An interview with Jimmy Johnson: Part 2 of 2 Q: You came into the Daytona 500, you were here testing, you had several days of practice, and then you qualified. Now, you come back and you got like an hour of practice, then you get on the track ...
An interview with Jimmy Johnson:
Part 2 of 2
Q: You came into the Daytona 500, you were here testing, you had several days of practice, and then you qualified. Now, you come back and you got like an hour of practice, then you get on the track and qualify, I mean it is a totally different situation this time around. Have you looked at that? You are not going to get a lot of laps before you get on the track for qualifying this time.
Jimmie Yes, I don't think that is going to pose a big problem. We have got experience there. We have had a race at Talladega, as far as another speedway event. We are bringing back the same car, so we have got a lot of things working in our favor that we are not needing a few days of practice to get things situated.
We have changed the car a little bit so that it will race better this time versus -- we focused hard on qualifying last time. Now, we certainly hope we have a shot to come back and win another pole in the speedway, but we are making a conscious effort to have a little better handling race car there than we had for the 500. We are just going to go through the paces and I believe we will be in really good shape qualifying wise, but even better in the race trim.
Q: Now, this race is the pole as important as the Daytona 500, or does it even matter at this point?
Jimmie No, the situation we were in for the 500 with no points as a rookie team there was - we didn't expect to come down and sit on the pole, but looking back on it that was our saving grace. I was run out of bounds in the 125 and would not have had to have a stop and go penalty. I would not have made the Daytona 500 and would have missed the first race of the year.
The Daytona 500 definitely had a lot more weight on it for our Lowe's team, but the speedway racing you get shuffled around so much it is important to have a good car, but not necessarily starting in the front.
Q: Now, when you came to Daytona in February you did not have provisionals, now you are in pretty good shape. Is that a good feeling knowing you got that safety net under you?
Jimmie Definitely. There are so many things that can happen. Everybody is pushing so hard on the cars at Daytona you can have mechanical failure. Daytona is not necessarily a track where you can spin out and crash, or anything, but it definitely takes a lot of weight off my shoulders every weekend, and especially tracks that I don't have a lot of experience at.
Q: Now, when you were here testing it, and before in February/January and practicing did Jeff give you a lot of pointers on how to get around the track in a fast way, the fastest way around the track?
Jimmie We talked a little bit about it for qualifying trim, but the speeds were at in qualifying trim is pretty self-explanatory where you need to be. You are just trying to keep the car neutral, straight, and not scrubbing any speed. When it came time to race the draft, the way the air moves around, and how to work the air there has been a lot of conversations about that stuff. I would say three times as much more conversation about the drafting then there would be about driving around.
Q: Finally, when you came to Daytona last time your main goal was to get in the race. Now you are coming back, is your main goal to win the race?
Jimmie Sure. The one thing I'm looking at is we finished 15th at the 500 and 7th at Talladega. Hopefully, we can improve from there. We have been a threat to win races on short tracks, big tracks, you know all around, so I'm not ruling it out, but we will see what happens. The speedway stuff, you just hope you are not in the big one and after that you see what you can get.
Q: Okay, thank you.
Jimmie You got it.
Q: I just wanted to ask you a couple of things about heading back to Daytona because of a limited amount of experience you have had with speedway with plate type racing. Where are you kind of with your comfort level in racing? Just because everybody talks about you have to - there is so much to learn with restrictor plate racing because it is so different from everything else?
Jimmie Yes, comfort wise is it is not uncomfortable out there. It is just being aware of your surroundings and how cars move air. At Daytona I thought that I was prepared. I ran two years in the Busch series and I was going to be in good shape, but the Cup guys are so relentless and so smart about the air that I had ... learning curb to take on, and by the end of the 500 I was a lot smarter.
I went to Talladega, learned a lot more through that race, and ran to the top five, top three at times for that matter. I think I have become a lot smarter, and hopefully learned enough that at the end of the race I'll be in the right position to maybe bring home another trophy.
Q: When you talk about just worrying about how relentless the other guys are with the air, for myself and probably for a lot of the fans who are not in those cars, are not in that situation, do not have that experience. How can you explain that a little bit more to where maybe kind of the average person can understand what you are kind of talking about because it is something I've never been in and can't relate to?
Jimmie Sure. Well, you can use the air of cars around you to your advantage to push you forward and to make you get position on the car in front of you and to get passes done. There are things like riding the break and backing up into the car behind you, so that the air coming off their car will give you a push forward. When you are trying to pass someone if you get real close to the side of them, about right around the rear tire, it changes the air over their car, makes the air really hit their spoiler hard, and stops that car.
Those are just two of -- some of the other ones I can't really explain. You could just feel your car accelerate through air pocket, or get slowed down in others depending on how cars are positioned in front of you. There are just a lot of weird things going on with the air that think back to Earnhardt's comments. He would say that he didn't even need a spotter on the speedway races. He could feel the air.
Well, as I'm getting more experience I'm understanding that because when somebody does get to the inside of you, or the outside of you it stops you because it is changing the air over your car. It is some weird stuff that goes on out there. I have to tell you, it is really weird.
Q: How much do you feel like you have learned in that, and how much more do you feel like is probably still out there that you will need to learn over the years?
Jimmie You will always continue to learn and grow, but it's important - what is tuff right now though is cars are so equally matched. You run side by side for so long that you only can do so much because there is a lane of cars on the inside, or outside of you that can stop you. Where the real tricky stuff comes into play is when it is five to go and you are in single file line with a breakaway of five, or six cars. That is when the true knowledge of the drivers is going to show up.
When you are in the big pack there is a lot of stuff going on that you don't create that will either slow you down, or speed you up. The true test comes, like I said, when you are strung out with a few to go.
Q: I just want to ask you one other thing about restrictor plate racing with the success that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has had with winning three of the last 4 races. I think you had, what, a little bit of an opportunity to run up near him, around him in Talladega. Was that enough, or in chances and practice with running near him if you haven't seen some of the things that he does and maybe explain why he's been successful, other that they certainly do have a very good plate program at DEI?
Jimmie Yes, one thing you find yourself doing is driving in the mirror a lot. None of us like to do it, but if you get stretched out too far in front of the car behind you it gives them an air pocket to run up in and have momentum on you to pass you. When I was in third behind Jr. and Michael, trying to find a way around Michael, I kept trying to slow down a little bit to get a run on him and try to play that game, but he was so good at blocking that and slowing his car down so I didn't have a big gap to run up in. Then Jr. would have to respond as well because now we are all backing up, and he is way out in front of us, so it is really a cat and mouse game, and driving in your mirror at 200 miles an hour for 500 miles, and probably spending 80% of the time looking in the mirror, and 20% looking out the front. It is just getting use to that and understanding how things look in your rear view mirror is where that, where I believe he is so good at. Then, he has a great knowledge of understanding the air. I'm sure his dad has taught him a few things, but he is a really talented driver himself and has picked up a lot.
Q: Thank you.
Q: How are you today?
Jimmie Doing good.
Q: I hate using buzzwords, but everybody talks about aero push. You were talking to Dustin about how the air effects you. Have the Chevrolet's been more a victim of aero push, or is it widespread throughout all the manufactures?
Jimmie I think it is pretty widespread. I have only driven Chevrolet, so I'm not sure between the makes what the difference is. I hear that the Chevrolet's are at a disadvantage. I've seen the numbers and can see where the numbers are showing that we are at a disadvantage, but from what I understand that stuff probably all be a mute point here next year.
Q: Can you kind of describe what that feeling is like? Can you also go into the benefits, or the disadvantages of relegating your cowl pressure?
Jimmie Cowl pressure?
Q: Yes, cowl pressure.
Jimmie I don't have enough experience either on the cowl pressure side of it -- I mean we have not had any issues through any of our tests, or racing. I have not heard Jeff talk about any of it. I have not had any experience at all with, relating to cowl, you know the air flowing over the car creating different cowl pressures.
With aero push when - it is usually off the turn, I mean it happens going in, but you get down into the corner and you feel the car gripping the track and turning for you. If you are too close to a car in front of you, or if a car crosses in front of your path, you know the line that you are taking the car literally you can feel it kind of lift up and lose grip and start pushing on you. That is just the loss of air over your car; you pick up that aero push. It just literally makes the nose lighter and until you get out of the wake of that car and get air back under the nose of your car it just won't turn.
Q: Do you think some drivers feel the need to over correct, or do think some of the guys who have lost it this year have come from trying to over correct in that condition?
Jimmie If you are behind someone and are getting a pretty bad aero push, you have got the steering wheel turned along ways to try to compensate for that and you have another car real close to the back of you when a car is close behind you he is going to make you loose, so now you have got way too much steering input and someone on your butt. Once you get air again on the nose of the car you will spin out then. That just kind of comes with experience, and understanding where everybody is around you, but that can definitely happen.
Q: Thank you so much.
Jimmie You got it.
John Is there anyone else?
Q: Jimmie, you certainly must have enjoyed a little bit of time off this past week, week and a half. What does Jimmie Johnson do with his time off? Were you able to take a vacation, or did you just rest at the house, or how did you spend it?
Jimmie No, this time since I was on the West Coast I did the NAPA Experience, toured some wineries, and then headed south of the border to find some sun and relaxation. I had a great time, a much needed break and I'm ready to go back to work and win some more races.
Q: Now, just looking back real quick, I know you are heading to Daytona this week, but your impressions of your first Winston Cup race on a road course, I know it probably was not the result you were looking for, but what are your thoughts after your first experience?
Jimmie I had a good time out there. I think I will be a lot, lot better around my second time around, or next season when we come back Sears Point. At this point, with how the date turned out we had a great opportunity to gain points on Jeff and Sterly Marlin and that just didn't work out for us with the rear-end failure we had, but it is a long season. There is going to be a lot more things to come, good and bad, so we will just take it in stride and head to Daytona and see what happens.
Q: Now, you turn the page to Daytona for the Pepsi 400, you qualified on the pole there in February and took 15th in the race. You must enter this with quite a bit of confidence?
Jimmie Yes, I'm excited about going back. I know we are going to qualify well. We made some subtle changes to the car to help it in the race. We did not have - seems like you need a better handling car at Daytona than you do at Talladega. A car that sits on the pole there has so little drag and down porse that is will not race real well, so we made some changes and bring the car back. We are expecting a very strong qualifying effort, but not expecting the pole like we did in the past. We are going to be a lot better in the race conditions.
Q: Is patients the key at a track like Daytona? Do you need to let the race come to you and be a little patient?
Jimmie Yes, everybody is pretty patient for a while, for about two-thirds of the race. Then, everybody gets real impatient and starts, everyone starts crashing and causing problems. Then, everybody starts back over again with patience. I'm trying to outlive everyone with their patients and wait until the end of the race. I have had more success doing that than racing as everyone else does.
Q: Jimmie, have you had time to assess your performance? Have you had time to just step back, take a look, and look at the accomplishments, where you are, top five in points, the two victories. I'm guessing you have obtained many of the goals that you have set for yourself, both you and Chad, so it must be pretty gratifying.
Jimmie Well, it is extremely gratifying. It is something that I wanted to do my whole life, and to be able to be here and have the success that we have had is incredible, but it is stuff, I guess, everybody looks back on someday. You're always living for tomorrow, and I guess, somewhere down the road I'll reflect back on it all. With the off weekend we had I sat around and smiled a little bit about what we have done. We'll just keep on going.
Q: Just one last question, Jimmie. How do you feel about the pace you are setting for yourself? I know reporters have asked you already, your rookie season sometimes rookies hit the wall once you get to the mid-way point. How do you feel about the pace you have set for yourself, your team set for yourselves, and your durability heading toward the second half of the season?
Jimmie I think we have recognized that at the beginning of the year, even before we started having success that we need to set a pace that we can keep all year long and be consistent. We have all talked about it, discussed it and they are making a conscious effort at that. We will see how it comes. I think we are going to be in good shape for it all.
Q: Well, Jimmie it is great joining with you and we wish you a lot of luck at Daytona. We will talk to you next week.
Jimmie Appreciate it.
Jimmie Johnson press conference, part I