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



American Muscle


JUNE 17, 2011

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLETmet with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed this weekend’s race, the performance of his race team and other topics.  Full transcript:

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND’S RACE?:  “We’ve been very pleased with the consistency of our cars through practice sessions, qualifying – qualifying has been all over the place, but once the race starts we’ve had a very consistent race car through the course of the event and that really started around the All-Star time frame.  With a consistent race car, we’ve been able to better understand our setups and adjustments and changes and we had another great race last weekend.  I felt like we had a shot there at the end, once I helped the 24 (Jeff Gordon) by us, I could have gotten by the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) quicker or by slowing us up, the 22 (Kurt Busch) and some others and we fell back and then had to work our way back by those guys for fourth.  I think we’re knocking on the door, I think we’re very close.  We, as a team, are excited to come back to Michigan to another big track to expand on our mile and a half program and the speeds that we’ve been putting in our race cars.  The one soft spot right now is qualifying and we just have to get a little better there.  We also were a little slow on the short run at Pocono, which kind of references our qualifying speed.  First things first, I would rather have a consistent car and a consistent car that’s faster in the long haul with as many green flag runs as we have anymore – it’s a very important part so we’re closing in on things and I think we have a lot of good stuff right around the corner.”

IS YOUR TEAM THE LAST GREAT SPORTS DYNASTY WITH FIVE STRAIGHT CHAMPIONSHIPS?:  “I’ve never really thought of it along those lines.  The fact that we have done it means that it can be done again.  It’s not easy feat – five in a row has not happened all that often or frequent and I think there was the Canadians; they had a basketball college team if I remember correctly.  It doesn’t happen often so it is possible and anything is possible for that matter.  I feel that we’ve done something in a very difficult period of NASCAR history with the competition as close as it is week in and week out. The fact that year after year it’s been a different driver and you look at the names of who we’ve raced with for these championships – Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin – these are amazing drivers with amazing teams.  Very proud of what we’ve done and I do feel like we have a very good chance at a sixth and our team is building and going in the right direction right now through the summer months here.  I think we’ll be very competitive once September starts.”

ARE YOU AWARE OF THE FACT THAT RETRIBUTION COULD COME BETWEEN KEVIN HARVICK AND KYLE BUSCH?:  “We’ll definitely keep our eyes open with our other competitors down the road.  I think I’ve been aware of them being around one another period.  Now that they’re off probation, I don’t see it being much different.  I don’t see anything a lot different.  I’ve had my eye watching those two for a  while like everyone else has so I don’t see it being a lot different than that.  I don’t know where Kevin’s (Harvick) mind is and what he has or if he mentioned that he had one coming.  I have no clue what’s going to happen, but I’m sure we’ll all be very entertained.”

DID YOU WATCH THEM BEFORE THEY WERE ON PROBATION?:  “Yeah, even before that.  As you mentioned, the thing in Homestead and there’s just certain guys that when I’m around them – the 39 (Ryan Newman) and the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) when they are around one another.  It’s just going to take an extra second to watch.  It’s not that I’m sitting there expecting something to happen, but I just want to be able to choose directions and not drive into whatever takes place.  There are a couple pairings like that exist out there.  For a while it was the 24 (Jeff Gordon) and the 17 (Matt Kenseth) – like what’s going to happen there.  We typically have that going on and this is no different than any other instance.  I just don’t want to be in the mess.”

WHERE WERE THE ROUSH CARS BEATING YOU AND WHAT DID YOU DO TO GAIN BACK TO THEM?:  “When we go even back to last year’s Chase, we knew and I made comments then and at the start of the season that Carl (Edwards) was going to be the guy to really focus on and he has lived up to that.  We saw them even stronger and better and I admired Carl and Bob’s (Osborne, crew chief) mentality, at least from what I saw in the garage area and how they worked through a tough time.  They handled themselves about as good as you could.  I know from experience that when you work through a tough time and haven’t killed each other and you come out on the other side with success, you’re a very strong race team at that point.  Roush as a whole has done a very good job to turn things around so I look at the other teams that are out there – I think that Roush has kind of set the mark.  The other teams have been knocking on the door and trying to get stronger.  I look at us and know that the Chase last year, we didn’t have the speed in our cars that we needed to win regularly or like we needed to.  We made decisions from pit road and for our race cars during the off season to try to be better when the Chase rolls around again this year.  We’ve taken our lumps as this year has started.  We’ve been off on speed at times, we’ve had bad stops on pit road, but it’s still the same group of people, it’s still the same race cars and we’re just working hard to refine the cars and refine pit road.  We’re seeing big gains each week.  I’m very optimistic about both scenarios and situations on pit road and with our race cars.  I think we even have some other stuff that has been developed and will come along in the near future that we can put into our race cars for more speed.  Hopefully, peak at the right time.”

WHAT WOULD A WIN BY DALE EARNHARDT JR MEAN FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?:  “The fact that Jeff (Gordon) won last weekend was huge for Hendrick Motorsports and again all four teams are working through a new chassis and new stuff.  A win for the company is huge.  Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) has been very close as we all know.  If you really look on the race track, there’s only a few cars passing throughout the course of a race week in and week out – I would say there’s three or four and two of those cars have been the 48 and the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.).  Unfortunately, we have had bad qualifying efforts so then we have to pass cars or something has gone wrong during the race where we lose track position, but if you just look at speed and cars and guys that can work traffic – two of those cars are in the same shop.  We’re very excited about our cars our equipment.  I think the bond between Stevie (Letarte, crew chief) and Junior is going very well and Steve Letarte is a great fit for him.  I’m watching his confidence build weekly and the team is growing as a unit together and I think wins are right around the corner for those guys.”

DO YOU KNOW WHO WILL BE PITTING THE CAR EACH WEEK?:  “I have an idea, but the situation Chad (Knaus, crew chief) created is that he’s really trying not to have a first string, second string.  You earn your position during the week in practices and prove that you’re the fastest guy that week and can do the best job that week going over the wall.  I know every guy on the team; I train with them now and am in there on Tuesday’s working out with them so that we can form a tighter bond together.  I see a lot of good things happening and I know that they’re working very hard for that coveted position to go over the wall and change or carry or jack the car.”

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