MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
FIREKEEPERS CASINO 400
MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 16, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed his contract extension, the current youth movement, his next racing goals and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WOULD YOU PLEASE WALK US THROUGH YOUR DECISION TO GIVE THIS ANOTHER GO AROUND?
“Oh yeah, I’ve said it many times, I’m very content with where I’m at in the race car and just truly enjoy competing and love being on the track. So, to have a three-year extension makes me smile and makes me excited about the future and just can’t wait to get in the car today and get out there and get to work.”
WHY THREE YEARS? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ONLY HAVE THREE YEARS LEFT IN YOU OR WAS THAT JUST THE LENGTH YOU WANTED TO COMMIT?
“No, in previous extension I’ve had, I don’t know, five years and two years and I guess just the general conversation this one has been three years. I’ve said it before and continued to say that when the fire does go out, I will step down. I don’t have any framework now on a timeline. I just know that I’ve got three more years of trying to go out there and win championships and win races. I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been and as focused and dedicated on doing my job. We will see how these three years go and certainly from my standpoint I hope to collect another big trophy and then lots of other race trophies along the way and have some fun.”
IT’S NOT JUST YOU COMING BACK FOR THREE YEARS, BUT ALSO LOWE’S COMING BACK ON BOARD. YOUR NAME AND LOWE’S ARE SYNONYMOUS WITH ONE ANOTHER, HOW IS THAT TO HAVE THAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP CONTINUING?
“It’s amazing. When you really think about probably four of five points. The long-term relationship with Lowe’s and have them back on for another full season is incredible and a huge statement. Chad Knaus (crew chief), Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson, to have this long of a run together and to know that we are going to stay together is super special for sure.”
HAVE YOU CONVINCED CHAD (KNAUS) TO STAY THROUGH 2020?
“I think I’ve got another year to try to convince him. He has another year on his contract and I’m sure discussions will take place about an extension for him. He at least has another year and I’ve started this with him and I’ve said it before, I want to finish it with him. So, I’ll keep leaning on him. Those crew chief years, I like to call them dog years, I don’t have a clear picture on where that will take him, but I will do my best to keep him around as long as I can.”
WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU ABOUT THIS YOUTH MOVEMENT?
“Gosh there is so much it’s hard to pick just one. The excitement that they bring to each and every race I think the fans are getting a real treat watching these young guys figure out how to get to Victory Lane. It’s not an easy process. I was there in my rookie year and my early years and can still remember the stress, the frustration at times, when you don’t capitalize on an opportunity and then the elation when you are able to pull it off. Proud of all the young guys coming along and think that our sport is in great hands looking forward.”
LOOKING AHEAD THREE YEARS WHAT DO YOU EXPECT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS TO LOOK LIKE OVER THAT PERIOD OF TIME?
“The biggest thing for me is just knowing how much Mr. Hendrick loves to win and his commitment to winning, his commitment to Hendrick Motorsports. The sport is always changing and evolving and how we win and how we stay on top has changed so much since I started in 2002. I have full confidence and trust in him and where he takes the team. Sitting in closed door meetings I know that there is a lot of options being explored and I know in Rick’s heart that it’s all to put the best four cars on the race track for Hendrick Motorsports and win races and championships. It’s hard to tell where it’s going to go, but my faith is in Rick.”
IS THERE ANYTHING TO MAKE OF LOWE’S EXTENDING JUST THROUGH 2018? DO YOU EXPECT THEM TO HANG WITH YOU THROUGH 2020?
“Yeah, no, that is a great question. We have come through so much together. Clearly, I’m not the one negotiating those contracts, it’s not really in my department. But, we do have them for 2018. I guess it would be 17 seasons together. I certainly would hope and think that it would go on further, but very excited to have a one-year contract with them now. Thirty-eight races at a full-time primary sponsorship is nothing to sneeze at.”
WHAT IS THERE NEXT FOR YOU? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT GOAL THAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH?
“I’ve never honestly been driven by stats and I’ve said it so many times, but it’s hard to ignore where I sit on the wins list and not let my competitive spirit kick in and want more. Certainly, would love to climb further up the ladder there. Eight championships, I would love to stand alone at that, but that is all predictable and easy stuff. For me, it’s really about racing. I just love to race. The experience I have with my engineers, with my team, with Chad (Knaus, crew chief), that bond and that experience combined with the experience of driving and competing … there is a high in that, that I’ve chased my entire career. That is still why I get in that race car. Someday when that fades, that is when I will step down. It’s not going to be because of stats and where I rank or how many championships I have, it’s all about that experience in the car. That experience is as cool as it’s ever been and I’m really enjoying it right now.”
THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANCE TO READ INTO THE FACT THAT IT’S THREE YEARS AT THIS POINT? BASICALLY, YOU ARE NOT SAYING THIS IS MY FINAL CONTRACT THAT YOU INTEND TO GO BEYOND THAT IF THE FIRE STILL BURNS?
“Yeah, absolutely, I think in all fairness to the questions and to myself, any contract I sign right now with my age is probably going to raise questions. I get it, but I don’t have a vision of if it’s three, if it’s five, if it’s seven, I don’t know. I do know I’m having a great time and I don’t want to stop right now.”
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR PHYSICAL FITNESS PLAYED ANY ROLE IN MAKING YOU WANT TO DO A THREE-YEAR EXTENSION AND DO YOU THINK THAT IS KIND OF WHAT HAS HELPED YOU HAVE SO MUCH SUCCESS IN YOUR CAREER?
“Yeah, I feel like we all evolve as individuals through our professional life, personally life and figuring out how to balance the stress of professional life, especially and then the challenges of personal life and being a father too. I feel that fitness is yes, made me physically stronger and I think helps me in instances like I had in Pocono where I’m in good shape and my body could withstand and impact like that. But, there are so many takeaways about having a departure in some way from the grind of the sport. Using triathlon to get started and certainly all the cycling I’m doing now, I’m excited for Saturday afternoon when the garage closes because there are some awesome roads to go ride around here. Instead of being stuck in that motorhome for 10 hours again for the 16th year in a row at Michigan in June or July or whatever it is, I’m going to go explore and go see and have a good time. Yes, there have been so many physical takeaways that I’ve been able to apply to my job, but honestly, the mental side is really paying off in having an outlet. I have to say just to pull it back to an individual that kind of sparked my mind on all of this, was Mark Martin. We watched Mark race deep into his career and be super competitive, race for championships into his 50’s. I don’t think I’ve got that in me from a time commitment stand point to go into my 50’s in racing, but there was something there that I saw. He tried to express it to me about how sharp it kept his mind, how it was great to have something outside of the traditional racing schedule to keep him occupied. I’ve been able to top into that myself.”
DO YOU HAVE SOME GOALS IN MIND OR HOW DO YOU WANT TO GROW AS A DRIVER OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS? DO YOU STILL FEEL YOU HAVE ROOM TO GROW?
“Yeah, there is always room to grow as a driver. We have so many things change, rules packages, tire construction is always evolving. You have to change the preparation side and the debrief side and just being as buttoned up as you can week-in and week-out, how you drive the car has evolved and changed and then I feel like with my tenure at Hendrick Motorsports, there is something inside of me to really help my teammates and to help the overall cause for Hendrick Motorsports. Spent a lot of time, obviously, with Chase (Elliott) over the years, been able to help Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) recently, been able to help Kasey (Kahne). There is a lot of satisfaction that comes in that and to help Hendrick Motorsports, I see that kind of growing as time goes on.”
RICK HENDRICK HAS A HISTORY OF KEEPING LONG LASTING RELATIONSHIP WITH SPONSORS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT RICK THAT ALLOWS HIM TO DO THAT?
“The culture and winning success at Hendrick Motorsports is probably the cornerstone of that, but Rick (Hendrick) is a businessman and through his connections throughout the automotive business and through life, I think he can offer more than just a marketing relationship with a sponsor. There is a lot of business to business work that takes place. The technology world continues to grow and there are partnerships that grow there and benefit more than your traditional marketing program. I put a fair amount of weight in that and just his abilities as a businessman to see outside of just a marketing program.”
DO YOU HAVE AN GUARANTEES OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS THAT YOUR BRAKES ARE GOING TO BE GOOD? ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THAT?
“Yeah, you know, the brake issues I’ve had issues at Pocono before and it surface again. We do have a new element with the lower downforce on the car and that contributed to our problem. Then I just used the brakes too much. I’ve got to take some responsibility in that and my driving style lends to aggressive braking and we will make sure that we have a beefed up braking system going back to Pocono here shortly. You know the environment has changed. With the long straightaway into Turn 1 at Pocono like that and a low downforce package it just put more of a burden on the brake system than we anticipated.”
DO YOU HAVE A LIFETIME CONTRACT? ARE YOU ALLOWED TO STAY AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AS LONG AS YOU WANT? WOULD THAT BE ACCURATE?
“Yeah, I’ve had some discussions and I that was in play at one point in time, but we just elected to go a different route. Rick and I have always said to one another on our word that I always have a spot at Hendrick Motorsports and I’ve always told him I’m never going anywhere. Instead of it being necessarily a statement and shown through a lifetime contract we have just had a handshake and agreement amongst friends that I’ve got a car and I’ve always told him I’m never going anywhere.”
DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT THIS NEXT GENERATION OF DRIVERS WILL BE THERE IN THEIR 40’S?
“I think that the lifespan is getting shorter. Racing into your 50’s or late 40’s, I don’t think generationally it’s going to continue to go that way. But then there are guys, when you look at Kyle Larson’s love of racing anything and everything you could work up a discussion that he will race until he is Red Farmer’s age. Or you could maybe say, he is probably going to hit burnout at some point in time and maybe stop sooner. I don’t know, but as long as people are having fun and you can balance your personal life and your professional life, I think that gives you a long runway. It’s just not easy to do. When you start off in your 20’s or teens, it is so easy to have racing be number one. You grow so much as an individual through your 20’s and into your 30’s, most people get married then and start a family. There is just a lot of growing that goes on over that period of time. For me, I’ve had, not only great teammates at the track, but having a great teammate with Chani (Johnson, wife) and my family being all in and supporting what I do. And it’s allowed me to do this. The decisions young drivers make in their personal life and the pressures they have that surround them, there is no telling where it is going to lead them. But you will always have some guys that go deep. I think you will, but I guess again, to answer your question, I think directionally it is getting shorter. When you look at (Dale Earnhardt) Junior stepping down and Jeff (Gordon) stepping down, although he was here for a long time, 23 full-time seasons, he left mid-40’s. I think that mid-40 mark is probably more of a trend than late 40’s into the 50’s.”