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Ten Minutes With Jimmie Johnson

Driver Jimmie Johnson and Team Lowe’s Racing have had an impressive on-track showing this year. With NASCAR’s “Chase for the Championship” set to unfold in the next few weeks, Johnson shares his thoughts on the “48” team’s performance, the new points system and his teammate and mentor, Jeff Gordon.

Does 2004 seem like a potential championship season for Team Lowe’s Racing?

I think so—but it’s hard to get too confident.  As long as you’re within the top 10 or 400 points, it all starts over at race 27.  I feel that based on our races this year at those tracks and what we did last year, we should be one of the teams competing for the championship.  We’ve had two great seasons in 2002 and 2003 and the entire team has been building for a championship year.

What part of the team’s success do you think comes from chemistry and what part comes from consistency?

I think our chemistry as a team and organization breeds the consistency side.  When I come in and explain what I’m feeling, Chad Knaus comes in and works on it.  I think our chemistry as a whole is the foundation in our team’s success.

Does the new points system for 2004 allow you to take more chances?

Yes, but it’s relative to where you’re at in the points. If you’re 400 points out, or around that 400-mark, you’ve got a different race to play. You need to play defense. But with the situation we’re in right now, I feel like we’ve got a little bit of a cushion. I just need to be within 400 and we can take some chances.

The last 10 races of the season are not very far away, is Team Lowe’s Racing ready to battle for the NEXTEL Cup championship?
From the first day of the season, our team has had that championship mindset. We didn’t have to learn that or develop that.  From our first race, we had championship on the brain. We let things roll off our shoulders quickly and move onto the next race if we’ve had a bad one. I think we’re good with dealing with pressure. I think pressure motivates us in a weird way.

The DuPont team, which your team shares a race shop with, is having a very strong season this year. Will it be difficult competing with Jeff Gordon and the “24” crew in the “Chase for the Championship”?

It will be different for us. Obviously, we have raced against each other for wins and competed at that level, but a championship will be a whole new thing. As far as I am concerned, that is a good problem to have.

Granted, he is one of your main competitors on the track, but how valuable has it been for you to have Gordon as a teammate?

He’s been one of the major reasons why I’ve been able to step into the top division of our sport and be competitive on the track and know how to handle things off the track like the business side, the fans, and the mental aspects. When you have somebody who is as humble and good as Jeff Gordon to pull from and learn from, it’s been one of the biggest assets I could have ever hoped for.

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