NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
BASS PRO SHOPS NRA NIGHT RACE
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 19, 2016
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 KOBALT CHEVROLET SS, met with media and discussed the season to date, leading into the Chase, the new package at the upcoming Michigan race, his expectations for the Bristol race this weekend, and more. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON THUS FAR AND YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND
“During the off-weekend, I spent a lot of much-needed time with my family. I feel like the battery is charged and ready to go for the final stretch of the regular season and then the most important part of the year for us, which is the Chase. A lot of hard work went on during the break that we had. Just judging by excitement from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and all the way through Mr. Hendrick, we’re definitely turning over some stones and are hopeful to bring a little better product to the race track week in and week out. We’ve been struggling at times, trying to produce speed and lap times of late and making mistakes in the process. We’re still rallying with some decent finishes from time to time, but then again still having some bad luck. I think Watkins Glen kind of speaks to that as well; and also self-inflicted mistakes (laughs).
“I’m looking forward to a good clean race here at Bristol, which is obviously an interesting place to have those expectations or desires. There’s usually nothing clean or simple at this race track. But if we can do that, and get through here, and close out the regular season strong; we’re gearing up. I think come Chase time in the middle of the Chase, the way things are looking back at the shop and the excitement I see in all the departments, we’re expecting a good late-season surge for Hendrick Motorsports.”
LOOKING BACK WHEN YOU RETIRE AND ARE IN YOUR ROCKING CHAIR, WILL IT BUG YOU AT ALL THAT YOU’VE NOT WON AT EVERY TRACK? IN PARTICULAR, HOMESTEAD?
“Well, it’s not over yet.”
WELL, WOULD IT BOTHER YOU?
“No, it won’t. It is not something that has been on my radar from a goal standpoint. I wanted to win a race. And when that happened, I had to start changing my goals quickly. And that was my dream from my late teens when I thought NASCAR could be a career path for me. So, I’ve exceeded all my expectations. Sure, it would be awesome to do it. If I can, it will mean a ton; just like many other things that I’ve been fortunate to accomplish, but I won’t sit in the chair and be upset over that one. No, not that.”
LOOKING AHEAD, GOING BACK TO MICHIGAN WITH THE EVEN LOWER DOWNFORCE PACKAGE, WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THAT AND THE IDEA OF GOING BACK AS OPPOSED TO TRYING IT AT ANOTHER TRACK
“It’s a tough decision that we’re in, but I’m thankful that the teams, and it’s the biggest burden on the teams, and certainly NASCAR being open-minded to trying these lower downforce packages. We’ve seen a lot of great things in the 2016 season with these lower downforce packages. It’s hard to say that Michigan is the best track to try it. From the drivers’ standpoint, we’ve asked for slower center of the corner speeds; and Michigan has the highest center of corner speeds, so to try this package there, I get it. I’m not sure it gives us exactly what we would need. I’d love to see it on a short track. I’d love to see it on a 1.5-mile before we make a decision and move on. But the truth of the matter is we don’t have that luxury, especially when we get into the Chase. We can’t take this to a Texas or even a Richmond coming up, which isn’t in the Chase, but it’s just very difficult to pull off and develop a product. But everybody is trying. So, I’m very excited about it. I think it is good to go back a second time to Michigan and let the teams have another shot at it. From my standpoint, the first Michigan, with the lower downforce, it was still Michigan. It still raced the same. It was still tough to pass. It’s been that way ever since we’ve resurfaced the race track. So, I don’t put a lot of weight in the package as the culprit there. Going back a second time with it, hopefully we refine our cars and we can race a little bit better. But, again, if I had a perfect world, we could have started the process early in the year and pick some tracks that are more common on the schedule and get a better feel for it. But, it’s just not the situation we have.”
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY BEEN IN THIS SITUATION BEFORE WHERE YOU’RE IN THE CHASE AND IT’S THE END OF THE SEASON; HOW DO YOU MANAGE THIS END PART OF THE REGULAR SEASON WHEN MAYBE THERE ARE OTHER GUYS OUT THERE WILLING TO TAKE SOME CHANCES THAT YOU MIGHT GET CAUGHT UP IN BECAUSE THEY WANT TO GET INTO THE CHASE?
“Fortunately, we’re locked into the Chase. So, if it is somebody trying to make the Chase and something happens, we would be bummed that it would affect us, but it doesn’t prevent us from getting in. Honestly, it gives us an opportunity to take chance too. We’re starting this week with a new front tire changer, so it’s nice to get some reps there. A longtime member of our team had to pick-up and unfortunately had to leave the race team to do what was right for his family and isn’t with us any longer. So, it’s going to be nice to get some reps. We’d also love to have momentum on our side from the pit stop standpoint, and from the consistency of running up front standpoint. The pressure that comes with fighting for a championship is really intense. And we feel if we’re able to put our team in that race-winning environment, it better prepares you for that. So, that’s really the goal, to close out the regular season and head into the post-season.”
IF WE DIDN’T HAVE THE CURRENT CHASE FORMAT, A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD PROBABLY BE LOOKING AT YOUR STATISTICS AND SAYING GOSH, WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO ADDRESS THEIR PROBLEMS. BUT THE KIND OF ATTITUDE FROM PEOPLE APPEARS TO BE NOW THEY’RE IN THEIR CHASE, WE’RE NOT THERE YET, AND THERE IS PLENTY OF TIME. BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU GUYS ARE NOT RESTING ON YOUR LAURELS AND ARE TRYING TO ADJUST THE THINGS BEFORE YOU GET TO THE CHASE
“Oh, for sure. I hadn’t thought of it from that standpoint if it was the old format and statistics wouldn’t be good. And I also think we wouldn’t have taken as many risks trying different set-ups and do different things that have gone on. But certainly, no matter which format it is, it hasn’t been a great year for us. We won a couple of times early and showed some early-season strength, and it’s been a tough summer. Nobody knows that more than us and we want to be better. Not only the team, but all of Hendrick Motorsports has been working really hard to get back to where we want to be. Fortunately there is time and fortunately there is the Chase format. A lot can happen before the season is up.”
HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ADDED WILLIAM BYRON THIS WEEK AND HE SAID HE GREW UP AS A JIMMIE JOHNSON FAN. HAVE YOU PAID MUCH ATTENTION TO HIM AND WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HIM?
“Yeah, I’ve definitely been paying attention to him. We live in the same neighborhood. And I can recall him Trick or Treating at my house in one of the rare opportunities we were home (laughter). I absolutely know who he is and have gotten to know him and have seen him around home. I think he’s an amazing talent with a great head on his shoulders and I’m very excited that he’s under the Hendrick umbrella now. Hopefully we can take advantage of his youth and great talent and give him a great run. I’m excited that he’s on the team.”
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO KNOW IF ANY OF THESE IMPROVEMENTS ARE WORKING CONSIDERING YOU’VE GOT TWO SHORT TRACKS, THE 2017 IN DARLINGTON WHICH I DON’T KNOW IF THAT RELATES TO ANYTHING ELSE
“Yeah, we are shooting blind a bit. I think that Michigan will help some. Yes, it is a totally different package. Darlington will be a good indication for us as to where things are at. Granted, some things change but you have some more speeds to the 1.5-miles, so I think Darlington will probably be the best gauge for us. And then obviously getting into the Chase week to week is a big part of it. We need to continue building strength from week to week.”
IF THE BOTTOM TURNS OUT TO BE THE PREFERRED LINE THIS WEEKEND, AND IT TURNS OUT THAT IT’S THE OLD BRISTOL SO TO SPEAK, DOES THE BUMP AND RUN BECOME MORE ACCEPTABLE THAN IT IS ON ANOTHER WEEKEND? ARE DRIVERS OKAY WITH THAT OR ARE YOU GOING TO GET ANNOYED IF SOMEBODY DOES THAT TO YOU?
“You’re never annoyed when you’re passing, but you’re always annoyed when it happens to you; regardless of the circumstances. I think you’re more tolerant if, it might sound crazy, but if it’s for the win….to run a 15th and get wrecked for 15th, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s an interesting question and it depends if you’re a Chase contender or if you’ve won a bunch this year, you’re probably more relaxed on it. If you’re looking at the first win of the season or an opportunity to get into the Chase and somebody dumps you or knocks you out of the way, you’re going to respond differently. And getting moved is one thing. Getting dumped is another. So, I feel like this car, the way the bumpers match up, it’s much easier to have casual contact and not crash a guy. There definitely could be some bumping and banging, but you’ve got to go to some great lengths to dump somebody. And if that happens, I think the person is going to be upset, period.”