Bristol: Johnson - Friday media visit

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Impala SS talked with members of the media about racing at Bristol Motor Speedway, the setup of his Impala SS and other subjects. Johnson is currently second in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series standings. THE COMBINATION OF...

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Impala SS talked with members of the media about racing at Bristol Motor Speedway, the setup of his Impala SS and other subjects. Johnson is currently second in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series standings.

THE COMBINATION OF THE NEW CARS AND THIS TRACK, WILL THAT CAUSE TROUBLE? "It's tough to tell. Once we get into the cars we don't really know what the shape of the car is like. It's just dealing with the handling of it, trying to balance out the front of it. I'm sure there's going to be some things pop up that aren't expected. I think in the end you'll still see a typical Bristol race."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BRISTOL? CAN YOU HAVE SUCCESS HERE? "It's just a different animal. I think we've all been able to start over at the same points having developed a car that's good for me. Jeff (Gordon) and I don't drive the identical setup so what he attempts to test here with before doesn't work for me. I tried it, it just doesn't work. This gives us all the same starting point; we feel like we're in a good position right now with the new car. The conditions are much different now than when we tested here; it's much, much warmer now and there's a lot less grip out there so it's going to put on a good show. You're going to see a lot of sliding around."

WHAT DID YOU FIND OUT AFTER PRACTICE SESSIONS? "Some of the stuff that brought comfort to the car for qualifying trim at the test didn't work now and I think that's the because of the temperature.. Beyond that I think the test just carried over. The cars still have a lot of movement. You can sit in Turn One and watch them bounce around and 'porpoise' around and the hard part is trying to get out of this. If you haven't stopped the car with a packer before the splitter hits the ground, what you're seeing all that movement is the car hitting the packer or that bump stop and it's just a harsh stop; it bounces the car around. We're all trying to play with our shocks, tire pressures and geometry to make that impact more forgiving so the car will turn."

DO YOU DO THAT EVERYWHERE OR JUST IN TURN ONE? "I think the transition's more abrupt in Turn One. There's a smaller act of it over in Turn Three but it doesn't like Turn One."

TEAMMATE JEFF GORDON IS QUICKER THAN YOU RIGHT NOW. DID YOU GUYS WORK TOGETHER ON HIS SETUP OR DID THEY GO AT IT ALONE? "We've certainly had input. In the test session we were probably close to him. I think over time the way Chad (Knaus) looks at things is different than how Steve (Letarte) looks at it. What I look for in my inputs is different than Jeff's and that's where we kind of drift apart but since we're starting at the same point we're closer here."

HOW DO YOU SEE SAFETY IMPROVING THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER? "Well, I looked at it as pretty safe when I first started in the Busch series and it's changed so much that I couldn't be more thankful that all the hard work has gone into it. It's been a group of people, regardless of the make of the vehicle just working on safety just for the drivers of this sport. There were universities developing softer walls and a lot of technology that's gone into stuff so I'm glad to see everyone working together to make it safer. Like I said, I felt I was safe before but now that everything we have, even the crash data box in the cars.really makes it a lot better."

BRISTOL BEING SO TOUGH FOR YOU IN THE PAST, DO YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A BETTER CHANCE WITH THE NEW CAR? "I think it does help close that gap up. I feel that way now but we wanted more practice. We'll have to see how the race goes but I feel it's helping us out some."

HOW IS THE CAR DRIVING? "It's alright. I think the warmer weather now has changed some things from the test. Some of the things that worked for us in the test didn't work right away so we backed off of it and we're still trying to get balance."

ARE YOU MAKING MORE CHANGES THAN NORMAL? "You're more limited now than you were before so you can't really change as much. You have to keep the car off the ground with the packer and stuff and get the splitter right so you're kind of boxed in."

CAN YOU PUT A QUALIFYING SETUP AND A RACE SETUP ON THIS CAR? "Yeah, there's definitely a qualifying setup versus race setup. It really boils down to maximizing the grip of the tire and in qualifying trim you want to abuse it and use all four tires as much as you can. In race trim you want to soften things up and take care of the tires."

WERE YOU HAVING TROUBLE EARLY ON? "Yeah, in the beginning when the track was green it was pretty slick. I think I was sideways all the way down the front straightaway one time. But once rubber started being laid in the grip came back."

WILL YOU CHANGE WING ANGLE BETWEEN QUALIFYING AND THE RACE? "I don't think so. I think we're going to maximize all the downforce we're allowed to have and then find a way to make the car turn mechanically from there. You're faster through the turn except for Daytona and Talladega and there's minimums set on all of that. So if we can have as much downforce as we can in the car that's where we're going to go."

DO YOU THINK THE TOP TEAMS WILL HAVE MORE OF AN ADVANTAGE BECAUSE OF THEIR ENGINEERING SUPPORT? "I think initially it's going to work out that way. The big teams are going to have the advantage. The support of the engineers is part of it but over time there are less areas to play with this car so it will limit us."

IS YOUR SIGHTLINE ANY DIFFERENT IN THE NEW CAR? "It's really tall inside the car. It's more the vertical vision that I have. I swear that the line of the roof must be six inches taller to look out of the car. It's really the only difference that I noticed."

DOES IT HELP AT ALL AT A HIGH-BANKED TRACK LIKE THIS? "It does. Bristol it does and I've always suggested my - we run that black tape strip along the top of the car - I've always kept mine up as far as I could at tracks like this. Just so I can see from around the turn. This does help with that a little bit more."

DID YOU AND TONY STEWART HAVE A CONFLICT AFTER ATLANTA? "No, once we had a chance to talk about it we didn't and I knew leaving the track that we were in good shape. Word kind of made it from his people to my people that it was fine. It's funny, I called him and you know how he is with his damn phone, he doesn't ever answer. I texted him, went through the whole routine and he wouldn't call me back. Then he said 'come on my show and we'll talk about it.' Once he had me come onto his radio show I figured everything was fine. We talked on his show and he came on my show the following day and it was fine."

HOW HARD IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO COME OFF THE WALL, PREVENT FROM CLIPPING YOU AND THEN GIVE YOU THE FINGER? "There's no doubt that Tony is a talented driver. I didn't realize that was visible on TV. He did a great job not wasting the issue and when I caught wind of him rallying back it was just too late to readjust. I tried but that didn't leave a lot of room and he ended up rubbing against the wall. I don't think our cars even touched. If we would have touched it would have put me into the wall and that would have been a big loss. But he's very talented to shoot me the bird right inside the car and keep going straight."

HOW CHALLENGING IS IT TO COME IN WITH A NEW CAR, TIRE, ENGINE. IS IT ANY MORE CHALLENGING THAN WHAT IT WAS WHEN YOU FIRST CAME? "I don't know. I'm trying to think back to my rookie season. I don't know. With the limited testing that we have and the lack of opportunities to get data with this new car, it is very challenging in that respect. If you're good at describing what you feel you're going to excel. I think my rookie year I tested 12 times a year and I had a lot more time to get data and learn the tracks.

"You've got to distinguish the different feelings of the car and why it might be tight or loose and get the crew chief in the area of where the problem is coming from."

WOULD YOU ALMOST RATHER BE A ROOKIE? "No, I said from the beginning I'd trade my youth for five years of experience and here I am in my sixth season and loving it. It's been a long road and there's a lot of things you have to learn. A lot of it's learned by making mistakes and making the wrong adjustments on cars and then living with it for 500 miles, thinking 'I'll never get out of here'. I'm glad those days are, for the most part, behind me. It's still a big learning curve and I don't think you'll ever quit learning but I like the feel that I have now."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson