NASCAR Media Conference
March 24, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We have our four-time defending champion with us this afternoon at Charlotte, where a NASCAR test session is ongoing, one of the main focusses being the new spoilers now being used on cars in the Sprint Cup Series. Before we go to the media, a quick comment from you just in general, how is the test proceeding from your viewpoint?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I haven't formed a large opinion yet on the spoiler, largely because the time we spent on track we've just been adjusting to a new tire and for us a new setup for this racetrack. I think the good thing is that there's nothing large or big jumping out at us saying the spoiler is a lot different. We've just been kind of working on our race car and working as if this was just a normal test and there was no change at the back of the car with a wing versus a spoiler.
We've been fighting a loose condition. We seem to have got that over the day, day and a half of testing now, and just making laps and trying to develop our equipment.
Things changed so much even from last fall even when we won here, the setup evolved pretty far since then. The tires are different. I think we're on a different tire, I could be wrong, but I thought one of our guys mentioned the tire was different. We're just going to work in a normal way as if it was a normal test.
Q. I ask this a little sarcastically but half serious, too. With your success already this year, are you taking a little fun out of this sport?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I'm having a blast.
Q. You're taking some of the drama out of this, three out of five already on top of four championships.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: What we are doing is pretty amazing, so it just depends on how everybody wants to spin it. We're working extremely hard to operate at this level. There's a lot to be proud for if you're a 48 fan, and what we're doing isn't easy. So I think it just depends on how you look at it. Hopefully people will start viewing it -- I think a lot are viewing it as something -- even if they aren't a 48 fan, pretty remarkable what we're doing, and hopefully the masses will agree.
Q. Everybody says this is such a minor change in terms of the field with the spoiler, but from your standpoint, with the way you guys seem to have things figured out, are you concerned at all about this kind of upsetting the apple cart for you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Not really worried. I think we're viewing it as an opportunity. We might not be the first team to find the magic the spoiler wants, but we're usually pretty good at finding stuff in a hurry, and then the fact that it's a new element to the car brings a few months' worth of opportunity, I think. We saw that with the wing coming along, and truthfully the competition that was really, really equal before the wing has now gone away. I mean, the start of any rule change you have your largest separation, and then as time goes on, the teams that are behind catch up. It's just part of the NASCAR garage, and a lot of it has to with the fact that our cars are so well-regulated through NASCAR, and then two, we're all parked next to one another. So just your engineer has to look next door at your neighbor's race car and say, okay, I see what we're missing.
In the short-term I think there will be some opportunities, and I think our team should be able to find some things to take advantage of.
Q. Are you the only guy or one of the few guys who's sad to see the wing go? I mean, how do you feel about that? Or do you just feel like you're so full of confidence you can win no matter what, whatever you're driving?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think that there's much to really get worked up over. In the end, wing versus the spoiler, it's still providing downforce at the back of the car. I think in traffic, the reason the wing was put on the car to start with way back when was to help the cars in traffic drive better. If you go all the way back to the first test session that Jeff Gordon was a part of, they went to a wing because you couldn't ride close to the guy in front of you with a spoiler on the back. So with that in mind, I feel I do a very, very good job.
Of working through traffic. It's just something I've always done well. Qualifying hasn't been my strong suit; I've worked very hard to get better at that. But the longer the race is and the more cars I need to pass or the more passing that needs to take place, I do a better job at that. So I'm hopeful that this will give me more opportunity in traffic to get through traffic than with the other situation.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the teammate, Dale, Jr. Have you noticed anything different with him this year, any swagger in his step or confidence any different from what you've seen in the past couple years?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can't say that I have seen much from the meetings and things that we have. I know that during the off-season there was a lot that went in behind -- inside the walls of the race shop to convert the 88 stuff over to the identical of the 5, so there I know there was a huge effort. But what I see from him day in and day out, he still gives me a hard time like he ever did and makes our debriefs and all that pretty colorful and lighthearted like he always has.
I've been saying it before; the last couple years I know the results haven't been there, but he wants this. I mean, he wants to do well, and he is applying himself. There's always a question of can you do more, can you do more, and that's what every driver fights every year, and you've got to show up each year and figure out a way to apply yourself more. But he's been there. He has the desire. It's good to see the results coming for him.
Q. My question is what goes into a season sweep at a track, in particular your performance at Dover last year? I don't know, is it familiarity? Is it momentum? Is it part luck?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We were lucky to sweep a track each year we've been in the sport. I don't know why. At times I've felt like tracks like Pocono, we've been able to do it there, even Martinsville, and Martinsville doesn't change a lot, so when you typically have something that works, it's going to last a while. Pocono is pretty close in time from the spring race to the fall race, so there's not a lot of time for the technology to change.
But then we've won at Phoenix at the start of the year and the end of the year, and there's a lot that changes during that period of time. So I don't know if there's something consistent that takes place each situation.
Dover is a fairly consistent racetrack, the concrete surface and things like that. But then we've raced on one tire in the spring and a different tire in the fall, so it kind of mixes it back up.
I don't think there is a clear-cut answer. Maybe confidence has something to do with it; when you win the spring race, you have a good starting point with your setup to come back in the fall and you're very confident about what you're feeling and the direction the car is going.
Q. Looking back at Kurt's comments on Sunday, obviously the level of dominance is I guess starting to demoralize guys. Does that give you a certain kind of satisfaction to know when it comes to crunch time you're kind of in these guys' heads?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It definitely does. To see him get out and throw stuff at his car and punch his car, it's comical. I'm glad that we're doing this to these guys. And at the same time I think it's good for our sport to see the emotion. Kurt really wanted to win that race and was really frustrated at the end.
I think it's good on all fronts. Not only do I feel that we have a small mental advantage that can be very short-lived; if we don't perform, this garage area can forget really, really fast, and it's a good quality of the garage area. If you're not delivering then move on and somebody else is the guy you need to worry about.
Right now we're in a good position. Hopefully we can maintain it, especially when the Chase comes around. I felt like last year that was a helpful tool for us.
Q. I'm just wondering if you can get it out of the way now. Are you going to win Martinsville?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Trying. I'm going to try like hell. I don't think confidence to say, yes, we are going to win it, but I'm going there, to one of my best tracks, with a lot of confidence, but can't say that; I don't have it in me.
Q. Kind of an off-the-wall question. Think back to when you were a kid. When you turned 18, where were you racing, and at that point in your career was Cup even on the horizon for you?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me, no. I was racing off-road trucks at that point in time, and just kind of came from Motocross where my goals were to be a Supercross Motocross racer. I had some opportunities to race off-road trucks, and I wanted to race against Ivan Stewart and Walker Evans and Roger Mears, and I was just kind of experiencing that and trying to figure out how to win at that point.
My career path was kind of looking at IndyCar. GM had a big presence in IndyCar at that time, and had some drivers that were going to Trans Am and then to IndyCar. So I had some meetings with team owners for a Trans Am ride, maybe a Toyota Atlantic, but NASCAR was not an option at that point, not until later on, another couple years down the road.
And also in the area I grew up, there was some short tracks, but Sprint cars, Motocross, off-road trucks, that was what everybody wanted to watch, and the IndyCars at Long Beach Grand Prix. Outside of that we didn't have a lot of stock car infiltration.
Q. Carl just said testing in groups today may be a waste of a run. Is there any benefit to getting out there in a pack today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think so. I mean, I would like to get around some other cars just to see what's going to happen. I'm not sure it really will. We typically stay away from each other on tracks like this without having the full-time spotters and everything on the truck just from a safety standpoint. Personally I would like to find out more about my car in traffic from someone close to me and how it may affect the car. It's not going to be huge, but the first race or two there might be an opportunity at some of the bigger tracks. If you understand the car before anyone else does, you can put someone in a horrible spot and take advantage of them.
Q. Given that you have wins with the wing and the spoiler at Martinsville, I mean, do you have a preference? And how much do you like going back to the spoiler at Martinsville?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Spoiler at Martinsville is a really safe move for NASCAR to debut and good get some laps on it. It won't play a role in the performance of the car at that racetrack. The entry speeds into the corners are around 115 and a long braking zone where you're going to take a lot of speed out of the car. Downforce isn't as important. I mean, it's barely on the map there. You see cars that are tore up pretty bad and survive at Martinsville.
I think it's a smart move. We can get familiar with things and check out the durability, and I don't even know what there is to check out durability-wise, but it's a great way to check out the spoiler.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Jimmie, good luck at Martinsville. Thank you.
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