MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
BIG MACHINE VODKA 400 AT THE BRICKYARD
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 8, 2018
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S FOR PROS CAMARO ZL1 met with media and discussed racing at the Brickyard, what it would mean to win this weekend, the upcoming race at Charlotte, the Playoffs, and more. Full Transcript:
WITH INDIANAPOLIS BEING A CROWN JEWEL RACE, DOES THAT LESSEN IT ANY NOW THAT IT’S THE CUTOFF RACE TO THE PLAYOFFS?
“Lessen, no. It just heightens, in my opinion. I can see many scenarios where people throw caution to the wind if you’re in (the Playoffs) you can be more aggressive. If you’re out, you can be more aggressive. It’s a crown jewel so you’re aggressive to start with. So, I see it being more intense than the previous date & time of the year that it’s been.”
CAN YOU COMMENT ON KASEY KAHNE’S RETIREMENT ANNOUNCEMENT A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO? HAVING BEEN A FORMER TEAMMATE WITH HIM, WHAT DO YOU THINK HIS LEGACY AS A COMPETITOR IS OR WHAT DO YOU THINK HE LEAVES BEHIND?
“I’ve been able to have some great battles with him over the years. When he was at (Ray) Evernham, I know he made me a better driver. My strong tracks were also his strong tracks. Charlotte is the first one that comes to mind. We had some awesome duels. Along my journey of becoming a multi-time champion, he’s one of the guys along the way that’s helped me dig deeper and find more within myself. He’s been a great friend and it’s sad to hear that he won’t be here this weekend. I actually spoke to him yesterday. So, on top of the retirement piece, to have his dehydration situation going on right now; I certainly just want the best for him. It’s great to see him as a father. The friendship side, that piece is probably what I will hold onto the most. But, along the way, he did make dig deeper than I’ve dug before, and make me stronger.”
WHO IS MORE WORRIED ABOUT POTENTIALLY NOT HAVING ANY PRACTICE (DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER), YOU OR (CREW CHIEF) CHAD KNAUS?
“From our standpoint, I think we are both pretty good with it. Just our journey over this year, we usually end up back to our set-up that we unloaded with, so if we are forced to start with the set-up we unloaded with, I think we’ll be in great shape. It will save some frustration along the way (laughs). An no qualifying? Hell, this is great!”
YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF BATTLES WITH KASEY KAHNE OVER THE YEARS. ONE OF THEM WAS HERE AT INDY LAST YEAR. YOU HAD A THREE-WIDE BATTLE THAT IS ONE OF THE MORE MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN THIS EVENT’S HISTORY. CAN YOU REMEMBER WHAT THAT RESTART WAS LIKE AND WHAT THOSE MOVES WERE LIKE WHEN IT CAME TO YOU, KASEY, AND BRAD KESELOWSKI?
“I do. I was able to get in position off of Turn 2. Kasey and Brad, running side-by-side through any of these turns kind of slows you and they were racing real hard and it gave me a chance to pick-up some momentum, pull to the inside down the long back straightaway into Turn 3. And I remember looking up in the mirror and thinking, who is smoking? It must be me. And I couldn’t really smell it in the car or see it in the car; it took me seeing it in the mirror to know something was going on. And, I had a very long conversation with myself, it felt like, and was wondering if it was going to affect my corner. Like, where it the oil coming from and where is it dropping and where is it falling. And as soon as I let off the gas into Turn 3, I was sideways. And I remember hoping that I didn’t take out Kasey in the process. You don’t want to take anybody out. But for Hendrick Motorsports it’s such a big win here and such a big win for himself. I knew I was crashing. I knew there was no saving it. And I just didn’t want to take him out with me.”
REGARDING KASEY KAHNE’S HEAT EXHAUSTION, DOES IT SURPRISE YOU WHEN YOU SEE SOMEONE OF HIS EXPERIENCE HAVE AN ISSUE LIKE THAT? OR, IS IT JUST POSSIBLY THE WAY THESE CARS ARE AND IS IT GETTING TOUGHER AS THE YEARS GO ON?
“Everybody reacts differently to heat. For me, fortunately, the cramping starts first. And then, the one moment I had in Richmond actually I was passing out I guess from the pain of the cramping or something, I guess; my body just shut down. So, it’s something I’ve worked very hard on and I’ve found that I’ve got to keep evolving as I get older. What I eat and what I eat just continues to change. And I assume it’s something similar that he’s going through. But, I really applaud him to stand back and say look, I need to make sure I know what’s going on before I go any further. I’m bummed not to see him here and at the same time I think he made the right decision in sitting down this weekend.”
HOW MUCH WOULD A WIN HERE INJECT A BOOST IN WHAT HAS BEEN AN OTHERWISE DIFFICULT SEASON FOR YOU?
“I couldn’t even put into words what it would mean and do. We’ve worked so hard and have had some good moments along the way that could have turned into great moments. And, mistakes on my behalf or the team or whatever it might be; bad luck, misfortune, we’ve just not been able to capitalize on opportunities that have been there. Plus, we’ve had a tough year. So, it’s been extremely frustrating and extremely difficult to live through, but we are all still very eager to turn it around and know that we will. And, a win is the way to turn it around (laughs). So, we’ve seen this team get hot at times and we’ve been unstoppable. And a win would be the starting point of that. So, I’m very hopeful we can get that done this weekend.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS A GOOD RUN AT LAS VEGAS, KNOWING THE UNCERTAINTY OF RACING AT THE ‘ROVAL’ IN THE PLAYOFFS?
“My first reaction is the fact that you can win and advance is just top of mind for everybody. The ‘Roval’, you can probably at least before we go there and see how it unfolds, you’d have to put it in the Talladega box. So, absolutely. Points are important, but the guy that wins is going to breath a huge sigh of relieve as that do at the third round with Talladega in there.”
TO HAVE FOUR WINS HERE, DO YOU FEEL ANY MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT COMING HERE TO RACE AND HAVING THAT MAYBE INJECT A LITTLE SOMETHING INTO THE SEASON? AND, WHY HAVE YOU BEEN SO GOOD AT INDIANAPOLIS? IT’S A TOUGH PLACE TO RACE AND YET YOU’VE HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS.
“It is a very difficult track. It took me quite a few years to get the right rhythm and figure it out. It is a very unique track, like Dover and like Martinsville. Some of those challenging and unique tracks I’ve just always taken to and have had good luck and success at. So, Indy now fits into that category. And lot like Martinsville, my first few trips there, there is not way I thought I would win. And then once I got it, it started to come. So, this could be a very big turnaround race for us. I definitely believe that and feel it. We qualified well here last year and races well here and had a shot to win if it wasn’t for the oil leak. I think the No. 78 and the No. 18 were the class of the field and we were in that next group. So, if we do our part I think we can have a shot at the end.”
WITH MOVING THIS RACE TO SEPTEMBER VERSUS RUNNING IN JULY WHEN THE TRACK IS HOT AND SLICK, WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING AS A DRIVER NOW THAT YOU’RE GOING TO BE RACING ON A TRACK THAT IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT NOW THAT IT’S TWO MONTHS LATER INTO THE SEASON?
“Temperature just really makes the track less or more forgiving depending on which way the temperature is moving. And, it’s so less forgiving when we’re here in July and it feels like 150 degrees out and this front stretch is so hot and radiating so much heat. But, when I look at our practice sessions that are usually in the morning when we were here in July, the cars drive better. It’s easier to tune them. In the morning qualifying sessions, cars drive a lot better. So, I feel that same trend will happen and hopefully it will allow us to race harder with one another since the cars are driving better. If we do just race without any practice, I think one big obstacle the whole field will have to overcome is just tire wear. Until it rubbers-in, this track is just notorious for high tire wear. So, I’m sure NASCAR is thinking about all of that. I would assume we would have at least one competition caution and I would probably lobby for two competition cautions pretty quick, just to get some rubber down and in the track so that we just don’t have any issues. But usually that first practice session, you can’t run more than five laps. And, once Cup goes through and then Xfinity and then we get back to a Cup practice, we can do a 20 or 25-lap run, no problem. So, just that opening stint or two, I think we’ll need to be careful for.”
YOU SPOKE ON THE INTENSITY OF THIS BEING THE LAST RACE IN THE REGULAR SEASON, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FANS SINCE ATTENDANCE HAS KIND OF BEEN BECOMING MORE OF A PROBLEM OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? DO YOU THINK THAT INTENSITY WILL REJUVENATE THE RACE TO GET MORE PEOPLE TO COME OUT AT WATCH?
“Yeah, I definitely hope so. The track has gone through great efforts to create a lot of fun things, and a dirt track and the different bands they’ve been bringing through and a huge line-up for this weekend. So, sadly, we make the move and the effort from the track and all that’s going on and then Mother Nature is like nope, not yet. Not so much. So, the weather will have an impact on things. I’m sad for our sport for that and for the track. But, I think our racing has been phenomenal all year long. I think the tracks are working harder than ever to create the best fan experience they can at an affordable price. So, I don’t know why it hasn’t turned harder and why more people aren’t in the stands at some tracks. Some tracks, the stands are full and it looks great and some, not so much. I don’t know what the magic bullet or silver bullet is. I’m not sure there is one. But if we keep staying the course and putting on great shows and the tracks keep working hard for fan value and experience, it’ll all come back.”
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU MISSED RON MALEC THIS YEAR AS YOUR CAR CHIEF WHEN IT COMES TO EXECUTION AND LITTLE THINGS?
“He did such an awesome job of training Jesse (Saunders), that I can’t see, and it’s a true credit to Ron; it’s a different face and those that know Ron know he walks very, very fast. Jesse is a slower-walking individual (laughs). But, Ron has done such a phenomenal job of training him and transitioning into the shop and the overall affect that he’s had on the company, other than seeing his face and telling stories about what you do when you’re young, those things I miss just because it’s Ron. His personality and we’ve had so much time together. But on the performance side, he once again did his job and has Jesse completely ready for it.”
THERE ARE RUMORS OUT THERE THAT LOWE’S MIGHT COME BACK ON A LIMITED BASIS NEXT YEAR. HAVE THERE BEEN ANY DISCUSSIONS ALONG THOSE LINES?
“I know we’ve talked to many, many companies. I, personally, haven’t spoken to anyone on that front. If that were to happen, or is true, I would love to see that continue on. But, I have not been involved in any of those conversations.”
WHILE ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT THIS SERIES IS THERE’S ANOTHER RACE THE NEXT WEEK. LAST WEEK, IT JUST SEEMED LIKE IT WAS ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER THAT JUST BEAT YOU GUYS DOWN. WHAT HAPPENED AND HOW DO YOU LEARN FROM IT? OR, BECAUSE THERE’S ANOTHER RACE NEXT WEEK, DO YOU SIMPLY FORGET ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT SEEMED A LITTLE DISCONCERTING THIS LATE, AND THIS CLOSE TO THE PLAYOFFS.
“Yeah, there’s plenty to learn. First and foremost, I look at myself and the excitement of having a good first round of qualifying, the frustration of having a bad first-attempt in the second round, led to me running wide on Turn 4. There’s the first mistake in getting us behind the ball and we’ve got to start last. So, I can learn a lot from that, for sure. Then, we get going in the race and work our way up to the top 15, unfortunately, a loose wheel. Those things happen. It’s part of it. There’s a mistake there. And then I compound the mistake by missing pit road. So, here we go again (laughs). And then, out on the track, trying to get back from being three laps down is just very difficult to do. So, we were doing our best. And for our Playoff hopes, Alex (Bowman) found himself in a similar situation with his flat tire. So that’s really the bogey we need to focus on. And we were running right there with him kind of going through our motions and minimizing damage. And then the oil pump situation that happened, I think we learned a lot from that to make sure it doesn’t happen to our cars again in the future, especially at that track.
“So, there are plenty of takeaways and plenty of things that we learned. Kind of the over-arching thing for me is compounding mistakes. People make mistakes, but let’s not make a bad situation worse. And sadly, we were kind of in a position that we weren’t going to finish that race with the oil pump scenario. So, that does take a little bit off of it. But, we just need to stop making mistakes. I think I was in a position and drove outside of my means and drove over the 100 percent level because I knew I had such a good car. And I’m so eager to get back to winning and get back to leading laps that I just tried too hard. In qualifying I made a mistake and then coming to pit road. Sure, I didn’t have winning on my mind at the time, but I just came around the corner to aggressively. I feel like maybe I was maybe too aggressive all weekend. I came around the corner and missed pit road by a couple of feet.”
“We’re all human, you know? And I’ve made mistakes even when I’ve been at my peak. I’ve made a mistake and then I’ve also made compounding mistakes. It’s all part of it. But as you (media) all know and we all know each other pretty well and could imagine just the frustration of not being where I want to be. And then, maybe relating back to your own things in life, when something’s not going right you just try harder and harder. We’re all human. And its just part of it. So, I just need to stop doing that (laughs). Easier said than done.”
REGARDING SPONSORSHIP, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT THIS DAY AND AGE, TO FIND SPONSORSHIP COMPARED TO ABOUT A DECADE AGO? HOW IMPORTANT IS HAVING THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY ON THE SCHEDULE IN TERMS OF SECURING FUTURE SPONSORSHIPS? IS THAT A RACE THAT’S STILL A BIG ONE WHERE COMPANIES WANT TO PUT THEIR NAME ON A CAR LIKE IT USED TO BE? DOES HAVING FOUR WINS HERE HELP THAT PROCESS A LITTLE BIT?
“I feel like it all depends on the lens that you’re looking through. There are just a few things that I look at is that this is a crown jewel race and from the competition side, the place where I live, Indy has been circled (on calendar) since we left Indy last year. This is one of the big ones. Some might argue if you’re Tony Stewart that is is the biggest one. I grew up as a kid watching the Indy 500 and didn’t know much about NASCAR at all, so this one is really, really important to me too, although I’m in a car with fenders.
“And then I look at the sponsorship landscape. And at Hendrick Motorsports, we’ve renewed 14 sponsors this year. So, again, it depends on the lens you’re looking through. We have a great product to offer at Hendrick Motorsports. Sure, things are changing in their value and there’s negotiations that take place. This sport may be taking a reset of sorts. But, I feel the reset has happened and I see an uptick in some markets and some areas. We’ve seen plenty of new companies interested in being involved with Hendrick Motorsports or with the No. 48 car, so it’s the lens you’re looking through and I have an optimistic view, honestly.”
GOING BACK TO YOUR CONFIDENCE THAT THIS RACE COULD BE A TURNAROUND FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND, WHERE DOES THAT COME FROM? YOU ALSO TALKED ABOUT PUSHING AND MAKING MISTAKES AND BEING AGGRESSIVE. IS THIS SEASON THE FIRST WHERE YOU’VE REALLY BEEN IN THAT POSITION WHERE YOU’VE CAUGHT YOURSELF DOING THAT OVER AND OVER?
“No, I’ve been here before and in fact, my Busch Series days were probably the toughest that I’ve ever been through. It’s not been to that level although it’s pretty close. But, it’s second to it. And, my optimism to turn things around is because I’ll never give up. I just won’t. There are a lot of reasons for that. First and foremost is me and who I am. Secondly, I drive for Hendrick Motorsports. We will figure it out. It might not come at the pace we want it to, but we will figure it out. I have to show up every week and have a clear mind and start on a clean sheet of paper. I think carrying anything is bad. And, I have carried stuff from track to track. It’s not been beneficial. So, the best thing I can do for my team is to show up as if I’m in the middle of that five championship stretch and have that swagger and show up ready to roll. And, that’s one of my responsibilities to do each week. So, I’m ready. Let’s go.”
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