MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
BOJANGLES SOUTHERN 500
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. SCHEDULE
SEPTEMBER 1, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S THROWBACK CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media Friday at Darlington Raceway to discuss the weather outlook for the weekend, a special community initiative by Darlington, the nature of the track and the end of NASCAR’s summer stretch. Full transcript:
WITH THE WEATHER THIS WEEKEND, WILL THIS BE TYPICAL DARLINGTON?
“I think typical Darlington. I’m excited to get on the track and see if the surface has aged more. Every year it gets a little closer to what it was where we all loved to race on it. I expect it to be hot, humid and nasty. That’s what the Southern 500 has always been about. I’m really excited. I’ve always loved the racetrack and I’m excited to get out there and get some laps.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS AND BE INVOLVED WITH THE COMMUNITY AT DARLINGTON?
“We’re happy and honored to be part of the local community here and rewarding the kids for their efforts in reading so many books. Our sport does a fantastic job of giving back to the communities that we race in and surround the tracks where we compete. I’m proud of Darlington Raceway in what they’ve done here and 27 smiling kids here who I got to pass out awards to.”
HOW DIFFERENT IS RACING HERE THAN WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WITH THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS?
“I haven’t thought about single-file restarts… it’s been so long. It’s been so far out of mind that I haven’t thought about the restart side. The track then really was about racing the track. If you were fortunate to have tires left, you were leading 20-30 laps into it. Now it’s more about track position and strategy… and obviously having a fast car. You’re focused more on your surrounding competitors than just on the track. So, it’s much different although the last race here was kind of like the old days. I think we’re maybe five years out from when it will be like it once was where solely have to focus on racing the racetrack.”
HAS THE THROWBACK THEME HAS ADDED SOMETHING THESE LAST FEW RACES?
“I definitely know it has. Fan engagement, fan excitement, even the teams and drivers… it’s neat to also honor the different eras with the sponsor you’re working with, another driver or maybe your father depending on the driver and team. It’s a neat and well-executed program.”
HAS LOWE’S BEEN INVOLVED IN THE HARVEY CLEANUP?
“They have store employees on the ground volunteering and doing everything they can, as they do in all disaster situations. They announced a day or two ago that they had donated I think $500,000 to the efforts down there. It’s amazing work on their behalf. I’ll end up in Houston at some point, and then from the Hendrick side we’re figuring out how we can get involved.”
A COUPLE OF YOUR HENDRICK TEAMMATES HAVE BEEN HONORED TODAY. DO YOU STOP TO THINK ABOUT THE THINGS THEY WILL BE NAMING AFTER YOU?
“I flew down with Jeff (Gordon) last night on Mr. Hendrick’s helicopter. I had an appearance at a Lowe’s store, and Jeff was coming over for the naming rights. Basically, the tone was when you’re that old, things are named for you! I know that’s out there for me. I’m not looking for it but I have to assume that at some of these tracks with the success I’ve had it will come when I’m old enough.”
CAN YOU GUYS TURN THINGS AROUND HEADING INTO THE FALL?
“I wish we knew why summers are so hard on us. Believe me, we sit down every winter and talk about how we can turn it around and avoid that summer slump. I think it shows how hard it is to stay on top. Most teams have lulls in a season, and we have been able to start well and end well. That’s served us well over the years.”
DOES IT FEEL LIKE LAST YEAR WHERE ONCE YOU’RE AT CHICAGOLAND, A SWITCH IS FLIPPED? “There are probably seven or eight years that feel like this. It’s not just last year. We have some decent races in the summer, but more bad ones than good ones. If we look back at this summer, if I’m not leaking oil at Indy then I have a shot at winning and the conversation changes. At Bristol, we had a fantastic race going and I got in the wall late in the race that took us out of an opportunity to win or finish in the top-three. But there are some moments where the conversation could have changed but haven’t. But I know those final 10 races – at least nine of them – are amazing track for me. We always count on that.”