MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
NOVEMBER 10, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed the challenges he and the team have faced this season, his must-win approach this weekend in Phoenix, the pressure of the Playoffs, and more. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR APPROACH COMING INTO PHOENIX
“It’s a pretty easy approach for us. We’re in a must-win-situation. We wish we were in a better points scenario, but that’s not the case. This team thrives on pressure and adversity and we’re certainly in the position right now. When we look at the last two or three races here, we’ve had very competitive cars and the effort was made this week to make sure we brought the best bullet, second to none, and I’m really proud of my team and the way that all of Hendrick Motorsports is working together to make sure that the No. 24 car (Chase Elliott) and the No. 48 car have their best chances to win here and move on and stay alive for the championship. We’ll find out Sunday afternoon. I’m just excited to get out there and get to work.”
WHAT HAS BEEN THE CHALLENGE? WHAT DO YOU KNOW AND WHAT DON’T YOU KNOW?
“Well, I’m a part of this team, so everybody has in the game and the performance of the car. At the end of the day chasing speed is really the culprit. And I feel that next year we’ll be in a much better position with the Camaro body on the race car. So, you start making decisions late spring and early summer, trying to extract speed out of the cars. And that doesn’t always make them comfortable to drive. So, it’s hard to say it’s just one thing, but the start of the process is just trying to make our cars faster. And, at times we’ve not made the best decisions and have made them very hard to drive. I think Texas was an example of that and also Kansas. We spun twice there. So, it’s just trying to make the cars faster.”
HOW STRESSFUL IS IT FOR YOU IN THIS MUST-WIN SITUATION THIS WEEKEND?
“I feel like the Round of 8, in my mind and the way I’ve approached it, has been a must-win period. I look at the Martinsville and I look at Texas and then I didn’t want to be in a position here to need points, because if you’re here needing points, you’ve got to win. So, I feel like this Round of 8 has been a must-win for us all along. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to step-up and win at Martinsville or at Texas, so now it continues. We’re here and we must win.”
YOU MENTIONED THRIVING UNDER PRESSURE. HOW DOES THAT SHOW ITSELF? DO YOU DRIVE HARDER? DOES THE TEAM WORK MORE ON THE CAR AND/OR FASTER PIT STOPS? HOW DOES THAT SHOW ITSELF?
“It’s all the above. And then honestly, it’s really identifying with 100 percent. That’s the key. From a pit stop, if they go for 105 percent, you’re going to have a mistake. If the driver is trying harder than he should, you’re going to make mistakes. So, I feel pressure can make teams either play tight, or some can play free in those moments. And I think our team has shown over time that we can play and race and compete free. We’re not immune to it. We have our moments as well, but we’re going to have to fall back on everything this team is made of to win here this weekend and keep our championship hopes alive.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR.’S LAST CUP RACE IS NEXT WEEK. WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU SEE IN HIM AS A PERSON BETWEEN THE TIME HE CAME TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AND NOW?
“Yeah, there are many. I feel that Hendrick Motorsports has put his guard down in some ways and he’s let us all look into his life much more and be a part of it. I think social media has added a layer of that. I think his relationship with Amy and their marriage and now they’re expecting their first child. I think through all of that we’ve been able to learn and understand Dale far more and he’s been comfortable later in his career to let that personal side come through and shine through, through traditional media and social media and all those things. I’m proud to call him a friend and I’m very excited for what the future holds for him.”
MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT THE ROUND OF 8 WOULD BE YOUR STRONGEST ROUND IN THE PLAYOFFS, BUT OBVIOUSLY THINGS HAVEN’T GONE THAT WELL THE PAST TWO WEEKS. THIS WEEKEND, DO YOU THROW THE NOTEBOOK OUT THE WINDOW AND GO FOR SOMETHING ELSE? OR DO YOU STICK TO THE TRIED AND TRUE AT PHOENIX?
“Everything has been tried at this point. I think we have to make decisions once we get on track this morning and see where that set-up leads us and if we’re ahead on speed, then we stay tight to that set-up. If we’re not where we need to be, we throw it all out. We can’t leave any questions on the table going into Saturday night. We need to try all variations of set-ups and try anything and everything we can today and tomorrow to get that car right.”
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY BEEN CHASING SPEED ALL YEAR. WHERE DOES THIS YEAR RANK OVERALL IN TERMS OF THE MOST FRUSTRATING YEAR YOU’VE HAD IN YOUR CAREER?
“It’s definitely high on the list. I don’t know if this year versus maybe like 2015; that was a tough one on us as well with that rules package and trying to get speed out of our cars. So, I’d say between ’15 and ’17, those have probably been the two most challenging years in my career at the Cup level.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK CHASE ELLIOTT’S CHANCES ARE THIS WEEKEND? HE’S RUN WELL HERE BEFORE. AND IS THERE ANYTHING THAT HE’S ACTUALLY DOING HERE THAT YOU CAN LEAN ON?
“I think the No. 24 car has always had a good set-up here. I think of Jeff’s (Gordon) history here and Chase. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and Chase both have a good feel for this track. Inherently, Alan and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) have some different concepts with their cars and where their cars go, so I can’t say our cars are identical. But, I feel Chase’s chances are high. This has been a great track for him and that car, historically.”
ARE YOU STILL CONFIDENT THAT CHAD KNAUS IS STILL THE GUY THAT CAN LEAD YOU INTO BATTLE AND THAT EIGHTH CHAMPIONSHIP? AND ARE YOU STILL STANDING FIRM THAT HE’S THE GUY YOU WANT TO RETIRE WITH?
“Yeah, I started this with Chad and I want to finish it with him. Outside of something crazy happening. Crew chiefs live in dog years versus drivers. I think he’s made that known that his time might expire before mine does, just because of the wear and tear of being a crew chief. I love our entire team and all that it’s made of. Every individual on that team, all the engineers and mechanics, we just haven’t been making the right decisions and going in the right direction. It’s not an individual’s problem. We’re all a part of this team and we’re all a part of the decision-making process. Hopefully we make the right decisions today and then next weekend; and then over the off-season there’s a lot of change coming for the Chevrolets. The Camaro is going to be a huge help. So, we’ll take a deep breath once the off-season hits and then look forward to getting started next year.”