TEAM CHEVY AT DARLINGTON: Jimmie Johnson Breakout Session Highlights

MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
DARLINGTON RACEWAY
BOJANGLES’ SOUTHERN 500
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 30, 2019

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY THROWBACK CAMARO ZL1 Media Breakout Session Highlights:

THE 2021 NASCAR CUP SCHEDULE IS EXPECTED TO SHAKE-UP A BIT IN 2021. SHOULD INDIANAPOLIS A TRACK BEST SUITED FOR NASCAR AND SHOULD IT STAY ON THE SCHEDULE?
“Just from my own point of view it would be a bummer not to go to the Brickyard with the history of that race track. I guess you could argue the fact that they have a road course, and road course racing is pretty entertaining for Cup cars. Maybe that’s an option. I just feel like in my heart of hearts, we need to go to the Brickyard and race.”


American Muscle

IS THERE ANY ANOTHER TRACK ON THE SCHEDULE THAT YOU GO INTO THAT HAS THAT SAME HISTORIC FEEL TO IT WHEN YOU GO TO INDY?
“For me Indy was probably more meaningful to go to my first time than Daytona just because of my household on the West Coast and watching a lot of Indy Car racing. AJ Foyt and Parnelli Jones. There’s a lot of West Coast drivers that raced there and competed there. My grandfather was a huge Indy Car fan. I can remember sitting on the couch watching the Indy 500 with him and my dad, clearly. So, for me, there was a bigger moment going to Indy and walking out through Gasoline Alley the first time than really any other track out there.”

HOW DID ALL THIS COME ABOUT TO RUN THE OFF-ROAD TRUCK PAINT SCHEME THIS WEEKEND?
“Really, it was just Ally being open to us doing something. They are a relatively new bank and if you go back to the ‘90’s, they don’t have anything (laughs). So, they were very gracious to let me have this opportunity. And, I’ve always wanted to throwback to the off-road industry. Within that, there were probably two or three paint schemes that we had to choose from. For me, and the amount of times I’ve told that Baja 1000 story and the fact that we had the truck and were restoring it, it just felt like the right way to go with it. Obviously there’s some purple in it and that’s fits well with the Ally scheme. So, as we served it up, they were all on board.

“And then as the announcement took place, to have all the text messages and phone calls and social media and all my old friends and people that remember that truck, it’s been a very cool experience down Memory Lane so far and we’re only a couple of days into it.”

SO THIS IS THE TRUCK YOU WERE STUCK IN THE DESERT IN FOR 12 HOURS?
“That is. In fact, I wrecked it twice that year really bad. Once in Barstow and then the big wreck in the Baja 1000. Another family bought it and had it and restored it and were kind of using it again in some lower level desert racing, and then I found out where it was and they gave me a fair price to buy it back because of the sentimental value to it and I was able to get it and restore it. There are still two off-road trucks that I don’t have in my possession that I want. But, unfortunately the people that own them really want to make a pretty penny off me.”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE ANGEL ON YOUR UNIFORM?
“I can. So, my grandmother would give us, myself and my brothers, these little guardian angel pins to wear. And as you can see where they’re located when you have a seatbelt on and bouncing around in an off-road buggy or a truck, those pins would be kind of painful and dig into you and cut you open. So, after my grandmother noticed that I didn’t have the pin on in a race, and asked why, I told her it was digging into me and cutting me open. So, she hand stitched an angel on a little patch and gave it to me and said well now, you’ll always have that guardian angel with you. So, for the longest time, especially when I was really in charge of my own suits, it was on all of my suits. Kudos to everybody involved in putting together this throwback, somebody noticed it and then decided to bring that story back to life. Unfortunately my grandmother has passed on, but I know my mom’s side of the family and my aunts and uncles are really excited to hear the story.”

IS THAT SOMETHING YOU CAN PUT ON YOUR OTHER UNIFORMS OR ARE THOSE ALREADY SET THROUGH THE END OF THE YEAR?
“Yeah, it’s certainly an option.”

YOU WERE VERY FAST IN THE FIRST PRACTICE SESSION. DOES THAT GIVE YOU SOME CONFIDENCE THAT YOU CAN MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN HERE AT DARLINGTON AND WORK YOUR WAY INTO THE PLAYOFFS?
“Yeah, I really do. And honestly, the last three or four weeks we’ve been really fast. It’s just getting through a race. We need to have a lot of things go right to win. I think we’re closing the gap to the frontrunners. We’re definitely doing it. I feel like we’ve had many Top 5’s slip away here in the last six to eight weeks which is unfortunate. So, we’ve just got to clean that up and a lot of it falls on me just making mistakes and trying too hard on the track. So, I need a good clean lap to remind myself every lap here to race the track and not race the competitors and we’ll see how it goes.”

KYLE LARSON SAID HE WANTED YOU TO WIN JUST SO PEOPLE WOULD SHUT-UP ABOUT YOU NOT WINNING. HOW HAVE YOU MADE PEACE WITH THE WAY THINGS HAVE GONE FOR YOU IN THIS LAST STRETCH?
“I appreciate him saying that and I definitely agree. I can’t wait to shut-up the keyboard warriors that are out there. The people that are close to me and the people on my race team know the truth. They know the story. They’ve been working hard on it and when you work hard, wins will come. So, that’s where I find my peace. I know all the effort I’ve put into this program and for what my guys have put into the program.”

WITH YOUR MUSTACHE AND BEARD SHAVED OFF, YOU STILL LOOK LIKE THE GUY WHO WAS RACING XFINITY WHEN WE FIRST MET YOU. YOU REALLY DO KIND OF FLASH BACK TO THE ERA
“I do step into a time machine when I shave somehow. Ten or 15 years, for sure, comes off. I might stick with this for a while since everybody such a positive response to it.”

DO TEAMS PEAK?
“Teams do peak. I don’t think you have the control to say when you peak, but without a doubt, teams hit their stride and peak and things end up going in the right direction for teams. In our heyday and all the stuff that happened for us to win seven (championships), we tried as hard as we could from the first race to the end and for whatever reason toward the second half of the year, we always performed better. And, with the playoff system that served us very well and we were able to win all those championships. But we had no control.”

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD TRY TO DO TO CONTROL IT?
“We tried to. We recognized our statistics and where we were strong. Summer slumps were always something we talked about and we’d get really hot in the Fall. We knew where our weaknesses were and we tried to work on them. But unfortunately you don’t have that kind of control.”

YOU OFTEN PROVE PEOPLE WRONG. WHEN YOU THINK BACK TO 2009, WHAT COMES TO MIND TO GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING THAT NOBODY HAS DONE BEFORE?
“One thing that we did, and I’ve got to put a lot of credit in Chad’s (Knaus, former crew chief) on this is we didn’t need much momentum to get us rolling. The smallest spark would start a huge fire or whatever analogy you want to use. We didn’t need much. And we could really get going. The last two years for me have been quite the opposite like we need a lot to get the momentum shifting the right way. And I don’t know if I used up my luck in 18 years, I’ve had 15 really good ones, and three that I’m not proud of, but the effort has been the same for all those years. Just racing luck, the environment within a team, when fuels the team, the way all the individuals meld together and what they are capable of. Chad could just create an environment that didn’t take much of a spark to start a big fire.”

WOULD YOU PICK 2009 AS YOUR BEST YEAR? THERE WERE OTHER YEARS WHEN YOU WON MORE RACES, BUT CAN YOU COMPARE? OR, WAS 10 YEARS AGO THE YEAR YOU LOOK BACK ON MOST?
“There was one year, and it might have been ’08 or ’09. We tested 22 times. We did not have a good first-half of the season. And testing was way different. Twenty-two two-day sessions on top of everything else. We just lived at that Nashville track. We were at Kentucky quite a bit. That year stands out to me where we just had to figure things out and we kept on the track year after year and were able to eventually get it done.”

AS AN ATHLETE AND SOMEBODY WHO HAS ACCOMPLISHED SO MUCH, WHEN YOU GO THROUGH A PERIOD LIKE THIS, HOW DO YOU GET THROUGH THAT?
“I can speak to my situation and I have team support and sponsors support. Nobody is standing there to push me out of my seat. I’ve got an environment where I’ve got a choice. And, so it’s up to me to decide and I don’t have that pressure. That’s a luxury that I guess I’ve earned in a sense. And then it really boils down to what my peers inside my team think I’m capable of. I value their opinion quite a bit. And then I also have my own confidence and my own opinion about what I’m doing in the car. I know the results don’t speak for it but there’s a lot of really good things going on. I think something that I took for granted for the longest time and I told Chad (Knaus) this recently and he smiled ear to ear and was so happy that I recognized it was the impact he had on our team and the leadership required at this level to really hit it week-in and week-out. Chad’s the best ever to do that in my opinion. And that’s what we’re trying to get back to right now. And, I think Cliff (Daniels) has that DNA. Cliff has the ability to get to that level where Chad was.”

WHAT WAS THE OFF-WEEKEND LIKE FOR YOU AND EVERYBODY? WERE THERE ANY TEAM MEETINGS OR ANYTHING DIFFERENT?
“I really think we wanted to go racing as a group. We are literally counting the weeks that Cliff has been at the helm. He’s got another week under his belt. He’s able to better understand our cars and our equipment and all that stuff at a deeper level. I think this weekend it’s shown off the truck that our cars has more details put into them on the No. 48 car. And our guys had enough time to get the Indy stuff really dialed-in. I walked in the transporter today and they were getting back some report and the status of our new car and what it’s downforce potential is and capability and the guys are just buzzing over that. Weeks off are helpful. But, I’m torn. I am mixed on it because the last race didn’t go as we wanted. There’s no better way to fix a poor performance than following-up with a good one and getting on-track.”

ARE YOU EAGER FOR THESE NEXT TWO WEEKS TO GO BY, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER ALL THESE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS?
“It’s a story. I get it. Believe me, I want to keep my Playoff streak alive and I want to be a factor in the Playoffs. I want to know what the outcome is, but it’s not that I want to hurry up and get through it and have it go away. I want to race. I want to get out there and earn another victory and earn my way into these Playoffs. That’s what we’re all here for. So, my optimism again, comes from that I just know where this team is right now and I know where it’s going. Unfortunately, we don’t have any more time left, but we’re going to finish up the year strong and that brings me a lot of excitement regardless of how the Playoffs unfold.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.

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