MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
PLAYOFF MEDIA DAY
NASCAR HALL OF FAME
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
JIMMIE JOHNSON, #48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Playoff Media Day. Full Transcript
ARE YOU AWARE THAT IF YOU WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR YOU WILL BE THE ONLY DRIVER TO HAVE EIGHT CHAMPIONSHIPS IN CUP?
(Laughs) "I heard something about that. You know, I do think about it occasionally but the format really doesn't allow you to do so. Even last year. We had the summer slump, started the playoff and we do well with winning Charlotte and winning Martinsville. Things start rolling and momentum picks up that we didn't have six to eight weeks before and we are the champions. I am obviously hoping for more of the same but all being said, it is so tough knowing who the person is going to be. I feel that the playoff points might change that, and should change that to where if you have had a good year and you collect those playoff points that you will be one of the four in Homestead. So, we will have to see how that really plays out. This playoff format to date - nobody knows, and it takes away from over-thinking it which is really nice."
REGARDING IMPENDING RETIREMENT AT SOME POINT, DOES THAT MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT NO. 8 MORE FROM THAT STANDPOINT?
"What is on my mind is if I am going to race, I am all in. I am here for reasons of being successful. Winning races and winning championships. So, every year that I extend and have agreed to, I am all in and here for one reason. So that is more of it than thinking I might only have four chances left the way the contract lays out. It's more about knowing what I can give and how demanding the sport is. And knowing what I can sign up for and really giving it 100%."
EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE A 7-TIME CHAMPION, LAS VEGAS HAS YOU AT 7-1 ODDS AT THIS POINT, SHOULD I BET ON YOU?
"It's so unpredictable that there is no telling. I think our chances are really good and we should be in the conversation. I know we need to earn that right to go out and be a part of the conversation. So maybe there is a good bet there to be had."
IS THERE A SURPRISE COMING LIKE THERE WAS LAST YEAR?
"I hope so. But I don't want to take away from the frustration and effort that has gone into the summer. We didn't enjoy last year and we have had other summers that weren't any fun. We have worked really hard to not let it happen in 2017 but dammit it did again. So, the one thing that is after the summer is the fall and we always get hot in the fall. We are certainly hoping for more of the same."
IS THERE EVER A WAY TO TIME POSITIVE MOMENTUM IN A SEASON AND FORMAT LIKE THIS?
"The unfortunate thing about peaking is that you really don't have the ability to choose when you peak. We won early, had good speed early, and in the back of my mind I was thinking that I hoped we were not peaking too soon. Then the summer happens and then as you are in the middle of summer the silver lining is that we are going to get through this eventually and come out on top. Maybe it is good to peak early, have the summer kind of challenge you, and then peak again. There have been guys that peak prior to the playoffs consistently, but I have put a little more weight in the tracks and the lineup of the tracks than I do anything else. There's guys that get hot in the summer and guys that are not hot in the spring and fall and get the summer. We are kind of the opposite. So, I really feel like the tracks have something to do with it."
WITH THE STAGE POINTS THIS YEAR, COULD THERE BE MORE OF A PENALTY GIVEN THE STRUGGLES OF THE SUMMER THAN IN YEARS PAST?
"I really think so. Fortunately, the wins have given us a fair amount of playoff points but only one other stage win is not the way we drew it up. We know our qualifying average doesn't lead to a stage one opportunity. But we felt like with stage two we would have more than just the one in general. That is a bit disappointing for sure, but there are still ten races left and there is an opportunity to get more."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO WIN OR DO YOU THINK YOU CAN GET BY WITH CONSISTENCY TO THE END?
"I think we all look at winning as the best way to advance. Last year I made it through being consistent in the first round, and then we were able to win. I think the first round is easy, but last year was the only year in this format that I made it to the final four. And winning made that happen. So, the goal, especially deeper in the rounds, is winning. If you can win in the round with Talladega, then that makes life easier and we had that luxury last year. So nice. If there is a round that I can pick a win in, it's that one so I can take Talladega off the table and race at those three after it."
SO, HAVE YOU AND CHAD (KNAUS) DISCUSSED THE PLAYOFFS AT ALL SO FAR?
"He is a lot like me where it's our job to worry that the results speak for where the team is, how the car is performing, and how we are all performing. So, we are not proud of the last month or two and results. I do
feel like some momentum could have shifted our way. We were an oil cooler away from winning the Brickyard 400, and at Bristol we were in a great situation. I just over-drove the car and got in the wall. Based on Richmond standards, we had a damn good night in Richmond. So, there are some markers that are leading us in the right way. He, more than I am, is about the results. Its black and white for him. But the facts and the stats do show that we have a great average finish at Chicago. We know Dover is coming, Charlotte, Martinsville. So, he is aware of those things, but he is much more black and white. We haven't talked about post-season or looking back and reflecting. We will get there, we always do, and we are very thorough about how we can improve and identify places that I can improve as an individual, how our team can, what our peers think, what are our weak spots.... we will go through all of that. We will just wait till after Homestead."
DO YOU BREAKDOWN THE FINAL 10 IN SEGMENTS OR DO YOU ATTACK IT IN CERTAIN PORTIONS?
"I think it depends on the start that you get off to. The first round...being smart will serve you well. After that, winning is really important and having a great finishing average. The playoff points are really important, so I think the intensity is going to ratchet up. Everybody's focus is going to be more on winning stages and winning the race in order to advance.'
ARE THERE MORE RACES YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IN THE PLAYOFFS BASED ON YOUR PAST?
"I haven't looked at tracks we have struggled at, I actually look at tracks we are good at. I am hopeful that we can have a similar situation that we had last year. If we can win at Texas, win at Martinsville, and even win at Dover.... winning puts so much momentum in a team and to be able to win a round and take a little pressure off, put us in a really good position last year. So, I haven't necessarily looked at tracks we need to do better at, we just want to take advantage of the tracks we are good at."
REGARDING ISSUES WITH AMBULANCE RIDES TO THE INFIELD CARE CENTER:
"Yeah, I have heard about those issues and fortunately I haven't had one. They are discussed in the driver council meeting and the times where drivers have expressed their concern, NASCAR has been quick to make a change. Make sure the person is not there, and it doesn't happen again. There is a fine balance in trying to use active ER people through the checks and balances of a race weekend. Working on routes, especially routes the day of; because fences close, roads get closed, motorhomes get parked in areas, Xfinity cars leave - and there is a new access point there, so it does need to be looked at. I am not
taking anything away from it but there have definitely been experiences that I wish we didn't have along the way. Thankfully, those guys brought it up and they weren't critical situations where those precious minutes were needed. So, everybody is trying hard and that is the one good thing about the councils we have and the discussions that take place. Believe me, honesty is there in those conversations. Nobody is sugar-coating anything."
HAS THE FRUSTRATION OF BEING BEHIND THIS YEAR BEEN MORE THAN OTHERS?
"It feels very similar to last year. I don't recall statements that I made last year, but just being honest about it and being real about it. I can't remember if I mentioned it at all last year."
YOU HAVE MENTIONED IT A FEW TIMES AND YOU MENTIONED IT AGAIN LAST SATURDAY AFTER RICHMOND
"It's been frustrating. But the thing about our sport is that so much time goes into concepts and ideas that you think will work. We try a direction, you look in another direction, engineer the mousetrap to head that way, cut stuff off cars, build new components, new parts and pieces, use seven post rigs, go to the wind tunnel and try to get aero numbers, and you go through all this stuff and you try to do it in a short period of time. I have seen the effort that goes on. You try and take it to the track and it's no better. And it's like, 'wow, I am sorry guys'. That part for a while certainly wears on the system and the people involved in that. Then at the track we usually figure stuff out and when it takes us a little longer to figure it out, it is inevitable for the frustration to set in. But it doesn't stop the work and it doesn't stop Chad's desire and effort to build better cars and faster cars. It's the same for Hendrick Motorsports. Everybody is digging hard and I guess I am just being potentially more honest about my mental status of it all. But at the same time, I don't want to demean the people that are trying hard to make it better. They share in the frustration but collectively as a group we are very focused on winning the championship and being on top."
WHEN YOU DO GET BEHIND IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT DOES THE ORGANIZATION HAVE TIME TO CATCH UP ON A WEEK TO WEEK BASIS OR AT SOME POINT DO YOU SAY 'OKAY' WE ARE GOING TO AIM OUR TECHNOLOGY AND OUR NEW CAR BUILDS FOR CHICAGO?
"It's tough and I think last year, I'm vaguely remembering us stumbling on to some things and I think that was pretty unusual to find a big chunk of speed that carried over to all the tracks. The rules are so tight and they continue to get tighter and tighter every year and you have less places to work. I have mentioned it a lot of times, you are stacking pennies to find one percent here, one percent there and after five, six, seven finds you have something that will show up as a tenth of a second on the track. And that is really what our sport has come to. I feel that once we get back to tracks that I know the sensation I'm looking for and I know how to create speed at these tracks that I can help better steer our group and say 'okay this is the area we need to work on.' Some of these tracks in the summer months, they aren't my best tracks, it is easy to get lost in the process and trying to understand where the speed is. A place like Dover, is going to be great medicine for us that I can get out there and say 'okay now it makes sense to me, we need to work in this area."
HAS THE FAMILY SAID TO YOU IF YOU GET NUMBER EIGHT LET'S HANG IT UP AND GO DO SOMETHING AS A FAMILY?
"No, that conversation hasn't happened. I mean the conversation about signing for three more years did and excited and happy about that and in full support. We haven't fanaticized about the eighth and what that would bring. I look at it as a chance for nine and maybe even more. We will see where it leads us."
WHO IS THE NEXT DRIVER THAT COULD BE A MULTI-TIME CHAMPION?
"I would probably put (Kevin) Harvick first."
"Just the consistent nature that he and Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and that No. 4 car has from track to track. If it's a road course, short track, big track, superspeedway, those guys are just rock solid and they have had a challenging year this year switching manufacturers and they are still up there cranking out solid finishes week in and week out. I would start with Kevin and then I would probably put Brad (Keselowski) second."
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO BE IMMORTAL? WITH SEVEN CHAMPIONSHIPS YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN NO MATTER WHAT ELSE YOU EVER DO.
"I've never thought of that to be honest. Thanks for blowing my mind today. It's funny because you only feel as good as your last race. It's just the nature of competition. So, I guess when you are sitting in the rocking chair and you have let the dust settle and reflect back on the career that is the stuff that sticks with you and the experience that you have earned post racing. But, unfortunately, when you are competing, again, you are only as good as your last race and last few races. I haven't put myself in that immortal mindset."
DO YOU HAVE GOOD CONFIDENCE IN NASCAR THAT THEY ARE NOT GOING TO STEP DOWN AND CALL CAUTIONS THAT MAYBE THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE OR TAKE THE RACE OUT OF YOUR HANDS AS DRIVERS LIKE WHAT HAPPENED AT RICHMOND?
"I wasn't even aware of what the caution was about we were so focused on what we had going on. But, I saw a video at some point that he was in the wall for a long period of time through one of the corners. Honestly, I didn't know that was a conversation, so I don't want to sit here and just babble about it. I feel as stage racing has come along that conversation has cut way back."
WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF HAVING A TRAVELING SAFETY CREW LIKE NHRA AND INDYCAR?
"It's a conversation that we have had for years and being on the driver council it comes up literally every event that we have, gathering that we have. I'm for it on some levels and NASCAR is adamant on other levels that having a consistent ER team that deals with this day after day is the safest and best situation for us. I feel like there have been a few incidents and the one in Richmond shouldn't have happened and I think there are ways to prepare before the race, before the race weekend... even race day like at Richmond there is all morning for people to make laps and understand egress situations and how to pull that off. I feel that NASCAR is in a position and why we have a rotating team at these events is the best interest for our safety and I respect that."
--- Team Chevy ---