– And now, we welcome in seven-time champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, Jimmie Johnson. Welcome to the show.
– Thanks, buddy. Thanks for having me on. Good to see you guys again.
– Good to see you.
– Hey, I’m looking at the numbers, and it’s hard for me to believe, but I want to get your reaction. This will be Daytona 500 number 17 for you, huh?
– That’s crazy. Not if I didn’t have young teammates reminding me of my age, now I’ve got this number to worry about too.
– I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
– No, no. It’s not your fault. It’s the reality of it. It is what it is.
– You know, Jimmie, we know the Clash has not been kind to you over the last few years. And they came to me with about 10 laps to go, and I said, you know what, the 48 car is the guy. He really wants to turn things around. And you came within, what, a third of a lap–
– Yeah, a mile.
– –of making it to the end. It’s like it’s just not destined right now to finish a Clash it seems like.
– I didn’t realize that stat until after, and seven DNFs in a row, I was, like, well, dang, that’s a bad one to have. We were close. You know, we’re learning a lot about, you know, the new Camaro LS1, plus– and it’s– a lot of discussion about the pointy nose on the car, but you know, we also have a much different setup in the car than what we’ve had before. So I don’t think that it was the pointy nose. I think setup and some other things kind of contributed to that. Because the impact wasn’t– wasn’t super hard. It’s what I needed to get by the 22 and have a run at the 2. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t keep it straight.
– White flag’s waving, you’re saying, I’m going to make it. I’m going to make it this year.
– I saw him coming, and I thought, great, buddy. You know, give me the big shove. It just didn’t work out.
– But what is your confidence level in the new Camaro and how those bumpers match up? Because ultimately, that’s what you have to have if you’re going to be successful here on Sunday.
– You do, and I pushed cars just trying to get a better understanding of that throughout the course of the Clash, and I didn’t find it to be overly sensitive and pretty easy to push guys. So I could be wrong, but I’m leaning less towards the shape of the nose and more towards other aspects of the setup.
– Jimmie, I know during the off season, you did spend a little time with your family doing some snow skiing. In fact, your daughter, Genevieve, seven years old, participated in some events. But the word I got, you took an old teammate and an old friend and you taught him how to ski. How did that go?
– It went great. I was also able to– I was skiing and Chase was on his snowboard.
– But Dale Earnhardt, Jr., though.
– Earnhardt, Jr. came, and he knew that he would have an opportunity to go to the Olympics and might need to be on skis. So I took that might into, hey, buddy, we better teach you how to ski. And I had the perfect guy to teach him in Aspen. And the first day went really well. I think by, you know, maybe his fourth or fifth run on the bunny slopes, he went to the top of the mountain, and then, from then on, was going top to bottom. So he picked it up quick.
– We were talking earlier about this being your 17th Daytona 500, and you’ve seen so many things change at Hendrick Motorsports in that time and a lot in recent years with Jeff retiring and now Dale, Jr. calling it quits as well. How would you describe the new dynamic at HMS with all these young teammates?
– It’s definitely the most change I have experienced at Hendrick Motorsports. When you look at the driver lineup and then internally and some restructuring that we’ve done. So it is a big year, but it’s just, it’s been a slow progression. And we’ve known Alex would be coming along at some point. Chase has been in the system a couple years. William was in our system at JRM. So it’s not totally out of left field, but yeah, there is a lot of new moving forward.
– And you know, I also reflect and think it was impossible to think that Larry wouldn’t be on the pit box. It was impossible to think that Dale Jarrett wouldn’t be on track or Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin. It does happen. So I’ve lived through a lot of that. Yes, in the last couple of years, it’s been quite a few big names come down, but I guess, over the years, I’ve learned how to grow with the change. And I was a young guy coming in that nobody wanted to see at one point. So I’m trying to have open arms here.
– Jimmie, I know the question probably gets old, but when I look at your season last year, there’s a lot of teams in that garage area that would have loved to have won three races and made it to the round of eight. But I know Jimmy Johnson. I know Chad Knaus. It was not the season you guys were looking for.
– No, not at all. I mean, especially from, you know, summer into fall and not being able to lead laps, compete for wins, and be up front like we’re used to. And that was probably the most frustrating thing is the effort that went into that and not being able to change direction on it, but we’ve put a lot of work in this one, and we’re excited to get going.
– My notes say in 2013, Chevy went from the Impala to the SS, and you won the Daytona 500 and you won the championship. We’re going from the SS to the Camaro. Good luck repeating that–
– I hope you are right, buddy.
– –success with the change.
– I’ll take any nugget I can get.
– Hey, great to have you here, and all the best in 2018.
– Thank you. Good to see you guys.