MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
ISM CONNECT 300
NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 22, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) and discussed his recent trip to Naples, Florida for Hurricane relief clean up, his thoughts on the “sticky stuff” that NHMS used in the spring race, where his team is thus far in the Playoffs and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR IMPACTFUL TRIP TO NAPLES FLORIDA THIS WEEK. WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE THIS WEEK?
“It was something I have really wanted to do on a couple of levels. One, I wanted to give back and then two, I know the great work that Lowe’s does in communities and I was completely blown away by their involvement once again. Went to two different stores, the people I met in stores did not live in that area, they all are spending their free time to come in and fill-in for their Lowe’s associates that need to tend to stuff at home. I thought that was amazing. People from Tennessee were all the way down in Naples, Florida just covering shifts for other Lowe’s employees. Then of course we went to a home and pitched in there. I took my daughter with me and I wanted her to grasp kind of what was going on down there. She saw plenty of coverage on television about the hurricane moving in and I just wanted to close that loop for her and take her down and experience all that. So, all-in-all just a very impactful day in Florida. I feel like there were some great lessons, great respect and appreciation I have for mankind and the way people help each other in times of need and a lot of lessons learned. Very impactful trip and I’m glad that it was so well received by our local media, the outside media, social media, it was very well received and that is cool.”
HOW MUCH DO THE DRIVERS KNOW WHEN A PENALTY COMES DOWN AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE PENALTY THE NO. 24 TEAM RECEIVED THIS WEEK?
“The driver knows very little. We are a part of the team and there is some attachment in that respect. The things that have gone on that I’ve experienced on my own car and the way I interact with the team and what goes on the race car, I didn’t know until we were in trouble. And then I’m like ‘really why are we doing that?’ So, I don’t know if that is the case, but in most situations, I really firmly believe that is the case.”
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE RUN FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP WITH THAT KIND OF PENALTY?
“Yeah, I mean it’s tough. I mean every team is doing everything they can to find an advantage. I think it’s safe to say that every team and crew chief when they have a car go to the R&D center are sweating it until Tuesday afternoon when they get their cars back. Even when you think you are heads up, you are still sweating it. I’m glad I’m not a crew chief.”
THOUGHTS ON THE PASSING AT TED CHRISTOPHER:
“A great wheelman and a great man. When I started racing here in the Busch Series, Ted was a guy that I met right away. I think somehow, we were parked near each other, around each other, and so approachable, so fun. I knew the name. I was excited to be on a track with him and then through the years from my first time meeting him here in 2000, would always see him in and around the area here or see him at different races. I think he ran the Busch Series for a short period of time. He will be missed and my heart goes out to his family, friends and the racing community here because he was such an icon in the area.”
WE HAVEN’T HEARD A LOT FROM THE CHEVY GUYS. LAST WEEK BRAD KESELOWSKI WAS TALKING ABOUT THE TOYOTA’S HAVING A BIG ADVANTAGE. THERE HASN’T BEEN A LOT SAID FROM THE CHEVY CAMP. WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU GUYS ARE? ARE YOU AT A COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE TO THE TOYOTA’S?
“Yeah, I mean I think we would rather just get to work and try to make it better. I know that the car that we are bringing out, the Camaro that is coming out next year is going to be a huge help for us. When you look at the amount of revisions or iterations that have come out, next year will be the first for the Camaro, first for the Chevy brand, so that is going to be a big help for us. We are doing all that we can and it does seem you know teams and manufacturers kind of gravitate towards the front, we have been very fortunate over the years to be that team and that manufacturer and can’t wait to get back their ourselves. But, we don’t think we are where we need to be and we know next year’s Camaro is going to be a huge help with that.”
WHAT ADJUSTMENTS HAVE YOU MADE AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS TO TRY TO BE COMPETITIVE AND GAIN STAGE POINTS THIS SEASON?
“Those bonus points are huge. We had a white board with points earned on last weekend’s race and you would think that an eighth-place finish would yield a fair amount of points, but we didn’t score any stage points. I can’t remember exactly now, but we didn’t leave the track with the eighth most points scored, it was much worse than that and that is a problem. Especially, as you get to the later rounds and need to count on points. I think we are all living it first-hand. I think we understood the concept, but now that it is in your face and you live it day to day and kind of obsess over it, I think it is making it much more apparent to myself and others how important those stage points are.”
IS IT DISTRACTING WHEN DRIVERS ARE BANTERING AND GOING BACK AND FORTH? DO YOU FOLLOW THAT? DO YOU ENJOY IT?
“I think it’s awesome. I think Brad (Keselowski) should say more, keep going, I don’t care (laughs). I choose to go about things differently and so does my team, but I have to admit it’s entertaining to watch and I would rather him say it than me say it, so have at it man.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT STAGE POINTS EARLIER, BUT YOUR STATS ARE BECOMING UNAPPROACHABLE BECAUSE YOU GO FOR WINS AND CHAMPIONSHIPS, SO WITH THIS NEW ELEMENT HOW DOES THAT CHANGE THINGS FOR YOU?
“Yeah, this year’s format definitely doesn’t fit my natural tendency in a car and kind of what our team has earned seven championships through. So, we felt like without a doubt this is going to challenge us more than any other format in our history in the sport. I think it’s kind of shown that to be true. We always show up at the end of a race and if you don’t win the race there is a very good chance you are going to earn less points than you did if you were up front at the start and got stage points in the first and second stage. So, that is just the reality of it and it’s forcing me to do things differently and the team. So, we definitely have an effort in that direction although it hasn’t yielded much yet. But, winning does supersede all. So, if we can look at the new approach and at the same time not take anything away from the way we have won so many races and championships that will fix all.”
TALK ABOUT THE RACE IN JULY, THE SURFACE THAT WAS LAID ON THE TRACK WHAT DID IT DO TO YOUR CAR AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL HELP IN THE RACE ON SUNDAY?
“We found ourselves, personally, the No. 48 car wise competitive with the ‘sticky stuff’ down. We were more competitive then. As it would wear off we lost our advantage and ability to be up there in those front few cars. Qualified very good, the second practice sessions on Saturday when it was kind of wearing off we weren’t as competitive and then in the race when we started the race we were very competitive and kind of drifted back as it wore off. We are trying to understand why and what and how to conceptually build the car to be good in both environments. But, it was helpful to us, I think, and helped us be a more competitive car.”
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE SEASON OVERALL AT HENDRICK? HOW INVOLVED, IF AT ALL, ARE WILLIAM BYRON AND ALEX BOWMAN AS FAR AS GETTING THEM READY FOR NEXT YEAR?
“Both William and Alex are eager to get going and I think both would love to run Cup races this year if they could find the right situation for them. They’re going to be great assets to the team. We just need to get them laps and get them in the car and start understanding what their vocabulary is and the magnitude on the scales that we all discuss about tight and loose and really build that foundation and get going. With that, this year has been a tough year, I think, for our company. Last year was tough, but we found a way still to get to the championship and the head table in Las Vegas. This year has been tough again, but there is a lot of change going on internally. I think directionally we’re making some great changes and obviously the addition of the two new drivers will shuffle the deck a bit. We want to close out strong and get some good momentum heading into the off-season.”
AS THE TRACTION COMPOUND WEARS OFF TOWARD THE END OF THE RACE, HOW DO YOU JUDGE GOING INTO THE CORNER? HOW MUCH CAN YOU PUSH IT? HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO LET OFF? HOW DO YOU GET THE FEEL OF THAT OR HOW DOES THE CAR RESPOND TO THAT AND LET YOU KNOW IT’S NOT AS STICKY AS IT WAS BEFORE?
“It’s just your comfort level. When it’s on the newer-side, you can let off the brake earlier and just carry a lot of speed to the center of the turn and count on that sticky stuff to catch the car and help it change directions. As it wears off, you go to your same braking point and you let off, you roll in the turn, you miss your mark (laughs). And you’re like well, I guess the sticky stuff is gone (laughter). You’ve just got to start backing up from there. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy being a race car driver. We run in circles and hit marks and things like that and connect the dots (laughs).”
YOU TALKED ABOUT THE CHANGES GOING ON AT HENDRICK THIS YEAR, MORE THAN YEARS PAST. HOW HAS THAT IMPACTED, ALONG WITH THE PERFORMANCE THIS YEAR, IN TRYING TO FIND THE RIGHT DIRECTION AS THE ORGANIZATION IS GOING THROUGH THAT? IT SEEMS LIKE THERE ARE A LOT MORE CHALLENGES THIS YEAR AND HOW HAS THAT CHANGED YOUR ROLE AS A TEAM LEADER?
“There’s definitely quite a few challenges that come with it and I think all companies deal with it at different times. It does take time and effort, so then the focus leaves from the fine-tuning areas of departments and trying to extract speed to dealing with other items. You can’t pick when that stuff happens and the timing of. Fortunately, it was kind of through the middle of the season for us. But, the changes that were made were all made with great intent. And people that stepped down or stepped away left on great teams and love of Hendrick Motorsports and just wanting the best for the company. So, as we’ve evolved, it hasn’t been a hostile environment by any stretch, but without a doubt there has been time and effort devoted in areas other than fine-tuning race cars. But in the end, I think the added responsibility to some, responsibility shifting to others, the collaborative work involved to elevate the company, is only making us stronger and better. And I think we’re going to net out in a great spot in the end.”
THINGS WERE ALREADY IN PLACE BY THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER. IS IT MORE OF A FEELING TO SEE MORE OF AN IMPACT AS YOU GET LATER IN THE SEASON DUE TO PEOPLE IN NEW POSITIONS AND LEADING THE TEAM IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION THAN WHERE THINGS WERE IN THE SUMMER?
“Yeah, there are so many pieces to the puzzle. And race teams now are almost manufacturing companies. The processes on how you manufacture and when you get stuff in the pipeline and when it comes out, consistency between all four shops; there’s a lot of focus in other aspects to help our company run efficiently. At the same time, you can just stay light and nimble and change as the rules change. Or if you see another team understanding the rule in a different way and it’s being inspected and approved, you’re like oh, now we have to change directions. As we try to simplify and be more efficient, you do end up as more of a larger machine and we all know that small businesses, small machines, can change directions quicker. So, there’s always this conversation. Are we too big and too focused and too big into this manufacturing mindset or do we stay lean and mean and let the four teams have their own independent thought process and change at will. We’re heading in a good direction. I really feel it. And we have a lot of smart people. But you’re always wondering if you’re going down the right road. Success really helps you determine if you are. If you start popping off wins, you’re like yep, we got it right (laughs). If you’re running fair, then you’re like, oh, I don’t know. It’s just tough. It really is. I’ve been in this sport 16 years now and I have such an appreciation of the time and effort that goes into a functioning race team. I sympathize for our management and our crew chiefs and everybody because at the end of the day, it’s just about going out there and running a fast lap. But man, it takes so much just to get the cars and trucks and people to the track just to set up a pit. It’s insane.”
YOU SAID IF YOU GOT EIGHT TITLES, YOU’D WANT NINE OR 10 OR WHATEVER. YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN COGNIZANT OF THE PEOPLE YOU’RE PASSING. GOING FOR EIGHT, DALE EARNHARDT JR. SAID IT WOULD BE BITTERSWEET IF YOU GOT IT, FOR HIM, BECAUSE OF WHAT IT MEANS. HAVE YOU TALKED TO HIM OR RICHARD PETTY ABOUT THAT EIGHTH CHAMPIONSHIP? HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOU, PERSONALLY?
“I haven’t spent a lot of time talking to guys about it. I know Junior was really proud of me and excited for me to pass his dad on the win’s list. And I completely get it that Dale Sr.’s fan base and his son and his family; why would they want anybody to outdo him in championships? And I’m sure on the King’s side, it’s the same way. So, I totally get it. At the same time, I totally get that I want to be the best and win. So, there’s a mutual respect there and understanding that exists. We’ll see where it ends up. And it’s hard to go into those conversations with Kyle Petty or Dale Jr. You don’t think about it when you’re around the person. There might be something during the week or a milestone that’s met that jars that discussion loose. And Dale talked to me after I tied his father in race wins. But I think through today’s world we’re able to, with podcasts and social media, understand on a deeper level daily what people think and where they’re at. And I honestly learn a lot through that during the course of a week more so than being at track and being in the same meetings with Dale. Words and minds are in a different spot when we’re working on our race cars. To summarize it all, I get it. I completely get it.”
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