MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 25, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2018, why he and the No. 48 team are so good at Charlotte Motor Speedway and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT THIS PAST WEEK:
“For sure, it’s been a busy… I think it is for all of us when we get back home between the All-Star race and the 600. Everybody is in town and there are many things going on. I guess two weeks ago, I had a chance to go down to Ft. Bragg and meet Mr. Rodriguez’s family and also the unit that he was a part of. A lot of his friends, family members and hear some amazing stories about him. It is always and honor to carry a fallen solider on the car, but to have such an amazing back story, such a relationship with his family and just these great stories to help me learn more about him and understand more about him will make this weekend all the more special. The performance in the All-Star race I feel like we have a really good chance to honor him at the highest level that I know how to or I’m able to, which is winning a race and taking them to Victory Lane. I’m excited about the weekend. Lowe’s is also going to give 1,000 tickets away to the race to men and women that serve our country. So, that is something very cool that they are doing. Mentioned the Hall of Fame, I was then last night honored at the Speedway Children’s Charities Gala, which was a huge honor and to see the great work that they have done and almost 50 million dollars that they have raised, I think we all know how great of a job they have done over the years. It’s been a busy week. There are many layers to these last two weeks, all are very near things and all very noteworthy and I’m ready to get on track today and see where we are at and line ‘em up and race on Sunday.”
A FELLOW CALIFORNIAN GOT INTO THE HALL OF FAME YESTERDAY, RON HORNADAY, JR., I KNOW YOU AND RON HAVE SOME HISTORY CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE LINAGE BETWEEN YOU AND RON HORNADAY AND YOUR REACTION FOR HIM GETTING INTO THE HALL OF FAME?
“Yeah, I’m so happy that Ron is in. I tried to call him last night when I learned that he was inducted and I think his phone was blowing up and didn’t have a chance to talk to him. I did catch him on the drive up to the track just now and he was running a fork lift somewhere doing something, that man loves racing and has given so many an opportunity. I didn’t know him back when he was based in California and his short track roots. I knew who he was, although I wasn’t focused on asphalt racing. But, I met him through some different Chevrolet functions. He and Lindy (Hornaday, wife) just had open arms and told me, if you are ever in North Carolina we will give you a place to stay, come stay with us. It wasn’t two or three months later I had an opportunity to come to the East Coast. The then Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports had a late model stock that I could run here in the area and I needed a couch to sleep on. I moved in. They wouldn’t let me move out. I stayed there for six months until Ron on one of his Harley rides found a home that the thought I could afford and seemed like a good buy and I bought my first house. They have been amazing to me and to many others in the sport, not just drivers. There are officials walking up and down pit road that have all bunked at his home, crew members from all over the place. Their contributions to our sport, Ron’s contribution to our sport, not only include the amazing things he did on the track, but so many things off the track. I think he is going to be a great fit in the Hall (of Fame) and be very entertaining as the months go by and we are able to induct him.”
NASCAR MADE SOME CHANGES TO THE CARS AFTER KYLE BUSCH’S ACCIDENT IN DAYTONA THAT YOU GUYS NOW HAVE AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS AND WILL HAVE AT ALL TRACKS NEXT YEAR. THERE WAS SOME CONCERN LAST YEAR AFTER DANICA WRECKED ABOUT THE STEERING COLUMN COMING UP. HAS THERE BEEN ANY REACTION OR IS THERE ANYTHING YOU FEEL LIKE NASCAR NEEDS TO LOOK AT AFTER ARIC’S CRASH A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO?
“First my mind was going to that frontal impact and knowing how hard Danica hit at Kansas, I think just shows how rare… I don’t know what her car had from a foot box standpoint, but the fact that she was uninjured in that impact is just mind boggling to me. So, we do have a very safe car and environment and I’m sure the soft walls at Kansas provided another layer of safety that Kyle, unfortunately, didn’t have in Daytona back then. But, specifically to Aric’s crash, I haven’t seen any official reports and any true scientific reports, just from my vantage point and watching the vehicle come back down and land and knowing where his injury is, I don’t know how you can really prevent that. From falling from so high and being strapped to the car and the frame hitting the ground or solid contact like that. That is just a very violent impact that we might be able to help, but I don’t know what to do right now off the top of my head. I can say from my off-road days, I drove some pretty extreme vehicles launching off of things and jumping great distances, even in those vehicles everything was fine until that frame rail touched the ground. When that frame touches the ground, there is no absorption it just comes right up through your spine. I don’t think there is anything that stands out to work on, but I’m sure it will bring some questions and maybe we can find something.”
DID YOU VOTE FOR RON HORNADAY?
WHAT HAVE YOU GUYS DONE THAT HAVE ALLOWED YOU TO CONTINUE TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE COCA-COLA 600?
“I think the length of the 600 and just what is required of the team and driver to stay focused, to evolve and change and to continue to work on their car. I think when you look at the No. 48’s history those types of races, those race tracks it is where we seem to shine. If we have more chances to work on the car, Chad (Knaus, crew chief) makes amazing calls and decisions and strategy. I just like a gritty race and a race that you have to grind it out and the 600 is all of that. So, I really think that leads into a large part of our success and then there are just some tracks that the topography and the flow of the track and what you experience inside of the car that fit you. Dover, Charlotte, is a very similar kind of jumping sensation into the corner that fits my upbringing and what I like to feel and experience in a car, so I think that is the other part of it.”
WHAT KIND OF TRACKS ARE KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY AND INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY FOR YOU?
“Kentucky is a tough one for me. I have some early fond memories. That’s the first place I drove a Cup car when Hendrick put me under contract I was a test driver for quite a few reps just getting my laps and my laps started there. So, that is probably the only fond memory I have of that track (laughs). When I look at my Busch Series days there, they were wrecked race cars. We’ve had some competitive runs there. I don’t think the finishes show where our competitive level has been; but it is just a very unique track. It always has been. The Turn 3 entry, regardless of the surface put down, it’s always been very challenging. And then the experience from off Turn 4 as you dip down to the start/finish line and climb back up and fall off into Turn 1, it’s just very unique to Kentucky only. So, I don’t have the fondest memories. I look forward to changing that. But it is a very difficult track to get around and it takes a certain technique, I guess. I just haven’t mastered it yet.
“Indy is a track that I’ve struggled at really bad just getting started. And I’ve had to kind of re-wire my brain and my natural instincts inside a car to create lap time there. It’s a track that I have to be much more present and thoughtful about how I drive. Other tracks, I just fall into a rhythm and let my instincts take over. But, Indy is a tough one for me. The victories I have there mean a lot to me mostly because I just had to work so hard to get there.”
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE WHEN YOU VOTED IN THE HALL OF FAME YESTERDAY? BESIDES RON HORNADAY, WHO WERE SOME OF THE TOP CANDIDATES ON YOUR BALLOT?
“I formed an opinion and at least four of mine I thought were dead locks before I went in; and I tried to keep a fifth open because of my previous experience there. And, I think only two made it that stayed with me through it. So, it is a huge honor and that’s obviously a private conversation. But the amount of history that is shared in that room and the opinions; it is a huge honor and an amazing history lesson for the people that get to go in that room. I guess maybe many have lived it and that’s why they’re on the committee, but for a driver like myself I’m pretty new to the NASCAR scene in general and it’s a fantastic history lesson, and the stories are amazing. So, it’s a wonderful experience. I truly enjoyed it. It’s very difficult because as the stories go on and you understand how each individual has played such a large part in NASCAR’s history, they are all worthy. And it’s not an easy day trying to make your decisions.”
NEXT WEEK WE GO TO DOVER WHERE YOU’VE HAD FANTASTIC SUCCESS, HOW DO YOU MANAGE FEELING LIKE YOU’RE ON A ROLLER-COASTER AND WHEN AT SPEED, PUTTING DOWN A LOT OF RUBBER AND THEN PICKING IT BACK UP AGAIN AND THE CHASE YOU HAVE TO MAKE ALL DAY?
“The rubber going down, at about your second or third run, I feel like I get into the rhythm of it and understand the starting balance of the car versus where it finishes up and my line selection kind of migrates and moves around there, which is much more of an intuitive form of driving for me. It really is a track that just fits my instincts unlike describing Kentucky, which is kind of the opposite and even Indy I guess it was. Dover just, for the way I want to attack a track, Dover is the perfect track for me. And with my dirt background and the line constantly changing and trying to get your angles right to miss the black spots in the rubber laying down on the track, it just works so well for me. I really enjoy the experience there. Once we pick all the rubber up, the track is super-fast and the balance is usually loose. And then as you run and put the rubber down, the car doesn’t want to turn as good. So, you have to manage that stuff and decide if you want short run speed or end-of-run speed and at some point, you just have to hang on and deal with it. I enjoy that quite a bit.
“Yeah, I’ve been asking for jumps at these tracks for a lot of years now (laughs) and that’s the only one with a jump. It’s hard to see it, but at least from a sensation standpoint, you have that going into the corner and coming out of. The way you drive an off-road truck or ride motocross bikes, the throttle and how you use the throttle really sends the vehicle in motion and gives you the arc or the way the car dives into the corner or takes off into the corner. It was something that I had a lot of fun with as a kid implementing the learning and then to have it carry over to a track like Dover. It’s really important where you lift and how you lift to let the car settle down over the backside of that rise. So, it’s nice to finally have a track that I can call back on my youth and my early years.”
WHEN YOU WALKED INTO THE MEDIA CENTER, YOU LOOKED REALLY HAPPY. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PLACE? IS IT YOUR SUCCESS? IS IT BEING HOME? WHAT MAKES THIS PLACE SPECIAL FOR YOU?
“I’m definitely excited to come to this track. I think in general, knowing we had such a competitive run in the All-Star race and to have a great place to build from and work from brings a lot of optimism for today. Just in general, it’s been a fun week. I had a busy day yesterday but was able to do a lot of neat things. My wife had a big day with her gallery. It was an honor last night to be a part of the Hall of Fame selection process. There’s just a lot of good stuff going on in life and as I get older, I’m learning how to balance it all and balance the professional life and personal life and all is in a good space right now.”