NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
June 3, 2011
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed the Jimmie Johnson Helmet for Hope program, racing the Prelude with Tony Stewart, compared the 1.5-mile tracks, how the Herzogs helped his career and much more. Full transcript.
TALK ABOUT YOUR HELMET OF HOPE PROGRAM. “As everybody knows Lowe’s is nice enough to let us run the Jimmie Johnson Foundation paint scheme on the car and with the California race losing a date things have changed around dramatically for us this year. We’ll be running the Jimmie Johnson Foundation paint scheme in Sonoma and our golf tournament will be the week prior to the race in Sonoma. With all the things moving and shaking around and with what’s taking place here in the Midwest with all the tornadoes and especially with what went on in Joplin very close by, we’ve elected to move up the Helmet of Hope program and get it started now. With that in mind, normally there are just 12 charities that are selected to go on the helmet to receive a donation from our foundation plus recognition of being on the helmet and we decided on a 13th with the American Red Cross and I’ve made a donation to the American Red Cross of $10,000 to help them with getting Joplin and many other areas back on their feet. With that recognition we would just like to encourage others to do the same and the American Red Cross is a great place to make donations to and you know the money goes where it needs to. We’re kicking off the Helmet of Hope is really what this is all about and I will be wearing this helmet September 11th weekend essentially but really the race in Richmond is when this will all come to a head. I decided to move things up on the schedule a little bit with things changing around. So that’s really our announcement.”
I BELIEVE THIS IS THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR FOUNDATION? “It is the fifth anniversary, yeah. Time flies.”
TONY STEWART WAS SAYING LAST WEEK AS IMPORTANT TO YOU GUYS ABOUT GOING TO THE PRELUDE AND DRIVING ITS ALSO IMPORTANT THAT YOU SCHEDULE TIME AFTER THE RACE FOR YOU GUYS TO HANG OUT, DID YOU GET TO DO A LOT OF THAT LAST YEAR AND PREVIOUS YEARS? “Yeah, I’ve been pushing him hard to set something up for us all to get together. We all enjoy racing and I think running in Tony’s event without the pressure, without the bright lights and all that goes on at a normal Cup event we’re able to really unwind especially post race and just sit there and hang out. I think the earliest I’ve ever left is probably two or three in the morning after the race just to go to the airplane and get home at sunrise. It’s just from sitting around and shooting the breeze with the guys and talking racing and hanging out and spending time with these other drivers that you really don’t ever get a chance to. I joked with him over the years that he need to build like a little makeshift bar in the infield and make the winner of that night’s even buy beer for everybody and pizza and sit there and hang out because pizza ends up showing up and beers coming out of the cooler and everybody sitting around talking. Tony is usually on a four-wheeler driving around visiting with everybody. I just keep telling him if you just pick a spot and let’s all drag the coolers to one place and hang out or do something. The guys that work the garage and drive these race cars could use that time to hang out.”
KEVIN WAS JUST IN HERE TALKING ABOUT THE TWEETS THAT YOU HAD ABOUT THE HORSESHOE, HE SAID HE WANTED TO HOLD ON TO IT UNTIL NOVEMBER 21ST, WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS ABOUT THE HORSESHOE? “Yeah, we’ve had some fun with it especially on the Twitter space with the whole horseshoe thing. It was something that Kevin said at California and we had some luck come our way. It started then and I couldn’t let it not come back after his good fortune the last couple of weeks. When I was in the situation having things going my way, sometimes things just go your way and other times they don’t and you’ve got to be running well and you have to be in that top-five window to take advantage of good luck. Last week things turned out well for him and I’m on the joking side of it all. I want my horseshoe back and I know he wants to keep it until after Homestead. Through Twitter there has been a ton of other fans, drivers and even crew members lobbying for their need for the horseshoe. So it’s been a fun week messing around with all of it to say the least.”
HAVE YOU HEARD FROM THE TEAM ON WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE ENGINE IN LAST WEEK’S RACE AND WOULD YOU PLEASE COMPARE THE 1.5-MILE AT CHARLOTTE TO THIS 1.5-MILE HERE AT KANSAS? “The way the engine failed we were able to understand what happened pretty quick. Before I got home they knew what had started the problem and what had failed. So we’re on top of it and it’s clearly not something that happens often and we’ve got a good idea of what happened and those guys will fix it. It was just an unfortunate thing and oh so close to finishing the race in a good position. We’ll go from there.
“They are much different. I would say that the banking is probably the biggest difference between the tracks. The transitions into the corners are different because of the banking. You’re going into a much steeper bank at Charlotte, where here is it very flat a lot less banking. I would say if you can compare this track to any other it would be Chicago. It’s very difficult when you are in the turns to tell a different between Chicago and here. California is kind of its own place and then Texas is its own place, Atlanta is its own place but out of the 1.5-mile tracks we run on Chicago and Kansas seem to be the closest of any two.”
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HERZOGS, YOU GOT GREAT SUPPORT FROM THEM TO GET YOUR CAREER UP AND GOING IN OVAL-TRACK RACING, TALK ABOUT THAT A LITTLE BIT AND DO YOU THINK THAT’S HELPED YOU ATTRACT FANS HERE IN THIS AREA? “Yeah, I do feel like it has. Al though they are not in the sport any longer and I don’t drive for them I do have that hometown feel when I come here. I spent a lot of time in St. Joseph, Missouri from I’d say ’95 to really 2001, 2002 with their corporate offices being there and them living in the area or very close by their offices. We had a lot of good times and a lot of great memories with them. It started back in the off-road days when they picked me to come on board and Chevrolet came with. At the end of ’95 we decided that we would work together and our goal was to get to the Cup level and we got awfully close. We made it to Nationwide and ran two great seasons there. I won my first and only Nationwide race. It helped springboard my career into what it is with Hendrick Motorsports. Man it was a tough day when I had to approach Stan (Herzog) and Randy (Herzog) and the father Bill (Herzog) and let them know that I had another opportunity. We didn’t have a sponsor. The sponsor at the time Alltel was leaving and there was a lot of conversations taking place and a lot of people throwing offers at me but I never went to them until I knew it was something worth leaving for and that was the Hendrick opportunity. It was at the August race in Bristol that I sat down with them both, Stan and Randy, and explained what was in front of me. They both hugged me like a father and said you would be foolish to not take this opportunity and you have our full support to go to Hendrick Motorsports and try to make something of your career. Just two great men that spent a lot of money and poured a lot of heart and soul into my career and helped me get to where I am today.”
“I would lean on Rick Beebe, Gary St. Amant, Mike Miller at times and Bob Senneker, those old timers really knew how to race. Rick wasn’t necessarily one of those old timers he was kind of in that middle-aged category and we had a lot of fun times golfing days before events and hanging out. At that point, drivers and crews were riding in the transporter together everywhere you go so we saw a lot of one another before and after races and even on the road at truck stops and things like that. He was a great guy and certainly helpful.”
HOW DO TEAMS GO ABOUT CALCULATING FUEL MILEAGE?: “Really it’s kind of a basic science. As the runs develop, you see some trends based on speed of the laps. Kind of the fuel-air mixture at times makes a difference if it’s a dense night. Some other small, decimal point adjustments that they make in the overall scheme of things. Really what happens is they plug the gas tank into the car, assume it’s full, judge how much is possibly laying on the ground and then weigh the can and figure that all out through kind of eye balling it and kind of the weight of the gas can when it’s done to see what’s in there. It’s not a very exact science and it’s amazing how close the guys get when they say you’re going to run out on the backstretch and damn if you don’t.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED THE CAUTION DIDN’T COME OUT AT THE END OF THE CHARLOTTE RACE?: “I still haven’t seen what happened. I was doing interviews next to my car after we had blown the engine. I could hear the crowd leading and I could see off onto the front stretch that he (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) was in the lead and I could hear the crowd making noise and I just assumed it was for him being in the lead. I didn’t see much to be honest with you.”
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