellite teams. As long as it’s the same for everyone, that’s the key. If NASCAR, which they are, allowing us to take data out; as long as we all have it, that’s fine. If they choose to do away with it, as long as it’s the same for everyone, that’s fine.”
HAVE YOU EVER LANDED AT THE DRAG STRIP IN AN AIRPLANE?
WOULD YOU LIKE TO?
“No, I like airports.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER AND TAKING PICTURES. WHAT OTHER WAYS DOES HAVING A DAUGHTER IMPACTED YOUR LIFE ON AND OFF THE TRACK?
“Yeah, just the schedule that needs to be held. Clearly it’s really important with a newborn and an infant. It’s led to earlier mornings, which I’ve always been a morning guy; and then to bed earlier. So the benefits I see from that are that I’m even more focused yet on my day’s work. Sometimes it’s a little bit more hectic but I probably have more rest than I’ve ever had in my life, especially (compared to) from my singles days (laughs). I get a lot more rest and have correct sleeping habits and things like that. It’s just more of a structured day in general. I lead a structured life but it’s even more so, now.”
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