Johnson, Wheeler - Team Cadillac interview

JOHNSON TESTS CADILLAC CTS-V AT CHARLOTTE TO PREP FOR UPCOMING SPEED GT Reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson Will Drive Team Cadillac's No. 48 CTS-V in the SCCA Speed World Challenge GT Race at Lowe's Motors Speedway on Thursday ...

JOHNSON TESTS CADILLAC CTS-V AT CHARLOTTE TO PREP FOR UPCOMING SPEED GT

Reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson Will Drive Team Cadillac's No. 48 CTS-V in the SCCA Speed World Challenge GT Race at Lowe's Motors Speedway on Thursday night, May 24, 2007.

In preparation, Team Cadillac participated in Charlotte GT Test day on the 1.500-mile banked oval, which has been slithly modified to include a few road racing elements to the course.

During the evening break, Johnson visitied the media center and talked with reporters about driving the CTS-V, yesterday's win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and the upcoming race this weekend at Bristol, where he will drive an Impala SS Car of Tomorrow. Lowe's Motor Speedway President, Humpy Wheeler joined Johnson:

***

WHEELER: THESE CARS WILL RUN OVER 200 MPH, WON'T THEY?

JOHNSON: "I don't know. I just go until it runs out of gears (laughs)."

WHEELER: OBVIOUSLY, WE WANT TO HAVE A SAFE RACE BUT ALSO A COMPETITIVE RACE AND I THINK THIS LITTLE BIT OF CHICANERY WILL DO IT AND STILL APPEASE THOSE FANS THAT LIKE OVAL RACING. JIMMIE, WE'RE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT YOU RACING IN IT. WE ASSUME YOU'LL GET THE (BUD) POLE THAT NIGHT AND CAN SLIDE RIGHT OVER AND RACE THE CADILLAC:

JOHNSON: "I'm excited. I had the pleasure of driving the car at Sebring. To learn that race track and to learn a new car was certainly a challenge. (Teammates) Andy (Pilgrim) and Lawson (Aschenbach) have been great working with me and teaching me the car. Working with Pratt & Miller has been a pleasure too. They've worked with us on our road course program for the Nextel Cup car and some other things we've done. It's been a great experience.

"I'm definitely learning the limits of the car. Today I spun out and took out one of the barriers on the backstretch. So, I learned the limit of the brakes."

WHEELER: HOW DOES THIS CAR FEEL COMPARED TO YOUR CUP CAR?

JOHNSON: "Surprisingly, it outperforms the Cup car in the braking zone. But when you turn in and the power down side of it and the way the car maneuvers through the corners, it feels very similar. That was the thing that shocked me the most the first time I drove it at Sebring. It really does drive a lot like a Cup car."

WHEELER: WHAT'S THE WEIGHT ON THE CARS?

JOHNSON: "They weigh about 3000 pounds - about 100 pounds less than a Cup car. The other thing that amazes me is that this is a production car. I'm used to the straight gearbox. This has a standard production transmission with the syncros and the more I look in there and the more I understand it, it is a production-based car. It's surprising to me how hard you can punish these things. I was at Sebring for that day and the track was really, really rough. All they did was put fuel and tires on it every time I came in and let me keep going and going. It blew me away on how hard you can punish the car on such a brutal track. You can charge the turns and slam the brakes on and slide the car. I think I spun out a few times there and ended up in the grass a couple of times. You can't hurt the car. It's amazing."

WHEELER: WELL IT'S GOING TO BE FUN - PARTICULARLY WHEN YOU GET 35 CARS AROUND YOU..

JOHNSON: "There is no way we're making that back straightaway chicane at the start of the race with 35 guys going in there (laughs)

WHEELER: WE'RE WORKING ON THAT (laughter). BUT YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE AN ADVANTAGE BECAUSE YOU KNOW HOW TO RUN UP THERE ON THOSE BANKS PRETTY GOOD. SHOULD WE MAKE YOU START LAST?

JOHNSON: "If the chicane is back there, absolutely (laughs). I don't think we're at the speeds where my experience with the ovals will make a difference. The reason I say that is we're accelerating through the corner and shifting gears as we're going through NASCAR turns. The line and the approach that you have coming off of pit road and also off the back straightaway going into Turn 3, the line that you have, you're not at a high speed trying to float the car through the corner like we're used to. So I don't think that experience is going to help me out too much."

WHEELER: DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE A SECOND GROOVE IN THE BANKING?

JOHNSON: "I think so (laughs). I think the promoter did a great job with the track and there should be many grooves."

WHEELER: THANK YOU VERY MUCH. WE NEEDED THAT ANSWER AFTER LAS VEGAS AND A FEW OTHERS.

JOHNSON: "Hey look, the way it's gone lately, I think all these tracks are awesome (laugher).

***

ADDITIONAL MEDIA Q&A'S WITH JOHNSON:

IS IT HARD FOR YOU, WITH AS MANY LAPS AS YOU HAVE AT THIS TRACK, TO BE COMING ACROSS THE START/FINISH LINE AND START DOWN-SHIFTING TO MAKE A LEFT-HAND TURN?

"Yeah, it took me three or four tries to make either chicanes. I missed the one on the backside at least three or four times. You're just not used to slowing down. There are no visual references that I'm used to seeing to stop the car are not there and I don't know how fast the car stops. I'm still learning all that. So it is tough. I got a little experience with it by running the 24 Hours of Daytona because you turn off right at the start/finish line as well. It's weird. The spot where you're definitely normally wide-open, is the place where you're off the gas and on the brakes."

HOW MUCH FUN IS IT TO DRIVE THE CADILLAC?

"Oh, it is a lot of fun. It's much different than what I'm used to driving. But in the center of the corner, they feel a lot like a Cup car, which is surprising to me. I think that's going to help me. It's not a car with a lot of downforce and much different than a Cup car, so I get up to speed at a faster rate. I had a chance to test the car at Sebring for a day and got a lot of experience in it and I had a great time. It's been a well-rounded experience for me. It's fun to drive the Cadillac. Hopefully it'll help with our road course program in the Nextel Cup Series."

HOW ARE ANDY PILGRIM AND LAWSON ASCHENBACH HELPING YOU OUT?

"My teammates have been a great help to me in working with me. I've had a relationship with Pratt & Miller on the engineering side of the race team who have helped us with our road course program on the Cup side, so there are a lot of familiar faces and a lot of people working with me and willing to help me out, so it's been good."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup , PWC
Drivers Jimmie Johnson