JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with member of the media at Darlington Raceway and discussed the new surface at Darlington, expectations for Saturday night race, his Mom, Casey Mears, David Ragan and other topics. Full transcript ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with member of the media at Darlington Raceway and discussed the new surface at Darlington, expectations for Saturday night race, his Mom, Casey Mears, David Ragan and other topics. Full transcript below:
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE NEW SURFACE ON DARLINGTON RACEWAY AND IF THAT IS THE CAUSE OF DRIVERS HITTING THE WALL? "I think people are hitting the wall than what we have seen in the past here at this race track. First of all, they did a great job repaving it. The asphalt looks nice and the way the seams are all laid down, they did a really nice job with that. Unfortunately, when you repave tracks, it makes it more of a single-groove race track. This track of all places with new asphalt was already narrow to start with and really one line and now with the new asphalt down, it is even more narrow than it has ever been. I think in a few years once the track ages, it will get back to the way we have all seen races here and we have loved about Darlington, but, this first year or two, it going to be tough. It is going to be tough to pass, it is going to be tough to really race side-by-side because the track is so narrow and the speed is so high with these cars getting around this new car."
DOES THE NEW SURFACE FORCE YOU TO THE LOW LINE OR WILL YOU STILL RUN UP AGAINST THE WALL? "It is pretty forgiving right now. With all the grip that it has people are driving race pace at qualifying speeds, faster than we have qualified here. As far as what I am doing in the car, my race laps, I am as committed as I ever would be on any standard qualifying lap. People are just driving so hard that you are kind of running out of space and getting in to the wall. I think if you added up all the flat right sides are less than we have ever had here. In the past, this track has been so slick and rough; you would go out, get your Darlington stripe and go on because that is a part of it."
DOES THAT GIVE YOU AND JEFF (GORDON) ANY ADVANTAGE BECAUSE OF YOUR PREVIOUS SUCCESS HERE? "I think it takes that advantage away. It is a much different race track than I have ever raced on. The surface is very very good. Smooth. That delicate touch you needed to be successful here, the fact that you could burn off your tires, all of those things are gone right now. From talking to some of the veterans who have been here after they repaved it years back, it started that way, then it came back to the old Darlington. I think everybody has done a great job with repaving it here, but, it is just going to take a while to get back to what it needs to be and what we have all enjoyed about it. If they rework the track and redesign the track, made it wider and worked on the transitions, I think it would start off better the first year or two. But with it staying the same configuration it has been, it is just a narrow place and you add speed and tracks get more narrow."
IS THERE LESS TIRE WEAR WITH THE NEW SURFACE? "As far as tire wear and tire falloff, it is nothing that I have ever seen here before. You can go out on 11 or 12 lap tires and run your fastest lap time. I think Dale, Jr. (Earnhardt) was second fastest last night and he went out on 30-lap tires that had a chance to cool down and then went back out. In the past, your first lap was your fastest and you would lose two to three tenths each and every lap from there. So, the track is much different with tire wear now and fall off, I think over a few summers and the way this track kind of ages and the mix they use for this race track, it will come back and be the Darlington of old."
WHAT KIND OF RACE ARE YOU EXPECTING SATURDAY NIGHT? ELLIOTT SADLER SAID IT IS JUST GOING TO BE FOLLOW-THE-LEADER. "I am predicting the same thing. There might be some good crashes. I think guys in order to pass are going to need to be really, really aggressive and with the track being so narrow and so fast, our cars don't run very well side-by-side together and you could see guys lose it because of the aero situations. I think that might be a problem. So there may be plenty of action, but as far as racing people and making competitive passes for the lead I don't expect to see a lot yet. It isn't because they did a bad job repaving it; it is just a narrow race track. You add speed to any race track, it becomes more narrow and it is just kind of a product of a new paving job and if a track was going to suffer from a new paving job over the first couple of years, it would be this one."
DO YOU THINK THE CHANGE IS BAD FOR DARLINGTON? "I think everybody is feeling the same thing right now that it is just going to be a narrow, one groove race track for the first couple of years. And that is after they did a great job of repaving it, not that the paving job is bad, it is more the design of this track. It is so narrow and you put a new surface down and it brings the speeds up, it just makes it tough to race side-by-side.
"I think in a few years, once the track ages, it is going to come back and be the same Darlington we have all grown to love. Again, speaking to some of the veterans who have been through this in the past, this is exactly what happened after they repaved it last time. I haven't experienced it; I only know the old Darlington and am looking forward to the year when that comes back."
WHICH DARLINGTON, OLD OR NEW, IS MORE IN TUNE WITH YOUR DRIVING STYLE? "I feel I am good on either style of race track. I think with the new paving job now, it has closed up the field and made it a little bit easier for all the competitors. It is easier to hit the setup right and closer. There are less demands on the driver as far as being patient, your technique, saving the tires, all of those things that were so important here in the past. So, it has taken some away from the drivers right now and made it more forgiving."
WAS THE THURSDAY PRACTICE SESSIONS BENEFICIAL AND NECESSARY? "Yes, I think so. I think it was great to get on track and get a good idea of things. It was a smart move on NASCAR's behalf to have the best racing possible for this weekend's event. So hopefully with the additional track time, we will all figure out how to set the cars up and driving better and hopefully make some competitive passes because of it."
HOW HELPFUL IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO HAVE THE CONSISTENCY OF THE SAME CREW CHIEF, TEAM MEMBERS AND CAR OWNER FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME, UNLIKE CASEY MEARS WHO HAS HAD NUMEROUS OF EACH IN THE LAST FOUR SEASONS? "It is helpful. Before I got to the Cup level, I had driven for a lot of different teams and it was mainly because I was climbing the later trying to get to this level. I was really with one team for two years at a time and from year one to year two; it was such a different feeling inside the race shop, communication, confidence in myself and the team. So I can hopefully hope and wish for Casey that he can have that and have this team stay together. Granted he stayed at Hendrick from last year to this year, but it was a complete turnaround in crew and people. I think they have done a good job, they have had some things not work out for them luck wise and some misfortune, but I really see them gaining the confidence they need and turn the corner and getting things going."
WHAT INFLUENCE DID YOUR MOM HAVE ON YOUR RACING CAREER? "My Mom was kind of the glue that kind of kept everything together at our house between normal life and racing. That is all we have ever done is race and she has always kept my Dad and my brothers and I focused on the right things and gave us the support that we needed to go racing week in and week out. On top of the fact, she instilled in myself and my brothers' compassion. She is just a very caring, almost to a fault at times, woman and has really put that in myself and my brothers."
HOW WOULD YOU ACCESS THE PROGRESS OF DAVID RAGAN? "I think he has done a great job. I have heard the comments about being aggressive and stuff and I can't say that in racing with him, I have seen anything that I was upset with. I mean, he is a young guy trying to make it in a tough sport and he is trying hard. So I never really had any issues with racing with him and I think he has grown a lot and seeing him up there in the finishing order, not being caught up in different wrecks really shows the progress he is making. I think he is a solid Cup driver which is a huge statement, it is not an easy thing to do."
DO YOU FEEL YOUR TEAM HAS TURNED A CORNER THIS SEASON AND NOT SO MUCH BEHIND THE EIGHT BALL? "Some weeks we feel like we understand this car and exactly what it needs and other weeks we don't. So, there is still a bit of a question mark in our minds right now. We are testing a lot and working really hard to get back to the form we were used to the last couple of years.
"Our sport has always been real close with things. It seems like one team will find whatever it is that year and run with it. Roush did it a few years back. We've been fortunate to do it the last couple of seasons, now it looks like Gibbs has that whatever it is, they have it right now. We are working hard to get it back at Hendrick."
WILL THE NEW GENERATION IMPALA SS CHANGE THE COMPLEXION OF THE ALL-STAR RACE NEXT WEEK? "The test that we had there last week was a good one. I was shocked to see a middle lane and an outside lane coming in and working at a test session, which never happens. I think we have a track at Lowe's that is coming in to its own right now and is going to put on good racing. These cars are a little more difficult to race on the big tracks than what we had in the past, hopefully that test session will let us get enough track time to find the stability in the car and the balance we need to really put on a good show for the fans. These cars on the bigger tracks still need a little bit of work, but the track itself is coming in and looking good."
-credit: gm racing