SAVE MART 350
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 22, 2012
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Sonoma and discussed racing at Sonoma and much more. Full transcript.
HOW MUCH BETTER HAVE THE NORMAL NASCAR DRIVERS GOTTEN AT ROAD RACING?: “They’ve improved dramatically and I think the fact that there haven’t been any ringers winning and even really a lack of opportunities for them, guys like Scott Pruett, Boris’ (Said) opportunities have been limited and even Ron Fellows. Those guys were go-to for a long, long time. They have some opportunities, but not the top-tier stuff any longer. If you look at Marcos (Ambrose) and Juan (Pablo Montoya), they are road course specialists for sure, but they are oval guys now so I don’t think you put them in that category.”
IS YOUR TEAM BETTER AT ROAD RACING NOW OR IS IT AN EQUIPMENT THING?: “I think it’s so important to collect points everywhere we go, some eight or 10 years back teams really struggled at focusing on getting their drivers right and getting their equipment right to run on these tracks and everybody in this garage area is an awesome race car driver and we just didn’t have the reps on road courses. In today’s world, we test a lot at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) and Road Atlanta, Kershaw, all around just getting reps to be sure we can be ready to go when we get here. I think that’s what we’re seeing more than anything.”
CAN YOU RECALL A TIME AT HENDRICK WHEN ALL THE TEAMS WERE COLLECTIVELY THIS COMPETITIVE?: “We’ve had some stretches. I can’t remember the exact year, but there were times when we’ve had this going on. We sit back and enjoy it and through history have realized that it’s not going to last forever. We’ve watched Roush have it and work for all their race cars. Again, a year is great to have it take place and we hope to get through this year with multiple cars running this strong.”
WHAT MAKES ROAD RACES SO AGGRESSIVE?: “I think everybody is just much more competitive and the mindset of just keeping it on the road is on the forefront of everybody’s mind along with finishing well and running hard. Guys are just racing a lot harder.
“The other thing to is that things build up even more when we get here, quite a few races in and guys have had enough of being pushed around and certain guys, we’re going slow enough here and close enough to one another that things start shaping up and a guy has been giving you a hard time for awhile and if he comes across your nose, you’re not going to back out of that hole. You’re going to get into him. The final element is that it’s so frustrating to be blocked and there’s only two maybe three good passing opportunities and you get blocked a couple laps in a row then you are going to make sure that guy realizes that he’s blocking.”
WHAT MAKES SOME DRIVERS BETTER ON ROAD COURSES?: “I really feel like my off-road background would help me cross over and I would be great right out of the gate on road courses and I was strong coming through Nationwide and Cup, but this track took me awhile to get it right. Again, I thought my background would carry over, but it didn’t. The other thing is that in this garage area, others haven’t had a lot of road course experience, but they are all great race car drivers.
“Once you get enough reps or seat time, you’re going to be good at it once you learn how to adjust on our cars and that’s why I made the effort to go run Grand-Am and do a lot of other road course racing so that I understood the mindset of adjusting a car and how to put grip in it and how to work on our braking balance, turning balance and all that stuff that is different. I really just think it’s experience in the whole garage area, all the oval guys now have the experience to go out and be competitive.”
IS THERE A COMMON THREAD TO THE GOOD ROAD RACERS?: “I think Juan (Pablo Montoya) and Marcos (Ambrose) are examples of road course guys that are just awesome at road course racing. I think a go-karting background is helpful and that’s why (Jamie) McMurray is as strong as he is. You see AJ (Allmendinger), he’s a guy with a great road course background. That stuff will shine through.
“I think that a sprint car or a midget is probably as far as you could ever be from running a road course and it just speaks to the talent level of Tony (Stewart) and Kasey (Kahne) coming here and driving like they do.”
HOW DID DALE EARNHARDT JR.’S WIN IMPACT THE SPORT?: “It certainly brought a lot of notoriety to the sport with what he was able to accomplish. I look forward to him winning more and keeping the momentum going that is super-high. I don’t think our sport is just one guy. There are a lot of other guys in this sport, even Danica (Patrick) and the notoriety that she brings. It’s all positive. We have great racing, we had a great championship battle last year that was very helpful. I think our sport is really surging right now for a lot of reasons.”
HOW DOES DALE EARNHARDT JR. MAINTAIN MOMENTUM?: “I think he’s every bit as much of a championship contender as anyone else is. He’s been the highest in points of the Hendrick cars all year long. He got that win, which everyone puts so much weight on, but outside of that, he was in the top-three or top-five every week leading laps and that’s what you need to do. I feel very good about his chances of getting into the Chase and once he gets in there, I think he knows what to do.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE RULE CHANGE WITH THE SWAY BARS?: “We had a first round of it in Charlotte and we have all kind of adapted and we’ll go to work again on it. I don’t have a problem with taking grip away from the car to make them slide around more. With that in mind, I’m cool with the changes and this aero stuff of trying to slow the leader down to the rest of the pack, there is only so much we can do there. Before long, it’s going to make it so bad that the leader is going to have a bigger advantage. Aero is almost like black magic, there are a lot of theories, but no one really knows how.
“If you look at F1, they have the same problem, it’s hard to pass the leader. Look at IndyCar, same problem. Here, same problem. I don’t know how we’re going to get around it, but I commend NASCAR in working at it and I like the fact that it makes the cars harder to drive, but at some point you’re just going to know that there is nothing we can do.”
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU WERE THE ONE DRIVER AT HENDRICK WITHOUT A WIN THIS YEAR LIKE JEFF GORDON?: “It would be frustrating. I feel bad for Jeff (Gordon). I think it probably makes it worse that he’s been close. It might be the one thing that helps at night when he goes to bed is that they have the speed and been close so many times. I know it isn’t easy. It’s hard to go give him advice, it’s Jeff Gordon and he knows what to do. It won’t be long. I know he and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) are frustrated, but they’re doing the right thing. That team is so strong that it’s just a matter of time.”
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