Butch 'splains it all to Jimmie Johnson
By: Bill King
It was a dank and dingy Friday morning at the World Center of Racing where the 43rd running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona is into its second official day. We're following one of the three Daytona Prototypes entered by Howard-Boss Motorsports in the crowded Grand American category. The Boss Snowplow No. 4 Pontiac Crawford is being piloted by veteran road racers Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson and NASCAR ace Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson is on the property, having arrived in the Daytona area after last midnight. Admittedly a little wired in anticipation of his first driving stint in the No. 4, Johnson was running on about four hours of sleep. We caught up with him as Leitzinger was briefing him on how the car was doing, a conversation similar to the one we caught yesterday before EFR crawled aboard for night practice.
"You have to watch it going in," Leitzinger said of corner entry to the kink. "You'll have a little bit of understeer there going in. And in the second half there's a pavement change."
"Yeah," nodded an attentive Johnson, who shared this same car with Butch and EFR in last year's Rolex 24.
"And you'll swap to some oversteer on it," Butch elaborated. "Not huge. I don't want you to think it'll jump on you. But it'll start going that way.
"It'll be interesting if on a couple of heat cycles on tires if it still does it; but on new tires, it has a bit of an understeer mid-corner. I was just cranking more lock onto it and getting more slip angle. But we never had a problem with the fronts."
"But the forward bite was a little off?" asked Johnson.
"Yeah, some problem with forward bite."
"And spinning the rear tires, too," Johnson questioned.
"Yeah. The traction control was working well, but without a little more grip, they do tend to go beyond the traction control and still spin the tires. I'll show you on the steering wheel how to adjust it."
"Oh good," grinned Johnson, "Another knob to play with."
"Yeah," replied Leitzinger. "We have a little different mapping knob as well. I'll show that to you. The car's actually running really good and the engine is so much better than it was (last year). We were actually 40 horsepower down."
Johnson grinned, "Perfect. To come back with more motor. There's nothing wrong with that."
"It's pretty comfortable," Leitzinger summed up. "But it's probably going to be loose on these new tires, so."
"I just find my marks, my downshifting and then I should be fine," shrugged Johnson.
"Good," said Leitzinger. "And, oh yeah, we don't have the blipper on the downshifter."
"No," frowned Johnson.
"They outlawed it again," said Leitzinger.
"Did they really?"
"Yeah, I guess, noone had a chance to put it on, so they're delaying it until they make it legal."
"So you had an auto-blipper?" we asked.
"Yeah," grinned Johnson. "It was cool. It was great. I was loving it. I got all my downshifts really nice. Pop. Pop. Pop. By the way, how'd we qualify."
"We're eighth," Leitzinger said. "Actually, it could have been a lot better. We went out and did one lap and I was starting to do the banker laps when somebody crashed so they black-flagged it. So we came in, figured it was good enough for a top 10, so we stuck to our weekend mantra of not running the car too much. So we just parked it."
Johnson then told Leitzinger about the California/Las Vegas Nextel Cup tests last weekend. "Knocking that inch off the spoiler caused us to go back in redo all the bodies to get the aero balance back. It was a handful. We tested at Atlanta a few weeks ago. The car was out of control.
"We took it back and the crew worked on it and at the Vegas test and we were good and we were good at Fontana too," Johnson said, "We never really had a chance to run in traffic though. Anytime you'd get around somebody, they'd bail out of the way.
"For SpeedWeeks, we still have the same package as last year, but when we get to Fontana, that'll be the real test."
Please view all the diary entries by Bill King on the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford at http://www.motorsport.com/news/series.asp?S=GRANDAM