Pocono: GM - Polesitter Johnson's interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Won the pole position with a run at 170.645 miles per hour: "I have to admit, after watching what Bobby ran and knowing Ryan [Newman[ was coming, I was first of all surprised that we were in...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

Won the pole position with a run at 170.645 miles per hour: "I have to admit, after watching what Bobby ran and knowing Ryan [Newman[ was coming, I was first of all surprised that we were in contention for the pole. We had a problem in practice. On old tires, we went out and were sitting there third or fourth on the board. We put sticker tires on to make a run and we had a problem with the engine. We actually lost some time and everybody else picked up about half a second. We were scratching our heads as to what had happened. We started digging around and found a valve spring had failed. We changed it and you don't know how much weight to put in that, what difference that would really make. When I was out on the track on my get-up lap, I noticed that my shift points were much better than where they had been. I knew it was going to be a top-five or top-10 run, but I had no idea that it was going to be strong enough to be on the pole. You can easily get bummed out and get down when you have something like that happen and go into qualifying with the wrong mindset, but I have to thank my guys for not letting that happen. They kept pushing me up and made me climb in that car with the confidence that we had a shot at the pole and we got it."

DOES THIS EASE THE PAIN FROM LAST WEEK'S ACCIDENT AT DOVER?

"No. We still lost a lot of points last week, and qualifying doesn't pay anything for points. It was just bad racing luck or my own luck, really. There was a car dropping oil and it's hard to know if that really played into it, but I was pretty loose that run. I was too caught up with racing the leaders too much. I shouldn't have been racing that hard at that point in the race. To be honest, I should have busted my butt a few times before I actually did. I was too focused on catching Ryan and trying to run down Jeff again. I should have stayed patient and made an adjustment on the next stop that would have put me back in contention. You learn from your mistakes. At Dover in the past, I've had a very loose race car and have been able to hang onto it and I won both races there the year before. This year, it bit us. But our focus coming into here, it didn't pump us up more and it didn't make us want to seek revenge. It made us want to be consistent and not lose points. We're sixth or seventh in the points with a lot of mistakes across the board. If we can just clean our game up and stop making these big mistakes--we've had some bad racing luck and an engine failure or two during the races that have hurt us--I think we would be up there beating on Matt Kenseth's doors. There's a long season left, so we'll just hang on and see what happens."

BOTH YOU AND RYAN NEWMAN HAVE STRUGGLED IN THE EARLY PART OF THE SEASON, BUT THE LAST TWO WEEKS YOU TWO HAVE REALLY COME ON STRONG.

"Ryan and I are different in a lot of ways, but in some ways similar. Our race teams are. They are young, aggressive race teams, and we are both young, aggressive drivers. Ryan has a little different style than I do, but I think as a whole, we kind of create the same sort of circumstances for ourselves. In our sport, it's real hard for anyone to stay real good for real long, or real bad for real long, it seems like as well. It's always overturning. Of late, the guy who has had the longest run of dominance was Kurt Busch. I can remember looking at six or seven races where he was the car to beat week in and week out, and that's hard to do. You can find two or three weekends where you're the car to beat, but right now, the peak for the 48 team is coming around and it has maybe for the 12, and we're fighting for king of the hill right now."

WHAT'S YOUR COMFORT LEVEL HERE AT POCONO?

"My comfort level is pretty high. It's been a track I've really enjoyed racing, We came up and tested as a rookie team last year, and if we didn't make that effort I would have struggled terribly. Experience plays a lot in how you run here and I have to admit, the first half of practice I was still trying to remember how to get a couple of tenths out of the track. A small mistake leading onto a mile- long straightaway like Turn 3 is, if you lose a tenth through the corner it's half a second by the end of the straightaway. It's a tough place to get right."

WHAT ARE THE SHIFT POINTS HERE AT POCONO?

"I guess I would shift three times a lap. You grab fourth down the frontstretch, downshift to third, grab fourth down the backstretch, downshift to third and carry third back around to the frontstretch."

WHERE DO YOU SHIFT GOING AT THE END OF THE BACKSTRETCH?

"As you're turning in, right at the most uncomfortable part of the track."

DO YOU EVER LEAVE IT IN FOURTH?

"No, especially if you're battling someone through there. You need the gear to pull you up out of that hole. I tried this morning to leave it in high, and when you come off the turn, the car isn't pulling right for our combination and what we're trying to do. There's a lot of came through and I didn't really hear him shift all the way down. We all know they've been able to make some RPM stuff last for them, and I'm curious if they can do it all day on Sunday."

WHAT'S THE RPM LEVEL ON THE FRONTSTRETCH?

"We're probably at 9,350 rpm, where the rev chip is. We're just trying to use that on the upshifts. When we're in high gear down the frontstretch, we have a light to signal me when I'm getting close to the rev limiter. We broke a valve spring in practice with 10 laps on the car. It's easy to do, and these parts are being pushed to the limit. We found an impurity in the spring. You could see where the crack started and it broke because of a hole that was in the center of the coil. We're getting down to needing the smallest quality control across our parts. It's amazing."

SINCE YOU'VE MOVED INTO WINSTON CUP, YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF IMPROVEMENT. IS IT PARTS OR PEOPLE?

"In Winston Cup racing, the top 20 teams, if you add up all the multi-car teams and take the heavy hitters and pick the top five teams, you have the top 20 positions. All those cars on the major teams have all the money and all the parts to be competitive. There's usually a car among those teams that is just a little better or dominating. I attribute that to people. It's about communication and about the people and how they interact and how they gel. The money is there in the top teams, thew resources are there, everybody is working very hard, but it's what people do with it after that."

THERE'S A LOT OF TALK THIS WEEK ABOUT YOUR TEAMMATE JEFF GORDON'S DRIVING STYLE. HAVE YOU SEEN ANY CHANGES?

"I haven't. When you're behind the wheel, on edge, both guys feel that they're in the right. In Jeff's mind, it's just hard racing and he doesn't want to do that stuff. I walk through both cases. At The Winston, Sterling got tight and then we know how hard it is to race side-by-side at Dover. It just goes either way. I know Jeff isn't doing it intentionally. I raced with him most of the day and didn't have any issues. It's weird how cars seem to have magnets on them for one another. I think it's something to do with the 24/48 shop, because I've been spun out twice by the 40 car. I could easily retaliate and be upset and say all kinds of things from there, but you try not to get in that mindset and think that it's intentional. >From knowing Jeff, I know he didn't do it intentionally and hopefully, Sterling will see that."

THE VALVE SPRING THAT WAS BROKEN, DID YOU CHANGE ANYTHING ELSE?

"No, just the one that broke. They are new parts, what we intended to race with. It's just every once in a while, you'll find a defect. Luckily we found it when we did and it wasn't when we were trying to take the pole."

DO YOU PREFER TO GO OUT FIRST OR LAST?

"It just depends on where we are. Some tracks are more sensitive to temperatures than others. It seemed like today, the sun was coming stronger and stronger. It just doesn't matter. You can work up a case either way. If you go early and you're fast, you sit all day long sweating everyone that goes out. If you go late, you don't have as much heartache getting started, but then the pressure is on you when you climb through the window to get going."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth