Volume III, Issue 5, Page 24


05/15/08

ace car drivers are not known for openly discussing their problems. They’d sooner sit through a triple root canal than answer why they are in a slump. But two-time NASCAR Champion, Jimmie Johnson is part of a new breed of race driver. Johnson has never backed away from any tough questions and in this interview, they get pretty tough. And no, he doesn’t blink.

: Why do you think Hendrick and Chevy have not been as dominant as last year?
JJ: It's the fact that the Car of Tomorrow has been run on all the race tracks. If you look at a lot of my victories last year, at the start of the season they were on the 1.5-mile and two-mile tracks and that was with the old style car and we've just been working hard to understand what this car needs on the big tracks. My teammates have gotten off to a little better start than I did, then I came on at Texas and ran well. I think our short track program has been on par. Bristol, I was more competitive than I have ever been.  Martinsville, Jeff and I were up front and very competitive, so short track stuff has been right. We're just trying to develop the bigger track stuff.

: With the season being four months old, has the pressure started to build as Hendricks Motorsports has only one win so far?
JJ: It does build, but last year when we were experiencing all the great success that is the first time I have ever been a part of something like that and won that many races in a season. It is the first time it has ever been done, to have one team win 50 percent of the races. We knew we had something special last year, we really did. We are thankful it happened and we really enjoyed it. We hope to get back to that point, but the competition in this sport is so tough. The drivers, crew chiefs and other team owners that are out there, they didn’t enjoy last year. They didn’t enjoy us winning so much and they have put themselves in position. I think we are still in the hunt on the short tracks and that is where we won so much with the COT last year. I won a lot of races on those. Then we had the old car figured out so well on the big tracks, we had a great mixture of things. This year we have been a little behind on the big tracks, but I think we are making a little progress there right now. This test session has gone well, our second place at Texas really showed us inside the team that we are making the right decisions and going down the right road to make the cars more comfortable and faster. We will just keep plugging along, there is a lot of racing left. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed. Look at Junior last week, Jeff has been in the hunt several times. We hate that we haven’t capitalized on those opportunities and things have popped up, but this is big time auto racing and stuff happens.

: How you handle your disappointment when you have a car that was so dominant last year and you feel like you should have won a race and didn’t?
JJ: A lot of it depends on how I lost the race. I don’t know if he (Denny Hamlin) had contact that caused the tire go down or what exactly went on. I usually want more time if I am mad at myself, I just get away from the track, get away from everyone else and have a little me time. Racing is racing and stuff happens and I know that he is extremely disappointed at not winning at his home track after dominating like that. For myself, if it is something I can’t control, I try not to dwell on it too long. Everybody can use a little time immediately after the race, but I usually get over it pretty quick.

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