MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 31, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed the performance of the No. 48 team thus far this season, his thoughts on Kyle Larson, stage racing and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WHERE IS GRANDFATHER CLOCK NO. 10 GOING TO GO IF YOU WIN IT THIS WEEKEND?
“In the man cave. I’ve got a great spot for it and would love to have it. It was fun listening to Kyle (Larson) one, just his honestly about a few different topics including this track. I used to drive up here depressed and not excited to compete here. And then it clicked, so I would anticipate that happening for him before long. He is just too talented of a driver. So many different types of vehicles and tracks for it not to work for him here. I think my background, once I figured out how to drive this place has lent me all the success and has really been the backbone to it all. So, looking forward to a great race. Last fall went very well for us here and looking forward to a good race this weekend.”
WHY IS IT THAT YOU SIMPLY CAN’T TELL SOMEBODY WHAT THE METHODOLOGY IS AND HAVE THEM DUPLICATE IT? DO THEY REALLY JUST HAVE TO FEEL IT ON THEIR OWN?
“For me it took being lapped by Tony Stewart to figure it out and then I followed him and got myself back on the lead lap and had a decent finish. I came here and tested with the No. 24 and had Jeff (Gordon) working diligently with me to figure it out and it didn’t click, looking at the data he would hop in my car and go faster and it was just frustrating and then it finally clicked. It’s one thing to create short run speed, but there are some little things here in the rhythm that could just chew up tires and wear the tires out and make you drop back way too fast. It’s been great because I feel like once you understand how to get around here it’s something that you can keep for a long time, regardless of tire, generation of car, the test of time it really stands up here on this small track more than anywhere.”
WHAT KIND OF POTENTIAL DO YOU SEE OUT OF KYLE LARSON?
“I see a ton of potential. He is a great talent. His love for racing, I think, it’s a great story to see play out and to see just the reaction on his face the way he describes his childhood. With social media, today I guess I’m working towards a picture of seeing him get autographs from Jeff Gordon and other drivers. To have him really live the racers dream and grow up as a fan and racing locally and making it to this point, I think it’s an amazing story. We have all known that he has been highly talented and just waiting for him and the team to get to their winning ways and it looks like they are there. With all the top-two’s and then cleaning house last weekend he is well on his way.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO PEOPLE WHY CHOOSING NOT TO QUALIFYING LAST WEEKEND AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN THE BEST STRATEGY AFTER ALL?
“It would have been fine if I didn’t spin the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) car out and get in that traffic situation. I guess he had some damage and I just misread my momentum and I think they were three or four-wide in front of me and just didn’t turn out as I had hoped or planned.”
ISN’T THAT THE RISK YOU TAKE?
“Without a doubt. We didn’t do ourselves any favors by missing qualifying. Sure, we started on stickers, but I think Logano did as well and he got just inside the top 10. It is short lived. You get a terrible pit stall pick. You take that risk of coming through the field on and on. Hopefully, this weekend goes much smoother than last and we are not put in that position. We are just on to the next one I guess.”
WE HAVE HAD SOME SURPRISE WINNERS SO FAR, THIS SEASON AND THOSE WHO NORMALLY WIN HAVE NOT WON. WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW DO YOU STAND ON THAT PROGRESS LINE?
“Progress line I feel like our cars are in good shape. We always want to be better. I think my car and the Hendrick cars, Chase (Elliott) is kind of leading the way when we should be right there with him. I think we have on pace, we just haven’t executed very well. I’ve made mistakes, the team has made mistakes, we’ve had some pit calls not work out in our favor, strategy, pit stops, so we’ve just got to stop making mistakes. That is really where we are at. I think we will have a good run. We ran well at Phoenix, although we had some stuff to overcome and then some short runs at the end that didn’t play out and we ended up ninth. I think that is much more indicative of where we are at. I think we are right on the edge there of top five, top three car, we’ve just got to stop making mistakes and ring the bell in that area and then work forward and try to ring the bell for winning the race.”
“I don’t know that I would call them unexpected. When I look at Phoenix it’s a great track for Ryan (Newman) I’m happy for RCR and for Ryan to get back to Victory Lane. It was a risky call and it played out, but I’m not surprised Kyle Larson is winning. I’m trying to think of the other ones. I’ve been so far back I haven’t payed attention to who has been to Victory Lane (laughs).”
WHEN WAS THE POINT WHERE YOU FELT LIKE WEEK-IN, WEEK-OUT YOU WERE AMONG THE CARS TO BEAT?
“We were fortunate to come out and be competitive early. I would say in my arch in my rookie year the race in Atlanta, which was the third or fourth race of the season maybe, I’m trying to remember back then it’s changed around so much, but I remember running in the top five at Atlanta. A lot of green flag runs, all the big dogs around me and I had that moment where like I can do this, I can be here. It’s one of the most difficult tracks, I’ve ran here all day and that was a big confidence booster for me moving forward. We won in California, went on a … I think we won California, Dover, and between the two Dover’s or something like that we had a tough span that took my confidence back away and we came back and won in Dover in the fall and it brought it back. I guess winning certainly helps, but it’s amazing how quickly your confidence can be challenged, especially when you are a young driver and a newer driver on the circuit. But, the moment for me was really early in my rookie year at Atlanta.”
YOU GUYS TYPICALLY, NO MATTER WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE SPORT, BY THE 12TH RACE OF THE YEAR YOU’VE WON. DO YOU GET TIRED OF PEOPLE ASKING YOU GUYS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE NO. 48 TEAM?
“No, I don’t mind the questions. I mean they are rightfully asked. I think the overreaction on either side is very amusing. If we are not winning how big of a deal some make of it and when we win how big of a deal some make of it. I mean, I think our history shows that we can rebound quickly and we have unfortunately had slow summer’s through our existence. There are a few dynamics there that are pretty darn predictable even though we try to change them, especially that summer slump. I guess I don’t mind the questions and every driver has a question. If you haven’t won why aren’t you winning and if you’ve won can you do it again? Everybody has a question. I am so fortunate in my career has shifted in a way to where there are high expectations that come with it. I will gladly take that than a lot of shoes that other drivers are sitting in. I don’t mind that, I just find it amusing the overreaction good and bad.”
ARE THE MISTAKES YOU ALLUDED TO EARLIER ARE THESE THINGS THAT YOU’VE NOT DONE BEFORE OR ARE SURPRISING TO YOU AND YOU JUST HAVEN’T ADAPTED TO IT? WHAT CAUSES THOSE MISTAKES?
“It’s just tough to be a 100 percent. You think about life and how many times our wives remind us we made the same mistake again (laughs) or whatever it might be. I don’t know. In your personal life, you constantly do things and have habits and tendencies that create whatever it does. I have habits and tendencies in a race car that are mistakes that I make. It’s easy to try too hard in our cars. I think in an open wheel vehicle from the driver’s perspective you are usually rewarded for overdriving the car. NASCAR vehicles, not the case. Our fear factor is usually way above the grip factor of the car and the tires. It’s easy for me to get sucked into trying harder and making mistakes and when you are not going forward to say ‘alright let’s back off 10 percent and the car will go faster’ is the last thing you would ever imagine working or happening. So, it’s tough and the competition in this garage area and then the format and the fact there are points and the rhythm of the race with stages there are like three short races now and there is a reward at the end of each of them. It’s easy to get sucked into an environment to make mistakes as a team and driver. As odd as it may sound, I think we are guilty, we are really guilty of that right now and we’ve got to dial that in.”
IN THE OFF-SEASON YOU GAVE AWAY YOUR MARTINSVILLE WIN CLOCK NUMBER NINE TO BRUTON SMITH CAN YOU TELL US HOW THAT CAME ABOUT AND WHY NUMBER NINE?
“I don’t know. I know the Smith family very well, literally neighbors to I guess the whole Smith family now that I think about it, one might be across the neighborhood, but three of the four that I’m speaking of are right in the same immediate area. I know them all very well. I was trick or treating with Bruton’s son Scott and his family and my family and ended up talking to him on the phone and wishing him a Happy Halloween and saying some hello’s and some friendly stuff like that. I could tell in his voice that he really liked the Martinsville clock and the fact that we had won our ninth and it just dawned on me, I’m like this man… I think he would really appreciate having this trophy in his house. I asked him if he ever had a clock or had a driver give him one and he said no. I said, well let me be the first, it would be an honor to give you that trophy. Not long after, once the trophy was built and put together we were able to take it to his house and put it in the foyer at this home and just have a cool moment. I’m just very appreciative for what he has done for our sport, all of us know, but I think when we look back at the history of our sport he is mentioned later in the conversation, but he is very much one of the reasons why our sport is where it is today with his vision of motorsports and love of motorsports.”
WOULD YOU SAY THAT NUMBER NINE WAS THE MOST SPECIAL FOR YOU BECAUSE IT GOT YOU IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND?
“Yeah, I don’t know, I’m trying to relive them. The one with the plane crash sticks out. Definitely not from a special stand point, but just as far as so vivid in my mind and knowing that I had won on the day that we lost so many. Winning in Martinsville really set us up last year to go on and win the Chase and started a fun and very meaningful journey in remembering those on the airplane, especially Ricky Hendrick and led us to that championship. I guess from a positive, upbeat standpoint, yes, but the vivid one in my mind is still that, that was a lot kind of like today where it was just overcast and rainy and we ended up winning. I can’t get that one out of my head.”
HAVE YOU TALKED TO ANYBODY ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT WEEK IN TEXAS? HAVE YOU BEEN OUT THERE? HAVE YOU SEEN THE TRACK? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING TO NEXT WEEK’S RACE?
“I saw something online with Chris Buescher driving a pace car or something around the track. (Turns) 3 and 4 looks like I would expect, but (Turns) 1 and 2 has changed quite a bit. After watching, I’m excited, I’m not sure where we will run and why we will run there, but it’s a much different Turns 1 and 2. I think brings some fun and excitement to that track. Obviously, with our success there I hate to see it repaved and hate to see all the bumps gone and all that went with it, it worked so well for us, but I’m excited to get there next week and see what it kind of providers to us.”
IS THERE A SECRET TO WINNING A 500 OR 600 MILE EVENT? WHAT IS THE KEY TO DOING THAT?
“There is a flow to those races and I think that stage racing is really changing that. There is a rhythm of all the vehicles on track and strengths that the cars have, which leads the team to pitch you at certain times and kind of steer the race in a way to benefit you and in it from a strategy standpoint. With the stage racing, Chad (Knaus) and I were just talking about this the other day, that opportunity doesn’t exist. You have a run and a half, a break, a run and a half, a break, generally speaking and then maybe two stops at the end. Where you have a chance to run out the fuel in the car and see who has short run speed versus long run speed and when to pit and how to play that game. It’s changed things a lot. That flow that we have been so accustomed to and that we have been really able to take advantage of doesn’t seem to be there. It’s like three short races right now.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO SONOMA HOW DO YOU ANTICIPATE STAGE RACING MAKING THAT RACE EVEN CRAZIER?
“At tracks where there are a lot of cautions the stage ending is another caution and I don’t think it has as big of an impact. The tracks where we would typically have a lot of green flag runs and you could develop that rhythm that is where you will see the biggest impact. We typically do have a green flag stop at Sonoma, so I think it will adjust the flow, but at the end it’s going to be a slug fest as always.”
SOMETIMES LATE IN THESE RACES YOU COULD HAVE A REALLY GOOD CAR, BUT YOU COULD BE A THE WHIM OF BAD LUCK BECAUSE YOU ARE FORCED TO START ON THE OUTSIDE. THE LATE MODEL RACE HERE EVERY YEAR HAS A CHOOSE CONE, WHERE YOU CAN CHOOSE EITHER THE BOTTOM OR THE TOP. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE IMPLEMENTED FOR CUP RACES AT SHORT TRACKS?
“The leader gets his choice and I guess and I’ve never raced with a choose cone, but I would imagine you would have 40 deep on the inside lane if that was the case here and I don’t know how they regulate it. I don’t know. Certainly, worth looking at, it seems like we are looking at anything and everything these days, but with all that being said, I lost a race to Tony Stewart when he restarted on the outside. I led most of the day and thought I had the thing in the bag and he rallied around the outside and got the job done, the year he went on to win the championship. I don’t know I haven’t put much thought into it. We are in such a rhythm of the way things exist now and try and figure out how to get down or at some tracks how to start in the outside lane, whatever it might be, I guess I would have to look into it to give you a real answer on it.”
BASICALLY, WHAT YOU WOULD SEE IS THE FIRST FIVE OR SIX WOULD ALL CHOOSE THE BOTTOM, BUT YOU HAVE THAT GUY WHO IS LIKE MAYBE I CAN START SECOND AND PICK ONE OR TWO OFF ON THE RESTART AND THAT IS KIND OF THE STRATEGY THERE:
“It’s interesting for sure. I guess I need to dig in and look a little more into it. I’m not real familiar with it, but to be fifth or sixth in line and get a shot at the front row would definitely make things interesting.”