CHEVY NSCS AT SONOMA: Jimmie Johnson Press Conf. Transcript



American Muscle


JUNE 24, 2011

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION CHEVROLETmet with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and discussed road course racing, points position and other topics.  Full transcript:

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS RACE WITH THE JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION ON THE CAR?:  “Once again we have the Helmet of Hope that is taking place and just to touch on the fact that we’re in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation car this weekend.  Very excited about this race and very thankful to everyone that’s participated and helped support the foundation.  We’ve raised over $650,000 this weekend in the San Diego area through our dinner and our golf tournament.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE THE DEFENDING CHAMPION OF THIS RACE?:  “We had a great race here last year.  Qualified well – led a lot of laps and had a little bit of fortune come our way with Marcos’ (Ambrose) mistake there in turn one going up the hill.  I look forward to another great race.  We want to expand on what we did here last year.  I feel that I’m a better road course racer and we know a little bit more about the setup that we want under the car.  Excited about the race.”

WHERE IS YOUR TEAM THIS YEAR COMPARED TO PREVIOUS YEARS?:  “I feel good about things.  We had a few more opportunities to win at the start of the year.  I did win at Talladega.  We’ve been working through some new stuff on the mile and a half and two-mile tracks and getting closer.  Last weekend with the spin and the issue that we had there and going down two laps and not being able to get it back, I feel that we would have maybe made up a point or two on Carl (Edwards).  I think we had a really good car and we’d have a different tone in the media center today if I didn’t spin out and lose some points there.  We’re doing well.  I see a lot of progress with the over-the-wall group of guys on the team and I feel that we’re now seeing some consistency in our cars on the big tracks.  Adjustments are making sense and we’re going down the road and getting stronger.  I wouldn’t say this is our worst year to this point, I still think that probably 2008 was our toughest opening half of the season that we’ve had to date.  We know we need to be better and we want to be better.  We’re working hard to get there.”

WAS LAST WEEKEND A SIMPLE SPIN?:  “Yeah, nothing broke.  I think it was an aero situation that I was in traffic and had someone close to the bumper and the way the car rotated around and how fast it rotated around, I thought there was contact.  The sway bar was ground off so it was from the flat tires and why the sway bar arm was off – it wasn’t like it was broke or anything.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO TEST FOR INFINEON?:  “The 24 (Jeff Gordon) tested and Boris Said has been in the Finch car and tested some.  I was just talking with Boris about the two tracks that he went to.  He left Road Atlanta and thought that they found some things that made sense and then went to Mid-Ohio and none of it really applied to Mid-Ohio so now they’re coming here with two test sessions under their belts and not sure what’s going to work.  And more confused.  We’ve been through that song and dance year after year.  This time, with the success of last year’s race and qualifying we felt like we could come back and just work from that baseline of where we were last year.  No doubt that I am going to need a few laps to kind of get my rhythm of road course racing again, but at least we’re not chasing the setup, we’ll just be getting me reps.”

ARE THERE ANY ADVANTAGES TO BEING THE POINTS LEADER UNTIL THE CHASE STARTS?:  “From my standpoint, I think that it’s still the way you judge where teams are and whose going to be a contender in the Chase.  We haven’t entered into the Chase as the point’s leader often in these five championships that we’ve won, but I still think that it’s something that everybody in the garage area wants to do.  They want to lead the points.  There’s also a level of experience you get by leading the points.  Confidence that it builds within the team, your setups, what’s going on pit road, the attitude of the driver – there are a lot of things to it that you maybe can’t measure, but they are very important things to a race team.  I think it’s important, but one other piece to it I think coming into the Chase with a good four or five race stretch is a similar confidence boost as leading the points would be.  I still think it’s important, I guess I might be kind of babbling now, but I want to be leading the points.  That is my goal is to lead the points every single weekend that I can and I wish that we were right now.”

DO YOU THINK DAYTONA WILL BE ANY DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS IN FEBRUARY REGARDING THE TWO-CAR DRAFT?:  “I think we have more options as competitors to make passes for the lead or to work your way through traffic and play some strategy and different things there.  I feel as a group we’re all smarter and will be a more competitive race with the push draft, but I don’t see any reason why we’d be in a big pack.  Until we have to lift and we can’t run nose to tail, I don’t see us getting away from what we’re doing.  Certainly it’s been a year now since it’s been repaved.  Maybe there’s a little bit of a loss in grip.  If it was a day race, I think you might not be able to push each other around, but the fact that it’s still a night race, I think when the race comes, we’ll be pushing.”

DO YOU EXPECT SUNDAY’S RACE TO BE A BARE KNUCKLE RACE LIKE LAST YEAR?:  “I just heard Kurt (Busch) mention a few things about starting up front and running up front and how it’s a different race and it’s so true.  When you’re in the center of the pack, it’s just an energy that exists when somebody makes a questionable move on you and you’re excitement level goes up and now you make a move on a guy and it just kind of breeds this style of racing and we’re going to see it.  Anymore, the passing zones, drivers are so aggressive in defending the passing zones and braking zones that you have to find a different way by or just bomb it in there and eight tires are better than four mentality and hope that you make it.  I think there’s a very good chance of a lot of action taking place.”

WHAT MAKES KYLE BUSCH SUCH A GREAT RACER?:  “I think the fact that he can adapt and really drive any vehicle like we’ve seen.  Something that he has and has used to his advantage and as the years go by I think he’s clearly been through some tough lessons here lately, but he’s only getting smarter and stronger and tougher as the years go by.  He’s got plenty of speed and once he figures out the other part of it and can put together a whole year at the Cup level, he’s going to be good.  I said this before, once he figured out how to win races, he was going to win a lot and I still feel this way about once he figures out how to win a championship, he has potential to win a lot.”

WHERE DO YOU STAND ON TOO MUCH DOWN FORCE IN THE CARS?:  “I know what he’s (Carl Edwards) saying.  I understand that the aero push and maybe not just the push, but the lack of grip as you’re further back in traffic, it’s due to aerodynamics and the lead car has a huge advantage when it’s on track.  I’m not saying we can’t improve it some, but I still think the majority of our problem in not being able to pass on some tracks will still be there.  The lead car, you cannot change the fact that they are in the most stable air possible.  Every position back, it gets worse and worse.  From my experience and what I’ve seen over the years, when we have a new rule book or new rules in general, there is a lot of disparity in speed and so you have a fair amount of passing.  We’ve been under the same rules for a long time and when you look at the qualifying and results and how tight the field is, you can’t just go out there and pass people at will because everybody is running the same speed.  Then you can say, well it’s aerodynamics and that’s a part of it, but in my opinion, I think it’s that the field is so equal that you need to be a half-a-second faster to pass someone and in any aero situation and any type of vehicle that you look at – F1, open-wheel, in general – all those things, you can’t pass.  You’ve got to be considerably faster to pass.  No one is considerably faster than another car right now.  We’re all running a very similar pace.”

IS THERE A ROAD COURSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN THE CHASE?:  “I think it would be a great idea and I think Montreal would be a great fit for our series.  We have a huge fan base in Canada and I think it would be an awesome, awesome place to go.  I’m not sure what the chances are, but I would certainly lobby for it.”

HOW MUCH OF A THREAT DO YOU SEE JEFF GORDON AS THIS WEEKEND?:  “I think anytime we come here, we have to think about the 24 (Jeff Gordon) and him being a factor.  He and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) are clicking well, they spent some time testing to make sure they were kind of talking the same language when they got here for the road course race this weekend.  I think he’s going to be a serious threat.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RED BULL ANNOUNCEMENT THIS WEEK?:  “I hate to hear that news.  When I think about it from the sports vantage point and the big sponsor leaving, two seats going away – I really hate to hear that news.  Granted it’s a competitive beverage sponsor to what we deal with at HMS, but still the more corporate or international involvement – the more Fortune 500 companies and the more Fortune 50 companies we have involved in our sport, the better our sport is going to be.  Competition is good on the race track as we all know and it’s also good amongst the corporate environment that exists in the garage area.  I hate to see it and hopefully the team can find funding and still exist and operate at the high level like they have been.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE KEY TO WINNING ON SUNDAY?:  “In my opinion, it really boils down to – there’s two types of races that take place here – one is a fuel mileage race and we know what it takes to win there.  The other is qualifying well and having speed in the car.  Today in qualifying is so important to start up front, to stay out of the madness that takes place from fifth on back.  That’s the type of race we had last year.  We qualified second, got the lead early and went out there and just ran the pace we needed to and were a factor.  I don’t think anybody wants to see it boil down to fuel mileage.  It’s just so aggravating to worry about being the first guy on pit road and when that caution or if a cautions going to come out after that.  A lot of guys are pitting so early that you need two or three cautions after you take fuel to make it to the end.  So you’re pitting the car knowing that you’re going to run out if it stays green and it’s just a tough world to live in, especially when you’re concerned about being in the Chase and where you are in points.  I really hope it boils down to a straight up race and fuel mileage not an issue.”

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