MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
AUTO CLUB 400
AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 24, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed being back home, his season thus far, his thoughts on restrictor plates at Indy and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING HOME AT A TRACK THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL AT?
“It’s fun to be back home. After Phoenix, we flew to San Diego and kind of started a little West Coast family trip heading up the coastline and hit LEGOLAND and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and just various places. So, it’s been fun. I took my kids out to El Cajon and showed them where I grew up and granted Lydia is three and probably will never remember it, but it was just fun to kind of be back home, show my family around. My oldest (Evie) has been there to my hometown, but my youngest, it’s her first real trip through there. I don’t know, just fun to go back and see the spots and places and even talk to a few old friends. And then to come to this race track where I won my first event, I guess that photo is right there (points in the media center) to remind me of it, which is pretty cool. It’s just fun to be back. I really enjoy racing here. We have all watched this track age and turn into a facility that puts on one heck of a show. I’m excited to be back.”
PEOPLE ARE QUESTIONING YOUR PERFORMANCE THIS YEAR. ARE YOU GUYS AT A POINT WHERE YOU COULD GET THAT SEVENTH WIN HERE AND GIVE BACK-TO-BACK DO YOU THINK FOR THE TEAM?
“Sixteen years, 80 wins, and seven championships and people want to question us? I mean come on. I know it’s not you. You can’t be on top forever. I think that we do have some work to do, especially on the short run. We haven’t executed as cleanly as we need to. Daytona, we are running second or third and get crashed, last week we were a good top five, maybe top three car on the long run, but finished with some short restarts that was our weak point. Yeah, sure, absolutely we have work to do, but nobody should panic.”
DID YOUR FIRST WIN HERE FEEL EXTREMELY APPROPRIATE THAT IT WOULD BE HERE IN CALIFORNIA THAT YOU WOULD GET YOUR FIRST WIN? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT IT?
“If any driver could script their first win and the circumstances I think they would choose a path similar to what I went through. It was my 13th start ever in the Cup Series, 10th start of that season, running my home track. You just couldn’t script it any better and when I look back, I’m still amazed that it turned out that way. I’m still amazed that it has turned out how it has to start with. When I go back mentally to that point in my life, I just wanted to win a race. I’ve said it many times and I’m very serious about this with Jeff (Gordon) winning the championship the year before and they gave me his inventory of cars and equipment, I felt like I had to win. Deep down in my heart I felt like Lowe’s signed up because they felt that I could win. There was this pressure, granted it was early in the year, but standing there climbing out of that car and the minutes that followed that the relief that came off of my shoulders knowing that I could win. And I had only won one Busch race prior to that and all the conversation then was ‘what the heck is Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick thinking?’ Who is this guy? I was very relieved and that triple chin smile is more about the relief of all this pressure that I had put on myself to win and I was able to do it very early at my home track.”
LAST WEEKEND IN PHOENIX YOU HAD TO RACE UNDER VERY HOT CONDITIONS. HOPEFULLY, NOT SO HOT HERE. HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY TRAIN AND PREPARE FOR HOT RACES? HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO STAY FOCUSED IN THE COCKPIT WHEN IT IS SO HOT?
“Yeah, I think that the hot tracks, hot races, add a whole different element from a competition stand point, car set-up stand point, obviously, the driver’s fitness, it just really puts us in a tough situation. Which, I personally enjoy that challenge. I felt great after the race and it’s always tough to have your first hot race of the year. Especially from my stand point, I’ve been up in the mountains in Colorado. A hot day has been in the 50’s, so to go from that to 130 plus cockpit temperature, I focused really hard on my hydration. My fitness was pretty, it’s in okay shape from being in the mountains as I had been all winter. But, hydration is really the key thing with that. The years of experience, the relationship with Gatorade and understanding my sweat rate, what is in my sweat, I know it sounds kind of gross and interesting, but there is a lot of important data there to help you understand what to ingest. My guys do a good job of keeping me cool in the car too. It was a nice little wake up call, that hey it’s really hot in this environment and need to be ready for the summer.”
DO YOU HAVE A DRINK BOTTLE IN YOUR CAR?
“Yeah, for us we just the Gatorade in car drinking system and it’s under the seat in my car and it holds 120 ounces. I have a lot of fluid there to drink throughout the course of the day. And then when that runs out, they can hand me bottles in through the window on a pit stop.”
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE BATTLE YOU HAD WITH JEFF GORDON AT MARTINSVILLE 10 YEARS AGO?
“It is one of the highlights of my career. I’m not sure Jeff sees it the same way because he finished second, but for me growing up as a Jeff Gordon fan, and knowing his success at Martinsville and my early starts and years at Martinsville were just so painful. To have that duel to the finish is just something every driver wants. I’m thankful for the bumpers at that point were pretty much in line because if it was the old Monte Carlo style vehicle I think I would have been in the Turn 4 wall with all the contact that we had. But, there is no better way to finish a race than side-by-side, door-to door.”
DO YOU KIND OF FEEL LIKE YOU ARE CARRYING THE BANNER FOR YOUR HOMETOWN IN SOMEWAY?
“It’s hard for me to say not being in town. I don’t have a great pulse on the impact of the Chargers leaving and various current events that take place. Of course, I see it in the news and think of home and have so much pride for my years here and very proud every time I step across that stage, even if it’s mispronounced, I hear that I’ve from El Cajon, California. So, I take a lot of pride in that and when I do come home and I am around I can sense and feel the pride that people have for me. The championships I’ve been able to bring to the city, so on my end, yeah, absolutely, I’m very proud to have been and hopefully continue to provide San Diegans with a big smile on a Sunday afternoon. But, I’m a little out of touch with all that is going on currently.”
WHERE ARE YOU GUYS AT WITH A CONTRACT EXTENSION? SHOULD WE EXPECT SOMETHING SOON?
“Yeah, that’s a good question. We are always talking and working on the details. We don’t have anything ready yet, but I’m sure we will announce before long. As you can tell, I’m not overly concerned. I feel very confident we will get something put together with Lowe’s as our primary sponsor. Hendrick is my home, so I’m not worried about where that stuff will actually be executed and what point the season it will be executed, but I know it will happen soon.”
WITH BEING HERE AND HAVING THE TRIP WITH YOUR DAUGHTERS FRESH IN YOUR MIND, A GUY WITH SEVEN TITLES HAS ALL THE RIGHT IN THE WORLD TO PROCLAIM TO BE THE BEST, ETC. HOW DOES YOUR UPBRINGING AND BEING BACK HOME REFRESH YOUR HUMILITY A LITTLE BIT IN WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH IN THIS SPORT?
“Yeah, I think just seeing, obviously, with my situation today and the way we travel and great place we live in Charlotte and just the means that I have now and the lifestyle I’ve been able to create. It’s so different. And as a parent I know that I want my kids to appreciate what they have and work hard for the world they want to create for themselves. And my kids are starting a heck of a lot better off than I did from that perspective. I grew up in a house full of love and understanding and highly motivated parents that pushed me to chase my dreams and I want to give that to my children as well, obviously. But, to take them back and show them the street I played on and I even saw some of my old bicycle jumps that are kind of eroded away now on the side of the road up in Crest (California) where I grew up. They are young, but I feel like they need to see that and to hear my daughters Genevie’s comments about the house and how small it was and things like that, it’s like ‘yep that is why we are here.’ Certainly, from their stand point it was great to show them around, but for me it’s just such a nice reminder to go back. I do shake my head and find it hard to believe that is where I came from and that I made it to where I am, but more than anything the memories and it’s just wild how the old memories and stories come up. I just pepper my wife with these stories and she is like ‘yeah, I’ve heard that 15-times and that one 20-times’, so it is just fun to open up the memory bank and experience those things again.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON AUSTIN DILLON NOT GETTING PENALIZED THIS WEEK AFTER HIS RETALIATION AGAINST COLE CUSTER DURING LAST WEEK’S XFINITY RACE?
“Didn’t know a thing about it. Sorry, I was on a bike probably somewhere during that race when it happened. I didn’t know a thing about it.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON HOW YOU THINK ADDING RESTRICTOR PLATES AT INDY AND POTENTIALLY OTHER VENUES WILL AFFECT RACING? IS IT A GOOD IDEA? RIGHT DIRECTION?
“Yeah, that is the first I’ve heard about it. I don’t see really any upside to it. We are out of the gas so long there and brake for two of the four corners. I don’t see how it’s going to help. I guess it would put a bit more of an emphasis on the draft down the straight, but the corners are so challenging. I am not confident we will create the competitive passes that I assume they are looking for. You need multiple lanes to create passes and that track just doesn’t provide that. So, I think taking horsepower away you know if you are held up in the turn the less power the less of an opportunity to run up on somebody and to make the pass on one of those long straightaways. I would fear that it would go the other direction. Again, this is all speculation, this is the first I’ve heard about it, but I assume it is to create more passing because it is tough to pass there. I just don’t know how we are going to do it.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD CREATE MORE PASSING?
“Well, I think what has been looked at and the conversations I’ve had is just how entertaining the Indy 500 is. But when you look at the horsepower to downforce ratio of any open wheel car, those guys easily run flat around the track. And when you run flat, you can use the draft and slingshot and things like that. When you are out of the gas for five, six, seven seconds and go back to the throttle and there is no recovery, no response, you are never going to pull up. That is my fear. If it was a very banked track with lots of lanes and you could easily run flat in multiple lanes, I think it would give you that chance to make a pass on the straight, but what will happen is the leader can run more throttle than everyone else and it’s just going to compound and be worse the further back you go and make it even harder to pass, I think.”