MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
AAA 400 DRIVE FOR AUTISM
DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 2, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed last week’s race at Charlotte, what makes Dover work with his racing style, traction compound, the upcoming race at Pocono, and more. Full Transcript:
HAVE YOU RECOVERED FROM YOUR FIT FEST EVENT ON MEMORIAL DAY? HOW DID THAT EXPERIENCE GO FOR YOU?
“Yeah, I’m slowly getting back. It’s amazing how far I wore down my battery through the 600-mile race and the four-hour mountain bike race the next day. But it was very well attended and supported and a lot of money was raised for the public education program that my wife and I are supporting. A huge thanks to those that came out and participated and spend Memorial Day with us. We look forward to growing that event in the years to come.”
YOU’VE HAD 10 WINS AT DOVER AND ARE HOPING TO BREAK THE RECORD WITH 11. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE SO GOOD AT DOVER? CAN YOU EXPAND ON ‘THEY DIDN’T TELL ME TO SAVE GAS’ LAST WEEKEND AT THE 600?
“First, on that, they did tell me to save gas. I just wish that I knew from the beginning of the run. It’s tough to make up a lap on fuel mileage. Our opportunity didn’t develop until everybody hit pit road and it’s just hard to save enough gas from that point forward. So, I knew. I knew halfway through the run. I just wish that I’d had an inclination at the start of the run. I think I could have made up that, really about a lap, because I could have coasted for a while, too, and maybe have gotten to the Start/Finish line first. So, I definitely knew. I think the No. 3 car (Austin Dillon), it was their plan from the beginning and that’s why they made it. And so, that’s what I was referring to there after the race in Charlotte. But, like I told Chad (Knaus, crew chief) after the race, I’m happy he was swinging hard. We have two wins. There’s nothing like winning at home. And the previous scenario with where we restarted fourth or fifth was going to be our call and the best that we could get with the way that final run was going to unfold. I’m happy he took a chance and tried to win the race.
“Here, there are tracks that fit a driver’s style and a team’s style. And I think because of how much success we’ve had here; this is a track that fits Chad’s style and mine. The car dynamics and how much the car moves around and the way it launches into the corner and lands, and then you turn around and fight through all the banking that has the launch back up onto the straightway, takes me back to my roots and really challenges the crews and the crew chiefs and engineers to make the car comfortable and secure. So, I just think that the challenges this track throws at a team just fits us really well.”
YOU WON YOUR SEVEN CHAMPIONSHIPS WITH A SCHEDULE THAT HAD ONLY MINOR TWEAKS IN THE PLAYOFFS FROM YEAR TO YEAR. WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU SAW THE 2018 SCHEDULE?
“Were there big changes besides the roval?
“You can tell I’ve been paying attention. I don’t care where they are or what we do. I’m ready to race and I think this team can win regardless of where those events are held. I think the roval stands out the most. That’s the biggest change in my opinion. We’ll take it as it comes. And I guess I’ve just been focused on this year and what we have going on. And, I know that our sport is going through a lot of change. So, I’m not surprised. I feel like there’s a lot of excitement with other forms of sports due to the fact that playoff events change and move around and locations change. So, in driver council meetings that I’ve been a part of and conversations that have taken place, I’ve kind of sensed that change was coming and I’ve been for it. I’ve been for it mainly because of the excitement it can bring to the fans in our sport and much less about how it pertains to the No. 48 car. If I could have a voice I would say the 10 Playoff races were all right here (Dover) and that would benefit the No. 48 the most (laughs).”
THERE HAVE BEEN A NUMBER OF UPSET WINNERS ALREADY THIS YEAR WITH RYAN NEWMAN, AUSTIN DILLON, AND RICKY STENHOUSE VISITING VICTORY LANE. DO YOU GUYS PAY ATTENTION TO THAT AT ALL? DO YOU THINK WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A MUCH DIFFERENT MIX OF DRIVERS IN THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR?
“I do notice. And I’m very happy for these guys to get their first (wins). Stenhouse has been an amazing talent and came in with a ton of momentum with his Xfinity Series championship. Ryan’s a winner. Ryan has won plenty of races and is very good at that scenario he had at Phoenix, so it wasn’t really a surprise to me. I think he has had another win or two there in a similar fashion. And I’m happy for that company. Austin has been a proven winner in the other divisions. So, I haven’t looked at it in a sense other than it’s exciting to see these drivers get their first and to see companies win that should be winning. So, I’m excited for the conversation it’s created in our sport. And I can say there is a conversation of drivers that would hope to make it in on points that the wins from these drivers kind of changes that dynamic and forces their hand and forces them to go to Victory Lane potentially to make the first 16.”
AT CHARLOTTE, IT SEEMED LIKE YOU WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THE GIBBS DRIVERS. THEY SEEMED TO STRUGGLE EARLIER IN THE YEAR BUT THEY LOOK LIKE THEIR BACK ON THEIR GAME.
“It’s so hard to count anybody out. It wasn’t long ago that everybody thought that we weren’t going to win again. And we’ve dispelled that. So, I’ve never taken my guard down from the Gibbs drivers and teams that are on track. They’re a great organization. They have great crew chiefs and great drivers. And from living it on my own, it doesn’t take much to be off a tenth of a second; and a tenth takes you from first to tenth. So, I wasn’t surprised to see Kyle (Busch) win at the All-Star race, and their competitiveness in the 600 itself.”
LOOKING BACK AT LAST WEEK AND THE TRACTION COMPOUND BEING USED FOR THE FIRST TIME ON AN ASPHALT TRACK, WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT? IS THIS SOMETHING, MOVING FORWARD, THAT CAN BE USED AT OTHER TRACKS? WHAT ARE THE LESSONS LEARNED AND WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE DRIVERS AND FOR NASCAR? SECONDLY, YOUR TEAMMATE CHASE ELLIOTT, OTHER THAN THE ALL-STAR RACE HAS HAD A MISERABLE MONTH OR SO. IS THERE MUCH THAT YOU CAN HELP HIM WITH AS A GUY WHO SEEMS TO GET DOWN ON HIMSELF AT TIMES?
“I think he seems to be in a decent spot. I mean, there are certain racing things that drivers and teams look at to see if maybe we could control that. What happened to him in the 600 was definitely one of those scenarios. And he opened the season so strong and was carrying the banner for Hendrick Motorsports. He and I haven’t had any deep conversations on it other than man, that’s bad luck. And I expect he and the No. 24 team to rally back and be up front and winning; hopefully winning their first race very soon.
“As far as the traction compound, unless a track is willing to resurface or redesign their facility, I think that the traction compound is the next thing to try. And I’ve said this a lot of times: The garage area has been forced to make a lot of changes to create competition or honestly, parity. And it’s just crazy for us to think when we have cars running the same speed, all 40 cars within such a small window of time, that we can expect any passing on the race track. So, we need other lanes on the track to pass. We need tires that wear out to create comers and goers. So, with that, I didn’t see anything negative from the traction compound. We’re learning. Do we wish it provided more side-by-side racing? Sure. It’s a tricky track in general. And I didn’t see anything negative that came from it. And if a track owner/operator isn’t willing to resurface and kind of redesign, then why not? I think there is something to try here and we will figure it out if we keep playing with it and we keep trying it and develop the process.”
THAT’S SOMETHING THAT COULD WORK AT POCONO OR EVEN MICHIGAN IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS. WE KNOW POCONO HAS THE TUNNEL TURN, WHICH IS HIGH-SPEED AND NARROW. COULD THAT HELP CREATE A SEPARATE LANE OR ELSEWHERE AT POCONO? AT MICHIGAN, THE SPEEDS ARE SO FAST. COULD THAT HELP? MICHIGAN GETS PRETTY WIDE, BUT COULD THAT MAKE IT EASIER SOONER IN THE RACE?
“Yeah, this is just an opinion from myself. The faster the track, in general, the narrower the racing lane. Charlotte is a very fast track. When you get up to speed, the entries and exits are tight and it’s just narrow. So, to go out and around at a place like Charlotte or even Pocono, there has to be such an advantage to do so. And I’m not sure that the traction compound provides that. But, at tracks where you have wider transitions and more room, I think that there is something there. I also feel like tracks where you can really create a big disparity from the preferred line versus the other line. And that would be more of a high-wear race track, or higher wear race track. At Charlotte, there’s not much wear. You put traction compound down on a grippy surface to start with; you’re just adding a little bit more grip to a lot of grip. But if the bottom doesn’t have much to start with and you reward the guys on the outside with a considerable amount of grip, then you’re going to have a better chance of competitive passes and side-by-side racing. So, again, it’s something that we have to develop. And that’s my uneducated opinion after being in this industry for 16 years at this level (laughs). But, I just know if we stay with it and continue to evolve it, we’ll find places where sure, it doesn’t work or make any sense. We’ll find other places where it’s going to make a difference. And I think Bristol has given us all a lot of hope.”
EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT HOW YOU CAN REALLY FEEL THE SENSATION OF SPEED WHEN YOU COME TO DOVER. WHAT IS THE FEEL OF RACING ON CONCRETE VERSUS THE FEEL OF RACING ON ASPHALT?
“The biggest thing on concrete are the expansion joints and how they pour the concrete in those long rectangular blocks. There’s kind of a vibration through the car or some kind of velocities in the shock and the suspension that’s just a consistent feel. And I think we’ve all been on maybe a bridge that’s concrete in a street car and you can just feel that repetitive kind of thump of the tire as you cross over those expansion joints. So, that’s just the difference here. And then there are bumps in the track that are there due to car contact and the ground moving and just bumps in general. But, on top of that, you have that high frequency kind of thump through the tire that the expansion joints provide.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT NEXT WEEK AT POCONO?
“Pocono is such a unique place. We’re always stuck in an engineering kind of mindset of is it better to be faster on the straightaways or through the corners or how you set the car’s ride heights; the drag or downforce you might put in the car due to the ride heights. We’ll be there. And I know from Chad’s standpoint, it’s a track he’s always enjoyed because he has options and you can set the car up differently. From a driver’s standpoint, it’s frustrating because a small loss of time through the center of the corner after you have almost a mile-long front straightaway, you can look at a stopwatch and be five, six, or seven-tenths off and think wow, we’re really out of it. But honestly, it was just a small little thing that happened in the center of Turn 3 that compounded down the front. So it is a very challenging track. It’s unique onto itself. And there are some awesome cycling runs, so I’ll have fun.”
DID YOU GET TO SEE FERNANDO ALONSO’S RUN AT THE INDY 500 AND IF SO, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
“Yeah, I did watch as much as I could through our pre-race obligations that we had. I guess I wasn’t surprised at what he did on the track. And, I think he did surprise many. He did an amazing job without a doubt. But what surprised me the most is I haven’t been around him or had a chance to see him in the media and see his interaction with others just due to the fact that he’s across the pond and across the world, racing. But, his personality and the way he handled things outside of the car surprised me the most. He seems like an awesome guy. I look forward to meeting him some day. No telling where he’ll be racing next year; of course there are plenty of rumors. But he did a spectacular job in the car and certainly outside the car.”
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