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Shooting music videos, leading in points all in a day's work for Jimmie Johnson

During the current race weekend at Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader discussed shooting a music video with rock legend Sammy Hagar and road racing, among other things. Here’s a transcript of the conversation:

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE STUFF YOU WERE DOING WITH SAMMY HAGAR?  
“Yeah, I’ve lost my race car in a poker match to Sammy and shooting a music video, it’s hard to believe with those two small cameras that it’s going to be a legitimate video.  Technology is pretty amazing.  I’ve known Sammy for a long time. I love his tequila, big fan of Cabo Wabo.  I’ve been down to his cantina in the past, was there for one of his birthday bashes one year and introduced him as he came out on stage with the band.  He’s just a good dude and he loves cars and loves music.  That is right up my alley.”
 
DID YOU GET A KICK OUT OF HIM TRYING TO GET IN AND OUT OF YOUR CAR? 
“Yeah, I think he is going to be a little bruised up.  There wasn’t a lot of room for him.  I knew it would be a tight squeeze getting him in there.  The car is built for me and all.  The guy loves cars so much. Whenever I see him it’s all we talk about is what hot rods he has, what fast cars he has.  I knew he wanted to sit in one.  We crammed him in there.  I was afraid we would need a cherry picker, an engine hoist, to get him out, but he found a way out.”

DO YOU LIKE BEING IN A MUSIC VIDEO IS THAT JUST A KICK FOR YOU? 
“That will be a first.  Hopefully, I make the final cut, it will be fun.”
 
HOW DID YOU TURN THE CORNER OF KIND OF NOT BEING SO GOOD ON A ROAD COURSE TO BEING REALLY GOOD? 
“It really took experience.  We have tested every year for it.  In the Nationwide Series I took to it pretty quick and seemed to find my way around Watkins Glen pretty well.  This track is just so different.  There are three or four really good opportunities to destroy the rear tires.  Where at ‘The Glen’ you can’t hurt the rear tires and you’ve got to manage brakes.  That took me awhile to make that transition.  The last few years I have been much better at that.  One year really good at it.  Hopefully, I get a chance at more of that this year.”

ANYTHING THAT THE NEW CARS BRINGS THAT YOU CAN THINK OF THAT YOU DON’T KNOW OR YOU ARE LOOKING TO FIND OUT ON THE ROAD COURSE? 
“Yeah, I think our splitter gaps and splitter contact in general or bump stop gaps and splitter contact are going to be key.  The structure of the front-end of this car is what is different than the old car.  Heavy on the brakes the splitter can touch the ground and affect your braking ability.  Also, going over the curves that structure is so much different now it can maybe upset the car a little bit more potentially hurt something in front.  Those will be the two areas I’m going to focus on when we are on the race track.”

WHAT DID IT MEAN FOR YOU TO WIN A ROAD COURSE RACE? 
“It was a huge one to check, a box to check, for me.  I was so bad at it and couldn’t understand why, especially with my background.  Once my brain grasped it and I got in the right spot mentally I was able to make it work.  That was a big day for me.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW QUALIFYING SEQUENCE THEY’RE PUTTING IN PLACE FOR THE CUP SERIES? “It’s exciting. I’m not sure it’ll change things a ton. I’m familiar with it through my Nationwide days. It’s a little more normal for a qualifying effort on a road course. I’m not against it. In the end it might help some guys get a lap. In road course racing there’s such a rhythm and with one lap to get it done here in the past if you made a small mistake you really paid for it. Some drivers had a hard time completing their lap. It might change things a little bit but I don’t think it will too much.”

WITH GUYS LIKE (JACQUES) VILLENEUVE IN THE RACE THIS YEAR DOES THAT ADD A WILD CARD FACTOR? “I didn’t know that but yeah, cautions might go up a little bit based on his Nationwide experience from what I’ve seen.”

ARE YOU GUYS CHALKING MICHIGAN UP TO A FREAK AMOUNT OF CIRCUMSTANCES THAT HAPPENED TO ALL FOUR HENDRICK CARS? “My tire issues seemed to be a little different than Kasey’s (Kahne). Kasey’s blew out. Mine, I think I ran something over the way it went down. It just got soft and then went flat. The other two guys, Junior broke a motor. Nobody else did. And then Jeff got wrecked. It was just one of those days. We couldn’t get out of Michigan fast enough.”

HAVE YOU BEEN IN OTHER MUSIC VIDEOS? “No, I have not been in another music video. Sammy (Hagar) will be my first.”

SO THIS WILL BE YOUR DEBUT? “It will if I make the cut. So hopefully I did a nice job for him.”
 
JEFF BURTON SAID HE WAS KIND OF FRUSTRATED WHEN YOU COME TO SONOMA AND ON THE RESTARTS PEOPLE ABUSE THEM. YOU MIGHT BE IN THE TOP-10 AND SOMEONE WIPES YOU OUT BECAUSE THEY DO THINGS HERE THEY WOULDN’T DO OTHER PLACES. DO YOU FEEL THE RESTARTS HERE ARE DIFFERENT AND PEOPLE CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ‘OH, THAT’S JUST SONOMA’? “Yeah, being from fifth back here, it’s brutal. That’s why qualifying is so important. So you can start up front and hopefully maintain your track position. But if you’re 10th -15th anywhere in there, every breaking zone they’re three or four wide ramming each other, turning guys around. Some of it could be intentional. Other stuff, you have a guy that’s slowed his car down making his turn and someone two or three rows back just bombed it in and isn’t going to make the turn and just wipes out everybody. So track position is really important here. I really work hard to try and stay up front.

DO YOU THINK THAT PEOPLE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE ‘OH, IT’S JUST SONOMA’ ATTITUDE? “Some do. I don’t. I feel like if you wrong somebody here, they’ll usually come back on the race track and get you back. I can remember (Brian) Vickers and (Tony) Stewart having an issue. Tony ended up on top of the tires. And then if you don’t have a chance to thank someone here you can always carry it to a short track down the road. I’m always aware of that. Maybe some drivers are less aware of that. I’m not saying that you won’t accidently make a mistake but the intentional stuff, we know when it happens to guys remember.”

– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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Tags: Jimmie Johnson NASCAR Sammy Hagar Sonoma Raceway

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