MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
GANDER OUTDOORS 400
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
JULY 28, 2018
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S FOR PROS CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed making his 600th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start, what his thoughts are on the team turning the corner and potentially getting a victory and many other topics. Full Transcript:
I SPOKE TO CHAD KNAUS (CREW CHIEF) AT KENTUCKY AND HE SAID HE SAW THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. IS THAT TRUE OR IS IT THE TRAIN? WHAT IS THE MOMENTUM HERE FOR YOU GUYS?
“Well, we feel there is a lot of truth within it. Maybe we see things before they have a chance to be fully vetted and show up on the track with the results, but I think last weekend was a strong indicator we are going in the right direction. We have had various high spots along the way, but this has been way more challenging to… I would say through the middle part of last year and then in through this year for myself, for the No. 48 team, I think for our company, it’s been way more challenging than we anticipated. It took us awhile to get into this position, it’s going to take us awhile to get out of it and we continue to see high spots or things that are very motivating for us. That is the excitement we bring to the track each week and we have more new stuff this weekend that we are excited to take to the track and hopefully let the big black dyno out here being the race track prove all the hard work that we are doing behind the scenes, simulation, wind tunnel, chassis development, trying to understand tire data, all the little pieces of the puzzle that it takes. We are working very hard.”
WHEN YOU ARE AT HOME OR FLYING TO A RACE HOW MUCH DOES THAT WEIGH ON YOU MENTALLY?
“You know it’s been a tough 18 months there is no doubt about it. I think I personally have gone through moments of confident in myself, not confident in myself, it’s this, it’s that, you know I’m human it’s impossible to not be hard on myself and then other times I can relax if it’s a good race or the team is like ‘oh man we shouldn’t have done this that is why we had a bad weekend’ then that gives me some relief in beating up myself. But any athlete it doesn’t matter the sport that you are in when you have a dry spell, this type of scenario for a long stretch of time it is tough on you and it’s been tough on me. The cool thing is though I continue to wake up every morning and pinch myself that I drive a race car for a living. This is a sport that I’ve been very fortunate to make a career, start off as a hobby and I go through that checklist and remind myself of those things if I am having a bad day. And they naturally happen on a good day. But, I’ve had a lot of different tough times through my career I think that many forget about or maybe don’t even know because I’ve been doing this so damn long with this being my 600th start. But, my Busch days, my ASA days, periods of time in off-road racing, periods of time in motocross as I was learning a new car, a new division, there have always been tough times and those tough times made me who I am today and what we are going through right now is only going to make me stronger.”
THIS WEEK WAS KIND OF THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE LAST HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS WIN IS THAT ANYMORE OF A KICK IN THE GUT THAT YOUR ORGANIZATION HASN’T WON IN OVER A YEAR?
“I guess I’ve really only thought about myself (laughs). I guess, yeah that Brickyard and the schedule has changed that hasn’t popped in my own head because we haven’t been to the Brickyard yet. But, I don’t know how to quite answer it really. What was the exact question?”
DOES IT HURT MORE THE FACT THAT IT HAS BEEN A YEAR? IS THAT AN ANNIVERSARY OR A BENCHMARK THAT MAKES NOT WINNING SUCK MORE?
“(Laughs) I know from Mr. Hendrick’s standpoint absolutely. My suck more reference would be my last win at Texas, I guess it was, so yeah, another sucks more moment, thanks Bob, appreciate it. (laughs).”
FROM A TEAM MORALE POINT OF VIEW IS RUNNING WELL AND FINISHING POORLY WORSE THAN HAVING A BAD RUN BUT STEALING A GOOD FINISH? WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT TO RUN WELL OR FINISH WELL?
“To run well. Rarely do these cars ever come to the track untouched or unchanged from a set-up stand point. So, if you have direction and you have a car that produces lap time or races well or whatever it might be, that gives you something to build on. If you have a bad weekend and have some strategy that puts you in a respectable finish that doesn’t help morale at the shop. Sure, it helps the points, but it doesn’t help the cause and trying to make cars go fast.”
AT 600 STARTS IS THERE WEAR AND TEAR ON A RACE CAR DRIVER LIKE THERE IS ON ANY OTHER PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE?
“Definitely. I feel like being on top of my fitness and hydration and nutrition has helped physical aspects of it and I’m in better shape now than I was when I started and I think photos will prove that when you look at my rookie season. But, just from an experience standpoint, emotional standpoint, I mean it’s a long grind. I’m 17 years in and there are definitely some scars in there.”
YOU SAID A FEW WEEKS AGO THAT YOU ARE NOW MORE FOCUSED ON YOUR JOB AND YOUR COMMITMENT TO THIS TEAM AND EVERYTHING THAN YOU WERE YEARS AGO, CERTAINLY WHEN YOU FIRST CAME IN. CAN YOU EXPAND ON WHAT THAT MEANS?
“Yeah, the industry has changed a lot since then. We were lucky to just take general driver notes from a cars performance on a weekend and kind of look to that when we would come back to a track. And then to have the intense debriefs that we do now, a few of them through the course of the week, the prep sessions that we have, the video, the extensive notes to review and look at, watching film, it just goes on and on and on. That from just a sheer volume standpoint alone is way different than when I first started. And then, I just think myself and always trying to do more, be a better teammate, be more involved, it leads to physically more time in front of my guys. It also means there is some element that, I feel, that a driver can play from a coaching standpoint and a morale standpoint and being involved and engaged and lifting morale and keeping people motivated. I’ve spent a lot more time in that space this year. So, what started off as really a weekend thing in my 2002 rookie season, there is really three days’ worth of work that takes place on top of what you do here at the race track.”
WHAT HAS A YEAR LIKE THIS TAUGHT YOU ABOUT YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS?
“I’ve learned over the last 18 months and really even probably before that with some other tough moments that I get quiet amongst my team. That is something I’ve worked really hard to this off season to stop doing. To be more vocal, to be out in front of these guys and I guess it comes from a place of just being disappointed in my own right that I’m not able to produce the results from them and I just get quiet. And that is the worst thing I can do and I learned that about myself through the end of last year. Made a lot of adjustments through the off season and feel that I’ve done a much better job with that this year.”
WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 600TH START MILESTONE FOR YOU? WHAT MOMENTS MAYBE STANDOUT MORE THAN OTHERS?
“I guess the first three would be all 600 starts at Hendrick Motorsports, all 600 starts with Lowe’s and then for all intents and purposes all 600 starts with Chad Knaus. I don’t know how the other 28 guys got to their 600 starts, but I have to assume we are in a pretty unique situation there.”
FOR THIS WEEK PARTICULARLY WHAT WOULD YOU STAY WOULD QUALIFY AS A GOOD WEEKEND?
“Yeah, I would say a top five would be a good weekend. Where we are near the bottom for the Playoff spots, stage points. Stage points, Playoff points, to win a stage something like that would be really big.”
DO YOU STILL THINK THAT THE CHEVROLET CAMARO BODY STYLE IS BEHIND THOSE OF THE FORD AND THE TOYOTA’S? HAVE YOU GUYS MADE ANY IMPROVEMENTS IN YOUR MIND OVER THE SEASON?
“We have made improvements for sure. But with how regulated the bodies are there is only so much advancement we can do as a team. We are definitely moving things thousandths of an inch to try and maximize the downforce and efficiency of the car, but also spending a lot of time working on chassis set-ups and the other aspects underneath the body of the race car to find speed.”
HAVE YOU GUYS WITH THE DRIVER’S COUNCIL BEEN MEETING WITH NASCAR TO DISCUSS ANY POSSIBLE CHANGES TO THE AERO PACKAGE IN 2019?
“Yeah, we have a driver council meeting coming up in, I think it’s Michigan. It’s a forum where we can vent, share ideas, share thoughts, but still at the end of the day, NASCAR has to go out and hear from driver council, owner council, competition council and then they make their decision. So, I mean we have talked about everything under the sun. Where it ends up, I don’t have a good feel for that. But, it’s a great place for us to talk about any and all things. Every package that you can imagine has been discussed in those meetings.”
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO TAKE THAT NEXT STEP THIS WEEKEND? GET OUT OF THE SEASON RUT THAT YOU’VE BEEN IN?
“Yeah, I mean I feel like every weekend I show up and still… it took me a long time to develop the confidence that I was a Cup winning driver. That confidence hasn’t wavered. So, I show up each week thinking that we have the capability to pull it off and still go to Victory Lane. As you work through the weekend you kind of reevaluate where you are at and what your goals need to be, but sitting here now before we turn a lap, I’m here to win this race.”
SO, A REALISTIC EXPECTATION THAT YOU ARE HAVING IS TO WIN THIS RACE?
“We just talked about a second ago, I think a top five is probably in the realistic standpoint, stage points, but you never know. That is that optimism that I refuse to lose. I still know I can win these races, that hasn’t changed, that hasn’t gone anywhere we just need to get the whole package together. This whole journey I’ve been on just shows me how important timing is for any team, driver, crew chief, owner, whatever it might be. I was very fortunate to have timing for a large stretch of time. Manufacturer, team, crew chief, driver all hitting at 10 tenths. We individualize the sport very often and it is way more than just one person that makes this whole thing go. I am patiently waiting and hoping that we get the timing back and get all the pieces pushed in the right direction and we can get back to our form that we once had.”
YOUR FAMILY TRIPS HAVE BEEN PRETTY ELABORATE THIS YEAR. HOW HAVE THOSE BEEN?
“My kids just love to be outside. This year we have started traveling a little bit more during our off week we went to Switzerland. We love traveling the world, experiencing different culture, my wife and I do. We took the family when Lydia was just under maybe a year old and we learned a lesson that was just too early. It was tough to travel that far and it’s been on the brakes until now. We enjoyed our trip abroad, but the summer for us is really about letting our kids be kids and getting them outside. Charlotte (North Carolina) is a wonderful place to raise children, but Colorado you don’t have to worry about them and they can do so many different things. From riding dirt bikes to canoe trips, floating the river on paddleboards, camping out in the middle of nowhere, there is this hut that we like to go check out. It’s at 11,200 feet, no electricity, there is a bathroom, but it’s really just a hole in the ground, so to go out and really just let kids be kids and hang and have that family time it’s tough to do when they are in school and summer is just a great opportunity to spend time together.”
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