NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
AAA TEXAS 500
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
NOVEMBER 4, 2011
JIMMIE JOHNSON NO. 48 LOWES/ MYLOWE’S CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed Mark Martin, Mr. Hendrick’s condition, racing at Phoenix and other topics. Full transcript
WHAT KIND OF OUT LOOK DO YOU HAVE THIS WEEKEND FOR THE MYLOWE’S CHEVROLET?
“I think we are going to have a great race this weekend. The efforts have been made through Hendrick Motorsports and the Mylowe’s race team to improve on the mile-and-a-half, which has been something; we have worked really hard on all year long. It is right, we have been able to prove that at Kansas, and not a lot of other mile-and-a-half tracks where we have competed up-front for the win. I am excited for our chances, we have to go out there and get everything we can every lap. From a championship perspective, it is out of our control to win the championship, in my opinion, doesn’t mean that we are out of it, but we are going to need help. If Tony (Stewart) and Carl (Edwards) would be so nice to let me back in, I would appreciate that, along with some of the other guys that are up there but, we are going to go race and try and take trophies home and see where this thing shakes out.”
MARK MARTIN SIGNED A DEAL THAT HE WILL BE RACING FOR TWO MORE YEARS, IF THERE IS SOMEONE WHO IS AGELESS IN THIS SPORT IT IS HIM. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF HIM RACING AT HIS AGE AND DO YOU INTEND ON RACING WHEN YOU ARE 55? “(Laughs) I don’t know, and I respect Mark for continuing, there is something inside of him as a racer we all respect and at his age he can’t stop. I am proud of him. We know what he has done physically to be strong as or the strongest guys out there. That number doesn’t affect his reason of being in the race car. I know what he has done to Hendrick Motorsports and to myself for myself, the type of teammate he has been, the man he is and I know he will be a great asset over at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). I don’t know many of the details, and saw a little bit of buzz about it, but I am happy that he has found a home and know that he will be a huge asset for MWR.”
HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO RICK HENDRICK IN THE LAST DAY OR TWO, HOW IS HE FEELING AND DOES HE EXPECT TO BE AT A RACETRACK FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES? “Yea, I saw him, I guess Wednesday evening. I went by to see him and Linda and they are both doing well, really good, certainly sore and things of that nature. Their spirits are high, they still have a lot of questions themselves and the whole process is going through its emotions now, hopefully we will have some answers. I just like everyone else, I want to know what happened and they certainly do as well. They are doing well, their spirits are high, they are very thankful that things turned out the way that it did and that the runway had the extra distance and all that, it could have been bad, really could have.”
SINCE 2004, YOU HAVE BEEN ONE OF TWO IN THE POINTS COMING INTO THIS RACE. WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR YOU RIGHT NOW, OBVIOUSLY NOT MATHEMATICALLY OUT BUT NOT IN THE THICK OF THIS CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE? “It is disappointing to say the least, it is easy to find an angle, if we didn’t have the speed and we had other issues going on from an on-track perspective, we didn’t have speed, we couldn’t compete, pit road problems, whatever it is, we do not have that this year. We did in the summer stretch, we needed speed on the mile-and-a-half’s and we had our issues on pit road, and even past Chases we can look at last year and say what we did here changing pit crews out was huge, and I admitted then that we didn’t have the speed to run with the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin), but we found a way to get it done. This year, in this Chase we have had the speed on pit road and on the race track and we just have not finished the races off like we needed to, to stay in contention. That responsibility ultimately lands on my shoulders and to a certain degree on Chad’s (Knaus, crew chief). That is where the disappointment comes from. There has been a handful of races where crashes, strategy, and different things just didn’t play out, that part stinks. It is sports, its racing and we have to learn from the outcome of this year and whatever happens and not let that happen again in the future.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY UPDATES ON THE PLANE? “Nothing yet, there are a lot of crews were scrambled to be there to take place in the process, but there is just no news unfortunately. They certainly do not want us or lead us to believe anything but the truth, so I would assume it will be really quite until we know what really went on.”
LAST SEASON WE SAY YOU RALLIED FROM BEHIND, WE SAW SOME DRAMATIC SWINGS IN THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES IN THE CHASE, IF YOU HAD TO GUESS, WHAT ARE WE MOST LIKELY TO SEE IN THE LAST THREE RACES, A COME FROM BEHIND WIN OR A LEADER DEFENDING HIS CHAMPIONSHIP? “I think we are going to see, with an eight point spread between first and second and I don’t know how far back Kevin (Harvick) is, um 21, it is hard to say. I don’t see Tony (Stewart) or Carl (Edwards) having any bad tracks moving forward. Tony has shown his strengths at the mile-and-a-half’s, he is great at Phoenix, granted Phoenix has changed and it is a crap shoot for anybody, but the No. 99 (Edwards) has been strong on the mile-and-a-half stuff, I think we are going to have a shoot out till the end. If something does happen with either one of them obviously, it opens the door for a bunch of other guys, but I just don’t see any big mistakes coming from those guys, but time will tell.”
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS PHOENIX GOING TO BE AND HOW MUCH ARE A LOT OF CREW CHIEFS AND ENGINEERS SCRATCHING THEIR HEADS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE NEXT WEEK? “From my experience there, I was a part of that first tire test and then the open test. For whatever reason, if it is the asphalt or the tire, or both, and obviously the dirty air, the wind blowing dirt and being out in the middle of the desert, it takes a long time to burn in a lane that you can adjust to. My two times being there, you are chasing one balance of the race car and then finally the track rubbers up and you have to back all of that out and then you are finally on the path that you need to be on. I think we are going to be struggling when we unload, what do you unload with? When does the track show up and where do you build faith in your set up and what direction to go in. From there the second lane, even at the open test, it was really a grove and a half at the most width wise, and hopefully the races leading up to ours will clean up a second lane so that we can have good restarts and somewhere to race side by side but for whatever reason it just takes so long to burn a lane in and then you are afraid to move out and push it any wider, so it is going to be a guessing game to say the least.”
“It is a fun lap to drive. I don’t know if, we are really going to be able to race in all the areas on the track yet. I think from a drivers stand point you can’t make mistakes, that is how people are going to overtake you. If you make a mistake, you are going to open a door and maybe loose five or six spots because you just can’t get back down in line.”
HOW DID YOU GET HERE? DID YOU JUST JUMP ON ANOTHER HENDRICK PLANE?
“Yea, we drove from Charlotte, No, we had our big day yesterday in Oklahoma, for our grants announcement for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, so we took another Hendrick Plane to Oklahoma and it brought us here. We do have a fleet at Hendrick Aviation that we can pull from which is nice, and our plane was within that fleet so, and Rick (Hendirck) is not going anywhere right now, so his plane was available.”
IS HARD TO PUT IN PERSPECTIVE WHAT NOT WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR, WILL BE LIKE? CAN YOUR TEAM WALK AWAY FEELING LIKE HAD NOT LOST EVERYTHING? “We have high expectations for ourselves and so does this room and the fans because of what we have accomplished and after you win a championship, you want more and after you win five in a row, it just seems like you should be a contender at a minimum. We have a lot of pressure on ourselves and yes we are going to be disappointed if we are not the champion, but I look at this year and where we were at different points in the year and the new faces that we have going over the wall and the progress that they have all made, the progress we have made as a company with the speed in our cars from the start of the year until now, it has been a tougher year for us from a performance stand point than we expected to have, and I think we are understanding our equipment better now and 2012 will be a good year. Just like any competitor, if it is not your year this year, you learn from the low spots, you praise your crew for the high spots and you move on. I don’t want to see the streak end, nor does my team, but if it does, it does and we have to learn from it and go on.”
WAS THAT PLANE THE KEY WEST PLANE THE ONE YOU WOULD HAVE FLOWN IN NORMALLY? THERE WERE A LOT OF SHAKE UPS AT HENDRICK AT THE END OF LAST YEAR, THERE WILL BE NO BIG SHAKE UPS THIS YEAR CORRECT? “Yes, that is our plane that my family and I fly on week in and week out. Kasey (Kahne) coming in with Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and that whole duet, that would be the, not necessarily a shake-up but the only change. Everybody is really content and the performance is showing in the 24 (Jeff Gordon), 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), and 48 that we will bring Kenny in and try to adapt him and Kasey into the fold.”
FOR A GUY WHO HAS NOT ONLY HELD OFF COMPETITORS TO KNOCK THEM OUT OF THAT TOP SPOT, AND ALSO HAVE KNOCKED GUYS OUT GOING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO CARL(EDWARDS) AND TONY( STEWART) RIGHT NOW? “Well, both have been in the thick of it before, Tony (Stewart) has won his two, I think that there is a bit of comfort that I have experienced over the years racing for my third and after you win one, a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders, so Carl (Edwards) has won championships in other forms and you are going to have to pull on all your experience to do your job to win at this level. I don’t want to advise them, I would like them both to let myself and others back into this, I don’t necessarily have advice, but I am going to be watching with excitement and certainly hoping that my Hendrick kind of teammate in a way if you will has some great success here these next few weeks.”
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