CHEVY NSCS AT TEXAS ONE: Jimmie Johnson Press Conf. Transcript

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TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

APRIL 8, 2011

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed practice on Thursday, Hendrick Motorsports performance and other topics. Full transcript:

HOW WAS YOUR PRACTICE SESSION YESTERDAY?: “Yesterday was kind of tough with the tire allotment that we have — figuring out the best strategy. We elected to go with qualifying trim yesterday and worked on that through the entire session. We’ll see how today goes. In qualifying, it’s a little different because now today we’ll just focus on race runs and then in my head mentally I have to switch over to qualifying at the end of the day. It’s a challenge finding the right rhythm as a driver and trying to maximize the amount of tires you have and how the teams choose to use them with these split practice sessions and limited amount of tires we have. At the end of the day we’ll have learned a lot more. I think we’re off to a decent start.”

HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS COMPARED TO RICHARD PETTY AND HOW DO YOU NOT GET DERAILED IN THE PROCESS OF WINNING FIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A ROW?: “Winning consecutive championships is such a hard thing to do. At the end of the day, that is what I am most proud of and I couldn’t do it alone. It’s a team sport and there’s a lot of men and women that have worked on Hendrick Motorsports and guys on the crew that have helped lead to all of that. I think Richard (Petty) would say the same thing through his career. It’s about the people and the people taking the time and being committed to the race team. Very proud of what we’ve accomplished and I look at what Richard has done on and off the track and certainly commend him. Not only did he win all of those races and championships, but he’s extremely well known for what he did off the track. Helping our sport reach the fans and grow that fan base at a very young point in NASCAR’s career. He’s done a ton. Still today is out there and active and making it happen. I have the utmost respect for what he has done on and off the track.”

HOW DO THE HENDRICK TEAMS STACK UP FOR QUALIFYING?: “We worked on qualifying trim. I know the 24 (Jeff Gordon) did not — they were just in race trim and that’s why they were down there on the sheet where they were. The 5 (Mark Martin) made one qualifying run and went into race trim. I can’t recall exactly what the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) did. We’re all just trying to maximize the tires that we have and the amount of time on track. I don’t think as a company we know where we want to be yet. We’re all on our own agendas and just trying to take advantage of things. Tonight we’ll know a lot more as we go into qualifying. Even then, still with the schedule it’s hard to know who is on what tire when you look at lap tracker and race trim and who is on scuffs, how many laps are on those tires. Through both practice sessions we have these conversations and then we start the race. These last few weeks, we feel like we’ve been pretty far off on Saturday nights going into Sunday races and we drop the flag in the race and we run well. It’s really confusing to know where your competition is with the rules as they are right now in the practice sessions being spread out. I’m not sure what type of drama that creates for the fans and if it’s interesting or not, but for us it’s creating a lot of extra stress.”

IS THE 48 AND 88 COMBINATION IN THE SHOP HELPING THE 88 TURN THINGS AROUND?: “I think that if we had major issues, they would have shown up already. I think the way both teams are running, granted we don’t have the consistent weekend we want really for all four cars, but we’re getting good finishes, we’re all running well, we’re all producing. I think that in tough times like we’ve been going through and to have the results show that we all work very well together. The change with Jeff (Gordon) going to the Alan Gustafson crew and Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) coming to the Steve Letarte crew — that’s all worked really well. Our management did a good job of thinking that through. Then all the people involved have done a very good job of staying on board and doing their jobs and doing the right thing. I think we can read into it and I think things have been going well.”

HOW CLOSE IS MARK MARTIN’S TEAM TO WINNING A RACE?: “They’re close. There are certain tracks that are really Mark Martin tracks — certain types of races. When we get into a lot of restarts late in the race, that’s really not Mark’s specialty, but we’re getting into some tracks where we’ll have long runs, hot summer races where his fitness is going to come into play. What’s cool for me is to watch Lance McGrew (Martin crew chief) and that team really mature and not necessarily mature, but gain the confidence that they deserve. They’re all really talented guys and they’ve had some rough times over the years and some bumps in the road. To have Mark’s experience there to really steer them down the right roads and develop that team and develop the cars, it’s been a good fit there. That team is a lot stronger than it’s ever been. I think that we’re getting into an area where Mark runs well — types of races in the summer months plus that team is coming along. I’m confident that they’ll win this year.”

HOW MUCH DO THE PAST RACES HELP THE SETUP AT TEXAS AND HOW DOES IT VARY TRACK TO TRACK?: “It does. We kind of look at trends and see if the history of races have a lot of restarts at the end. I would say historically here we end up with a lot of green flag runs. You tend to worry about how your car hangs on than you do about the short run. Although double file restarts have really made — you can’t compromise as much as you could in the past. Before you would let a guy go — don’t worry about it and we’ll get him in the long run. These double file restarts, you don’t have that luxury. You really have to attack. It’s making it more challenging for the teams, but I feel that the way this track has aged and this tire that we’re on — we’re going to see a lot of drop off. Having a car that hangs on and runs well for a long period of time is going to be the goal.”

HOW HAS THE NEW TIRES AFFECTED THE SETUP?: “We struggled a lot off the truck. I didn’t know where to put the blame. We made our car a lot better as the day went on so I think it’s unfair to say it was the tire. Where we ended yesterday was where I wish we could have started. We’ve got another shot at it today so that’s good. We were a bit off.”

DO THE NUMBER OF RACES BETWEEN WINS MEAN MORE TO THE MEDIA THAN THE DRIVERS?: “We all want to win. I think certainly the larger the number is and the more questions are asked then it becomes a focus for that particular driver. For myself personally, I feel like we’re knocking on the door and I’ve always believed that if you run consistently in the top-five, you’re going to have your shots and you’re going to win your fair share of races. We’ve been doing that these last few weeks. I feel like we’re getting stronger and better and our opportunities are out there in front of us. Hopefully we can close, you never know. This sport is very, very difficult and you don’t know when you’re going to win next.”

HAVE YOU SPOKE WITH NASCAR ABOUT THE PIT ROAD INCIDENT LAST WEEK?: “I did talk to Mike Helton and he was nice enough to invite me to the control tower and to watch exactly how the pit road system works. I will take him up on that and go check it out.”

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THE PIT ROAD SPEED?: “For me, I felt like coming into the sport I was a part of the evolution. For a driver coming in today, it’s probably a little bit more difficult to jump on board. We’re all smart and teams dissect every aspect of the race. It’s amazing what type of video footage we can produce in 20 minutes time with the Dartfish stuff that’s available and teams recording information and data and scanning other race teams. Talk about knowing another guys strategy, we all have people dedicated to scanning other race teams and what their strategy is and what they’re adjustments are. It’s a wild world where we’re collecting so much information and it just takes a few years to process it all and really become efficient at it. Pit road is that way and it’s kind of a moving target from week to week because depending on your pit road pick, some weeks you don’t qualify well and you don’t have a good option and its pretty simple. Other weeks you qualify well and you have a good stall and you can be aggressive in some areas. You just have to stay on your toes and it’s another discipline to be competitive at the Cup level. Another discipline you have to focus on.”

HOW MUCH CAN YOU LEARN WATCHING YOUR CAR ON VIDEO?: “You can. There’s very limited information for the drivers to look at. I think we’re all trying to find out how we can use video to our advantage. It’s easier for qualifying. In a race, it’s just so difficult to see and to know what’s really going on. There’s companies out there that produce the sports car image that we see with Dartfish and with qualifying it’s a tool. It can help. If you’re struggling in an area, it’s easy to watch the video and watch whoever is the fastest car or whoever you ask to have your car overlay with. To watch their line, to watch their braking points, to watch their acceleration points and it really helps. It’s our version of going to tape to review. It’s only really helpful — for some pit road stuff it’s helpful, oddly enough. There’s some stuff on qualifying. Race-wise it’s just too difficult to figure out.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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