SCR: Was there any hesitation in the fact you might have taken on more than you could handle?
Johnson: No. The plan for the No. 48 Lowe's team is for the future. We are all relatively young guys on this team, and we are still learning and growing. It just happened that the fit was perfect, and we had success right from the start. However, this team was built for the future, and we'll only get better with time and experience.
SCR: On the other side of that, how personally satisfying has it been for you to not only race, but also beat veteran and champion drivers on a regular basis in making a name for yourself?
Johnson: It's weird to be racing alongside of guys and beating guys that were my idols growing up. Last season in Darlington, I was coming off pit road with the No. 88 behind me, and we all know how good Dale Jarrett is at Darlington. We got going and I just thought to myself, "here we go because D.J. is going to eat me up." Three laps into that run, I looked in my rearview mirror and I was pulling away from him. I was amazed, and I think that was one instance when I started building some confidence in the fact that I could run with guys like Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett on a regular basis.
SCR: How much of a job has it been trying to satisfy everybody from the media to all the folks who pay the bills?
Johnson: It's a full-time job being a driver. You just have to create a structure or routine that allows you to take care of everything. Mondays are my days off. Tuesdays, I have a media conference call. Wednesdays, I do laundry, pay bills, etc. and do media or sponsor activities if necessary. Thursdays, I travel to the races. Then, we are into the race weekend and that is filled with racing, sponsor activities, charity events, etc. You really have to make time for things because if you don't, it will never happen.
Crew chief Chad Knaus (right)...
Crew chief Chad Knaus (right) isn't afraid to take chances on setups, Johnson says, and that's paid off frequently.
SCR: How much time do you get to spend with your family now that you're a busy Winston Cup superstar?
Johnson: I'm not sure about the superstar tag there, but it's very challenging to spend time with them. Shortly after I started racing in the Busch Series, my family moved from California to North Carolina. My father drives my motor coach to virtually every race and my mom works on my fan club. So they are still very much involved in my life. My little brother, Jessie, drives a Bandolero, and my middle brother, Jarit, is his crew chief and spends a lot of time building and fine-tuning the car. Jessie races Tuesday nights at Lowe's Motor Speedway, so when I'm in town on a Tuesday, it's a safe bet that I'll be there supporting both of them and helping out in any way possible. Besides that, we all live about five miles away from each other, so we try and get together as much as possible.
SCR: What is one thing most race fans don't know about Jimmie Johnson that they might find interesting?
Johnson: People would be surprised to know that I'm just an average person who has a really cool job. I still do laundry, pay bills, wash dishes, do yard work--all the same things that everyone else has to do. Many people think that as drivers, we have people that do all of the things, but many of us don't. We're just the average next door neighbors.