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Jun 06, 2014 - 02:40 PM
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2014 Pocono Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Jimmie Johnson
Posted by: ASkyler on Jun 06, 2014 - 02:39 PM
NASCAR News
2014 Pocono Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Jimmie Johnson


JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed various aspects and challenges of racing at Pocono, upcoming Father’s Day, key safety issues of NSCS race cars, and more.

YOU ARE COMING OFF TWO WINS, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO THIS WEEK TO KEEP YOUR STREAK ALIVE?

"Just get on the track and try to figure out what we need around here. Last year we had some great speed in our race cars and I really think we had an opportunity for the sweep and unfortunately blew a tire off Turn 1 after having a dominant day, and taking ourselves out of that opportunity for a win. But I still think we came back for an awesome finish with a torn-up race car. It’s a new year and a new rules package, so we have to work on that today and hopefully have what we need here.

"The thing that brings a lot of optimism to our team is this is (crew chief) Chad’s (Knaus’) favorite race track. He loves the challenge here of trying to figure out how to get the car to go down those long straightaways and then through three different corners. We’re excited and are looking forward to it."

ANY SURGERIES YOU WANT TO REPORT OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT? (Laughter)

"No, I’m thinking about going to the dentist. Should I let everybody know? (laughs)

 

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YOU HAD TO ASSUME YOU’D BE IN THE CHASE EVEN BEFORE YOU WON THESE TWO RACES. BUT HOW HAS WINNING TWICE CHANGED THE PREPARATION THERE AS FAR AS TESTING OR THAT SORT OF THING. CAN YOU LOOK MORE AHEAD NOW THAN BEFORE?

"Yeah, looking ahead it does start to change things for a test plan. There’s an old testing procedure and we can select tracks just for the No. 48 to test at, it would definitely impact that. But as a group, we want all four cars in the Chase, and we need to get Kasey (Kahne) a win. That part is still kind of out there. We’re three-quarters of the way there to having a full testing plan and focus solely on the Chase. So, hopefully we can get the No. 5 car a win soon and let that go the rest of the way.

"But really it changes your strategy at some race tracks. This would be one of them. Fuel mileage is a big part of the finish of this race. Tire strategy also comes into play and we can swing for the fences here which makes that a lot of fun. And hopefully I can save gas, which I really don’t do a good job of."

JOEY LOGANO WAS AT DETROIT LIONS MINICAMP AND MADE A COMMENT THAT HE FELT LIKE NASCAR IS A SAFER SPORT THAN THE NFL. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

"I agree with that. I think that’s the case. I feel like what took place around 2000 and on and the changes that we’ve made, there are a lot of stats to show that. And then I also think from just casual injuries, I don’t even know what to really call them, but knee injuries and broken bones and things like that, we’re protected by a steel race car and it certainly helps that. Concussions are certainly an aspect of our sport that exists and something we’re all very sensitive to, but the amount of time we hit our heads versus how they hit heads every snap is different and plays into that as well."

YOU’VE SEEN THE CAR CHANGE OVER THE LAST DECADE IN TERMS OF SAFETY IN THE COCKPIT. WHAT’S MADE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE FOR YOU?

"I’d say the seat; and the seat also would include that head surround that saves us from the basal skull fracture which is what took five guys from us in that 2000 timeframe. But the seat contains the driver. It keeps your legs in line and keeps the load going through your shoulders and not through your ribs. Broken ribs were a very popular injury years back. And it didn’t take much of an impact to pop a rib or two. So, I think the seat is a big portion of it. But there’s really three, especially with the ultimate concern that we have. Seat, SAFER barrier, and Hans device. That for the big one; but for the casual injuries, I think the seat has a lot to do with that and probably the SAFER barrier."

POCONO WAS REPAVED LAST YEAR AND NOW YOU COME BACK WITH A NEWER CAR AND A NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR ALL THAT?

"I’m really just worried about a clean lap at this point. I think it will be easy to get on track and find a hole. But when someone is coming in after they’ve completed their lap, you’ve got a long distance to get around here and not a lot of room on the apron to get out of the way. So, that’s probably my biggest concern going into it. I think the new asphalt will allow us to repeat lap times and we’ll be able to have a second shot at it in the first session and potentially in the second. I think in the third outing, there’s not enough time on the clock. It’s going to be a race off pit road just to get out there and get your lap in within that five minutes."

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT PUTTING YOUR DAUGHTER IN A CAR?

"Yeah, I’m definitely entertaining quarter midgets and go karts. Genevieve has a four-wheeler. Lydia is a couple of years away from all that yet. But, in our race shop a lot of our crewmen have their kids in kid karts and driving at various places. So, I’ve considered it. I’ve been serving it up to Chani, and she’s semi-okay with it. And Genevieve is all about it. So, hopefully this summer I’ll get a chance to put her in a kart and just see how she goes. She’s been very responsible on her four-wheeler. So, now if I can find a pink go kart, I think she’s in."

YOU TOUCHED ON HOW DOMINANT YOUR CAR WAS LAST YEAR EVEN BEFORE THE FLAT TIRE. HAVE YOU SPOKEN WITH CHAD (KNAUS) YET ABOUT WHAT YOU EXPECT FROM THE CAR THIS WEEK? DO YOU THINK THAT WHAT YOU HAVE THIS WEEK IS COMPARABLE TO WHAT YOU HAD LAST YEAR? "It’s just too early to tell. We have tools that tell us where the aero platform is, what the mechanical grip will be like, but that stuff is helpful and they are tools, but it’s not the real thing. We are coming in with what we feel is the optimized race car and will have a ton of speed and put us where we were before. But until you get out there and make some laps you just don’t know."

DO YOU SENSE SOME FRUSTRATION WITH KASEY KAHNE DUE TO HIS SEASON BEING SO UP AND DOWN? SINCE HE WAS SO GOOD HERE LAST AUGUST DO YOU FEEL THIS IS A GOOD PLACE FOR HIM TO GET BACK ON TRACK? "Yeah, I do. I guess there is frustration there and I kind of put disappointment too because he has had a lot of solid runs going and whack things happen. We decided to start looking at the No. 5 set-up and morphing our car in that direction for the (Coca-Cola) 600. It turned out great for us. I know after debriefing with him he had an awesome car in Charlotte. We kind of together had a similar set-up going to Dover. I know he had another great car in Dover and circumstances kept him from having the day he wanted to. I give them credit for helping us get going at Charlotte and Dover. I know their cars are fast so it’s kind of a frustration slash disappointment they haven’t been able to capitalize. We are all working very hard together and very close with Kasey (Kahne). We were just at a test session in New Hampshire and talked in great detail about our cars and what is going on. We even considered swapping rides. Things got a little hectic in the afternoon because of some weather where it didn’t work out, but we are doing everything we can to really elevate Hendrick and then also help those guys get their win."

THIS IS THE SIXTH TIME YOU HAVE GONE FOR THREE IN A ROW SINCE YOU WON FOUR IN A ROW IN 2007. HOW HAS THAT CHALLENGE EVOLVED, CHANGED THE DIFFICULTLY? WHEN YOU LOOK BACK ARE THERE ANY OF THOSE TIMES THAT YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE HAD THAT THIRD IN A ROW? "Man, I had no clue we were in position that many times. I don’t pay attention to much I guess (laughs). I know that we have had some great runs and usually when we are hot it carries from track to track. Certainly hope we can keep it rolling. This is a great place for us and I guess one of the, no maybe it wasn’t. Was it one of them in the Chase against (Jeff) Gordon? Something in there reminds me of ’08, ’09."

THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT THE NBA BASKETBALL GAME LAST NIGHT HOW IT WAS RIDICULOUSLY WARM. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE HOTTEST TIME YOU HAVE HAD IN THE CAR? WHAT RACE THAT WAS? WHAT HAPPENED, WHY IT WAS THAT WAY, AND HOW YOU GOT THROUGH THAT RACE? "Yeah there have been plenty of moments in a Cup car with summer months. There was a race at Indy, maybe three or four years ago, something like that, and it was just brutally hot. Homestead seems to shock everybody when we get down there. I guess we have had some fall events and then you get reminded that it’s still summer down in Florida. That one usually gets you. My worst experience by far was in a GRAND-AM car. I can’t remember the year exactly, but I did the six-hour event in July with Beau Riley, and Marc Goossens was my teammate. We were in the No. 91 car. I think I qualified the car; we had practice, qualified, then Cup practice and a whole bunch going on, then a six-hour race. I got behind on hydration and didn’t keep up while I was in the car. I had an electrical problem that took out the drink system in the car. I had to pit maybe 10 minutes before it was time because I couldn’t push the brake pedal hard enough to get it stopped. I missed the chicane on the backstretch. I came to pit road. I got out of the car. Of course tried to get cooled down and have some fluids.

"But about an hour later I started cramping and I actually went into a full body cramp and was stranded inside my motorhome lying on the floor. I wish I had a picture of what I looked like. I mean I’m telling you every muscle in my body locked up. I could barely get to my phone, which was on the table. I knocked it off and then I don’t know if you have ever had a cramp, but try dialing a phone with everything like it is. (Jeff) Gordon was next door in his motorhome and I called him and he didn’t answer. When he didn’t answer I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then shortly thereafter he called back. I just started yelling at him to get over here. As he came in my bus it took him about two or three minutes to stop laughing at me. Then he got me to the Care Center, and three IV bags later I felt like myself again. That was a very tough experience for me. I didn’t cramp in the car itself; but after, it got me bad. That was a tough one. That was Daytona, July."

WITH FATHER’S DAY COMING UP NEXT WEEK DOES IT HAVE ANY MORE SPECIAL MEANING TO YOU NOW BEING A SON AND A PARENT? "For sure. I’m so thankful for everything my Dad has done and the man he raised me to be. The work ethic he poured in me, and the sacrifices he made for me growing up. He worked in construction most of the time when I was young. So if it was a rainy day I knew he would be home from work and I could expect him picking me up at lunch hour with our dirt bikes in the back of the truck and we were going riding. Just a lot of fun memories and then to have it flip and experience it and have your children look at you. Genevieve is at an age now where she gets it. She knows it’s a special day. We just went through Mother’s Day and had a total blast watching her get ready for Mom and make her a poster. She is really big into art and stuff. So she will make I’m sure a lot of posters or something on Sunday. I’m just thoroughly enjoying it."

DID YOU EVER SPEAK TO DONOVAN MCNABB AFTER HE MADE THE REMARK THAT YOU WERE NOT AN ATHLETE? "We talked on the phone shortly after and then he came out to the Auto Club Speedway race earlier this year."

WHAT DID HE SAY? WAS HE CONVINCED THAT YOU GUYS ARE ATHLETES? "On the phone he said that he didn’t single me out. And I said ‘well actually you did’. You said that I wasn’t an athlete. He said well okay and kind of got lost in the small talk after that one. Then when he was at Auto Club (Speedway) he still was very strong in his stance and believes that race car drivers are not athletes."

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