MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 22, 2019
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1 met with media and discussed the new rules package and his expectations at Atlanta Motor Speedway and other tracks, how Daytona Speedweeks went with his new crew chief, Kevin Meendering, the Boston Marathon, and more. Full Transcript:
YOU ARE THE ALL-TIME WIN LEADER AMONG ACTIVE DRIVERS AT THIS TRACK WITH FIVE. IT’S A VASTLY DIFFERENT PACKAGE NOW. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GET NUMBER SIX?
“To a certain degree, focusing on the balance of the car and the drivability of the car is still going to prevail here. This track is unlike any other track as we all know, with the surface and bumps and just the character this track has. That’s been my focus with a few race friends that I made in that opening practice session to get drivability right; and then make speed a secondary item. We’ll see how it all plays out. This package is so new to all of us. Some are clearly trimmed out more and more worried about single car speed than others and we’ll just see how this all plays out over this weekend; and honestly, probably the next two or three weekends until we can really get our arms around what we need for qualifying and also for the race.”
KEVIN HARVICK WAS IN THE MEDIA CENTER A FEW MINUTES AGO AND SAID SOMETHING I FEEL LIKE YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD A FEW TIMES, BUT WAS TALKING ABOUT YOUR CAREER AND YOU BEING ONE OF THE UNDER-APPRECIATED GREAT DRIVERS OF THIS SPORT. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU WHEN YOU HEAR YOUR FELLOW DRIVERS RECOGNIZING WHAT YOU’VE ALREADY DONE?
“Yeah, wow. I certainly appreciate those kinds words from Kevin. I’m not sure of the context of the question and really the length of his answer and what it was all about, but we’ve had a great run and accomplished a lot of great things; more than I really ever imagined that I would. But, I feel like every driver probably has something that they probably deserve and something they don’t deserve along the way of progressing through this sport. And, I’ve had my good and my bad and it is what it is. Honestly, I quit paying attention to a lot of the public opinion stuff years ago. It doesn’t do me any good and I’m just going to keep my head down and keep working. Some weekends I think things goes your way and you get the praises that you would hope to and other weekends it doesn’t and it’s just kind of the evolution of the sport.”
CAN YOU GIVE A SENSE OF PERSPECTIVE OF ON THE RESTARTS AT THIS TRACK AND THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE INSIDE AND THE OUTER LANE AND ADVANTAGES? OBVIOUSLY IT SEEMS LIKE THE INSIDE LANE HAS SIGNIFICANT ADVANTAGE. HOW DO YOU VIEW THAT FROM THE COCKPIT AND HOW MIGHT THIS RULES PACKAGE IMPACT OR ALTER THE DOMINANCE OF ONE LANE OVER THE OTHER?
“I do feel that at some tracks, the racing groove either helps or hurts the grip that you have when you first hit the gas and take off in the restart zone. But, I really feel like this package is going to be different than what we’ve seen in the past. You don’t have as much power to spin the tires. I feel like in a restrictor plate race, who is behind you and the type of push they can give you is going to make a big difference in how things turn out for you down the backstretch. So, I feel like the leader will probably make decisions based on who they think is a good pusher. There might be tracks where the shorter distance will prevail. I’m not sure if this is one; in fact, I would think maybe California and Michigan and tracks like that where the shorter distance would probably be better for the lower horsepower. But, from a mindset, at least where I sit now, I’m thinking more like plate racing. It depends on the push than it really does the launch.”
KEVIN HARVICK MENTIONED PREVIOUSLY ABOUT PUTTING SOME KIND OF TRACTION COMPOUND ON THE STRAIGHTAWAY TO KIND OF EVEN OUT THE LANES. OBVIOUSLY, IT WAS NEVER DONE. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT COULD STILL BE SOMETHING TO BE LOOKED AT DOWN THE ROAD DEPENDING ON HOW THIS PACKAGE WORKS WITH THESE LANES AT DIFFERENT TRACKS?
“Yeah, I don’t see anything negative with it. They’re not going to hurt tires. It just depends on your opinion of what makes a good race. I think you get into the discussion of lane choice and earning that right to pick. I personally lean more toward the choose option that we’ve talked about at lot, as well, and let drivers choose which lane they want to start in. Obviously first gets to pick and you go on down through wherever you want to line-up. I think that’s a pretty fair way to go about things. We’ll just have to see. But, I do feel like that restart zone is changed and we should maybe give it a few weeks to see how this draft works and what really happens.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT GETTING THROUGH A RACE OR TWO TO SEE HOW ALL THIS WORKS OUT. HOW FAR DOWN THE ROAD DO YOU THINK WE NEED TO GET? HOW MANY RACES BEFORE EVERYBODY HAS A TRUE PICTURE OF WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT? HOW PATIENT DOES EVERYBODY NEED TO BE….DRIVERS, FANS, MEDIA, ETC. NEEDS TO BE TO SEE WHETHER IT’S DOING WHAT IT’S PLANNED TO DO?
“Of course, I think patience is going to be key in general. I know none of us were really raised in this industry to have patience, or even our fan base for that matter. Honestly I think this is one of the more challenging tracks for this rules package. I think California is going to be really challenging for this rules package. When you have a lot of tire falloff and the lower horsepower, I think that will just be tougher and more difficult to race and to get things sorted out. I think when we go to a track like Las Vegas, it’s going to put on a heck of a show. Just in the test session with 13 cars, I was four-wide multiple times in those little small races that they had. So, I think we’ll have a good flavor of things here in the first five races. Obviously, we’ll go to Phoenix and have last year’s package back, in a sense, with having full power. So, I think these first five weeks will give a good indication of things.”
YOU ARE TRAINING FOR A MARATHON. WHY DO YOU ENJOY THAT CHALLENGE? IS THAT INJURY YOU HAD AFFECTING YOU IN THE RACE CAR AT ALL?
“No, nothing is bothering me in the car. I have an IT band issue that’s probably a few weeks old of just being tight and sore. I’m getting ready for the Boston Marathon and run that on April 15th. As the volume has gone up and achy spots have developed in my legs, I’ve got a little thing going on with my knee but it seems to be doing a lot better. I ran pain-free today, which was great. So, I think I’ve got the right treatment going on.”
YOU’RE MAKING YOUR TELEVISION DEBUT TOMORROW. WHAT KIND OF PREPARATION GOES INTO THAT FOR YOU?
“We’ve been kicking around ideas from different segments and different things that I’d like to add to the broadcast. But at the same time, with Adam Alexander and Kevin Harvick in the booth, they’re both fantastic at what they do. On my first try, I’m just going to try to fit in and go with the flow and just see how it goes. But, I do know all those folks on the television-side from producers to directors and talent, so I feel very comfortable and know that it’s going to be a fun environment and I look forward to hopefully calling it tomorrow and that the weather stays away.”
YOU FINISHED EIGHTH LAST WEEK WITH ABOUT HALF A CAR. HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR DEBUT WITH (CREW CHIEF) KEVIN (MEENDERING) WENT AND HOW YOU WOULD RATE THAT WHOLE FIRST WEEK?
“I thought it went really well, obviously, to get the win in the Clash. That was a nice confidence boost. The fast cars in general, helped. But the 500 itself with all the challenges thrown at Kevin and the crew, there was no better way to test where we’re at as a group than to go through that. Looking back, there are a couple of things that we need to kind of tighten-up on and get better. But, my guys are eager and ready to go. We had a good week of learning and conversation on how to handle some of those situations a little bit better. But, we were put under the gun with multiple attempts at fixing the car under that six-minute window and got it done. So, I think the guys did really good and especially with Kevin leading them.”
I GOT MY USA TODAY THIS MORNING AT THE HOTEL AND OPENED IT UP AND THERE YOU WERE IN YOUR HELMET ABOUT THE SIZE OF A HOUSE. IS THIS MORE OF WHAT WE’RE GOING TO BE SEEING FROM YOUR SPONSOR?
“We’ve talked about it through the announcement last year and then through the off-season as to just how engaged Ally is going to be and how excited they are to use NASCAR as a marketing platform for them and the association with the No. 48 car; and I think that’s just another example of how much they’re going to use NASCAR and our industry to promote, and it’s great to see that.”
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IN QUALIFYING TODAY? IS THERE GOING TO BE A TEAM DRAFT?
“There only two cars that I’m aware of that really set-up that team draft situation and it didn’t seem to yield a faster time. So, I don’t know. I definitely know at Vegas there will be group drafting and you’re going to try to time that right. But, the tracks with higher tire wear; we’re just going to have to see how it goes. I’m leaning towards not, especially later in the rounds when the tires have more laps on them and when it matters, but we’re just going to have to see.”
YOU MENTIONED BEING FOUR-WIDE DURING THE TEST AT LAST VEGAS. WHAT SORT OF CHALLENGES WILL THAT BRING DURING THE RACE AND HOW CHAOTIC IS THAT GOING TO BE?
“Yeah, it’s a different type of racing to be in the pack on a 1.5-mile track. Track position, I don’t know how important that’s going to be when you can pass as easily as we seem to be able to do it in Vegas. Passing the leader was a bit tricky, but it was kind of a revolving door from second on back to 13th out of the 13 cars we had there. So, there’s still a lot to learn. You’re going to have to be comfortable in the draft and racing two and three-wide. I think spotters are going to get a big workout and kind of be in that restrictor-plate mindset two-thirds of the season now.”