NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MAY 26, 2011
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/SUMMER SALUTE CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed his special patriotic paint scheme this weekend, how the new car has evolved since being introduced, the importance of having the Coca-Cola 600 and much more. Full transcript.
TALK ABOUT BEING ABLE TO RUN A PATRIOTIC AT A RACE THAT EXUDES PATRIOTISM. “Yeah, excited about it. We seem to have really good looking race cars come Memorial Day. It’s all because we are trying to pay our respect to the men and women who are serving our country present and past. This year there’s a little twist on it where the fans can go to lowesracing.com and post a salute themselves to whoever they choose. I’ve been on there and I posted to my grandfather’s who both served and all the families past and present as well. So if you get a chance to do that it’s a pretty cool thing going on and a great looking race car. So I’m excited about the weekend. We learned a lot in the All-Star race and had a lot of speed in the car. We’ve brought a different race car back, one of our favorites and I think we are in good shape.”
SHOULD NASCAR BE INVOLVED IN KYLE BUSCH’S TUESDAY INCIDENT WITH PENALTIES OR ANY KIND OF CORRECTIVE SITUATION? “I think consistency is the key in whatever other issues that have taken place off the track. There should be a precedent there and that’s how they engage and interact. I don’t know how to really form an opinion on that. You’ve got to get into the fine print of the rule book. I think I’m learning a little bit through this as well. You don’t need a valid driver’s license to compete, is that correct? It’s in there and when you have leagues and players unions and things there are penalties that are usually passed along and make sense because you are part of a league, we’re not in that situation. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer and I’m kind of watching and learning as we go here just to see what it is.”
SINCE THESE CARS WERE INTRODUCED IN 2007, HOW MUCH HAVE THEY EVOLVED? “We’re all a lot smarter. I don’t know if I can take the tire piece out of it. I would say regardless, with the knowledge we have now on that tire, we would definitely be faster. I don’t know exactly how much. The tire has evolved as well to really help this car with the high center of gravity and some of the mechanical grip and downforce issues we were faced with this car. When I look at breaking track records with this vehicle and how far away we were from track records when this vehicle was first put on the road, everybody has learned in all areas. So we’ve come a long way with this race car.”
IS THE RATE OF CHANGE GETTING SMALLER AS IT EVOLVES? “Yes, it’s small. When NASCAR sat down and said how can we better regulate this sport and how can we build equality in this sport, this car came along. At the beginning there were some areas that hadn’t been explored yet and the big teams would find it and after time and especially if they leave the car as it is and we even saw it with the old car, once we left the car alone for a few years the bottom really caught the top. There’s nowhere else to go and it’s a very smart garage area and if you’re underfunded it just takes a little while to finally get to that space and we’re there. Everybody is right on top of one another. Track position kind of feeds into all of that and that’s why track position is so important. We’re all very, very equal in pace.”
IN REGARDS TO KYLE BUSCH, WITH WHAT YOU GUYS DO FOR A LIVING DO YOU GUYS JUST KIND OF MAKE THESE WEIRD DECISIONS SOME TIMES? “Yeah, we as drivers aren’t necessarily wired the same but I’d have to say anybody that buys a high performance vehicle gets in it and stands on the gas. Maybe not in the same situation but that’s why you buy whatever car. I’ve always joked with my friends and I have a collection of old cars that I cruise around in because I’ve always felt if I have an exotic sports car I would be doing stupid things and I don’t need to do that. I drove my ’49 Chevy Step-side pickup here today and I don’t think I broke 65 on the way up, just kind of cruising with the windows down and enjoyed the ride. It’s tempting especially when we have the skill sets that we do as drivers and you get a high performance car and you just want to see how it stacks up. Man I guess everybody that has a high performance car stands on the throttle at some point. I’m not trying to justify what he did, but we can all look at ourselves in the mirror and know that we’ve wondered what it felt like to stand on the gas pedal.”
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO GO 200 MILES PER HOUR OUT HERE AND HAVE TO GO BACK HOME AND DRIVE 35 MILES PER HOUR IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD OR WHEN YOU GET STUCK IN TRAFFIC? “For me there is certainly a huge sensation of speed on the track and some tracks like Darlington or Dover really exaggerate that sensation. But for me, it’s about passing someone. As long as I’m going by someone, if they are doing 35 and I’m doing 37 I seem to be pretty content there and haven’t had many issues with the law.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE AGE OF INSTANT GRATIFICATION, DO YOU THINK IT’S STILL NECESSARY FOR A 600-MILE RACE AND DO YOU ENJOY THE CHALLENGE IN THE LENGTH? “I definitely enjoy the challenge in the length and I think there are a lot of things that balance out. Sure the world has changed and the instant gratification is a big hook now and everybody is in to that but there’s certain races that founded our sport and shaped our sport into what it is and we need to keep those in mind and I think the 600 is a great event. I really enjoy racing in it. It’s been good to me over the years. I think if you are a motorsports fan this weekend you’ve got three big, big races between F1, IndyCar and what we have going on here. So it’s an exciting time to be a motorsports fan this weekend.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CARL EDWARDS AND WHERE HE RATES IN COMPETITORS THIS YEAR, IS HE AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST OF GUYS WHO MIGHT BE ABLE TO KNOCK YOU OFF AND WHY? “Yeah, I think so. He clearly is fast, knows how to drive a car fast. He seems to keep his composure relatively well, in heated moments doesn’t crack. When you look at the mental side of what Carl is about he is strong. I also play close attention to the tough times he and Bob Osborne have been through and those two came through it together, built the team, got the cars right and their situation right and done a great job with it. Carl is a real threat and the real deal. I mentioned that last year as the Chase was winding down and I said it in the pre-season and he’s certainly living up to that now. From the No. 48 side I’m sitting here telling myself there is a lot of racing between now and the Chase and we have time to close the gap and get on top so it’s time for us to get to work.”
IN REGARDS TO THE TRACK POSITION, DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS, IS IT IS THE TIGHTNESS OF THE COMPETITION OR IS THERE SOMETHING THAT IS DIFFERENT? “The Dover situation, the rubber going down that was a pretty rare scenario. I don’t think we’ll see that issue come back around so in my opinion you’ve got to kind of rule that one out and look at the 1.5-mile tracks and the general, the common thing that happens there. It’s a catch 22 because we want equality and if all the cars are running the same speed it’s going to boil down to has the best air; they’re going to be the fastest. So where we would have a lot of passing is in a world where the cars aren’t the same. It’s just kind of simple. When everybody is going the same speed and clean air makes three or four tenths of a second difference a lap, it is what it is. The further back you go in the field the slower you get. If you’re in the 20’s starting a race you’re probably close to a second off. We as teams are very cautious of that as we work our way forward to not over adjust the car and see what the air does. Before you know it you’re running three tenths faster, six tenths faster and you’re on pace with the leader and all you did was get closer to the front. At the end of the day we can’t do anything about it. It’s physics, its science, its aerodynamics. All of that that goes on it’s always been there and we’re just more aware of it now from one standpoint. The other part is the cars are all equal. We face this issues, open-wheel faces this issue. You’ve watched F1, IndyCar, all forms of motorsports, you can’t change what aerodynamics does to a race car and these cars are bigger so the issue that we had with the other car it’s now a little bit worse because the greenhouse is larger, the car is bigger and it’s punching a larger hole in the air. Then when you come to mechanical grip, we have a higher center of gravity, heavier car, we can’t travel the noses far in the front, there’s a lot of things that all add up that just make the cars difficult to drive in traffic. We can complain about it all we want but I don’t’ think you are going to fix it. Car related we had this problem with the old car; we’re going to have it with the new car. It doesn’t matter if there are wings on your car, spoilers. IndyCars, Formula One – you cannot get around aerodynamics. In my opinion we need to keep looking forward and that is looking at race tracks and how we can create second, third and fourth grooves. The more opportunities that we have, the more lanes we have to race in then you’re not stuck behind a car or a line of cars and stuck in dirty air. If you look at tracks like Michigan, even California and how fanned out we are, that makes a difference. You can really pass people there. Atlanta, stuff like that.
“This track is slowly coming around. They did too good of a job paving it. This asphalt has held up so well and still has so much grip we’re still very occupied to one lane on the race track. I know it gets confusing as we all have different opinions but there isn’t one quick fix to the cars having difficulty passing. It’s a big a topic and a big situation. I think we’ve exhausted inside the garage area and working on cars and combinations with the cars. The next big chunk would be addressing tracks and making sure there are good transitions in and off, plenty of room, progressive banking is good and we’ve looked at tracks that introduce that but they put on good races.”
AS A FORMER KANSAS WINNER, YOUR THOUGHTS ON TWO RACES IN KANSAS AND DO YOU HAVE TO THROW THE NOTES OUT THE WINDOW FROM THE FALL? “So much has changed with us we’re going back with an empty notebook. New cars, new concepts. I’m excited. I think the track is a great race track to compete on. What has happened in that area and surrounding the track is just amazing. Excited to go back. We’re there for two dates and hopefully the grandstands are full for both dates and I know that we’ll put on a good show.
“My win, that’s a great win. The track in my opinion has aged really well and I guess there is some concern that it may have aged too much in a short period of time but the bumps, the asphalt fading and losing grip as it has really promotes multiple lanes of racing and that’s what we’re looking for as drivers so when I think of Kansas, I’m excited about my win and I want to win again, but I’m think of a racer’s race track.”
APPARENTLY DANICA (PATRICK) IS COMING FULL TIME TO NASCAR, WHAT ADVICE MIGHT YOU GIVE HER? “It’s just seat time. She’s making good progress in the Nationwide Series and there’s certainly an argument that those cars are nothing like the high-powered Cup cars. So it boils down to seat time and in a world where we can’t test like we want it’s going to be difficult for her to get that seat time. She’s going to need to be patient. She will have to come in to the Cup level. It’s not just one level from Nationwide to Cup and I learned that on my own back in ’02, it was five steps up. It wasn’t one and I think the competition is even more competitive now. That’s a big jump up and she just needs seat time.”
CAN YOU SPEAK TO THAT MAMMOTH JUMBO TRON ON THE BACKSTRETCH? “From the driver’s standpoint, the way it’s positioned off of turn two, you don’t even see it or know that it is there. They did a very good job of working that out. Under caution every driver is looking across at it coming down the frontstretch just to see what happened. So it’s nice to have that big screen to look at from that standpoint. Outside of that, we don’t’ even know it’s there.”
HOW IMPORTANT ARE PIT STOPS IN THIS RACE AND DO YOU THINK THE TEAMS AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORT HAVE AN EDGE WITH THIS NEW TRAINING FACILITY YOU GUYS HAVE? “Pit stops are everything. Track position is kind and it just continues to go down that road week after week, year after year. We’re working very hard to bring athletes in for a specific job they do going over the wall. I was out there last Tuesday with the guys at the new facility. I’m going through the drills and all that’s there. We’re working hard and we’re trying to be ahead of the curve and trying to find different ways to bring in guys to come over the wall and new blood and things like that. I commend our training staff for their efforts and we’re kind of building a young group of guys right now and I think we’re getting into a good rhythm here and we’ve got some good stops ahead of us coming up.”
DURING THE ALL-STAR RACE THINGS SEEMED TO BE GETTING A LITTLE BIT TESTY BETWEEN YOU AND CHAD, DID YOU FEEL LIKE THAT WAS OUT OF THE ORDINARY, AND YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO REALLY SUGGEST, WHAT WAS ALL THAT ABOUT? “At that point track position as everything and I knew we had a good race car. I was driving really hard to try to get back to the front and almost threw it away a couple of times. Then we had a really quick caution and put tire on it and I marched my way from like 18th to eighth. Just trying to gain my composure. I felt like we had a really good chance to win the All-Star race or be a threat and didn’t like seeing that opportunity slide by. When I look at our team, and I heard some comments from Carl (Edwards) and Bob (Osborne), it’s tough for those guys to think two tire and no tire strategy and that’s kind of in our place too. We tend to get burned on that situation a couple of times a year and after Dover and then after the All-Star race I was just like man it happened again. We’re a team and stuff happens and we missed it there. We’ve won more races by putting four tires on a car and going after it than anything. The race that comes to my mind, two of them actually, one Denny (Hamlin) at Martinsville where everybody thought he was out of luck with the four-tire stop he made last year and then us at Bristol. We started sixth with five laps to go and found our way to the lead, or 10 laps to go or something like that. So you just don’t know when it’s going to work and it really boils down to numbers. If more guys came in to pit road with us it would have been awesome. It didn’t turn out that way and the same at Dover, we had the No. 99, No. 33 and us take four and a lot of guys took two and the numbers worked against us.”
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