MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
AAA TEXAS 500
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
NOVEMBER 3, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed his position in the Playoffs, what advice he has given Chase Elliott, his success at Texas and many other topics. Full Transcript:
YOU HAVE WON FOUR OF THE LAST SIX RACES INCLUDING THE SPRING RACE. YOU HOLD THE ALL-TIME TRACK RECORDS HERE FOR WINS, TOP-FIVE’S AND TOP-10’S, BUT YOU ENTER SUNDAY’S RACE JUST THREE POINTS OUT OF ADVANCING TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO HERE TO CONTINUE YOUR QUEST FOR AN UNPRECEDENTED EIGHTH CHAMPIONSHIP?
“Fortunately, I’m in a situation where I have two options left. We are only a few points out and then obviously winning can advance. I think of Chase (Elliott) and some others and the situation they are in a win looks like the only route. Happy to still have two options. We scored some decent points last weekend, although we didn’t get the finish result that we needed and wanted, but scored some stage points and we will maximize any and every opportunity we can this weekend to either win or get max points.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO THIS WEEK HERE?
“Yeah, I do feel good about getting in. I think we are all just so used to momentum and we haven’t had that extremely high positive momentum, race winning momentum on our side just yet. One thing I know about our team is when we get hot and we can get hot quick, great things can happen. It’s been a, as well all know, the summer wasn’t fun for us and as the Playoffs started we have been able to ratchet it up some and clean up some areas, but we are still searching a little bit and looking for more speed. We had a great test session in Homestead and some great thinking and ideas that were put into place for this weekend, so we are excited to get on track knowing this weekend and how fast this track is. Phoenix is very fast for as short as it is. Obviously, Homestead we feel like we’re a bit smarter and hopefully will have a bit more speed in the car.”
IF YOU ARE BEHIND DENNY HAMLIN AND CHASE ELLIOTT ON SUNDAY DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT JUST HAPPENED WITH THEM? DO YOU HAVE TO BE ANY EXTRA CAREFUL?
“Yeah, you stay aware. There is no doubt about it you don’t want to be caught up in something that you don’t need to be. But, we will just see how that evolves. Last weekend was crazy on a lot of levels. When we were coming to the checkered flag and cars are crashing and I’m off the gas, on the brakes trying not to drive underneath the back of the car in front of me and I hear cars on the rev limiter, guys just wide open trying to cross the finish line not caring what is in the way in front of them. It was a pretty crazy environment that we lived through last week in Martinsville.”
DO YOU EXPECT THE SAME CRAZY ENVIRONMENT HERE AT TEXAS? A LOT OF DISCUSSION ABOUT YOUR TEAM AND MANY YEARS YOU HAVE STRUGGLED AND THEN COME BACK AND WON. HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS FROM ANY OTHER YEAR?
“Yeah, I mean we are a victim of our own success in some regards. The expectations are high. A 20-race winless streak is considered a big thing when it’s hard to win just a race. So, there are expectations put on us and I will accept them that is fine, I have high expectations for myself, but the sport isn’t easy. It really isn’t and I think it speaks to how when a team or an organization is on like we see right now with a couple of teams how special that is. When I reflect back on what the No. 48 has been able to accomplish just how special that is. It is not easy to do. But, we are not done, no one on this team is and we are ready to get back on top and whatever work that needs to go into it we are ready. We have been trying extremely hard to get there. We just haven’t got there yet, but we will get there.”
“The speeds really kind of dictate that. I would say restarts, knowing how tough it is to pass and how narrow the groove was here in the spring restarts will be key. But after that, once we get up to speed, we just can’t do things here that you do at Martinsville.”
YOU’RE A YOUNG MAN WITH SUCCESS IN THIS SPORT, BUT AS YOU SEE YOUR PEERS START TO WALK AWAY AND TRY OTHER THINGS IN LIFE, DOES THAT EVER CROSS YOUR MIND THAT MAYBE YOU’D LIKE TO DO THAT AND MAYBE IT’S TIME TO TRY SOMETHING ELSE?
“For me, I’ve always chased an experience in the car. I’ve had curiosity watching guys like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett and when they’ve walked away and I’ve asked them questions when they were at those points in time. Obviously now, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., there’s a point in time where somebody has either set a date out there, like Rusty (who said) I’m going to stop at this point. When that time came, he wasn’t ready. He didn’t like it. So, I filed that away. Mark Martin thought he was ready a couple of times and he wasn’t. He kept coming back. Others, when that fire is out they are ready to step down and happy to walk away. So, I’m on my own journey. I still feel like I have more to accomplish and I still love being in that race car. As long as that’s there, I’ll be out here driving week in and week out.”
ARE YOU LEANING ON CHASE ELLIOTT DURING THIS PLAYOFF? THE NO. 24 HAS BEEN OUTRUNNING THE NO. 48 PRETTY CONSISTENTLY THROUGHOUT THE PLAYOFFS. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN GO TO THEM AND TAKE FROM WHAT THEY ARE DOING?
“With Alan (Gustafson) and Chad (Knaus) they do have different philosophies in how they build a car. We can look at different things and say directionally this is what they are trying to achieve and implement that into our cars. But they are not the same. It is really difficult to build cars the same and especially in the different shops like what we have, but it does give us great optimism knowing that our equipment can go that fast. We just haven’t figured out our mouse trap like we need to. They have been the mark, I think, for us to look at and say ‘alright our Hendrick Motorsports equipment can at least do that’ and we need to get there.”
CHASE ELLIOTT WILL HAVE A LOT OF UP’S AND DOWN’S IN HIS PRESUMABLY LONG NASCAR CAREER. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE AFTERMATH OF LAST WEEKEND AND THE OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT HE GOT AT THE TRACK AND HOW HE HANDLED HIMSELF?
“Yeah, I thought he handled it well. Really, really well to be honest. He has been around the sport a long time. He understands how it works. He has raced his whole life, so there is just a style and charisma and presence that he has. I think we have all noticed his maturity behind the wheel, but it does go further than that and how he handles situations like that. The guy really does have a lot of experience in a short period of time. He did a great job with it. I’ve tried to be there for him in a couple of different instances. I think at Dover how close he was to winning, last week before the cameras turned on, I was walking away from my car and saw him standing there and just tried to say a couple of quick things to him. He has reached out to me in a variety of different instances, especially this week and moving forward and what to focus on and how to look forward to going racing. So, he asks questions and I’m sure he has anybody in the world that will tell him what their opinion is, but it’s neat when he asks and I can try to frame it up from my point of view and share some experience and kind of help him grow. He has great resources with his Dad, with Jeff (Gordon), myself, Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) is there, it’s just on and on, so he handled it well and as you pointed out, he is going to be around for a long time. I can’t wait for him to get that first win and hopefully he can get back in this championship chase. It would be a shame to have it play out that he is not in that final four as a result of last weekend.”
DO YOU EVER GET BURNT OUT WITH EVERYTHING LIKE THE PRESSURE, THE TRAVEL, EVERYTHING ELSE? AND HAS MOVING TO COLORADO HELPED GIVE YOU BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE AND KIND OF GET AWAY FROM THE MESS?
“Yeah, I have always been aware of it and have chosen to not race in the Xfinity Series and not race other vehicles and to spend time with my family. I travel with Chani and it’s something we both enjoy together. To help put years on the back of my career, we have the place in New York, we have the place in Colorado…we are not there now full time. It was kind of a last winter project and it was a ton of fun, and I wish I could do it more often. We do look for those outlets just to help but this sport does take a lot out of all of us. We all live it and know it. So, yes, burnout does happen but what is neat being in the team environment that I am is that when I am feeling the wear and tear, I just look around at my teammates and Chad and all the guys to kind of lift you up and get you back going. It is a fine balance, it really is. I work harder than maybe some others do to try to build that into my lifestyle.”
WHAT DOES (CHAD) KNAUS DO WHEN HE IS BURNED OUT?
“He works harder and that doesn’t necessarily help. I have tried, and Jeff, and Rick and on and on. He just works harder and harder. And it has served me very well. It doesn’t make it easy at times, but it’s turned out alright for me.”
WITH BOTH YOU AND CHASE BELOW THE CUT LINE DOES IT WEIGH ON YOU ANYMORE TO MAKE SURE CHEVROLET DOESN’T GET SHUT OUT?
“Yeah, it’s in my mind. From a teammate perspective, Chase and Chevrolet, those things to come into mind. Of course, though, I am selfish and most worried about myself and what benefits me – which would then benefit Chevy. But yes, I want a Chevrolet in that final four without a doubt. I hadn’t thought of it until now but yes, we need one in there.”
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU ARE IN A MUST WIN SITUATION AND YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR YOUR OPPORTUNITY AT THE END OF THE RACE TO TRY AND MAKE IT HAPPEN?
“Racing has changed so much on its own a path of progression when you look at stage racing and the way we crown our champion now with one race winner take all you need to absolutely capitalize on opportunities that pop up. They could be as simple as qualifying to a restart or whatever it might be. When you retrace your steps and you look at what led to a race win, sometimes it’s one position on a pit stop that puts you in a different lane. So, it’s really hard to say there is a clear path to victory or path to success but walking that fine line and being the aggressor and taking advantage of opportunities is key. It’s more complex and there are more variables today than when I started 16 years ago. I think it makes it much more entertaining for the fans to watch, but we are all living in dog years living it day after day. It’s very stressful.”