CHEVY NSCS AT TALLADEGA TWO – Jimmie Johnson Press Conf. Transcript



American Muscle


OCTOBER 21, 2011

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 MYLOWE’S CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed what he and his team need to do to win the championship, his hard hit at Charlotte last week, the charity auction benefiting Dan Wheldon’s family and much more. Full transcript.

TALK ABOUT THE SECOND HALF OF THE CHASE, COMING TO TALLADEGA, TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET AS WE GET READY TO GO RACING HERE IN SUNDAY. “First thing is first, we’ve got to get out and practice today and get some experience with the new PRV (pressure relieve valve) and the bigger plate so I’m excited for that. I think it’s going to be challenging for the drivers to stay connected so we’ll have to get out there and see what happens. These cooler temperatures today, if it’s cool today and it gets warm on Sunday it might lure us into thinking we can push. We’ll just have to see. There’s some things to be on top of this weekend for the teams and drivers and I’m excited to get into practice and learn what that is and where that pressure will pop off the valve. We need points based on the way we finished up in Charlotte. We overcame a lot through the night in Charlotte with track position issues and was getting into a respectful finish there and I had that huge impact off of turn two so it was a sore week trying to get through the bumps and bruises at the beginning of the week. Things feel great now and we’ve just got to go racing. There’s still five races left in this Chase. A lot still can happen and I know what my team and myself is capable of and we’re going to go out there and work for every point we can get.”

IS THIS THE ONE RACE WHERE YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW THIS IS GOING TO END? “I have an idea but it’s tough to tell on any track what’s going to happen. We always seem to have a big one at some point. The changes that have been made will alter the race that takes place I just don’t know how much and I’ll know a lot more after practice and will have some good opinions then.”

LAST WEEK I ASKED YOU ABOUT BEING SUPERSTITIOUS AND THE SI JINX, WOULD YOU LIKE TO REVISIT THAT PHENOMENON? “Well in racing and anything it’s easy to say it was bad luck but like I said before that race and I say after because I was on the cover of that magazine it didn’t make me crash. I was in a situation racing hard for a position and had one car close behind me and one tight on my outside turn the car around. So the magazine didn’t create the aerodynamics situation that took place when I crashed. We can joke about it and laugh and say sure the jinx continues. I guess I really didn’t know there was a jinx prior until everybody pointed it out to me. But I don’t believe that’s the case. Racing took place; I was in the car so I’m responsible for what took place on Saturday night not a magazine cover. It’s fun to laugh about it I guess, everybody chuckled when you asked.”

WHEN TALKING ABOUT THIS RACE YOU SAID WE NEED POINTS, THAT MIGHT BE KIND OF THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF YOUR TIME IN THE CHASE, MIGHT THIS BE THE TOUGHEST POSITION YOU’VE FOUND YOURSELF IN SINCE TEHRE’S BEEN A CHASE? “I don’t know. I saw stats somewhere where we left here 156 (points) back in ’06 and won the championship. The schedule has changed a little so I don’t know if Talladega was a lot earlier and how it all plays out. I kind of look at it like I did in 2006 when we had two bad races and was able to rebound. We’ve had two bad races and I hope to rebound so it seems familiar to me but over the years I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff along the way too.”

MOST YEARS GUYS HATE TO COME HERE BECAUSE ITS SUCH A CRAPSHOOT RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHASE, CONSIDERING YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU SORT OF GLAD TO COME HERE ALL THINGS CONSIDERED THIS TIME? “When you’re coming to Talladega and you have to protect something it’s tough. Even when you get to the end of the year and you go to Homestead protecting the championship regardless of the race track it just adds a lot of stress. With the unknowns we have here protecting makes for a long weekend and a long race when you’re in the car. I don’t want to enter this race hoping for anything from a big crash standpoint to happen and the No. 29, No. 99 the guys all having to be caught up in that. I just need to go out and race. I know stuff does happen on the track but if we go out and run well and get five points on some guys it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t have anything to protect so Talladega isn’t as dangerous for me this year or as scary as it has been in years past.”

I SAW THAT YOU’RE DONATING THE HELMET THAT YOU’RE WEARING THIS WEEKEND TO THE DAN WHELDON MEMORIAL, HOW IS IT THAT YOU CAME TO THAT DECISION AND JUST YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE OUTPOURING OF PEOPLE IN THE MOTORSPORTS COMMUNITY TRYING TO GET INVOLVED IN THIS AUCTION. “So I noticed on Twitter that Graham Rahal was spearheading really the majority of the goods for the auction and I saw something on there where his father was giving up a race-worn helmet and if I remember reading it right is was one of a kind. My helmets, I don’t do anything with them and I keep them myself. I do trade out with some other drivers from time to time but helmets are so sought after and can raise the most money when I saw that Bobby Rahal was giving up a helmet it just triggered something in me. I’ll wear the helmet this weekend and I have a sticker to go on my visor with the lion hart thing and a Dan Wheldon on it and stuff. I’m excited to wear the helmet and hopefully it can go to victory lane and be worth every cent possible before its goes up on the auction.”

HAVE YOU BEEN IMPRESSED WITH THE WAY PEOPLE HAVE REACTED? “Yeah, extremely impressed with the outpouring and just again following Graham’s Tweets. Kelly Slater is involved so it’s certainly a very big focus within our sport. Within in sports there has been some great support to but it’s gone off into a different world with surfing even, so just really proud of everybody doing their part in trying to help provide for the family and keeping the family in their thoughts and prayers.”

WHEN I WAS DRIVING DOWN HERE YESTERDAY I HAD A LONG PHONE CONVERSATION WITH A FAN OVER THE SUBJECT OF YOU HAVING A REALLY HARD CRASH AND SOME PEOPLE CHEERING, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? “Luckily I guess I can’t hear what’s going on in the grandstands when you’re in the car. I wasn’t aware of the cheering and then saw some traffic on my Twitter site following that. I can remember noise when really anybody crashes and cheers at times so I don’t know exactly to the degree of what that is but inside the car, that rate of speed hitting the wall it’s not a situation you want to be in. I guess being that quarterback laying on the Astroturf trying to catch your breath is a lot like being that driver in the car driving to catch his breath. It wasn’t fun.”

THERE’S BEEN SOME TALK AMONG THE FANS THAT TRYING TO PASS RYAN NEWMAN WITH 10 LAPS LEFT, WITH SUCH LITTLE TIME LEFT IN THE RACE MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN THE RIGHT MOVE, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU MADE ANY SORT OF MISTAKE AND SHOULD HAVE JUST SETTLED FOR WHERE YOU WERE RUNNING AT THAT POINT IN THE RACE? “Settling for where you are running in the race to preserve points is just not something I’ve ever done. I mean I needed every point I could get. The No. 99 was up there running well, the No. 29 had just passed the No. 39 and I had made passes inside of cars all night long in (turns) one and two and didn’t have any issues. I mean yes you can look back now and say sure eighth or wherever I was running is a heck of a lot better than 34th but we’ve got to race and we’ve got to go get every point that we can. I was faster than the No. 39. I watched the No. 29 take a couple of laps to work his way by and I felt like I was in a position to do the same thing and the No. 4 car knew I was in and overtaking position and I felt like I was going to have his drafting help on the straights which I did coming down the front straight into that corner, so I really felt like things were going in the right direction for me to roll around the bottom and pass the No. 39 and clearly that didn’t happen. You can always armchair quarterback after but at the time I mean I didn’t drive in over my head, if you watch the video I lifted a little earlier because I felt like Ryan (Newman) was going to be out there and be tight to me and it just got out from under me. Just a racing thing. I wish it didn’t’ happen but I can’t look back at that and say I should have just been content with eighth.”

EVERYBODY REMEMBERS YOUR EPIC RUN OUT OF HERE IN ’06, FIVE STRAIGHT TOP-TWO FINISHES TO WIN THAT TITLE, IS IT GOING TO TAKE SOMETHING LIKE THAT FOR YOU TO WIN IT THIS YEAR AND IS A RUN LIKE THAT EVEN POSSIBLE GIVEN HOW COMPETITIVE IT IS THIS YEAR? “It is possible and I’m expecting we need to do that as a race team. Fortune can come and go for any of the drivers at any of the tracks. There’s a lot of focus on this weekend’s race but Martinsville has its things then we go to Phoenix at some point and we’re all not sure what to expect in Phoenix so things will develop over the next five races but myself and this team are looking at it that we need to be on fire at these next five to give ourselves a chance to win this thing.”

HOW DOES A TRAGEDY LIKE WE SAW LAST WEEKEND AT LAS VEGAS IMPACT YOU AS A COMPETITOR COMING BACK TO THE RACE TRACK TO DO YOUR JOB ESPECIALLY AT A PLACE WHERE THERE IS SO MUCH UNKNOWN? “You know when things like that happen within motorsports you certainly think of the risks you take, the things that have happened through your career. I was in my backyard with my daughter watching her run around when they’re talking about Susie and the kids. There was a tough moment there for me watching my daughter play and thinking of Dan’s family so there are moments there that really grabbed me, grabbed drivers I believe. Getting in the car Monday at the EFI test that we ran, deep in the back of my mind just thinking about things and there’s my marks into the wall in turn two and I’m like yeah I had a bad angle and I hit pretty hard. I think we spend very little time as drivers thinking about it, right or wrong, and it’s just kind of who we are. If you look back at the old days and drivers, everybody just kind of tried not to think it could happen to them and keep going. I’m thankful we’ve had the developments we have had in motorsports making our cars safe and I built confidence in my crash from Saturday night, I had a huge impact and I didn’t even lose consciousness so I feel like I’m in a very safe environment. But there are risks in our sport and we do assume and take those risks. We try to prepare our family and friends with the risks that we take and you just race with a heavy heart and think of Dan and the drivers before Dan that have been killed.”

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