NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS: On strategy for qualifying and then the unknown of the inversion: "I have tried to play the inversion in the past. ...
NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10
Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS:
On strategy for qualifying and then the unknown of the inversion: "I have tried to play the inversion in the past. I think I actually won my first my Challenge by playing the inversion right, it all worked out for me and we got a good starting spot for the final segment. The first year, I think I won the first and second segment and came back and finished third in the final one. I have tried both sides but it is so tough to guess where that inversion spot is going to be. You see a pack of cars that are all running together and only running about half throttle trying to be in the magical spot when there is no way of knowing where it is. We've tried it but I think if you have a chance to win the race, you just go and win the race. It still pays the money, it is still the race you won and the racer takes over. If you can't win the race that is when you start looking at where that transfer spot might be or where that inversion spot might be I should say and try to get that right."
On difficulty of track now: "I just have such a different feel right now, or a different opinion because I was here on the soft tire and thought the track was Lowe's Motor Speedway. Everything I did here before all worked again. Then I came back on the harder tire and we didn't have the advantage that we should. In my heart I think the track is still Lowe's Motor Speedway, we just have to get our setup right and better work this tire than we have been."
What makes this Lowe's Motor Speedway? "I don't know, I have been trying to recognize whatever it is since I had success when I first came here so I don't lose it. I am not sure I know what it is or where it came from, I am just lucky to have had it for as long as I have."
Can you identify the changes? "It is just a whole new race track, not what it was before they started the grinding process. At that point, I felt like I was one of two or three guys that really could drive the track, and with the grinding just smoothed everything out.
Do the changes made here at LMS change your attitude about this race? "No, it's funny because your emotions go back and forth, and you think this is just a points race, and you think about the million dollars that is involved. There are only a few races that pay this much, so it is just a balancing act with your emotions. You are hoping to get the inversion right, and get the pit stops timed right to get track position in the first segment. There is definitely a lot of strategy involved."
How do you feel about Saturday night, knowing that it is going to be a basically winner takes all event? "I am very comfortable with the speeds here, I don't think that they are going to be any higher than what we have seen in the past here. When I was here on the soft tire, I was running stupid fast laps, and the car was stable, but unfortunately, the tire wouldn't survive over a long run, but it was fun."
How much is Saturday night going to be a learning process for you guys to use next week? "It is going to be a huge learning process for us. We all had a good idea as to how the old track was going to change; going from daylight practice to night qualifying, then to the 600, when we start in the day, and go into the night. Right now, we are all guessing, and the team knows that we need to tighten the car up in the sunlight, but we are not sure how tight we need it. Then, going into qualifying, we are not sure how much we need to loosen the car up, so we are really learning this track again. It is going to be critical to get as much time on track and take as many notes as possible so we can use that information to get an idea as to how this place will change".
Jimmie, you just signed an extension on your contract with Hendrick Motorsports, keeping you there until 2010, how has that affected you this week? "I definitely feel very fortunate to be in the situation that I am in, and it was a big sense of relieve. I just feel very fortunate to know that I am with Hendrick Motorsports through 2010, and I don't think that there are very many five-year contracts out there"
Do you think that with Toyota coming into the Cup Series next year, that Hendrick wanted to go ahead and sign you so that you would be locked in and Toyota wouldn't be an issue? "On the Hendrick side, Rick loves stability, he likes to know who his sponsors are going to be for a long period of time, and who his driver is going to be, but I really must say that it was the Lowe's side that wanted to extend their relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and myself. We actually had all the details worked out over the off-season, and made a formal announcement to all the employee-owners at a Lowe's event, and now this has been released out to everyone else, so luckily all this took place during the off season, so we didn't have to worry about anything but racing."
How much consideration do you put into the purses of this race? "The purse is everything. Granted, you could put a five-cent trophy up there, and we would still race just as hard because everyone wants to win, but when you put a million-plus dollars on the line, there is isn't anything like it. I think Daytona is the only other race that pays in that ballpark, so it is a lot of cash."
What kind of chances would drivers take to win a race here at LMS? "I think if the situation was there, and you were in second, it wouldn't matter who was in front of you, I think everyone will take chances. I can't remember it being down to a last lap pass, I am pretty sure what the outcome would be; second place would win, and the leader would be in the wall."
Jimmie, what would you do with the check from this race, do you have any real estate in mind or anything? "No, I don't think about it that way. Maybe I'd go buy myself an old car; I have been collecting old cars for a while now. I need a Harley, so I'd like to get a motorcycle, maybe I would go spoil myself with something like that, then I could dig a hole in the backyard and bury the rest and forget about it."
What is Chad (Knaus, crew chief) contract situation? "I am not sure what his situation is. I know he is good through 2007, and I know that he is going to be with Hendrick Motorsports for a really long time. I am just not familiar with what his situation is" . Do you ever see yourself racing against Chad? "I don't ever want to see myself racing against Chad. I know Chad has a vision that is really big and large, he actually does a lot more that just being a crew chief at our organization. If I were looking into a time machine, I would see Chad being a crew chief on the #48 for a very long time, and then being still at Hendrick Motorsports in some sort of engineering capacity, and still being around and contributing."
Have you seen a big difference in his personality since he came back from his suspension? "Yeah, without a doubt. I have seen him try really hard to do a lot of things, but coming back to the track and handling things in the manner that he has, he has done such an amazing job and I couldn't be more proud of him."
In what ways has Chad changed personally since he has returned? "You know Chad as good as I do, and just the fact that he is taking some days off here and there recently to recharge his own battery says a lot. Before, he would work seven days a week, 18 hours a week, he has finally realized that no one can keep that pace up, and he is now enjoying the things that he has earned in his life. He has a nice house, boats, he has been on the lake, and he can spoil himself. He is really making a huge effort and I am really proud of him."
What is the worst paying race on the circuit? "Man, I don't have a clue. I thought it was like a Martinsville or a Bristol, where you tear the sides off the car. No, we know the better paying ones, I guess we just try not to concentrate on the lower paying ones."