Jimmie Johnson media
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (June 5, 2012) – Unlike the rap band Run-DMC, you don’t have to “rock a rhyme, that’s right on time” to get around Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, the track they call the “The Tricky Triangle” and site of Sunday’s Pocono 400. Johnson and crew certainly know a trick or two about how to navigate the unusually shaped 2.5-mile tri-oval, though. In 20 races, Johnson has two wins, eight top-five finishes and 14 top-10s and owns the second-highest driver rating among current competitors (107 out of a possible 150 points).
Records won’t matter this time, however, as the track underwent a new repaving procedure. Along with the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage, Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s crew will have part of Wednesday and Thursday to see if the track still lives up to its tricky reputation as testing gets underway prior to traditional race weekend activities.
The No. 48 crew currently is riding a hair-raising tide of momentum with wins in two of the last three points-paying events. Throw in the team’s win in the non-points-paying Sprint All-Star Race and it’s apparent why some 48 fans may be wigging out. Of course, that still could be from visions of Johnson in the rainbow-colored wig from victory lane Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Johnson even has a shot at adding to that win total, albeit in a different type of racecar Wednesday night. Johnson will participate in his fifth Prelude To The Dream, a 40-lap all-star feature event run on the half-mile dirt oval at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Johnson won the Prelude in 2010, his first win on a dirt surface since his off-road days. More laughs may be had, this time without the wig, as Johnson’s team owner is someone who is known for his sense of humor, Clint Bowyer. The two will be team up for what is sure to be a dirty, yet fun, event.
But all eyes will quickly return to the newly repaved asphalt track in the Pocono Mountains on Sunday, where some competitors may be saying, “it’s tricky,” while Johnson hopes to be “right on time” for victory lane.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, Driver of the No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports:
On the upcoming tests at Pocono and Michigan:
“I talked to Matt Kenseth. He was at the test and Jeff Gordon was there, too. There are different ways that we describe things and the expression that both Jeff and Matt had on their faces when they described the speed at Michigan; I know it’s going to be exciting. So, I’m looking forward to the test. Testing will be helpful for all the teams. And then we’ll see what it does. And it’s just going to be blistering fast. I’ll know more when I get there. I want to make sure I have plenty of coffee to be awake when I get on track (laughs).
“The speeds and the shapes of the tracks are different, of course. But any more, the airflow over the car is where we find the bulk of our grip. So the fact that the speeds at Pocono are very high and the same with the speeds at Michigan, there will be some things that cross over (between the two tracks). So, we will leave the Pocono test and race, and go to Michigan and, actually, it will probably be closer than it would if we came from a short track because the speeds in the way you set the car up due to the aerodynamics would be the same.”
What does it take to get around Eldora compared to off-road racing?
“The vehicles are so different. Even though I won there a couple of years ago, that’s the hardest thing to remember and figure out. Back, deep in my mind, I have dirt experience and sensations, but the vehicle dynamics are so different. These Dirt Late Models have lift bars and a rear end, where the left-rear tire moves a couple of feet when you’re in and out of the gas. So, it is far different than what I grew up doing. But I seem to have adapted well and I look forward to going back.
“I think the track conditions can help an inexperienced guy like myself. And, if there’s a lot of available grip, I think it’s a little easier for a rookie or a novice to come in and do well.
“In the dirt car, you don’t want to slide. You want to drive it as close as you can to an asphalt car. My first two trips up there – my first trip, for sure – I was trying to flick the car into the corner like I would an off-road truck. It looked cool. I was doing cool slides but, on the stopwatch, it wasn’t right. So, that’s the thing I have to remind myself is, you drive it straight as they say, and kind of lock down the back and try to drive it like an asphalt car.”
Clint Bowyer is working on a car for you. Are you working with him on that?
“No, he does it. I sit back and watch and laugh. Anything with Bowyer is highly entertaining. He’s been very nice to build me a car every year I’ve competed. I know all of his guys and watched them from afar with the success they have in the dirt series and I have pride in feeling like I’m part of their team. “
When you get to the track, is it just jump in and go?
“Jump in and go, yeah. I tested one time and it actually hurt me, I felt like. So, the very first year was important to learn how to drive the thing but, after that, I just show up and drive, now.”
On Tony Stewart’s goal to raise $1 million, with the proceeds benefitting Feed The Children. “It’s fantastic, especially how it continues to grow and continues to help and affect more people. I hope to finish in the top-10 and then I look forward to figuring out where I can send a truckload of food. That will be extremely helpful to any community or any town.”