|Jimmie Johnson realizes his reflexes are not what they used to be.|
Jimmie Johnson met with the media At Daytona Speedway today and was asked about doing IndyCar in 2021. Clearly, he has no desire to do ay of the oval races, including the Indy 500.
‘As far as open wheel, the 500 is passed for me," said Johnson, indicating he's too old to be competitive. "And I’d say Texas and really, the ovals. I mean, the fast ovals for sure and the smaller ovals, maybe.
"I haven’t had enough conversations to figure anything out, but road course racing, for me, definitely looks like a good proposition. And, what’s opened my mind to that was driving that F-1 car a couple of years ago. I had no idea cars could do that.
"I’m like, I want to do more of that. That was really a lot of fun. So, we’ll see what this year brings and what opportunities might pop-up for ’21."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 ALLY CAMARO ZL1 1LE met with media and discussed his thoughts on what he’d like to do after 2020, practice sessions and how the new race car is performing thus far at Daytona, his teammates and the Duel races, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
THIS IS YOUR LAST FULL TIME SEASON, BUT MAYBE NOT NECESSARILY YOUR LAST DAYTONA 500. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST WHEN YOU’RE NOT RACING FULL TIME ANYMORE?
“It could be my last 500. I don’t know. I am officially retiring from 38 weekends a year at the end of the season. I do know that. But the right situation, I would certainly consider it. I know that I can’t shut off my competitive nature at the end of the year and call it good. So, I would entertain NASCAR, IndyCar, Sports Car, Off-Road, Mountain Bike, Marathon; ski racing recently with my daughter. I’ve got to race. So, I’m open to things that would be fun. Things that are on my bucket list. And, of course, if there’s an opportunity here with Hendrick Motorsports and being with Rick, I’d certainly look at that, too. Are you thinking what I’ll be doing next year at this time?"
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST? WHEN WE’RE RACING AT DOVER, ARE YOU GOING TO SIT HOME AND WATCH RACES, OR ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY?
“I want to know what it’s like to be bored. What is that? What would that look and feel like? I hope to get to the point sometime next year when I’m like bored. That’s just not me. It’s not been me. I’d probably hate it and bury myself with more work in another way. But, that’s kind of the goal is to just take a deep breath and reset and of course be with my family and of course spend time with them. But, just chill."
IT WAS A WILD TRUCK RACE LAST NIGHT. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT UNDERDOG NEAR-WIN AND WHAT HE DID LAST NIGHT?
“He drove a great race being smart throughout the event. I really liked his move off of Turn 4; and then, I assume the contact coming to the finish line, he checked-up and the other didn’t, because he seemed to have the momentum on his side in passing by and it just kind of nipped him. But, I was really impressed with his demeanor after the race. Of course it’s a huge moment that he wished was a few feet different, but his excitement and optimism and his smile said it all. It was pretty cool.
WILL YOU BE HAPPY AS HE WAS IF YOU WIN ON SUNDAY?
“Would I be happier, yes (laughter). Well, I’m going to of course say it that way, but the race to win in your final year, I mean what athlete gets to have that moment or those moments?"
AFTER TOMORROW’S RACE, IS THERE A PARTICULAR TRACK THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER THAT YOU WOULD BE LOOKING FORWARD TO IF THIS IS YOUR LAST YEAR?
“I think right away we go back to the track closest to me home town, Fontana. I’ve had a lot of race wins there and a lot of special moments. My first win. So, early in the season, we get to one of my top three that I’m looking forward to going to the most."
YOU RAN VERY WELL IN THE DUELS AND SEEM OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE DAYTONA 500
“Yeah, I feel really good about it. We’ve had great speed in our 500 car. The first experience I’ve had with the new body, and all the Chevys did, was in the Clash and didn’t have to comfort that I was looking for in the car there. Since then, we’ve been making some great change and I felt like in the closing laps of yesterday’s practice session, we really hit on what I was looking for; a great combination of speed and comfort. And, as the plate racing continues to develop, I’m not sure it’s quite tandem, but the bump-drafting, the slam-drafting that’s taking place, that’s been probably my weak spot as the week started down here. it’s turned into one of our strengths, and we’ve kept the speed in the car. So, I’m really excited about that and I’m looking forward to this next practice session and hope we do get the draft going out there. We’ve tried to exploit that area a bit more and it would be nice to have a bit more."
YOU HAVE A LOT OF FANS IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY. IN CALIFORNIA, YOU HAVE A LOT OF LATINOS FOLLOWING YOU. THEY ARE SAD BECAUSE THIS IS YOUR LAST FULL-TIME YEAR. WHAT CAN YOU TELL THEM ABOUT THIS SAD DECISION FOR LATINOS?
“Well, I appreciate them being fans and following my career. When I really count up the years, this is my 30th season as a professional race car driver. I’m very fortunate to have had such a long run. I still know that I’ll race something in the future and look forward to the fans watching that and being involved in that. After 30 years, I don’t really know any other profession or sport that you can have that long of a run. So, I’m very grateful and very thankful and hopefully in 2021 we’ll be on-track somewhere, somehow, and give the fans something to look at."
AFTER THE DUELS, WHEN ASKED ABOUT JIMMIE JOHNSON BEING BEHIND HIM AND PUSHING AND WHATNOT, WILLIAM BYRON SAID HE WAS ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED. THAT GUY IS SO GOOD. HE WAS JUST SHAKING BECAUSE HE KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO GO RIGHT THROUGH HIM TO GET TO WHERE YOU WANTED. HAVE YOU HAD A CONVERSATION WITH HIM? HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT YOU BEING BEHIND HIM WERE PRETTY COOL
“I’m done talking to him and my other teammates. They use it against me. They’re all so good! (laughter). We talked briefly in Victory Lane and he said thanks for pushing me. I said I wasn’t trying to push him, I was trying to pass your ass (laughter). So, it’s great to have the competitive spirit we do and I know that I’ve been very helpful for William and Chase (Elliott) and Alex (Bowman) and it’s something I’m proud of. Of course I wanted to win but am very happy to see the success that all three of them have had and will continue to have. But, when you speak to him outside the car, you form an opinion and then you get in the car and you realize how intense he is and how great of a job he does."
WERE YOU COGNIZANT OF THE FACT THAT HE WAS KIND OF NERVOUS ABOUT YOU BEING BEHIND HIM BECAUSE YOU’RE SO GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO?
“I wasn’t aware of that so I’m glad you let me know. I’m trying to exploit that in future races (laughter)."
A LOT HAS BEEN MADE OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS ABOUT THE 48 TEAM STRUGGLES. FROM YOUR POINT, INSIDE THE HENDRICK ORGANIZATION, SINCE THIS IS NOT THE DOMINANT TEAM IT ONCE WAS. WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE FOR YOU TO SEE WHAT THE ORGANIZATION HAS GONE THROUGH OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS NOT BEING IN THAT POSITION ANYMORE?
“I’ve been racing long enough to know that teams have their ups and downs and have been just so fortunate to be a company that’s has the highest of highs. I’ve also been very fortunate to have my timing and my crew chief’s timing, and my manufacturer’s timing and my team’s timing all kind of peak at the same point, and that’s how we won five in a row. It wasn’t any one of us just carrying or towing the line, it took us all hitting at that right spot. I think some elevation and some experience and some age helps me recognize that. I also wee where Hendrick is going. So yes, we have had a couple of lean years but I know Rick’s commitment, I know our team’s commitment, and I know the energy that’s going on inside the walls of Hendrick Motorsports and what’s happening and what’s going on. So, I really feel like in 2020 we can be back to the Hendrick that everybody is used to seeing."
I THOUGHT INDYCAR WAS OFF THE TABLE FOR YOU. HAS THAT CHANGED? AND, DO YOU EXPECT THE NEW SHORT TRACK PACKAGE THIS YEAR TO HELP YOU AND TO BE MORE COMFORTABLE FOR YOU AT THE PLACE WHERE YOU HAVE TRADITIONALLY BEEN DOMINATE LIKE DOVER & MARTINSVILLE?
‘As far as open wheel, the 500 is passed for me. And I’d say Texas and really, the ovals. I mean, the fast ovals for sure and the smaller ovals, maybe. I haven’t had enough conversations to figure anything out, but road course racing, for me, definitely looks like a good proposition. And, what’s opened my mind to that was driving that F-1 car a couple of years ago. I had no idea cars could do that. I’m like, I want to do more of that. That was really a lot of fun. So, we’ll see what this year brings and what opportunities might pop-up for ’21."
ON THE SHORT TRACK PACKAGE
“I feel like the more you need to drive the car with the right, the better I am. I’m excited to see that. And, just knowing how tough it was and how aero-dependent the cars were, even on small tracks like Martinsville, was a bummer. I’m happy to see that change and get some air dropping down back behind the lead car and helping other cars handle."
WITH ALL THESE CHAMPIONSHIPS, WHAT IS SOMETHING BEHIND THE SCENES, A SATISFYING THING, WHAT GIVES YOU THE GREATEST THRILL AND TOTAL SATISFACTION THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
“I’d say the experience with my teammates and team members. The driver gets all the glory. We all know that and see that when you work in the sport. But behind the scenes, the amount of people that work on those cars and put in the effort and really help drive technology and bring that advantage to the track, it’s mind-blowing. And then when you have your core group of road crew guys and girls and those experiences and those relationships and that bond, I guess to maybe summarize, the locker room. It’s easier for others outside of our sport to see that. That locker room is really the cool thing about it all."
THE FORD FOLKS WERE IN THE MEDIA CENTER YESTERDAY MAKING IT VERY CLEAR THAT IT’S ONE FORD. IF THEIR TEAM CAN’T WIN, A FORD HAS TO WIN. YOU WORKED A WEIRD DEAL LAST YEAR WITH TOYOTA TO HELP WITH THEIR NUMBERS. WHAT IS THEIR STATUS OR PLAN GOING INTO SUNDAY IF CHEVROLET HAS MADE ONE?
“I think all the manufacturers are kind of netting-out in the same spot. I feel we had great success early by being so unified. I think as last year went on, we were too predictable. So, being more fluid and more dynamic, whichever you want to pick, is key. And I think the Duels kind of showed that. We’re king of under the same impression that we just need a Chevy to win. Of course we want it to be ourselves, but when you have that choice to make, that option to make, I’m going to be looking for a Bowtie."
HAS THERE BEEN ANY TIME IN THE LAST TWO AND A HALF YEARS, WHEN YOU THOUGHT MAYBE RON MALEC SHOULD COME BACK? (LAUGHTER)
“No, because he’s still at the shop doing all the things that he’s done. It’s not like there has been a complete departure. And Ron has really trained Austin, who’s on the No. 88 and then Jesse, who is on our cars ultimate replacement. He kind of grew both of those guys and brought them along. And, to us, on the inside, it just seems seamless. I don’t know. His influence is still very much a part of the culture of the No. 48 and what goes on. The at-track side. I miss him. I want to see him around. But I haven’t felt like we’ve lost something when Ron took the shop job. He did a great job of training guys that came in and were ready to go."
HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF WORKING IN THE MEDIA AT ALL, POSSIBLY WITH JEFF GORDON OR DALE EARNHARDT JR.?
“It could be down the road. I feel like I still have things I want to do and accomplish behind the wheel. And when that fades I would say maybe there’s a chance. I haven’t pursued that or put much time or effort into it. But, I still have stuff I want to accomplish behind the wheel."