Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to California Speedway on Sunday for the 500-mile race on the 2-mile track. Johnson won his first race at this track in 2002 and finished 16th last season. Johnson is second in the season point standings after ...
Jimmie Johnson and Team 48 travel to California Speedway on Sunday for the 500-mile race on the 2-mile track. Johnson won his first race at this track in 2002 and finished 16th last season. Johnson is second in the season point standings after finishing fourth in Talladega on Sunday.
HOW SPECIAL IS CALIFORNIA FOR YOU?
"It's great. I'm going back to my home state where I got my first win. It's very special. It's usually a lot more work because there are more friends and family and fans that I need to see. It isn't a relaxing weekend because there are a lot of demands on my time. But it's nice to go back and hopefully I can leave there with another new trophy that I can bring home to my new home in North Carolina."
REVISIONS FOR THE UPCOMING NEXTEL ALL-STAR RACE AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY
"It sounds like some interesting changes. When the fans do the random drawing, you know it's going to be a full inversion. It's a bit predicable. Finding a way to create a different random draw is the key. It sounds like it's going to head that direction. With a $1 million on the line, it will be exciting again as usual."
YOU COULD COME AWAY WITH THE POINTS LEAD ON SUNDAY. DOES THAT MATTER RIGHT NOW?
"You always want to be on top. Even with the point system this year where it all starts over and there's not a huge advantage to being on top, there's a lot of pride and a lot of work that goes into it. You want to be up front all the time no matter if it's practice or qualifying or points, you want to be at the top of the board. There is a lot of motivation to do that. California has been a good track for us for a few reasons. Chad Knaus is one of the smartest crew chiefs out there who understands the aero vs. the mechanical balance needed on a race car. He does an incredible job of putting a solid car underneath me. We have great power from the engine shop it seems like at every California trip. We usually end up debuting a new package. We're going to take some more horsepower with us this year. It's a great combination. It's a track that I like. My hometown El Cajon is all fired up to be there. All that stuff clicks and makes for a good performance."
AFTER THE FAN DISPLAY AT TALLADEGA LAST WEEKEND, SHOULD ALL NEXTEL CUP RACES BE COMPLETED UNDER GREEN?
"The thing that I look at as a competitor is consistency. NASCAR has set a mark that if there is a caution after a certain lap, they won't red flag the race in order to finish under green. So from the competitor's standpoint, we need something to build our strategy on and know what is going to take place. What they've been doing, they've been doing consistently. I don't think you'll find a driver who complains about it just as long as it's the same. I know the fans were upset because we didn't have a green flag finish, but the sport was founded on being a certain number of miles per event. It's my assumption that the sport was founded on each race being a certain amount of miles. When they say it's a 500-mile race, it's going to be a 500-mile race. That's the way it was designed and they are still following that mindset. If it's a green-white-checkered finish, that's fine with me as long as it's the same all year long. We're calculating fuel mileage to the last drop to finish these races. We just need a consistent format."
IF YOU DO WELL AT CALIFORNIA, RICHMOND AND CHARLOTTE IN THE SPRING, DOES THAT SET YOU UP FOR THOSE TWO RACES IN THE FALL WHEN THEY ARE PART OF THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"It just depends on where you are. Right now we're pretty comfortable and we're structuring test sessions to be later in the season and taking some risks on preparing for Fontana and for Richmond. We're just kind of biding my time. If we were 350 points out right now, it would be a different situation. For the Lowe's team right now, we're in great shape. We've been competitive everywhere we've been so far and we're going to take that knowledge we've been gathering on the l.5 mile stuff and take it to the first 2-mile track. Martinsville was good for us so we're taking that car to Richmond. We're learning our lessons from the races and budgeting our test sessions for later. But if we have two our three bad races, it might be a little different story for us."
HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT EVERYONE IS BEING MORE AGGRESSIVE IN THEIR DRIVING BECAUSE OF THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I wouldn't say so. We had a lot more action going on at Talladega. Bump drafting worked in the past, but you were afraid it would damage your car and you didn't want to take that risk. But now you have guys who are a little bit more aggressive on the plate tracks. We've literally had to build these huge steel reinforced bumpers with steel plates to keep the shape of the nose so you can blast people like we have been. Everybody is running the same speeds and that's the only way you can really shake things up on a plate track is with bump drafting. It would set off an air bag in a passenger car we're hitting each other so hard. Bumping in the corners is on the verge of causing a big wreck. We're lucky we didn't have too much of that. We had one incident that I was real close to that took place. But we're just all very competitive. In a plate race, if you're in the 10th spot, you're just really fearful you're going to be where the big accident is that you get desperate. You almost create the accident because you're trying to shake things up to get inside the top five where it's supposedly safe. From around the 400-points mark - give or take 100 points on each side - is where you're going to see more aggressive racing. Otherwise, I don't think it's any different than in the past."
Crew Chief Chad Knaus:
ON FINISHING THE RACE UNDER GREEN VS. YELLOW:
"NASCAR stated that they would not red flag the race after we completed lap 183 (at Talladega) and we had completed that lap. They can move me back a spot every race for the rest of the year as long as they keep it the way it is. The way it was, racing back to the yellow, somebody was gong to get hurt. That's the first think I don't want to happen. If my driver is sitting out there in a crashed car in the middle of the race track and somebody comes blowing by racing back to the yellow and hits him and hurts him, it's not worth it. I'd rather them finish every race under caution if we could avoid that just one time. It needs to get better, there's not doubt about it. I don't think the green-white-checkered is the answer either. If you get into a situation where the caution comes out with a couple of laps to go, and you're at the tail end of a fuel run, it's just not fair if you have to come in and get fuel. Or if you've been dominating the race all day and somebody who is running second goes into the turn and knocks you out of the way and goes on to win the race, that's just not right. You've got to look at it in the grand scheme of things. We advertise to run 400 miles or 500 miles that's what we run. If we didn't count yellow flags, we'd be there all night long at some of these places. So I think what they did is 100 percent correct and I stand behind them (NASCAR)."
Team Lowe's Racing will bring car No. 4880 to California Speedway. Its only race came at Las Vegas this year where it appeared to be one of the quickest cars on the track before a pit lane accident damaged the nose of the car. Johnson finished 16th.
STATS & FACTS
Moving Up The Chart
* Jimmie Johnson's seven career victories after just two full years is good enough for 54th best in the history of the sport. His Darlington victory last month tied him with Darel Dieringer, A.J. Foyt, Jim Reed and Marshall Teague.
* Johnson has led 227 laps in the 2004 season -- the fifth most.
Home Sweet Home
* California Speedway is considered Johnson's home track because it is merely a two-hour drive to his hometown of El Cajon, Calif., near San Diego.
* Johnson ranked fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 at this point of the season one year ago.
* Sunday marks Jimmie Johnson's 94th NASCAR Nextel Cup start.
MOST RECENT 2004 RACE -- TALLADEGA
Jimmie Johnson started eighth and overcame a cut tire early in the race to battle back to the front and lead laps at Talladega. Johnson was in fourth and appeared to be one of the cars that would contend for victory as the race wound down. But a caution flag flew with five laps remaining freezing the field and Johnson received a fourth-place finish.
MOST RECENT CALIFORNIA RACE
Johnson started 20th but climbed into the top five and appeared destined for a good finish but a lap 248 accident severely damaged the Lowe's Chevrolet and he limped across the finish line with a 16th-place finish.