Johnson discusses strategy for winning the Daytona 500

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Team Chevy Racing press release

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET met with member of the media today at Daytona International Speedway to discuss his strategy for winning the Daytona 500, the strength of his race team and other topics.

Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR CAR? WHAT IS YOUR PLAN FOR TODAY? “We are really happy with our Lowe’s Chevrolet. From the (Budweiser) Shootout car to this car they have been fast they drive really well. I think we showed a lot of strength in the Shootout. Unfortunately, we got caught up in a late-race wreck. Then in the Duel we showed a lot of strength as well. I’m very excited for the Daytona 500. I can’t wait to race. Today we do have one more practice. We will just go out and do maybe a lap or two just to make sure there isn’t any tire rubs. I had some left side damage in the Duel on the last lap. We had to work on the body so I have to make sure we don’t have something crazy there with a tire rub. Outside of that, just run a lap or two today, put it on the shelf and get ready for tomorrow.”

THERE IS A THREAT OF RAIN COMING TOMORROW, HOW IS THAT GOING TO CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY? “I feel like with the Daytona 500 and the fact that we have lights here and we can run late into the evening, if we do have rain we will be here getting all the miles in. If we don’t get on track at all, I will stay here all week to have a shot at taking that trophy home. We will just play it by ear. One thing about this track that is nice is even if it does rain, a green race track isn’t a problem here. We don’t have a lot to worry about from a handling perspective or a safety perspective, wearing a right front out or anything like that. Well just kind of play the rain game. I certainly hope it doesn’t happen. We know what that does for attendance and viewership and I don’t want to discourage any fans from watching or coming out. We are going to have one heck of a show for them.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THE FAN EXPERIENCE IS LIKE HERE AT DAYTONA? “I think with the hype leading into this season what we saw with the testing and the high speeds and the pack racing and all the races that have taken place so far, it has been a very exciting Speedweeks. I don’t expect the (Daytona) 500 to be any different. I’m excited. I know the fans are excited. I think you can feel it in the garage area. You can feel it during the races and in the midway and all around. There is a lot of charged up people ready for racing.”

A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY THAT YOU ARE ONE OF THE BEST PACK DRIVERS THAT HAS EVER LIVED. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE PACK BEING BACK? “It’s been fun. When I’m watching points races like I watched the Truck (Series) race last night. You can see the range of emotions of what happens. We will have that same type of thing in our race. The (Budweiser) Shootout is fun because there aren’t any points and you can just have at it. But, when the points are on the line the pack racing can be frustrating. The tandem racing can be frustrating; I think it is plate racing. We are at a plate track and tomorrow afternoon throughout the race you will see a lot of emotions that aren’t excited about plate racing. Fans love it, it puts on a great show and that is what you have to do to win the Daytona 500.”

DO YOU THINK WE ARE GOING TO SEE WHAT WE SAW AT TALLADEGA A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHERE YOU GUYS JUST RIDE AROUND FOR THE FIRST 450 MILES SAVING YOUR EQUIPMENT TO THE END? “That chance is there. The one thing about this package is that track position is important from a handling perspective and a cooling perspective. I think on any restart you will see a lot of activity just trying to get track position and be in the right scenario for those reasons. Once we settle into a groove I would expect a lot of patients out of people. We know that you can’t win the race in the first 499 miles. That element could be there. The one thing that does change that is the deeper in the pack you are the easier your car is going to overheat. It can go either way I just don’t know at this time what to really expect.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOUR TEAM LAST YEAR NOT WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “We did a lot of searching through the off-season and I think we have all come back stronger in our individual positions on the race team. We have talked about it a lot as a group and worked on a lot of those things. Now it is time to execute. We are at the track and we need to really deliver in the areas we feel we have grown in. This is just one of 36 races throughout the year and I will be real aware of things come September when we get down to Chase time and things are really on the line. I’m very proud of my race team. I’m very proud of their desire to be as good as they can possibly be and the commitment they all make. They know that I am fully committed as well. We are going to be very strong this year.”

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOU GUYS TO GET USED TO THE NEW CONFIGURATION OF PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY WHEN YOU WERE IN RACE TRIM? "It was a bit of a challenge. I applaud Phoenix; the effort they made. But, we certainly had struggles during the tire test that took place, the open test and then the race. Things finally started to widen out through the course of the Cup race. I hope that we come back and we are able to get there right away. We have a great fan base out there; it’s a fun race track. It just always takes a while for a new surface to kind of work its way in and give us multiple grooves to work in. I’m excited to go out there close to home. I’m looking forward to having a good race, because we didn’t have the best race out there in the fall.”

HOW ABOUT THE CHALLENGE OF THE DOG LEG? “Yeah, there is a lot going on. I really call the dogleg kind of turn two and turn one. You are not in it very long and you have a short little straight-a-way into the dog leg or turn two, then you go down into three and four. It kind of blends to some single file racing right now because they are quick little sharp turns and you are no in a long radius for a long period of time. I don’t have the best opinion about it because I don’t run worth a damn out there. We will hopefully turn that around.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WINNING ANOTHER TITLE? “I am very proud of the five that we have. If we were able to win a sixth or seventh then I think I would have to think that through to be able to put it into words. Just to be where I am in our sport and achieving things that I have its mind-boggling. I feel good about things. I’m 36 so I hope I have a lot of years ahead of myself and hopefully I can continue winning races and championships.”

ARE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT TUESDAY (REGARDING NASCAR’S DECISION ON NO. 48 PENALTY)? “We haven’t heard anything. We know that Tuesday is the day. We tried to put it out of our mind and just focus on the job at hand. I’m sure when we leave here in the next week we will just see what happens.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUR DRIVERS TRYING TO COMPETE AT THIS LEVEL? “Everybody always told me to be patient and it drove me crazy hearing that, but they were right. Be patient would be what I would say.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, johnson