Johnson discusses the repaving of tracks with Kansas media

Team Chevy Racing

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed repaving of tracks, why there are fewer cautions at this point of season compared to last season, getting Hendrick Motorsports its 200th win and much more.

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TALK JUST A LITTLE BIT ABOUT COMING INTO KANSAS THIS WEEKEND. “We’re real happy with the way our cars perform come race time. Qualifying has been a bit of a struggle at some tracks, all though last weekend we got a top-10 which wasn’t too bad. But, in the race we clearly had an amazing race car. We're excited to come from Texas to here. The banking is a bit different, but still all the teams are in that 1.5-mile track mindset. I’m ready to build on what we did last weekend and hoping to finish one spot better.”

WITH ALL THE REPAVING, IS THAT FRUSTRATING FOR YOU AS A DRIVER KNOWING NOT ONLY IS IT GOING TO TAKE UP FOUR MORE DAYS OF YOUR SCHEDULE TO COME BACK EARLY TO TEST, BUT ALSO YOU HAVE TO THROW OUT YOUR NOTEBOOKS OF WHAT YOU’VE KNOWN IN THE PAST. “No, it might be that mindset for some drivers, but for me I look at it as an opportunity. The tracks are going to change, and it’s going to be different. Whoever figures it out first will have the advantage and win. So, I’m excited about the new surfaces that go down. Some of them are very challenging, and I hope people pay attention to the tracks that have instant success and the others that take a long time to come around, and we can learn from that as well. I’m excited for the opportunity, and I love to test. I love to be at the race track learning, and am excited to have testing at tracks we race at. We can really get data files on tracks other than Milwaukee or Nashville, and these tracks that we don’t race at anymore. I’m happy we have some testing at the real tracks on the correct tire.”

DO YOU SPEND MORE TIME THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE ON A SECOND-PLACE FINISH TO TURN IT INTO A WIN RATHER THAN COMPARE A 14TH –PLACE FINISH AND THAT WAS THE BEST YOU COULD DO THAT DAY? “Without a doubt, when you finish a close second or you are a factor in the race and you’re second, those are so much more difficult than a 14th as you mentioned, or even a distant second. If you ran 14th all day and found yourself in second, you leave the track pretty excited about the way things turned out. When you lead the most laps and finish second, those sting. Last weekend I thought long and hard about the last two pit stops and the adjustments we made. We still clearly had a fast race car, but those final two segments weren’t our strongest. We’ve got to make a little bit different adjustments to the car with those given handling characteristics to make the car stronger. With all that in mind, I still think we had an awesome shot to win last week, and learn from our mistakes. That’s just part of it.”

IS THERE ANY MORE CONSULTATION GOING ON WITH DRIVERS AND TRACKS WHEN IT COMES TO THE REPAVING PROJECTS? “I haven’t heard or spoken to anyone regarding Bristol, but a lot of other tracks NASCAR has held a meeting in the truck on a race weekend, and brought in the paving crew and engineers that are designing it and laying it out. I’ve sat in on a lot of those meetings, and it felt like my voice has been heard. But the one that caught me off guard and I think a lot of drivers off guard was the repave at Phoenix (International Raceway). The conversations that took place, and kind of the understanding from the drivers leaving those meetings, when we came back it was a far different race track than what we had talked about. I guess that’s their prerogative. They’re spending the money on the track; they can do what they want. Michigan I’m eager to get back to. I was involved with different aspects in that, with safety in a couple of areas with some walls. I’ve spoken to Robin Pemberton and know they have addressed those areas. So we are in the loop in it. It kind of shifts around. Some weeks some tracks may ask me, others it might be (Tony) Stewart, or (Jeff) Gordon. NASCAR puts that meeting together, and they work hard to have our voice heard.”

LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME, THERE HAD BEEN 45 CAUTIONS FOR WRECKS OR STALLED CARS ON THE TRACK. THIS YEAR THERE HAS ONLY BEEN 25, ANY IDEA WHY YOU GUYS HAVEN’T BEEN WRECKING SO MUCH? “I don’t know. With this car, I’m surprised there’s not more wrecks. I see a lot of guys really out of shape, and this car is a little bit more friendly compared to the car way back when. Once you get into the yaw, it holds a little bit more down force and you can slide the car around a little bit more. So, there might be something in that. I don’t know why. I see guys out of control. I see mistakes being made, but we’re able to catch it for whatever reason.”

YOU WERE SECOND AT VEGAS AND SECOND AT TEXAS, THOSE ARE BOTH 1.5-MILE TRACKS, WHAT CAN YOU TAKE FROM THOSE RACES AND APPLY THIS WEEK AT KANSAS? “Texas and Vegas are so much more speed and vertical load that it’s tough to take too much from there. There certainly are some trends that we can take, but we’re looking at some other tracks that we think might apply a little bit better here. With all the practice we have today, we’re going to work through a few ideas. Our big track stuff, two-mile and 1.5-mile, were kind of our struggling, tough combinations we were running on last year, especially working traffic. In clean air the car was comfortable and we could make stuff happen. But, this year our car has raced really well in traffic, without, so I feel we’ve made a lot of gains. With the championships I’ve won over the years, we won a lot of races on the 1.5-mile tracks and finished in the top three a lot. I’m excited to see our performance where it is now and built on it to get ready for the Chase.”

WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN FROM MR. HENDRICK THAT SHOWS YOU HOW MUCH GETTING THAT 200TH WIN MEANS TO HIM? “We’ve been so close to getting it in the last month or so, it’s kind of a deal now where we’re joking about let’s just not think about it. Let’s move on. We’ve watched other athletes, hit a homerun mark or whatever it may be and just kind of get stuck. We know that our teams are all capable of winning races, and we’ve all been very close this year. We’ll just go out and do our jobs this week and hopefully get one of those four cars in victory lane. I know when that happens, you’ll see a very big sigh of relief from Rick and the team.”

GREG BIFFLE SAID HE’S BEEN PLOTTING AND STRATEGIZING A POINT STRATEGY SINCE BEFORE THE DAYTONA 500. YOU’RE AN EXPERT AT WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS, HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT? DO YOU START PLANNING BEFORE THE SEASON GETTING WHAT YOU CAN FROM EVERY TRACK? “Through the championships I’ve won, we ran a lot of different directions. Certainly when we come to a track in the spring that is a track that we race at in the Chase in the fall, there is a little bit more focus on things. You make sure your notes are buttoned up, and form opinions on when you leave the things you need to do when you come back. When it gets down to the guys fighting for the championship, in my experience it’s really about the two, three, or four guys that are fighting for it, and what they can do at that point and time. So, I’m more focused on getting myself comfortable, getting it right so that I can race, and do what I need to. Then in the Chase, as it develops, hopefully we are one of the players. I’ve got to be on my game to outrace whoever is in the mix.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, johnson