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November 23, 2010

Jimmie Johnson

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference with our 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie won his fifth title last Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway coming from second in the standings to take over the top spot. Jimmie won six races in 2010 on his way to his fifth consecutive championship.
Jimmie is only the third driver to win five or more titles, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, who each have seven.
Jimmie, you've had a couple of days being a five-time champion, talk about what this fifth title means to you.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Oh, it's everything. I mean, it's just been an amazing experience, amazing for myself and the team. I think it's been great for our sport to see the comparisons drawn to other sports that have been able to link together multiple championships.
It's been awesome, a ton of fun. I could use some sleep, no doubt about that. It's been a busy two days.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jimmie. We'll now go to questions from the media for today's teleconference guest Jimmie Johnson.

Q. Jimmie, what are you going to do, if anything, different this off-season and are you planning on racing in Daytona in the Rolex again?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah. This off-season we really don't have much planned. Really just want to be home, enjoy the holidays with our daughter. She's so young, there's not going to be much action. But just to be home, just enjoy what we've accomplished, just kind of hang out really. I'm really dying for some downtime, to be honest with you. The off-season is going to be busy with testing at Daytona and some other stuff coming along.
But it's going to go by quick. I am going to compete in the Rolex 24, so that's going to eat into some of my downtime, as well.

Q. Driving with the GAINSCO guys again?

Q. You're a perfectionist. You've won five straight. Are you totally satisfied? What is next? What do you see out there? What do you want to accomplish after all this?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, for me, 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.
So I hope that answer works. 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. I was wondering, in the interviews you've had since Monday, if you felt like people respect this title more because of the way you won it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: 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. Have you had an hour to yourself since Sunday afternoon? What is ahead for the rest of this week?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I did and I used it to sleep (laughter). I'm lacking sleep still at this point.
I'm finished up in New York around 7:00, then get to go home. Don't need to be anywhere until I guess Monday starting Champions Week. Looking forward to getting home, eat some turkey, hand out, wear the couch out, enjoy all that.

Q. I know your championships, obviously you take them one at a time. Now that you got to five, do you start to look at numbers in your mind? Maybe you want to get to seven to tie Earnhardt and Petty? Do you allow yourself at this point to put a number in your head as to how far you want to go with this?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I mean, 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 Hendricks 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. Have you been able to celebrate with the team yet? Is there anything planned special at the shop?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We did Sunday night. All the guys stuck around and we had a good time. I'll see them during Champions Week. Got a lot of cool things planned for what's all going on out there.

Q. I saw the photo that was distributed with you and all of the trophies of the championships. Even though I covered it, I was like, Wow. Unbelievable photo to see that. I wonder, looking at that photo being sent everywhere, what are you looking forward to most in Champions Week and how your baby is handling all the excitement?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For me, I haven't seen the finished product. When I walked up to the little shed where they had all five trophies, I mean, it was just staggering to see that in person, know my name is on those five trophies. Very, very cool. I'm glad everybody is enjoying seeing that.
Champions Week, certainly getting the big check, being there on stage Friday night is also special. But it's also nerve-wracking because I hate public speaking. Certainly one of the high points.
The highest point for me is when Lowe's puts on their dinner, have a celebration with the guys. In years past, it's been so fun to just sit around and kick the tires with everyone. Their spouses are there. Just have everybody enjoy the moment, kind of soak it in as a group.
We've all been enjoying it, but it's hard to get us all together. That night always has been the most special night for me.

Q. How about how your baby is handling all the attention? Seems overwhelmed a little bit?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: At the end of the day there, I think she had her fill. She's doing great, relaxing. She'll have plenty of pictures to look at someday when she wants to see them.

Q. I know you don't make the rules, but given how the Chase went down to the wire this year, do you really think the Chase needs to be changed or tweaked at all?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: 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.
At the end of the day whatever we need to do to have butts in the stands and people watching on TV. 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. Obviously you staked out a pretty formidable legacy here in your career. As you went 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?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: 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.

Q. Jimmie, can you talk about your relationship with Ron Malec. I know you go way back from your days in Wisconsin. Also, kind of talk about if there's a different feeling with this championship after losing one of your mentors during the summer in Howie.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think back to riding in the transporter with Ron and Howie, all the fun we had when I was living up there in Wisconsin in ASA racing.
Ron and I, a friend of ours put us together. We kind of knew each other from the racetrack, all the racing I was doing. But a friend put us together and thought we would be roommates essentially, because I needed somewhere to lived, felt like he could be a big asset to our race team. He was right.
We've come a long way. I mean, from my first time driving an ASA stock car to where we are today, we've been through a ton together. I deeply miss Howie and everything he taught me about stock cars and kind of being a man. Ron and I were pretty young guys trying to figure out life. Howie had a great way to keep us in check, keep us in line, did a lot for me on and off the racetrack.

Q. Jimmie, you're a three-time winner of the Driver of the Year award, one that goes back to 1967. That vote is coming up next week. I've asked you this question every year. I think your biggest competition this year will be John Force and Dario Franchitti. Where does that award rate with you? Do you think it will come down to you and John?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's hard to say. Dario is no slouch, had an awesome year himself. I think all three are definitely worthy. It was cool, before the race started, Force stuck his head in the car and wished me good luck at Homestead. It was great seeing him. I didn't know the outcome of what went on. He had some very colorful words to express how he won that championship.
He's done so much, at his age, with his passion for his sport, if he was crowned Driver of the Year, I'd stand up and applaud, for sure.

Q. Jimmie, a couple years when we were at your elementary school, your third-grade teacher made mention of the fact that you once wore, on a career day, your driving suit, or riding suit at the time, to class. She sort of said, You better get your head on straight, this is never going to work out. Do you remember that? I think you talked to her that day, if I remember correctly.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I've seen her a few times going back. I think it's Miss Kiefer (phonetic). I don't really remember that stuff. But they're funny stories through high school and papers that I had written, career day moments. There's enough evidence out there that it's got to be true, but it's tough for me to remember back that far. I guess I've hit my head so many times (laughter).

Q. Jimmie, when I saw you holding up the trophy in Victory Lane, noticed your wife and the baby behind you, I just started to think, now that you have the baby, does is cross your mind ever while you're out on the track to take it easy because of the baby, not do some of the things out on the track that you might have done two years ago?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No. At this point I haven't seen anything. I guess only time will tell. You know, I would certainly say being a parent has made me a better person. But out on the track, I can't say that I've had it cross my mind. I hope it doesn't. I always believe in the fact that if you're fearing something in that car, not completely focused on what you're doing, you're putting yourself in harm's way. I hope I don't start thinking about something else in the car.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody, for participating today. Congratulations once again to Jimmie Johnson on his fifth title. Thanks for your coverage this season and have a great off-season.

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