Five-Time Champ Jimmie Johnson: A Q and A
By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
What can you say when you’ve said it all?
Jimmie Johnson was faced with that problem this week after wrapping up an unprecedented fifth straight NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
But, somehow, Johnson finds a way to say what he’s said before in a way that sounds new and interesting.
Here’s a sampling of questions and answers from a teleconference with Johnson earlier this week:
Question: Now that you’ve won five straight championships, are you satisfied?
Johnson: “I do feel satisfied. But I have never set marks for myself that I wanted X amount of championships or wins and stuff like that. I mean, since I was kid, what’s drawn me to racing is the feeling inside of me, the passion I have for the sport, the feeling I have while competing and doing what I do in a car, on a bike, whatever it’s been.I guess someday when that goes away, I’ll stop.
“But I’ve always been a guy that when I focused on something and I commit to doing it, I’m going to give a hundred percent. As long as I’m in that car, I’m going to apply myself and do everything I can for the team and, hopefully, be competitive enough to win races and compete for championships. … But I don’t have any major goals. If it all ended today, I would be extremely satisfied and proud of what I accomplished, but I still have that desire to work, do my job and compete.’’
Q: Do people respect this title more because of the way you won it, coming from behind in the final race?
JJ: “I don’t know if I’ve seen much that lead me to believe that the way we went about this one was more impressive. I haven’t been necessarily around the fans.
“From the media side, there’s been a huge push and a lot of people recognizing the fact, amongst sports, what we’ve done, how that ranks, how unique that is in all of sports. That’s been more of the angle than anything.’’
Q: Now that you’ve got five championships, do you start to think about numbers, maybe going for seven to tie Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty?
JJ: “I would love to get to 10 straight. I don’t know how ridiculous that sounds. But, I mean, in your mind, shoot, I would love to do X, Y, and Z. The realistic side, there’s no telling how long it’s going to last and I think we are all shocked it’s gone on this far.
“Being a realist, I don’t know if it’s going to last. I’m amazed that we’ve been able to do this for five years straight. I want to believe, and I do feel in my heart, that we’ll have a shot next year, but I don’t know what those challenges are going to be, how competitive we’ll be, what the competition’s going to look like. It’s really hard to look that far ahead. I feel like I have my best chances at Hendrick Motorsports, with Chad Knaus as my crew chief.
“If I can seam together seven in any shape or form to tie those two greats, I would be extremely honored. If I was ever able to surpass them, it would be out of this world.’’
Q: Given the Chase went down to the wire this year, do you think it needs to be changed or tweaked?
JJ: “I think I’m in a touchy position with my comment on the Chase. If I say it’s great, everyone is going to say, `Of course it is, (he keeps winning it).’
“At the end of the day, whatever we need to do to have butts in the stands and people watching on TV (is what we need to do). If the masses feel it needs to be reworked, so be it. I’m ready for the challenge any way, shape, or form it shows up. My interest is to make our sport as strong as it is and have as many people watch it as possible.’’
Q: As you came into the sport, did you look at any drivers or any teams or anything in terms of, “This is what I want to aspire to, what I want to be like?’’
JJ: “Yeah, I looked around and I saw different drivers, the certain style about them, the way they raced on the track, how they carried themselves. Once I moved back to North Carolina, I was really drawn to Bobby Labonte. There’s just something there that I liked, paid close attention to.
“Growing up, Jeff Gordon was a great inspiration for me because he was really the first guy with the non-stock car background to get a shot and made the most of it. He inspired me. Obviously, I was able to get to know him, easy to feed off of his ideas, what he’s accomplished, being a teammate like I am.
“I kind of pinpoint those two in the people that I really focused on.’’
– Mike Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment