Brickyard 400/IROC at Indy press conference Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson Aug. 2, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Part 2 of 2. Q: Talk about the restart there in the IROC race and charging there to the front. Harvick: That was...
Brickyard 400/IROC at Indy press conference
Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson
Aug. 2, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Part 2 of 2.
Q: Talk about the restart there in the IROC race and charging there to the front.
Harvick: That was pretty cool. You know, if we wouldn't have had a restart I'm not so sure that Helio wouldn't have won the race. I don't know what was on the racetrack, but I was chomping at the bit because I enjoy restarts and have a lot of fun on restarts. And I got a -- Jimmie kind of took off a little bit early and got himself out there and Helio got a good run, and when they got real close together I got a really big run, and I just decided to shove Jimmie out into the lead and wound up getting myself right behind him and myself and Jimmie and Ryan were all really close in our cars and it was just almost impossible to get by somebody. The cars weren't handling bad; they were just the same speed. I mean, I was wide open through (turns) 3 and 4 and just barely breathing it through (turns) 1 and 2, so nobody made a mistake and wound up finishing second.
Q: Kevin, when you talk about the two tire change, how does that affect the car differently than if you take four tires?
Harvick: The biggest thing is it usually tightens the car up, usually makes it not turn as good, and if you make a really long run and you've had 10 or 15 laps on your left side tires, it's probably going to fall off more than it would with four tires. So timing is pretty key on when you put two tires on and how many laps you have on your left side tires. If you're going to have to put a second can of fuel in, there's no reason not to put four tires on. But if you can just -- if you can come in before most of the field, you can usually put two tires -- or four tires on and, you know, come out ninth or 10th. So sometimes it's worth it.
Q: So much about today seemed to be the part of the draw you were in and whether, you know, the sun popped out or a little rain. Is that kind of a bad thing, because it's different conditions for everybody, is it maybe a good thing because it's another kind of goofy wrinkle, or does your opinion kind of matter on how it affects you?
Harvick: Well, today is the best I've seen it in the three years that I've done it. You know, the clouds came back over at the end of qualifying. I know in the middle the sun popped out a little bit. I was hoping it would just stay out, but the clouds came back over and the breeze picked back up, so I've seen it a lot worse. The first year I was here, you know, the sun came out, and it got really hot, and the guys at the end didn't have a chance. So, you know, part of it is the luck of the draw, but I tell you what, we've had a lot of things not go our way this year and for one thing to go right feels good.
Q: Kevin, now that you've got this out of the way you look toward tomorrow, what do you and Todd talk about in strategy, think about or have to be concerned about going into tomorrow's race and kind of create a game plan or semi-game plan, even though things can change?
Harvick: Well, the main thing is to try to keep the track up front with track position. Obviously, if our car is off we're going to have to make some adjustments, but is it worth making the adjustments on the race car and losing two or three spots in the pits pulling a spring rubber out or something like that, so that's the kind of things we have to weigh out. And, man, I wish if we knew when all the yellows were going to fall, we could plan it right out, but it's kind of a trial by error as you go along through the race and just kind of have to wait and see how it all falls. I mean, we can map it out if it goes green all the way and that's pretty easy. But if there's a yellow, you just kind of have to adjust through the race.
Moderator: I'm going to take two more questions. Ben.
Q: A pole winner has never won this race. Is there anything about this track that would cause that to be?
Harvick: I mean, as much as track position is important, that's kind of funny. I don't like that stat. I wish you wouldn't have told me that. But I don't know why that is. You know, usually if you can get yourself positioned in the front of the pack that's where you need to be in the clean air, and that's a good question. I hope it ends tomorrow. That's the stat we're hoping to end. But I don't have any logical answer for it.
Q: When you were growing up in Bakersfield, did you and Casey Mears know each other or run around together?
Harvick: Yeah, we all grew up racing go-karts, myself and Casey and Clint and, you know, Roger was doing the off-road at the time and obviously Rick was gone racing Indy cars most of the time. But most of my time was spent around Clint and when Rick and Roger would come to Mesa Marin and race late model cars, my dad would work on one or the other, I think. That was a long time -- I can't remember that far back. I have a tough time remembering what I did yesterday, but yeah, we did grow up around each other, not a lot, but we did race around each other for a few years there.
Moderator: Well, Kevin, don't worry about Ben's statistic, those statistics and records --
Harvick: Now I won't sleep tonight.
Moderator: -- they're made to be broken. So good luck tomorrow.
Moderator: Congratulations. Joining us in the Trackside Press Conference Room for our last interview of the day is the 2003 IROC winner Jimmie Johnson. This was Jimmie's first season in IROC and his first IROC win. His previous best finish in the IROC was a fourth at Chicagoland. Jimmie, first talk about what a win here at Indy in any kind of car means and then talk about that restart that really you capitalized on.
Jimmie Johnson: Yeah, it's very special to win here. Even in the IROC race, you know, you've got great Winston Cup drivers, Busch drivers, truck drivers. Helio, you know, and I was following him and I'm thinking, this guy has won here a lot, he's not going to like me trying to take this away from him. So it was a great accomplishment to win at the Speedway and to pull into victory lane, and I can say that I've won at the Brickyard. Not many people can say that, so I'm very excited about that and proud of that. But on the restart I knew that was probably my only chance to get by Helio. He was running really good, and I caught him and he was pretty observant in his mirrors and found a few tenths in each corner, figured out the line that I was running to catch him on, and then once he figured that out I was stalled out behind him and I really couldn't do much with him. The restart I knew was going to be my opportunity to make a pass, and I knew when I had Harvick lined up behind me I was going to be in pretty good shape. He's not afraid to use a little bump-drafting to move forward, so when we made it to the back straightaway, I got my car good and straight and just waited and here he came, and he tucked up behind me and bump drafted and I was able to pull him by Helio, as well, so he went into second and just was able to, you know, kind of drive in my mirrors. And I figured out three of the four corners and was able to stretch it out on Kevin a little bit, and then I noticed he was -- he found a new line through Turn 1 and was starting to catch me and once I figured that out, then we were just kind of at an equal margin the rest of the way.
Moderator: We'll open it up for questions for Jimmie. Jimmie, I've always thought this when you talk about bump draft, at a place like Indy, do you ever have a fear that the guy's going to go in the corner and he's not going to quit bump drafting you, or do you have that confidence in him?
Johnson: Yes, it is a worry, and you enter the turn and you know that the guy is probably an inch off the bumper when you're letting off the throttle and you try to maybe let off a little bit earlier and at a slower rate so you don't startle them and they run into the back of you. But there's definitely, you know, that thought running through your mind as you're turning into the corner.
Moderator: As a driver, your win today, psychologically, does it give you momentum going into tomorrow?
Johnson: Yeah, I was able to get some more laps on this racetrack. This track is very tough to drive and every lap that I get I'm getting better and better on the racetrack. And I think it's going to give me confidence as a driver to run here and to carry it over into our happy hour. We had a great happy hour, so it definitely does help.
Q: Hopefully the IROC series will continue, and I want to know what you think about it running. They're looking for a sponsor now. Humpy Wheeler from Lowe's Motor Speedway said he thought they should do the IROC race on one day and do like a dirt track, a regular course, and do like several different runs in one day. What do you think of that idea?
Johnson: You know, I've heard of a lot of different ideas, and, you know, I don't think it would be a bad idea to mix it up, maybe throw a road course in and the dirt track to cater toward everybody's background. Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski are doing a great job, but this is their own asphalt experience. So I think to mix it up it would be fun. It would be a good time for me. I would love to go run on the dirt some more. I mean, that's where I grew up. I think a road course would be great. So I think there's a lot of things they could look at. Obviously, the sponsorship dollars will dictate what they're able to do and know the cars they build today they take to Daytona, Talladega, Chicago, and here, and they don't have to worry about changing bodies, changing suspension, and that's a big expense when you're looking at dirt tracks and road courses and all that. So if the sponsorship dollars are right, I think they can come up with a creative idea.
Q: Jimmie, you talk about that bump drafting, the Indy-car guys aren't used to doing something like that. Does that put them at a disadvantage when you get in a situation on a restart and stuff like that?
Johnson: Maybe getting started, but some of the most courageous guys of bump drafting that I've been out there with have been the Indy-car guys. They don't -- that's the thing I always grin about when we're out there, you can get somebody with a bump-drafting move or give them a nudge in the corner, or do something, but as soon as you clear them, they're on your bumper, and they get you back from it. These guys are champions, and I watched Sam Hornish deal with Mark Martin was beating on him and then Mark got by him, and Sam did the same thing to him and took the spot back. And I thought, 'Wow, he's a racer, he isn't going to take anything, and even though he's not in his normal type of race car, he knows what to do with the car.' So maybe getting started, but those guys are sharp.
Q: I just wondered maybe if you could give a sense a little bit about how Jeff Gordon had said how his teammates and some other guys on his team hadn't gotten the speed figured out in qualifying. He got it figured out a little bit but making strides, that might not even affect him tomorrow, though, where he's starting from 19th, he's starting one from lower before?
Johnson: Yeah, I know they're struggling, even in happy hour now, the car is doing something really weird for him entering the corner. It's turning itself for him, and he's finding himself turning right to keep the car from running across the curbing. So there's something going on there that they'll figure out, and hopefully they'll be able to find it now that they've got a little bit more time to look through everything. With a half an hour break between our two practice sessions, they could only look so far, obviously. So there's something that's gone wrong, but I think, you know, if you make Jeff Gordon mad, he's going to come back and put it on you the next day. And he's not happy right now, and he's going to show up tomorrow morning hungry, and he'll be one of the guys to beat.
Moderator: Take two more questions. Dustin.
Q: Jimmie, you were fast in testing, if you get the right qualifying draw maybe you're on the pole, you win the IROC, what is this like for you, you know, less than 24 hours before the race, this almost seems like it's building up to quite a weekend for you. Is it anticipation, anxiety, or can you remain calm in this situation?
Johnson: It's let me sleep well. I mean, a year ago today, I was dreading this race. I had took a provisional. Our Winston Cup car, I was struggling with the track, the setup, and it was one of the most difficult races we had on our race team mentally last year. Fortunately in the race, learned how to drive the track, learned what to do, we made some good adjustments, and I was able to finish seventh. But everything leading up to the race and to the finish of the race, it was one of the toughest weekends on us. And to be able to qualify strong, win an IROC, it's just amazing what can happen in the course of a year. And I think I'll sleep very good tonight and wake up tomorrow morning and see what happens.
Moderator: If there are no further questions, Jimmie, congratulations on your win today and good luck tomorrow.
Johnson: Thank you.