Media Tour Tuesday - Chevy Notes

Austin Dillon

(CHARLOTTE, NC – JAN 23, 2018 – RIS) NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Day Two Quotes
Here are the Chevy manufacturer and track notes and quotes from today's interviews and meetings.


AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 DOW CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte media tour and discussed his outlook for the season, the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, and the two-car team at RCR. Full transcript:

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN THIS YEAR TO BUILD ON WHAT YOU WERE ABLE TO DO LAST YEAR? “I think you need to see us consistently running in the top five and top 10 more often. We hovered from about eighth to 14th all year long. I felt like we were able to win a race last year, but to be able to have shots to win races consistently we need to move that little group of cars forward. When you’re running from the fourth to the eighth position, you have a lot more opportunities to win. That top five area is key. So consistently would like to run further forward. You put yourself in that position enough, you get good at it and you’re comfortable running in it.”

YOU HAVE A SMALLER, LEANER RCR THIS YEAR. IS THAT GOOD OR BAD? “That was something I was really excited about in the off-season, when we decided going to a little bit smaller organization. We did add the Petty organization to the group, so that was a good hit to bring in another driver. That’s what I was most excited about – to have another driver to look and see what he does with the throttle pedal and the brake. So bringing a little bit of different perspectives into the group is good for me as a driver, so I can learn more. As RCR as an organization, I see a lot of two-car teams being successful. I’m really positive about that. It’s nice to be able to focus on two cars, and our crew chiefs are best friends. They’ll be working hard and they want to put RCR where it needs to be, and that’s winning championships.”

DO YOU HAVE THE DEPTH THAT YOU NEED? “I think we grew stronger in areas that we needed to grow and that was in engineering. It is leaner and meaner, but as far as the depth in the places you need it’s probably better – as far as the speed factory goes.”

WAS THERE A LOT OF UNCERTAINTY IN THE SHOP IN THE OFF-SEASON ABOUT WHETHER THERE WOULD BE TWO TEAMS OR THREE TEAMS, AND HOW THINGS WERE GOING TO GO? “There are still opportunities out there that you’re trying to fill a third team, and you’re always looking for it. But I personally wanted to go into this season prepared with RCR and being a two-car team makes us the most prepared I think we can be going into next season.

HOW REALISTIC IS IT GOING TO BE TO RUN IN THE TOP FIVE CONSISTENTLY? “I think it’s realistic. I’m really excited about the Camaro ZL1. It’s an awesome-looking race car. Some of that speed that we were missing last year I hope we gain this year, as far as the body goes. It catches us up and puts us in a better position to be able to compete.”

ARE YOU LOOKING TO MAKE THE PLAYOFF? “Always. I’ve been there the last two years, so I just want to keep knocking it down.”

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE TESTING THEY’VE DONE WITH THE NEW CAR? “I don’t know how the test went at Texas, but as far as the wind tunnel goes there are definitely differences between the SS and the ZL1. There is an adjustment period in trying to figure out where you want to be when you get to Atlanta – the first mile and a half.”

HOW ARE YOU FEELING GOING INTO DAYTONA? “I’m always excited. The Camaro ZL1, I think is going to be strong when we get to the speedways. I’m optimistic about Daytona; you always are. You never know until you get there. ECR engines have been good in the past at speedways.”

CAN YOU TAKE SOMETHING DEVELOPMENT-WISE FROM THE CAR LAST YEAR TO THE NEW CAR? “Totally different body, so it’s hard to take anything we’ve learned from the SS over all the years to the ZL1. That’s what our learning curve is going to be. We hope we come out of the box strong. That’ our plan. All the teams from Chevrolet are working hard together. The teams are working together more than they ever have, and that is going to push us further than not working together. I think each team has tackled a different part of this new car and it’s been a good thing.”

WHAT’S IT GOING TO BE LIKE WITHOUT DALE JR. NOT ON THE TRACK? “I’m not sure; it will be interesting. I feel like our sport is a big sport, and to have him at the track either way – he’s going to be there in some form or fashion – the excitement is always going to be there from a Dale Jr. standpoint. Adding another driver’s opinion (to the TV broadcast), when you can see what is going to happen before it happens, I think the fans will really enjoy that.”

HAS ANYONE SHARED WHAT CHASE (ELLIOTT) LEARNED IN TEXAS? “All I know is it was a solid test and he was excited about the car. That’s all I really got out of it.”

HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE NEW CAR? “I have not, no. I sat in one. No laps. Daytona will be the first time I really get into it. It will be nice to see what kind of speed it has there, but Atlanta will be the real first test.”

IS THIS A REBUILDING YEAR AT RCR? “I don’t know if it’s a rebuilding year. I hope we can build on what we had last year more than anything. We’re getting more resources than we’ve ever had for a full year for two teams. Three teams you get spread thin at times. Now we have the people that we want around us.”

DOES HAVING SO MANY SMART ENGINEERS AND PEOPLE HELP YOU GUYS AT RCR? “I love having our technical partners at RCR. I think there’s a key to having those guys and getting information from them and they get information from us. Always good for me as a driver to see somebody else’s data. I was really cool yesterday having the King (Richard Petty) in the room meeting with all of us, and my grandfather. Seeing those two iconic brands standing together makes it special. I’m sure Chevrolet is excited about that, too.”

ARE YOU CLOSE FRIENDS WITH BUBBA WALLACE? “Me and Bubba have been playing basketball a lot together. I grew up racing with him. I’ve watched him race since Legends cars and raced against him. He’s a fierce competitor; I love that about him I’m glad he’s on our side. We’ll go, work hard and see what we can do as a team. I think there’s going to be something cool if we can put the 43 and the 3 car together. There will be some cool pictures and talk about those iconic brands and being under one umbrella.”

ARE THERE ANY PLANS TO GET BACK INTO A LATE MODEL OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT THIS YEAR? “I’ve talked about it and brought it up a couple of times. I want to, obviously. It’s just finding the time and the right place to do it. Maybe I will, but I’m just really focused on the Cup series more this year. I have less Xfinity races this year. That’s not to say I’m doing a lot of them – a lot compared to most. I’m just excited to be focused on the 3 Cup car and what we can do as a team to advance. We want to be in the final four this year; that’s out goal.”

THAT’S QUITE A WEDDING BAND YOU HAVE. IS THERE SOME SIGNIFICANCE TO IT? “I think my wife likes bling, so she just wants everyone to know I’m married. You can see it from a long way away. It is kind of my style; I’m out there on a lot of things.”

IS IT ANY DIFFERENT BEING MARRIED? “No; it’s been good. We enjoy a lot of the same things, so it’s fun.”

ARE THERE PEOPLE FROM YOUR TEAM WORKING AT PETTY MOTORSPORTS? “I think some people have moved from RCR to Petty. Not a whole lot. I think we’re providing a pit crew, so some of the guys are over there. They’ve brought most of their guys to the shop. There are guys in and out. It’s going to be a good partnership.”

WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY/AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte media tour and discussed his outlook for his inaugural Cup season with Hendrick Motorsports, the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the challenges he faces. Full transcript:

WILL THIS YEAR BE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE 24 CAR? “It’s definitely going to be a big challenge. There are a lot of new things that I have to think about and approach differently, but I think this year is going to be a really good year for us. We have a great team, and I feel like everyone at Hendrick is ready to get to the racetrack. There’s a lot of excitement and new things that we’re approaching.”

WITH ALL THE SUCCESS IN YOUR CAREER, WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU WERE BEING NOTICED BY THE BIG TEAMS? “Really, when I was 16 years old, getting the call from Dale Jr.’s team and going to meet with them was probably my first big break. After that, I got the chance to go back to there with JRM when I was 18 or 19 years old and I got the chance to race for them in the Xfinity Series.”

A LOT OF OLDER GUYS ARE UPSET THAT YOU AND THE OTHER YOUNG GUYS ARE GETTING ALL THE COVERAGE. IS THAT GOING TO BE AN ISSUE, AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? “I think it’s all relative. When new guys come in and it’s a kind of fresh thing to talk about, but we’re ultimately going to have to prove ourselves on the racetrack and do the things that we’re capable of. I think that’s going to show over time, and hopefully a couple of us young guys can win some more races.”

YOU’VE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THE CHEVROLET DRIVER SIMULATION PROGRAM IN THE OFF-SEASON. HOW HAS THAT HELPED YOU? “It’s helped a lot. I feel like they’ve made tremendous gains on it from when it first started a couple of years ago to where it is now. I think it’s improved drastically. Chevy is always working on that, and the new Chevy Camaro ZL1 is an awesome race car. It looks so cool on the track, and it really compares well with the street car. I’m looking forward to all the exciting things Chevy has us doing and has in store for us, and I think we’re going to be strong this year.”

WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE FOR YOU FROM THIS OFF-SEASON COMPARED TO LAST OFF-SEASON? “There have been a lot of new things. This year more than ever. Learning a new system at Hendrick and learning how to go around that organization, handling 650 employees and having all those people work to make your race cars better is a lot different than in the past when there were 100 or 150. I think that’s going to be the biggest thing that I learn from, and hopefully just try to be a leader of that group and try to lead our 24 team to success.”

HAVE YOU TALKED WITH JEFF GORDON? “I’ve talked to Jeff in the off-season. He calls me every now and then, which is cool. He’s just invested in our team and wants to see us succeed and wants the whole company to be back stronger. I think there’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that we’re trying to make ourselves better not only on the physical side but with the race car. There are a lot of new approaches that are going on and I think that’s all exciting stuff for us.”

DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE TO GO OUT THERE AND PERFORM AND BE THE NEXT FACE OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF THE SPORT? “Not really. It’s not anything for us; we’re always trying to progress through and advance through the system and try to get to this level. This is really a dream come true to be part of the Cup series and be with a great race team that has a chance to win. I think, for us, we’re going to try to win races. We have all the resources and tools to do that and we’re trying to focus those in the right areas to make sure we’re ready for the season.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU LEARNED IN THE SUMMER SHOOTOUT AND WHAT’S IT GOING TO MEAN TO YOU TO COME BACK TO RACE AT CHARLOTTE IN A CUP CAR? “Well, Charlotte has always been special to me. You go there as a fan first, and as a kid you’re up there watching guys that I’m racing against now. So that’s a lot different. But I would say the Summer Shootout has taught me to be aggressive. It’s short-track racing and it was really my start. I think you always hold onto those relationships you build the with the people and the philosophy and mentality you have to races those cars is very similar to how you have to race the Cup cars.”

YOU STARTED AT CHARLOTTE IN A LEGEND CAR AND NOW YOU’LL BE COMING BACK IN A CUP CAR. ARE YOU SURPRISED IT’S BEEN SUCH A METEORIC RISE THERE? “It is surprising, but also I want to have more success at Charlotte. I’ve been there a couple of times in the Xfinity Series and truck series, and hopefully we can win there. I think it would be one of the biggest wins of my career to be able to win at my home track and have the 24 car back in Victory Lane there. Hendrick is just down the road from Charlotte and you always pass by there, and it makes you think about racing season and winning there.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR CREW CHIEF? “He has a lot of experience. He’s been with a lot of different drivers and has won with every one of them. You don’t find people like that very often, and I feel like he’s an asset to our organization. He’s won a championship in the Cup series with Tony Stewart and they went on an incredible run, and I feel like we’re both most comfortable when we’re working around the racetrack and working in that environment. I think the combination of the two of us is going to make for good calls and aggressive decisions. I feel he’s pretty aggressive with how he approaches the weekend, and you want somebody like that.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY STRATEGY TO GET SOME DALE JR. FANS TO GET BEHIND YOU? “I think results show for themselves. I think if you can produce results people are going to start looking at you as a person, and that personality is going to develop and grow as you get in more situations. The biggest thing I’m going to do is try to produce results, and if that gets more fans and more excitement around the 24, then that’s all good. Jeff also is kind of working behind the scenes to transition those fans over to our car, and I think that hopefully they can find their excitement and joy at the racetrack in watching us succeed.”

WHAT HAS CHASE (ELLIOTT) TOLD YOU ABOUT THE CAMARO TIRE TEST? “He hasn’t told me much. It’s always tough to tell at a tire test. You’re always going through different combinations and stuff. I know the car drove well and I get a chance to drive it next week at Vegas so I’ll see for myself. It looks really good and the guys are putting a lot of effort into it. I’ve never seen so many people work this hard to put the best car on the track, so I know that’s going to equal results.”

HAS IT SET IN THAT NOT ONLY YOU’RE DRIVING THE 24, BUT THAT YOU COULD BECOME THE ONLY GUY BESIDES JEFF GORDON TO WIN IN THE CUP SERIES WITH THAT NUMBER? “It’s a really opportunity that I have to do that. Jeff has won 93 races and I get a chance to add to that legacy with the same team and everything. That part is something you look forward to, and when you have guys like Jeff or Jimmie (Johnson) behind the scenes helping you become a better driver, you can’t ask for much more as a rookie. I think I have all the chances to do it and I have all the resources I need.”

WHAT HAVE YOU TRIED TO SOAK UP FROM JEFF AND JIMMIE ALREADY? “Jimmie approaches the sport so differently and his work ethic is something I can try to emulate. He is always looking at ways to be better. I want to do the same.”

HAVE YOU GIVEN HIM A HARD TIME ABOUT HOW MUCH OLDER HE IS THAN YOU? “He is kind of the grandpa of the organization, but it is awesome to have a seven-time champion as your teammate and have a person like him to lean on. That is really special. I think he’s going to take us to school a few times, but we’re going to hopefully learn from it and be better.”


“The best thing I can do is be myself and try to show what I can do on the track. If we can continue to make it exciting on the track, I think that, as a younger guy in the sport, I just want to make it exciting on the track and have fun races. I think social media has been a part of the growth of the younger guys and it’s normal for us to do it. It’s transitioning to where people are watching updates on their phone or getting updates on Twitter, so you have to make sure you get your reaction out there about what you thought about the race and how it went for you. It’s more normal for me to be on my phone. You meet a lot of fans on social media that are passionate about your team, and that’s what makes it cool. You have that connection.”

WHAT YEAR ARE YOU AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY? “I’m a sophomore right now. I’m studying business communication. I started back my classes a couple of weeks ago, and I’m taking that with racing so it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. It’s been working out pretty well so far. The university (logo) will be on our car for 12 races this year.”

IT SEEMS LIKE EVERY CAR YOU GET INTO YOU’RE A NATURAL. HAS THERE BEEN A POINT IN YOUR CAREER WHEN YOU WERE STRUGGLING? WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO THIS YEAR TO NOT HAVE THE SAME SORT OF STRUGGLE IN A CUP CAR? “I think I struggled more with handling the relationships more early on, how to handle new crew chiefs. I had some guys who were old school in Late Models that I had to learn how to adapt to their style. My crew chief this year is really open-minded, so I think that is going to be beneficial for me. And he’s worked with established guys who know what racing these cars is about, so I think I’m going to lean on him to show me how those guys prepared during the week.”

HAS THE DRIVING SIDE BEEN SEAMLESS? “I think so. I think there are challenges with racetracks. It’s been one of those things that has been natural and be in the car. The unnatural part has been working with a guy to get the best out of your race car. You do have to trust your instincts when you’re in the race car. You just have to go and not think about it. You just not to think about it.”

IS THERE ANYONE YOU’RE ESPECIALLY EXCITED TO BE GOING UP AGAINST? “Definitely excited to racing guys like Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Those are guys that I definitely didn’t dream about racing against. I would say Kyle (Busch) as well. He’s been a guy I’ve raced against here and there in Late Models and stuff like that, but never really toe to toe or fender to fender. I think that’s going to really be a guy I look forward to racing against.”

DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE STARTED A FEW RACES LAST YEAR? “I some ways, but starting fresh like this doesn’t give me any idea of what it’s going to be like. That can be really good or really bad. I just get to go in there and have a team that’s established. If you run part-time, it’s not the same. Not everyone is invested in it like they are if you’re going out there full time.”

ANY XFINITY OR CAMPING WORLD RACES? “I’ll have to see what they tell me to do. Right now, I’m just focused on the Cup series. Probably try to do some of the road courses and try to make myself better there.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ROVAL? “I think it’s exciting. I really don’t know what to expect. I’m glad they took that last bit out of it because I felt like that was going to be really hard to make work. It looks good. The chicanes on the front and backstretch look like they’ll be good passing zones. If you can just keep your car in one piece at the end you’ll have a shot.”

WHAT’S YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK GOING TO BE? “I have a good people at Hendrick to help me. They’ve been through this before. Hopefully, I can lean on that and be prepared. Mostly, I’ll be alone and managing my schedule.”

HOW NERVOUS ARE YOU ABOUT THE START OF THE YEAR? “I’m just looking forward to the new challenges I have. All the newness is something that I look forward to.”

ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Charlotte Media Tour and discussed his adventures at the Chili Bowl, the pressure he is feeling going into 2018, keeping JR Nation happy and many more topics. Full Transcript:

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAR AT THE CHILI BOWL? “So, we fought fuel system issues all day on Thursday and then Saturday we were going through alphabet soup there and somehow the shift linkage bracket on the chassis side bent and it wouldn’t stay in gear in the B-main. I don’t know if the in out box in rear-end broke or if the bracket bent first, but either way it wouldn’t stay in gear.”

ARE YOU FEELING ANY PRESSURE? “Not really. I have a pretty strong desire to go win races and I’m really hungry for wins. I think that really matters more to me than any pressure anybody is going to put on me.”

WHAT ABOUT THE COMPARISONS TO DALE, JR.? DID YOU GET OVER THAT A LONG TIME AGO WHEN YOU SUBBED FOR HIM? “Yeah, I just try to go have fun and enjoy every situation and every opportunity I am given, the most I can. I’m just going to enjoy it, have the most fun I can and not really let any of that get to me.”

DO YOU THINK MAYBE BEING MORE REFRESHED THAN SOME OF THESE OTHER DRIVERS WILL BE AN ADVANTAGE? “Yeah, I think so. Obviously, I know how long this crazy long schedule is. I didn’t have too bad of a schedule last year. Probably worked a lot during the week more than some of the other guys in the (Chevrolet) simulator and everything, but had a lot of weekend’s off and really enjoyed myself. So, I guess I’m probably a little fresher, but it’s been a good off season, so I think that helps as well.”

WOULD YOU CALL THIS THE PAY OFF FINALLY FOR ALL THE PATIENCE AND ALL THE PERSISTENCE THAT YOU HAD JUST WAITING FOR THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY TO COME ALONG? “Yeah, I think so. I’m glad that it all worked out this way. I could have easily gone a different direction. Very thankful for how things have gone. Hopefully, we will see a big payoff with race wins and contending for a championship.”

WAS THE XFINITY WIN AT CHARLOTTE LAST YEAR A PRECURSOR IN YOUR MIND OF WHAT’S TO COME? HOW GOOD DID IT FEEL TO JUMP RIGHT BACK IN THE CAR AND GET A VICTORY? “Yeah, absolutely. There were a lot of questions in my mind of whether I would be fast off the bat or ready to get back in a car and all that. So, very encouraging to be out of a car for seven months and then right off the bat get a win. I think it just proves that I can come out of the box strong and gave me a lot of confidence this off season.”

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT HOW THE OLDER MORE ESTABLISHED DRIVERS ARE FADING OUT AND THERE IS A NEW WAVE OF YOUNG GUYS COMING IN. DO YOU VIEW THIS AS ONE OF THOSE YOUNG GUYS IN A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO GRAB NOT ONLY YOUR SPOT IN THE SPORT, BUT WITH FANS AND STUFF LIKE THAT? “Yeah, absolutely, there are a lot of fans looking for a new guy and hopefully I can be a guy that people want to cheer for. Obviously, the No. 88 has a larger following and I’m going to do my best to keep JR Nation happy and keep that No. 88 car up front. That is what they hired me to do. I’m a regular, down to earth guy and I feel like I’m pretty relatable to a lot of the average NASCAR fans. I work on a lot of street car and race car stuff myself. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and I’m very appreciative of this opportunity. So, hopefully they can kind of relate to me and become fans.”

DID YOU PLAY ANY ROLE IN INTERACTING AND KEEPING SOME OF THOSE FANS? DID HE OFFER ANY ADVICE? “I hope so. He has been really helpful and really influential so obviously what he says carries a lot of weight with his fan base. Hopefully, we can make him proud and make all of them proud as well.”

DO YOU SEE SOME PARALLELS BETWEEN YOU AND DALE, JR? “It’s hard for me to look at, not that Dale, Jr. is not down to earth, but it’s hard for me to look at him and relate to him as far as his status. I mean he is so popular everywhere he goes, he is followed by a huge crowd of people and everybody wants to talk to him, wants an autograph, wants a picture, he is so popular. I can’t really look at myself and see that in anyway. I’m so thankful to hopefully get some of those fans and have some of that carry over. But, as far as a person he is very down to earth and very regular. I think there is a big parallel there.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON TOLD US THAT BASED ON SIMULATION THAT YOU ARE POSSIBLY GOING TO GO 15-20 MPH FASTER AT DAYTONA. IS THAT THE CASE? ARE YOU EXCITED TO HAVE THAT SPEED IN THE CAMARO? “Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think any of us know until we get down there really what it is going to do. It didn’t in the test. We didn’t go any faster at all in the test. I got to be a part of that test and to drive the race cars and I thought that honestly taking the ride height rules away made them a little harder to drive, especially on corner entry and corner exit. So, I think we’ve got to get some handling back in the race cars for sure. Those speedways as they’ve gotten worn out have gotten harder. I think handling is going to be a little more important than you have seen in year’s past. As far as the speeds go, we will see when we get down there.”

YOU ARE FROM TUCSON, ARIZONA, NOT EXACTLY A HOT BED FOR NASCAR TALENT DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT IS KIND OF MIND BLOWING THAT YOU MADE IT TO THIS LEVEL? “I mean everything happens for a reason, but I wouldn’t say it’s mind blowing by any means. There is a lot of really talented race car drivers that have come from that area. Just because they didn’t make it to NASCAR, IndyCar guys and Sprint Car guys. I mean you have legends from Tucson. It’s a cool place to be from. There are a lot of really cool racing in that area and I’m glad to represent it in NASCAR.”

HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO DEVELOP A GOOD COMRADERY WITH JIMMIE (JOHNSON) AND CHASE (ELLIOTT) AND HOW MUCH HAVE YOU GOTTEN TO KNOW WILLIAM BYRON? “Yeah, absolutely, everybody has been an open book and it’s been awesome to get to work with them. I’ve got to spend quite a bit of time with William actually, which has been really cool. He is a great guy. I think all of us bring different, unique things to the table that is going to make the entire organization better.”

WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE YOUR MIDGET BACK ON TRACK? ARE YOU GOING TO DO MORE THAN JUST CHILI BOWL? “Well, I think if some of the rumored races end up happening at the end of November, probably see it back out. It will be two of them though it won’t just be one. We are working on the second car already. The car we had this year is already stripped and going to the chassis shop to get duplicated. I love that style of racing. I love getting my hands dirty. Chili Bowl was probably a little more stressful than I would have liked this year. I didn’t anticipate to show up and have everything that could go wrong, go wrong. But, worked really hard and worked more than I would have expected. But, the previous two years we haven’t had a single issue with the race car at all. So, to go there this year and have all those issues, hopefully, I will get another couple of years without any issues.”

WOULD RICK HENDRICK EVER CONSIDER LETTING YOU JUMP BACK IN ONE OF YOUR OWN CARS? OR IS IT GOING TO BE A SITUATION WHERE YOU HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER DRIVER? “That’s a good question. I don’t know. I’m going to have to talk to him about it. Because I obviously have a large desire to drive those race cars. They are my favorite race cars in the world. They are cool. The races that I like to run with them are cool in particular. Whether it’s the Chili Bowl or the December Du Quoin show. Just having no rules and there is so much innovation that you can do and things that you can do different. Hopefully, I will get to drive one again. We will just kind of have to wait and see.”

IS THAT INNOVATION FACTOR IS THAT SOMETHING WHERE YOU LOOK AT NASCAR AND MAYBE WISH SOMETIMES MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE MORE OF THAT? “I don’t know. I think it’s different when you innovate on a $30,000 race car than when you have a $35 million-dollar budget and you try to innovate, stuff gets a little crazy. The nice thing about the innovation on the midget stuff is aside from some of the titanium and carbon fiber parts, nothing is really crazy expensive. So, I think that is what makes it good because it doesn’t get unobtainable. You don’t have a big spread in race teams. You see small guys going out to Chili Bowl, like you look at Travis Berryhill last year winning, that was pretty big for him. You have standard heavy race cars that have nothing special on them. Look at Jake Swanson running fifth there on Saturday last year, that is pretty cool. That car is heavy, old, it was built in like 2007. Mitch does a good job taking care of it, but there is nothing special about it. To see guys like that compete with guys that have a lot of time and trick pieces like Bondio and Chad Boat and some of the other guys that build just beautiful race cars, it’s cool to see the level playing field no matter what. It really doesn’t matter how much money you put into one of those cars it just comes down to how well they work.”

IS THERE ANY DIFFERENT WAY YOU PREPARE FOR THIS YEAR? “Well, I think I am just able to lean on a lot of people with a lot more knowledge and I have a lot more resources at my disposal. Very thankful for that and I think I have more tools to use to be ready.”

WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE YOU HAVE FOUND YOURSELF LEANING ON THE MOST? “There is this guy named Jimmie Johnson that has won seven championships. Yeah, I think I’m going to lean on him the most I can. So, very thankful to have him to lean on and looking forward to learning as much as I can from him.”

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS SEASON? “Well, they hired me to go win races and contend for championships and that is what I plan on doing.”

WHAT WOULD BE SUFFICIENT TO MEET THOSE GOALS FOR THIS SEASON? DO YOU HAVE TO WIN A RACE IN 2018 FOR IT TO BE A SUCCESS? “Personally, yeah, I want to win I have huge drive to go win, so that is what I’m going to try to do. I think it’s more of a personal goal than anything. There is not a lot of pressure being put on me from any side. I just really want to win races.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE PHOENIX IS YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY TO WIN THIS SEASON? “Yeah, I mean I think we have a lot of unfinished business there at that place. I’ve been close to winning races there a few times. To dominate the Cup race in 2016 it’s a special place for me and hopefully, we will go finish the job this year.”

DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE ANY KIND OF ADVANTAGE IN GETTING SOME OF DALE, JR.’S FANS TO GET BEHIND YOU? “I don’t know if it’s necessarily an advantage or not, but hopefully, they stick around the No. 88 car. We are going to try our best to give them something to cheer for, for sure. But, very thankful for those that have stuck around.”

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO CONVINCE JUNIOR FANS TO SUPPORT YOU? “I don’t know. I’m just a regular guy. It’s hard for me to really brag on myself I guess. I don’t really know what exactly to say to them. But, I’m very thankful for those that have stuck around and I know we are all going to try our best on the No. 88 team to keep that car up front.”

HAVE YOU SEEN JIMMIE (JOHNSON) COME IN TO A BIGGER MENTORING ROLE WITH BEING THE ELDER STATESMAN? “He is getting a little old, huh? (laughs) I think it’s been really cool to watch Jimmie work at being more of a leader and take over more of a leadership role for Hendrick Motorsports. He has always been a leader, but now it’s more of a clear-cut leadership. It’s been really cool to see and looking forward to leaning on him as much as I can.”

DO YOU GUYS GIVE HIM A HARD TIME AT ALL? “We call him Grandpa every now and then.”

TO HIS FACE OR BEHIND HIS BACK? “Well, I mean, sometimes to his face. That one time I sat in his (Chevy) Tahoe in the car seat in the back… so that was pretty funny. He drove me and (William) Bryon to lunch and we were sitting in the car seats in the back. So, that was a little bit comical.”

HOW MUCH DO YOU GUYS, AMONG THE ROOKIE DRIVERS THIS YEAR, YOU ARE ALL FRIENDS, HOW CLOSE ARE YOU? “You know I don’t know. I’m close with William (Byron) and that’s about it. I know those rookie guys are chomping at the bit for rookie of the year. I’m glad I have 81 Cup starts to lean back on and to use to my advantage and use the knowledge that I gained from them to hopefully be better.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 CESSNA/MCDONALD’S CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte Media Tour and discussed the new race car, his first marathon, the age differences of drivers in the sport, and more. Full Transcript:

IS THERE ANYTHING FROM THE XFINITY CAMARO THAT WILL HELP YOU GUYS WITH THE CUP CAMARO ZL1? “I don’t think so. I think it is different. I think the bodies are different. I don’t know to be honest with you. I am pretty sure they are different so I wouldn’t say that if there is anything to correlate between the two.”

IS IT TOO EARLY TO GET EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW CAR? “That’s the word of the day. Excited. No….they’ve done a lot of wind tunnel testing up to this point with the Camaro. However, the way NASCAR is going to inspect cars is a little different with the body scan, so the tolerances are a lot tighter than they were last year. Everybody is going to have less downforce than they did last year just because of the new Hawkeye System just because of how they are teching the cars now. It is a little bit of an unknown. We know the difference from where we were last year until now. But, you just don’t know the difference for everybody else. Until we get to Atlanta, we aren’t going to have any idea.”

DAYTONA WON'T TELL YOU ANYTHING? “It will tell you how high your drag number is versus everybody else, but the majority of the racing is not based on drag; it is all based on downforce. You just won’t have any idea.”

SO ATLANTA IS THE PLACE? “Yes. They did a test at Texas and it looked like everyone was the same speed. Like really close. So I think all the cars will be really close again.”


YOU DID YOUR FIRST MARATHON? “I did. It was fun. It was a huge challenge to go from running maybe five miles at some point in my life, but three miles was the most I had run on a regular basis. So, to go from that to competing in a marathon at a fairly competitive time, was a huge challenge. It was four or five months of training and almost every day. Not just running. There was a lot of cycling involved in that. Then, obviously racing on Sunday makes the training even harder because most of my long runs were on Monday. When you get out of a car, you are dehydrated so that makes Monday’s pretty tough. It was fun. I’ll do another one for sure. I had a great time. It was a good experience not only leading up to it, but also in the marathon, you take off running and after about an hour you end up in a group of people that are at your pace. You have conversations and get to know people and had a great time of it.”

WHICH IS HARDER? THE MARATHON OR THE COKE 600? “Well everything is different hard. The thing that is hard about the Coke 600 is the length of it and the heat. It’s so hot that time of year. The thing about a marathon, you never get a break. I guess you can have all the breaks you want, but you obviously run the whole time. Huge fatigue in your legs. I got to mile 22-23 and it felt like I was running in snow. Just heavy feet. Hard to keep moving. My heart rate never got high, but it is interesting. There are a lot of things that correlate. The mental breakdown that happens in a race when you get hot or tired is very similar to what happens in a marathon. You don’t think as clearly as you do at mile one; at mile 10; at mile 20. So some things are kind of relatable. Everything is hard, it is just different hard.”

WERE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR FINISHING TIME? “I did it in 3:25 (hours and minutes). That’s a 7:48 average mile. I took off at like a 7-minute mile the first mile. I didn’t want to run that fast. The reason I want to do another one is because I learned. What I didn’t realize is that when the marathon takes off, there are people that are running a half marathon and people running a full one. Obviously people running the half are going to run at a faster pace – at least some of them are. I didn’t mind that, but you are getting run over. Then there was also people that started in the front that were not nearly at the pace I was going to run at so you are running over them. So I ran faster to literally trying to get away from people. My goal was to try to qualify for Boston which was unrealistic, but that’s the goal I set. That would have been something like a 3:12. I was at that pace up until like mile 22. Not that I would ever run it. That is a big deal in the runner’s world to say you qualified for Boston. It’s the weirdest thing because as I said, my heart rate never got high. I was running at basically a conversation pace, but I slowed down when I got to the aid station because it was better to grab the water, take four steps slow, drink it and then take back off. I did that every aid station up to mile 22. I slowed down and got my water and went to take off and I was like I can’t go. I didn’t feel tire, but my legs got tired. So I would like to do that so I could run that 7:15 or 7:20 mile pace and try to finish that.”

WHAT WAS YOUR HEART RATE? “My goal was to stay below 165 beats per minute. Josh Wise helped me train for this and he said as long as I could stay below that…the goal was to not build up lactic acid and to be able to endure this for three hours. If you get above that lactic acid threshold, you only have about 20 minutes before your body shuts down and you just can’t perform any more. But my heart rate never got over 155. It was really around 147 to 150 almost the whole time, which was really low. In a car it is a little different. Like at Daytona, coming to a restart you might get to 170 from anxiety and adrenaline. I think Loudon was the highest heart rate I had last season, and I think it was about 170 max heart rate. That wasn’t under adrenaline loads. It was mainly from heat and your body trying to cool itself down. You just gets so hot that your heart rate elevates because it is working so hard to pump fresh blood to your skin.”

DO YOU HAVE A SUPER LOW RESTING HEART RATE? “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what my resting heart rate is. I honestly never checked my resting heart rate. I hear people talk about that, I just never do. I wake up in the morning and I’ve tried to check it a couple of times, but I’ve gotten so excited that my heart rate go to 90 and I know my resting heart rate is not 90 just sitting here. I don’t know.”


IS IT HARD TO RELATE TO THOSE YOUNGER DRIVERS? “No, I don’t think so. I don’t really know how Kyle views me. I don’t know if he looks at me as Jamie. Or an old Jamie. I don’t know how he looks at me, and I know he probably would answer that not 100% honest with you guys. (LAUGHS) I don’t know how he views me. But I don’t look at Kyle as a kid. I just look at Kyle as Kyle and sometimes he does things – not racing related – and I’m like man. Then I remember he is 25 and I’m like I would have done the same thing when I was 25. I’m sure I do things and he’s like well he’s 41. When I’m 41 I will probably do dumb stuff like that too.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL APPRECIATION FOR OTHER ATHLETES WHO PERSIST? HOW HARD IS IT TO PERSIST AS AN ATHLETE AFTER THE AGE OF 40? “I don’t know. For me, personally, I’m in better shape than I have ever been in my whole life, no matter how old I was. And I don’t know Tom Brady. I know very little about his story other than what I learn on TV. When I look at Tom Brady, and maybe it’s because I’m his age, I don’t think he looks old. I think he just looks like another quarterback. So, I don’t really view him differently.”

KYLE BUSCH MADE A COMMENT ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF PUBLICITY THE YOUNGER DRIVERS IN CUP ARE GETTING COMPARED TO THE VETERAN DRIVERS AND THAT IT IS UNFAIR AND BOTHERSOME. AS SOMEONE WHO IS ON A TEAM WITH ONE OF THOSE YOUNGER STARS, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? “Well, look, all of us, as race car drivers, are human. Some seek attention more than others. I don’t really seek attention so I’m okay with all that. I think enough said. Some want attention more than others.”

HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE TO SHAKE DOWN THE NEW CAMARO ZL1? “I don’t know the answer to that. Daytona is going to be unique, a one-off race, because it’s all about low drag. The other thing that’s going to happen at Daytona that I haven’t heard anyone talk about is that there are no ride-height rules this year, so it’s going to be completely different for all of us. And then once we get to Atlanta, and you kind of see…. Actually the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) is doing a Vegas test. You’ll kind of know where they stack up against the other cars and maybe kind of compare that to last year to see where you were. But I think you have to see where you are and if you feel like the cars are just as fast as they were last year, then it will be a pretty easy learning curve. If you’re not, then it’s going to be a harder learning curve. The one thing in today’s world that is different than it was five or 10 years ago, is that the whole car is set-up off simulation and part of that program is that they take aero maps into account and they can kind of adjust the balance based on the aero maps. And so, we have all that information and so if the aero map is a little different or if a rules change comes into play, they kind of adjust the set-up for that. And it all makes sense. It’s not like it was 10 years ago where it was a little bit of a guess. So, I think it’s a different time now.”

DOES IT HELP A LITTLE BIT THAT THERE AREN’T VERY MANY RULES CHANGES? “Yeah, I think that’s good. Two or three years ago, we were changing the rules a lot to try to make the racing better. And, I think that they did go in the right direction. I don’t know that rules changes really affected the racing that much. We still have tracks that have really good races and tracks that have bad ones, right? Or, just not as exciting. But no matter what the rules are, I feel like that’s the way it would be. I feel like every time we had a rule change, it was just a huge expense to the teams. And I mean the one thing this year that’s different is the amount of pit crew members. I don’t want to say that’s a struggle for the teams, but it sounds like it takes different people to do kind of different jobs. And maybe the most important people on the pit crew last year aren’t the most important people now on a pit crew. Now it’s maybe someone that wasn’t as important last year. So, like those roles and the people that you need stronger or faster are different just because of the rules changes. And so, I think there are changes, but just not on the cars.”

YOU’RE GOING TO BE DOING XFINITY RACES THIS YEAR. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY? “I don’t know exactly; there will be at least three, though.”

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT? “Yeah. I was going to do a couple the last few years. It just didn’t work out. I didn’t push real hard for it. The thing is, when you are a Cup driver; like with Kyle (Larson) and I, you both want to kind of do the same ones. Like everybody wants to do Watkins Glen because we only go there once a year and it’s a road course and it’s a little more fun. And then there are a few tracks that nobody wants to do. And so, I was like, well, I don’t want to do those. I just don’t want to be in for those races. So, there were a few things that led to that. But DC Solar wanted to do some Xfinity races and I wanted to and they picked some good tracks. So, I’m looking forward to it.”

ARE YOU SURPRISED BY THE DEGREE OF NASCAR LACKING PARTICIPATION IN THE ROLEX 24 THIS YEAR, OR IS THAT JUST CIRCUMSTANTIAL? “It’s circumstantial, but it’s also because since they eliminated the prototype car; there were always a couple of seats. Like Michael Shank always had those cars and AJ and a couple of guys would go run that car. Certainly Chip (Ganassi) would run an extra car and that would open up at least two seats for us. So, I think the rules change probably dictated that as much as anything.”

IS THAT SOMETHING YOU ENJOY DOING AND WOULD YOU PUSH FOR IT IF THERE WERE SEATS AVAILABLE? “If it was with the right team. If it was with Chip, for sure I would be interested in doing it. It’s a little bit different program with the GTLM car, where they race that car in Le Mans and they already have other drivers that are kind of committed to coming over here. So, the situation is just different.”

WHEN MATT MCCALL WON THE SOUTHERN NATIONAL IN NOVEMBER, WHAT WAS THE CONVERSATION? DID YOU REACH OUT TO HIM? “Yeah, we always have like a big group text that typically is making fun of each other, but at that point we were all just kind of asking how he was doing. I can’t remember where I was. I wasn’t near a computer. And so I think Frank, our tire guy, was on one of the websites kind of keeping up and he was keeping us up to date. It was really cool for Matt. That was special. He put a lot of work into that. I didn’t grow up racing with those guys, so I don’t really know who the good guys and the bad guys are in Late Model racing right now. And, Matt explained to me that these were some of the better guys. It’s hard to go back and do any form of racing, and win. It’s one thing to go back and just do it, but to go back and win is exceptional. And that was really cool for him to be able to do that.”

DOES IT PROVIDE YOU A LEVEL OF COMFORT KNOWING THAT WHEN YOU’RE TALKING TO YOUR CREW CHIEF YOU’RE ALSO TALKING TO A RACER AND THAT YOU GUYS CAN TALK RACER TO RACER? “I don’t look at Matt that way and his strengths. Matt is really smart. And he does a nice job of explaining things. When he first became a crew chief, there were a lot of unknowns. He didn’t know like what I wanted to know, and vice-versa. The first year, we kind of laughed about it this winter, but there were a couple of moments when we got mad at each other, right? But those led to understanding each other better. And so each off-season since then, you kind of put your list together of what I wish you could do better, and vice versa. We both have worked on those for the last couple of years and it certainly has helped our relationship in working together. But, Matt’s work ethic is as good as it could be. You can’t find anybody that is willing to put more time and effort and 100 percent of their focus into making your car faster. And he has kind of instilled that in all the guys that work on our team. And as our sport not necessarily gets smaller, but as some of the teams go away, all the people that are left are really good. Like if you in NASCAR at the Cup level right now, it’s because it’s like you are the best. The people that don’t either choose to leave or they just weren’t at the same level as people that are still here. And, Matt’s done an awesome job of putting together an amazing group of guys.”

NASCAR TURNS 70 NEXT MONTH. HOW DO YOU JUDGE THE HEALTH OF IT? “Well, I’m probably not the right guy to give an evaluation of all that.”

FROM YOUR VANTAGE POINT, IF THERE IS ANYTHING YOU SEE THAT’S ENCOURAGING FOR THE FUTURE ABOUT WHAT’S GOING ON, WHAT WOULD YOU PICK? “Well, I think that the stages were a big improvement. I get asked that question a lot about if I like the stages or not. And I do because when I watch the Truck or the Xfinity races, I kind of like knowing that the caution is coming out in 10 more laps and that there’s going to be a pit stop and that there’s going to be another restart. I enjoy that as a fan. So, I hope people like that on Sunday. I think they’ve done a really good job with the double-file restarts. I think they’ve done a lot to kind of keep somebody in-tuned longer.”

CONVERSELY, WHAT WOULD YOU PICK? “Shorter races, yeah. I think that’s common among fans and among drivers and anyone. Some of these races that are four and a half house long are just too long.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE OVAL AT CHARLOTTE? “I’m going to wait to make any comments on that until we have a race. My only comment would be that I wish that we’d do the All-Star race on it first to kind of sample the water before we all jump in.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CAMARO ZL1, met with media at the Charlotte Media Tour and discussed the debut and his expectations of the new Camaro ZL1, stage racing, younger teammates coupled with his desire to win, and more. Full Transcript:

Q. Already consulting with Fernando? JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I've been a huge Alonso fans for a lot of years. Just mentioned to him out there that the way he came and ran Indy, I mean, certainly did an amazing job in the car, but outside of the car. The friends that I have on the IndyCar circuit, just handled himself so well, did a great job. I think really brought a lot to the table when he raced here.

Worldwide exposure on motorsports is really good for us here stateside.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Okay, that's a little bit better. So I guess I'm going to have to put him in timeout or something the way that's going.

No, we're definitely having a lot of fun together. It's so wild. I went from the young gun. Every time I'd see my name written, it was Rookie Jimmie Johnson. Now I'm grandpa. It's gone fast.

Q. We've seen one season with the stage racing now. How do you adjust your performance, your season? JIMMIE JOHNSON: For us, last year I think we had the right approach entering the season. We just unfortunately couldn't execute like we needed to. This year with all the changes going on internally at Hendrick Motorsports, the debut of the new Camaro for us, I think we're going to have a better product. I know we're going to have a better product on the racetrack.

In order to capitalize on all those points, you've got to start towards the front. I've made a great career out of winning from deep in the field or the back. But the way these points work, that's just not the case. We need to qualify better.

We definitely tried last year. Just unfortunately couldn't get there. I feel that this year we'll have a better product. I should be able to start closer to the front and make that a lot easier.

Q. Overall you're concerned about getting stage points and stage wins? JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely. The way Martin paved the road to Homestead, everybody would love to have that opportunity. Also, if you do have trouble at Phoenix or wherever it might be, you have another option to get in, which is key.

Q. Given you are grandpa, is there any more urgency about the drive for the eighth title? JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, that doesn't change anything. My desire to be competitive, my desire to be a champion, my desire to win races, has never wavered. That's who I am, it's what I am.

Excited to have all this new stuff going on around us, from rules internally at Hendrick, the new car, my teammates. I've taken a notebook and pen everywhere I go because everywhere I look, there's something to learn. That's exciting.

Q. Do you feel like the stage system has been the greatest reward of consistency for the season for all drivers? JIMMIE JOHNSON: When I look at the final 10, I guess maybe across the board, but it really speaks to me in the final 10. When I look at Martin's dominance in the 2016 season, then he didn't make the final four, although I was so glad to be in it and be the champion, it didn't feel right in a sense.

I think it is very fair now, really covers the base for a dominant car to be in the final four, which that car should be there.

Q. Are you buying the Carolina Panthers? JIMMIE JOHNSON: With your money (laughter)? I don't have enough money for that.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, my pockets aren't that deep. I don't think they can look at me.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: .001%? I would take a chance at it, absolutely. Who wouldn't? Q. The age gap between you and your teammate, any stories? JIMMIE JOHNSON: I kind of drew first blood on him last year when I took him to lunch and had him sit in my kid's car seat. Everything that's coming back to me is pretty of self-inflicted.

There has been plenty of fun. Through today I can tell with them being out in front of me, they've really paved the road of harassment for me. Things have been really been on a serious and technical level, trying to understand the new car, the systems in place at Hendrick, how team meetings work, really the nuts and bolts of the season.

Q. Does it bring some enthusiasm, fresh blood? JIMMIE JOHNSON: Without a doubt. That fresh blood brings great excitement and it also brings just a different vantage point. When you look at William, for the longest time, like using our simulator, I watch something happen with another driver, that's just a gaming way to go about it, you can't do that in the real world. Well, it's starting to happen in the real world. That new vantage point is really helpful.

Q. Do you anticipate a break-in period with the new car or can you roll off really good? JIMMIE JOHNSON: There has to be a break-in period, some buildup for us to understand the car, the aero balance, what we need.

We have modeled it unlike anything else in Chevrolet's history. If you added up the wind tunnel time, the CFD modeling time, everything that's happened before the 2018 Camaro, it wouldn't total the time that's been put in the wind tunnel and modeling to this point.

The effort has been massive to get this right and be as good as we can be. But with testing being so minimal, for myself there's going to be an adaptation period. I need to understand the side force, how hard I can lean on it. You climb out of the gas, with less downforce, how much it slows down. Trying to find the sweet spot with the car, some minor handling characteristics that go with it.

Atlanta, it's such an abrasive track, and the drivers' style, so many other things play into the performance there, I think we'll get a flavor of where we sit. Once we get to the West Coast swing, I think that will really tell us where we sit.

Q. You said last season was one of the most frustrating seasons. Did you think you had a championship car last year and where are your expectations for this year? JIMMIE JOHNSON: We kept hoping every stone we turned over would help us find our problem. What was so frustrating is I've never worked so hard in my life to get such little return. I know Chad can say the same and the team can. The efforts they put in, just mind-boggling. I'm so happy I have a group of guys to do that, to do anything possible. It just so frustrating when you don't get anything for it. So that was tough.

After a few weeks of the off-season, letting that kind of fall off your shoulders, get recharged and ready to go. It's been easy to find motivation for 2018. With all the change that's going on, as I mentioned a couple times, it's a race to figure out this mousetrap first. That's what we like to do.

Q. Now going for your eighth championship, do you ever stop and think about what you've been able to do together? Where do you think you are in the timeline of your dynasty? JIMMIE JOHNSON: Occasionally we'll reflect back. It's easy when you have a championship year to do it. The rest of the time you're so concerned about the next race, the next whatever it is, at least in our experience we haven't savored it too often.

I guess we'll wait to fully embrace it until we both decide to hang it up. I signed an extension last year for three years at Hendrick Motorsports, so I at least have three more.

Chad, I feel like crew chiefs have always lived in dog years, and I'm not sure where he's going to be. I think his contract is up at the end of this year. Of course I want him to push on. I keep telling him, Man, I started this with you, I want to finish it with you. I'll try to stretch him as long as I can.

I guess I'm trying to subconsciously prepare that he'll assume a different role at Hendrick, but I really don't want to let that in.

Q. What is your approach to teaching or mentoring some of your younger teammates as was done for you? JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely take lessons that I learned along my path. In my entire career, I always had a senior driver mentoring me. I think all the way back to my dirt bike days when I was eight, ten years old, having Rick Johnson there mentoring me along. Obviously most recently with Jeff Gordon. That's probably the most vivid recollection I have. I remember watching Jeff in moments, then telling him that I just learned something from him.

He was like, What, really? How did you learn something from that? I wasn't really trying to teach anything.

I think first and foremost, the way I carry myself, leading by example would be another way to put it, is very useful and helpful. Those three guys are very aware and have been studying me for a long time. Surprisingly they kind of know what I'm up to, what I'm about.

They've also been in our system at Hendrick and can understand a lot of aspects of the work side. But another thing I also experienced along the way, there's nothing to get you prepared for the bright spotlight that comes with being a Cup driver. Obviously you end up making a lot more money than you previously have. Friendships, relationships, relationships with family, the grind of being on the road, there's just a lot of aspects to manage outside of driving the car.

I found that those things were at times harder to deal with and harder to manage than climbing in the racecar, putting my helmet on and going to work.

I'm going to try to be open obviously for them, then not just focused on the car side. They've had so much experience to this point, so many reps, all have been very successful, that I think it's probably less about the in-the-car stuff than it is about the outside stuff.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just being honest. I think not overreacting to certain things. My approach has always been to really understand what I'm missing, what I need, and then be vocal. I've been very careful with my position at Hendrick Motorsports. I don't want to send our engineers and teams running in a variety of different directions. Really trying to be right when I speak up and what I'm talking about.

This year with all the change that's going on, we're going to make a lot of decisions. Making sure we make the right ones early are going to kind of set the arc that the team is on.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: A lot of smiling with her around. She always brings so much positive energy into all situations.

I really look forward to watching her role define. I know with her background, she can help in a lot of different areas. Having Jeff Andrews and Brian Whitesell where they are, Alva in there, Marshall Carlson, our executive leadership group, is very well-balanced, ready to lead everybody else below. So I'm excited about her coming onboard.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Chase going I think is a real good move there, the strongest of the Hendrick cars at year end. To be able to build on that, really identify with what that new body wants I think was a logical decision.

At the same time William and Darian and that team have never been together. They flat out need some reps. There's only one test left. I get it.

Of course I would love to go and get in the car and be the one feeling these sensations, driving the direction we're going. I think for those two reasons, they're very justified and needed. We'll get to work at Atlanta on our downforce stuff.

Q. Do you see any parallels between the two of you guys who have been persistent for so long with Tom Brady and Belichick? Speak about what it takes to stay competitive and relevant past 40, what the commitment is.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think there are some parallels there. I don't know Tom or Bill Belichick, for that matter. That comparison has been there for a while. To continue to see them succeed, we've had our success as well, kind of has opened my mind to that comparison.

I think that Chad and Belichick have some commonalities, and so do Tom and I. Being able to deliver when times are tough, those make-or-break moments, the experience, athletes over 40, really serves an athlete well.

I feel very lucky to be in a sport that I can continue my career and still have that experience on my side. It's probably more rare for Tom to be in his position doing that than a racecar driver. Those guys just get beat up so badly that they retire in their 30s, unfortunately.

I think over each season of playing or driving, if you're really committed to your sport, you just reflect and try to bring a better product to the field or the track every year.

I've not met Tom, but we do have mutual friends. His commitment to getting better every year sounds very familiar. It's something I've done through this off-season, just trying to figure out how I can be a better member of this 48 car, looking at everything and anything that I can do.

Q. In 2009 you, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon ran 1-2-3 in the championship standings. This year you have three teammates who have little or no experience in the Cup car. How does that dynamic change? JIMMIE JOHNSON: I choose to see the positives that come with it, right? Out of the gate just knowing young guys and their raw desire to go fa

John Davison

Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.

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Volume 2018, Issue 1, Posted 9:36 AM, 01.24.2018