LEGACY MOTOR CLUB driver Jimmie Johnson was made available to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway on Saturday.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, No. 84 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar Toyota Camry XSE, LEGACY MOTOR CLUB

Have you gotten a chance to look at Erik Jones’ car or do you have any concerns on how his care center trip was handled?

“No, I have not seen the car, and certainly not concerned with Erik’s (Jones) trip back to the care center. In my experience with crashes and injuries, it takes a little bit of time for stuff to sink in. I think Erik did the right thing going back to the infield care center. Once he got to his bus, his environment changed a little bit, and he handled that very well. I think the care center reacted perfectly. It was not much he could have done differently in that moment. I think everybody did a great job.”

What have you told Erik Jones about when he should return?

“It’s really a week-by-week basis, and there is a process that takes places with physicians and NASCAR to be reinstated, so being a driver and a competitor and having injuries. I know where my head would be trying to get in the car as soon as possible. I would assume it is certainly a priority for Erik (Jones), and we want him back as quickly as he can, but as safely as we can. As we run through the process each week, I would anticipate that Erik is going to be eager. We are going to physicians and try to get approval from NASCAR – we are trying to make sure that timing is right. It is really tough to tell with injuries. I’m sure you can tell from your experience in sports, we all wish we had the crystal ball and know when someone could come back but it really is a dynamic environment. We will go through the right steps and make sure that Erik is truly ready when he gets back in the car. I think driving is one aspect of it but going through another significant impact and crash. That is something that we have to be mindful of.”

How does Dover feel to you?

“No, I’m expecting it to be a much different environment than I had so much success with. You really have to drive this car with a lot of steering wheel input, ride height attitude, charging the diffuser – there is just a whole different – it is just a different mousetrap. It is really a different environment, a different feeling. I spun out at the Coke 600. I had some issues at Texas. Those are truly my only two proper oval experiences, and just the way the car responds and loses traction, turns around is just very, very different. I can now remember why watching the first half of the season when the Next Gen car came out. I would see these spins and people turning around and everybody’s confusion then is what I’m going through. I just feel like it is my turn to go through this adaptation period of the car and try to understand it. I think I’m making progress. I think running all of the laps at Texas, really taught me a lot. Not only from driving the car, to also improvements we need to make and where we sit as a company right now. I have to learn how to drive it off of the right front – there is no doubt about it. That is what this car wants. I was always a right rear guy.”

How important is to have this stretch of races for you?

“Super helpful. Glad that our partners stacked up this way. I’m glad there was some flexibility. I was able to pick this race. It fits in perfectly. It is part of the plan to make sure I can get reps on similar tracks. I know Dover is an outlier, but again it falls in a great rhythm. I think Dover, in the past for me, surprisingly car setup wise applied to Charlotte – and I’m running the 600 later this year, running both Kansas events was intentional, so that I can continue to build reps and help my own advancement, along helping with the technology for the race team as well. I think we have a good plan for this year. Last year, our plan was to focus on road course racing – we thought that was something we needed help with, but as the year went on and the tragedy that my family went through, everything was off the table at that point. In the offseason, we focused hard on mile-and-a-halves and the performance gains that we hoped to improve and thought that running a third car at least nine events at basically all mile-and-a-half tracks would help us develop as an organization.”

With your success at the track here in Dover, is there any extra motivation or expectation this weekend in Dover?

“It is just so different. I realized that quickly at Texas. I have a few wins at Texas, and that didn’t carry in. It is really on me. It is such a different environment as a driver and to spot these drivers in the garage a two-year head start on the little nuances that you need from the prep side on a Tuesday, all of the way to the completion on a Monday, when you debrief and work through it all. There is just a lot of distance to make up, and first and foremost, I need to do my part and get in tune with this car. Through this stretch, I will be able to do so.”

Can you talk about mentoring the drivers at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB compared to your time at Hendrick Motorsports?

“Not being in the car as often, and having so little Next Gen experience, I can’t be as detailed and as nuanced as I was in my Hendrick days. Big picture, more from a 30-thousand-foot view, more from an organizational point of view, partner point of view – life experience, there is things that I’m always here for and happy to help these guys with, and been very engaged with them both. Personally, I hold them both in high regard, professionally – same thing, so I’m really enjoying my time with both of them and hope to be more of a help as I get more reps and specifically talk about the Next Gen car.”

Is there a give and take with your team and drivers tomorrow?

“No, the reason we run the third car – the reason that I’m out here – is to help our two primary cars. It is not to help me. It is upon me to study, learn, ask the right questions, listen in. I don’t want to take anything away from the 42 or 43 programs. I’m really here to help. I will be doing plenty of listening. Just studying for this event with SMT and also driving the sim, it drives so much different than my last time here.”

What was your mindset coming into Dover knowing your success here?

“I try not to carry too much confidence into any event. It was just hard to hide my excitement to come here and drive. I first ran here in ASA, in the late 90s and fell in love with the track. I hadn’t been on an oval that scared me like being here. It is kind of a mixed back of emotions. The exhilaration of running a lap here, combined with confidence and the success that I’ve always enjoyed – thankfully in a Cup car with Hendrick Motorsports, and the relationship I had with Chad (Knaus) – we were able to truly dial in and build a car that always showed up and performed here. I try to not be over confident because this garage area is so intelligent, so smart. They studied us. They studied our approach here, and towards the end of my career – we didn’t have the guaranteed win success, but we always ran really well, so that was nice to see that carry on. I wish that guaranteed me a good result this weekend, but it is just a new environment and I’ll know a lot more with the 10 or 15 laps I will get in practice, and two more in qualifying. I wish practice was a lot longer. At least 45 minutes – and yes, I’m lobbying for more practice. I know that has been a conversation. I think it would be beneficial for all.”

Was there a difference from your first lap at Texas to what you ran by the end of the race?

“Yeah, from what I experienced in the vehicle – great reps – I came a long way of understanding the car. Unfortunately, the way the rules work, you make decisions a week in advance. The car, the shocks, the nose weight – all of the major pieces of the puzzle are in place. It goes into the transporter and it’s off. We made a few small changes with air pressure, and such, during Saturday and Sunday at Texas, but that is all you can do. It just puts so much pressure on unloading correct, and if we had a chance to change some springs in practice, had a longer session and it was allowed for us to make some more conceptional changes to the car, I think it would take the pressure off and the expense off, of all of the other tools that we need to create and work with to unload so spot on. I think that is the process that we are missing. I would like to see one shot to change a spring, especially from the era of racing that I ran in. We’d tear the car completely apart overnight – suspension off, a-frame changes, geometry changes, nose weight – you name it, wholesale changes. Now it is just tire pressure and wedge.”

As long as Erik Jones is out, would Corey Heim continue to drive the no. 43 car or would you consider getting in the car?

“Next weekend, I’m in the car in Kansas. We really haven’t looked really far down the road. We are taking it week-by-week, but Kansas for sure – it would be Corey (Heim) and not me.”

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