CHASE FOR THE NASCAR SPRINT CUP
ROUND 7 OF 10
GOODY’S FAST RELIEF 500
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
OCTOBER 28, 2016
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed if he has contemplated a seventh title, his past success at Martinsville, how he will use teammate Jeff Gordon’s past Martinsville success to help him this weekend and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WITH THE PRESSURE THE CHASE BRINGS DOES IT PROVIDE ANY SENSE OF COMFORT KNOWING YOU ARE HEADING INTO TWO RACES WHERE YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN VERY COMPETITIVE?
“I think it makes the week leading into it a little bit more relaxed. When you get here and the NASCAR timing and scoring starts you are so focused on the present that you really can’t carry much from it. We have a good notebook to pull from, but outside of that you have to live in the now. You have to live in the present. The last couple of trips here we’ve been a decent car, but not a dominate car. We are hopeful to get that turned around and clearly winning here or Texas, winning in general, makes life so much easier looking forward to the Homestead race. It’s definitely a goal, a priority for us and we are going to go out there and get everything we can this weekend.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS HERE AT MARTINSVILLE AND THE PATIENCE IT TAKES TO RUN THIS RACE:
“There definitely is a rhythm to this racetrack. One for qualifying to put up a fast lap then you get into the race itself and have the short run and then the long run. To manage all of those things is tough. It’s a challenge that outside of the first two trips I came here I have been able to hit on things and make work. I’ve told this story many times, but it literally took me being lapped by Tony Stewart to figure out how to drive this place. Once that happened, things took off and went far better for me. There is just a certain rhythm to this place and it’s still Martinsville even though we have different generations of cars and aero balances on the cars, it’s still slow in the corner, which mechanical grip is key. When you hit on something here it usually lasts a long time because it’s a track that requires mechanical grip and not aero grip.”
WHEN YOU MEET WITH JEFF GORDON THIS WEEKEND DO YOU THINK IT REALLY WILL BE HIS LAST CUP RACE? WHEN YOU TALK TO HIM ARE YOU GOING TO ASK HIM ABOUT WHAT MADE HIM GOOD AT MARTINSVILLE LAST YEAR OR HIS EXPERIENCE LAST WEEK AT THE F1 RACE?
“It’s all about this week for me. I will certainly catch up with him on the F1 experience, but with him being in the No. 88 car being in the same shop, same equipment, Jeff has always been a resource, but here this weekend is even more of a resource for me than really any other time I’ve raced against him. The No. 24 left that shop we shared a few years back. Granted the notebook is always there, but the way the cars are built are just different. Now we are virtually in identical cars. That is going to be a first time in a long time that we have had that situation. I look at really pulling off of Jeff this weekend and using him to make my car better to work on my techniques in the racecar and hopefully get the best performance out of myself this weekend.”
DO YOU THINK THIS WILL BE HIS LAST CUP RACE?
“That is so hard to say. He is one heck of a sub to have sitting on the bench when you need it. We will see. I’m not sure he is ready to completely stop. I think he was ready to get off the merry-go-round of 39 races a year, but the full stop I don’t think he is ready for.”
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A CAR THAT WAS NOT GOOD AT ALL HERE? IF YOU HAVE A CAR THAT IS NOT FAST OFF THE TRUCK, IS A SHORT-TRACK OR MARTINSVILLE HARDER TO DIAL ONE IN HERE THAN AT A 1.5-MILE?
“The big challenge at Martinsville to dial yourself in, the tire wear is so high on Friday and Saturday because we don’t run long enough to really put the rubber down. Of late it’s been kind of cool and crisp and that also prevents the tire from laying down. This weekend should be good though. Hopefully, at least by tomorrow in race practice we can get some rubber down, have tire life going the right way and be able to really adjust the car for what we will see in the race. With that in mind, yeah, we have had plenty of cars that I didn’t like driving here. Especially, on a green surface, but for whatever reason when things rubber up, if it’s me or the car, a little bit of both we usually seem to find our way.”
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT THE UNCERTAINTY OF MARTINSVILLE?
“Yeah, you do a little bit. I would say restarts are probably the biggest concern. Once you get rolling and get a couple of laps things you can see it building and we are fortunately going slow enough with really good brakes on the car that you can miss most things. I have had some trouble with the accordion effect on a restart maybe for a second lap something happens people check-up and by the time it gets to you five, six, seven cars back it’s like on the interstate and you just plow into the guy in front of you and cause some damage then. I think once we get moving and get to three to five laps into a run it’s much easier to control your destiny.”
HAVE YOU ALLOWED YOURSELF TO THINK AHEAD TO POSSIBLY THE SEVENTH TITLE AND ADDING YOUR NAME TO THE LIST WITH DALE EARNHARDT, SR. AND RICHARD PETTY?
“Gosh, this Chase has such a different feeling than Chase’s I’ve won in the past. I still feel like I have this massive hurdle to get over to get into the Final Four. With that in mind I have not gone there. My chances are a lot better than they were three weeks ago for sure, but this format just requires such a different mindset and a different way to make it to the Final Four to even have a shot at the championship. Not yet.”
WHAT ADVANTAGES SPECIFICALLY WOULD A WIN HERE GIVE YOU FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
“I guess just the obvious of the pressure being off. It’s been a long year and you can probably debate this point. Some depending on how the year has gone and the Chase has gone could use the pressure of the Chase to clean things up and to keep pressure on pit stops and on the driver and on pit calls and all of that. I would say the majority, it’s been a long year and to be able to punch your ticket early, charge the batteries, just focus solely on Homestead moving forward I would think for most teams that would be a pretty good advantage for them.”
YOU SAID YOU HAD A MASSIVE HURDLE IN FRONT OF YOU TO GET TO THE FINAL FOUR, BUT MOST PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE ALREADY IN THAT GROUP. WHY DO YOU FEEL THERE IS A MASSIVE HURDLE?
“There is a reason we run the race, and a reason you have to play the game. Stats are cool, but they don’t mean what is going to happen in the future. When I look at that comment and the reason I made it, I think the best example is me last year going to Dover with 27 points up thinking I would easily transfer out of the 16 in to the Round of 12, and a $5 part breaks. You just cannot take anything for granted. Sure they are great tracks, sure we expect to be competitive, but if you have a bad race at one of the three, and you don’t win, you aren’t going to make it. You need to have three clean ones or win. Three top-3s or three top fives to advance with points I believe. It’s no layup by any means. The biggest reason why it is different is at this point there would be two or three cars you would have to worry about, and the Chases that I have won the way the format was. Now there are eight guys on the table, and then it goes down to four with equal points at Homestead. You can’t build a feeling or pick a favorite. It is fun to do, and it creates conversation, but it is impossible to truly pick a favorite at this point.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE LIGHTS THAT ARE COMING TO MARTINSVILLE?
“One and one half-mile tracks lights seem to be a bit of a problem from the quality of racing. The temperatures go down; the preferred lane is on the bottom. I’m not sure it is the best for the type of racing our fans want to see. On a short track, especially here, I don’t think that is going to make a big difference. I think it is going to be very cool to have it. Certainly opens up the window if we have any weather, we can get the race in and things like that. So glowing brakes rotors here we come.”
HOW WILL THE EXPECTED HIGHER TEMPERATURES SUNDAY CHANGE YOUR RACE STRATEGY?
“I really feel the black we see on the race track. When it is cool, the rubber doesn’t get hot enough, I guess maybe the surface of the track isn’t hot enough so the hot rubber won’t kind of smear into it. It just balls up and the track stays very clean and light gray in color. I think with the heat, we will definitely see the right side tires laying rubber and the rubber sticking to the road and creating different lines. Under caution I’m sure we will pick it up, but once we get 20, 30 laps into a run, the drivers will have to change their lines. I think it will potentially bring the second lane in and I think put on a better show. It won’t be as easy to complete a lap here. You will have to work harder for it.”
AS ONE OF THE ELDER STATESMEN OF THE SPORT, WOULD YOU AGREE WITH JEFF GORDON THAT MARTINSVILLE IS THE ONE TRACK WHERE THE TRACK AND THE RACING HAS CHANGED THE LEAST OVER THE YEARS?
“I would definitely agree with Jeff’s comments largely because y our success here is created from mechanical grip and not aerodynamic grip or aero grip. That is a big difference in the way that the cars evolve over the course of a year. Your mechanical grip doesn’t change a lot so when you hit on something here it lasts a long time.”
WHAT DOES THE HISTORY OF NASCAR MEAN TO YOU AND WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THE FANS WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF NASCAR? HAS THERE BEEN A MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER THAT YOU MET OR SAW SOMETHING HISTORIC?
“For me, it was really a different journey. I grew up racing in the dirt, and all of my heroes were motocross guys and then off road legends. Then some IndyCar stuff. There were some off road drivers that made it to IndyCar. I didn’t know much about NASCAR until somewhere in the mid-80s I went to Riverside Raceway with my Dad and watch. I remember seeing Richard Petty’s car go by. I remember my Dad pointing out this car owner that would driver as well in the No. 25 Folgers car. Now I am employed by him, which is wild. But I was so young and was handing on the fence and wandering around. NASCAR wasn’t on the West coast often so I was pretty detached. One of the first races I went and watched and was trying to talk to team owners was in Darlington mid-90s I guess. Something like that. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I had been to plenty of IndyCar races; seen plenty of sports car races, but to see an oval – that oval – and tight competition. Visually I could see cars dead sideways in the corners. I thought ‘Man this is for me. This is what I need to be doing.’ Fortunately things led that way. With Chevrolet’s help king of pushing me in that direction, I got my stock car career going. I guess the trip to Darlington was what really sold me on wanting to be in these race cars.”
YOU MENTIONED GLOWING BRAKE ROTORS WE WOULD SEE HERE AT NOT, ARE BRAKES STILL A BIG FACTOR HERE AT MARTINSVILLE? DO YOU SEE A DIFFERENCE FROM 43 CARS DOWN TO 40 CARS?
“I don’t think the reduction has been noticeable. I think there are more qualify cars on track and it certainly changes the payout for the charter system so it is good for the owners and good for the teams. I think it has been a good change.
“Brakes are still big part of your success here. I would say it has changed it is not so much are you going to have a brake failure or blow a tire from over using the brakes. Sure that stuff can happen, but the chances of it are really low. The more you use the brakes, the more you are overheating the front tires. So the more temperature that goes into the front tires, the more the tire inflates, the more abusive you are on the tires and the car won’t turn as well in the corners. Brakes are still a big part of what we do here and it is still directionally the same thing. The less brake you use here, the faster you are going to go. But it is due to preserving the tires and putting less heat and tire pressure in the tires then having a failure.”