JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Dover, consistency in the Chase, double-file restarts, and more. ON RETURNING TO DOVER: "We had a great run here in the spring so we're optimistic coming back and...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Dover, consistency in the Chase, double-file restarts, and more.
ON RETURNING TO DOVER: "We had a great run here in the spring so we're optimistic coming back and could really use a victory, get some points, and continue this good start that we've had so far. All in all, things are good. New tire. I was part of the tire test and feel that the tire, directionally, is going to be helpful for the Truck Series and Nationwide cars and it's also going to help us. Based on what we saw in the tire test, the tire helps the car turn a lot more. So you might see a lot of loose race cars but frankly we're kind of out of adjustments to free them up so we're hopeful that this allows the teams to tighten the cars up some and have a bigger window to work in with adjustments. I'm looking forward to getting on track and seeing what really takes place."
ON THE 2010 TESTING POLICY, WILL IT CHANGE THE WAY YOU TEST NEXT YEAR; ARE YOU GOING TO TEST MORE AND DO YOU THINK CERTAIN TRACKS NOW ALLOWED WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU? "It's definitely going to be useful. There are different things you can take from that. I don't think it's the best solution. I still think if we were allowed to test at five or seven tracks that we race on with the right tire, we're going to learn more useful information and develop the cars and it's going to be a win-win. I still hope that's the direction things go. I'm happy to see that it's opened up and we can at least go shake-down a car, if the team is out of rhythm we can go to the track and change some stuff and work new crew guys in. So there's definitely some benefits and I'm very happy to see it open up. At the end of the day I still think we need to test at the tracks we race at and on the tire we're going to run on."
YOU GOT YOUR FIRST TASTE OF THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS IN THE CHASE LAST WEEK IN LOUDON AND IT LOOKED VERY AGGRESSIVE IN THE END. IS THAT WHAT YOU EXPECTED? WHAT'S YOUR OUTLOOK ON THAT? "I think we've had a good taste of it through the summer and I feel that it's definitely made the racing more exciting. There's a lot more risk for everybody, really, not just the guys starting up front. In the past, as you worked your way to the front, you always felt a little more secure, especially if you got to second. Third over second was much better. Now, it depends on which lane is working (laughs) and you're not really sure where you need to be and how the restart is going to go.
"So, from a driver's standpoint it's more stressful. There is a lot more risk involved but I think it's putting on a better show. I look forward to the fans enjoying that and hopefully tuning in to watch it."
ONCE AGAIN, YOU'VE GOT THE GUY WHO BUILT A DOMINATING LEAD DURING THE REGULAR SEASON BUT FALLS FURTHER BEHIND AFTER ONE CHASE RACE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT GUY NEEDS TO BE REWARDED MORE? "I think he needs to be recognized for what he did during the regular season. It's impossible, well, I guess it's not impossible, but it's hard for my mind to think that when you group everybody together and try to start from somewhat of an even playing field, that you can do much more. I guess you could spread the points out and change the seeding process, but at the start of the season we all knew what it was and signed up for it and all knew it was coming. So, it's kind of one of those things where it is what it is."
THIS HAS BEEN A BENIGN YEAR. ARE GUYS NOT TAKING AS MANY CHANCES ON THE TRACK AS THEY USED TO? EVEN OFF THE TRACK WE DON'T SEEM TO HAVE THE TEMPERS AND FIGHTS DUE TO FEAR OF BEING PENALIZED AND LOSING POINTS. "I don't think there is anything preventing people from doing things outside of the car. I thought there were some statements made at the start of the season, or maybe it was last year, where NASCAR was encouraging people to be themselves and to get out and express their feeling and opinions. I don't feel there is any type of regulations or loss of rules that are in place. I think what you're seeing this year is a much more competitive series. So it depends on how you look at it. Some people like to see some domination and one consistent winner and I think it's been NASCAR's goal to make many winners and to not have a runaway and that's kind of how this year has been. I guess it depends on how you look at it."
ARE GUYS BETTER BEHAVED NOW? "I don't necessarily see it. We're still on track. There are still the games that you play with aero. These restarts have made everybody much more aggressive and the days of letting people when somebody catches you, to let him go. A lot of that stuff is changing; it's more intense on track than it's ever been. And it boils down to track position being so, so important with this car."
ON RACING AT KANSAS NEXT WEEK "It's always been a good track for us. We got the win there last year. The track is kind of like Chicago. They are real similar. I think Texas comes in there a little bit the way you run the top and make things work. It's nice to see the track; the asphalt actually, as old as it is, and allowing there to be multiple grooves to race with. I think Carl (Edwards) and I showed that last year that you can run all around the race track and put on a good show and I think we'll put on a good show when we go back."
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF CONCRETE WHEN IT COMES TO SETTING UP A RACE CAR AND THE ACTUAL RACING? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM ASPHALT? "There is definitely a sensation difference when you drive the track. It seems as if you can feel the expansion joints and the way the concrete is poured. There is a high-frequency repetitive chatter in the car that feels like the expansion joints all the way around the track. So then you have to decide as you're drifting the car, the tires will chatter as well, and you've got to try to understand how much chatter is good because a loose race car is fast. But if you take it too far and the car is around, you're going to hit something. You can't spin out and miss the fence.
"So there are aspects there that are more challenging. I'd say from a set-up standpoint, at least with the tire we ran here in the spring, it didn't lay a lot of rubber and the track stayed really consistent. From what I saw during the tire test, this tire lays a lot of rubber down. So there's a lot of oil in it. And that's really going to change the track relative to temperature, sun sitting on it, and things like that. So I think this weekend could be more of a challenge because of the tire. The track will have more of a balance swing with clouds, with temperature, and during the course of the race."
ON DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS, IF THE SHORTEST WAY AROUND THE TRACK IS THE INSIDE, WHY IS ALMOST EVERYBODY WHO IS IN THE LEAD PICKING THE OUTSIDE LANE? "It really boils down to aero. The inside car, when somebody is near its door number, changes the airflow. If somebody is on the inside of you it changes the airflow and in most cases makes you tight. In some cases it can make you loose, but when somebody is on the outside of you, it cuts off the airflow that's coming down the right side of the car and getting onto the wing. So when somebody is close to you, it disrupts that enough to where you lose the side force in the car and the car wants to spin out. So the guy on the outside just has to ride close to you through the corner, wait until you slip, and then he's in the gas and drives right on by. And that's basically what's happening.
"When you get on a short track, I think it's a different situation because the speeds aren't as high, the air isn't as sensitive, and frankly you can just run a guy up the track. Or, even at New Hampshire, it's not a really fast race track, but it's so flat we're looking for grip and need grip so badly that a small aero change there is even affective and can really mess with a guy that's inside of you."
WHAT MAKES DOVER SO TOUGH? DESCRIBE HOW THIS TRACK PULLS YOU IN, EVEN IF YOU'RE BY YOURSELF SOMETIMES, AND HOW THAT MAKES YOU CAUTIOUS TO NOT HAVE ANYTHING HAPPEN DURING THE CHASE "This is a track where you can't be cautious or maybe where cautious is, is much higher. There's a lot of grip. You really attack this race track. When something goes wrong, you then realize how fast you are going and how much ground you're covering and you're in the wreck. You can't have a lazy spin and miss something. You're going to hit a wall or get hit by a car. So you come here and it's almost like Bristol in a sense, to where everything is heightened and it speeds up and the way you drive the car is much more aggressive. So if you come in here thinking well, I'm just going to be calm and have an easy weekend, guys are going to be blowing your doors off and you've really got to stay focused and commit to really driving this track hard."
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF CARL EDWARDS TRYING TO BOUNCE THE CAR OFF THE WALL TRYING TO PASS YOU? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AT THE TIME AND WHAT DID YOU THINK AFTER YOU SAW THE REPLAY? "I know he caught some criticism, but I thought it was pretty awesome. It caught my attention when he went flying by and I could still hear him in the throttle. I thought, where in the hell is he going? (laughs) His plan was to rim-ride it around, obviously. I thought it was a great move. Some people thought it was risky. But there was enough room for us to cross paths and not get together and that kind of thing. I kind of liked the move myself."
HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT IN ANY FORM OF RACING? ANYTHING THAT CRAZY? "No, not since I've raced on tracks with walls (laughs). Some of the dirt track stuff you could go in there and clean someone out and handle things differently but not since I've been on a track with walls. I've never thought, if I hit this wall hard enough and stay in the gas it will redirect me and maybe get me to the finish line first (laughs). I've never been faced with that decision. I think we all started thinking about it a little more after Carl tried it."
SIX OF THE TOP EIGHT GUYS IN THE POINTS WEREN'T IN THE CHASE LAST YEAR. YOU'VE BEEN IN IT EVERY YEAR. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN MAINTAINING THAT CONSISTENCY? "I don't know how to really answer it without talking about what you question is which is consistency. For whatever reason, we've been able to adjust to different cars, different tires, split season of vehicles, and find a good baseline set-up to work with and collect points. You know, I look at Mark (Martin), and he started the season with some mechanical issues. And we really haven't had (knocks on wood and laughs) any mechanical issues. So, that's a very important part of the season and again I guess it does come back to consistency. Mechanicals is a big part of it and not having the DNF's."
HAVE YOU HAD TO ADJUST TO CHANGE? "Yeah, it's always a moving target from a technology standpoint. Last year, we got off to such a slow start and had to come back. We've had a lot of things thrown at us and we've done a very good job of figuring out how to be consistent from not having mechanicals, which is important. Our guys do a very good job of putting these cars together. Nothing falls off. If something breaks it's a fluke deal with a mechanical issue or a part or component that ends up breaking. So, it's just being buttoned up from top to bottom."
-credit: gm racing