Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevy Monte Carlo, Top Rookie Qualifier Press Conference: Jimmie Johnson ended up in 15th qualifying position, as first rookie in the field. JOHNSON: "I remember back at the test and the effort level it took ...
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevy Monte Carlo, Top Rookie Qualifier Press Conference:
Jimmie Johnson ended up in 15th qualifying position, as first rookie in the field.
JOHNSON: "I remember back at the test and the effort level it took to drive the car because when I started today I thought that I was calm and relaxed and being patient and smooth and we weren't where we were. I kept backing down because I thought I might be over-driving it and I finally backed it down enough for qualifying and drove the car within its means and put up a respectable lap. Still made a couple of mistakes out there; I'm sure you'll hear that a lot from everyone. This is a real tough and demanding track but I will be a lot smarter and a much better race driver tomorrow and be back in the rhythm that I need to stay smooth and pass."
YOU'RE ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE STATE BUT YOU HAVE A LOT OF FANS HERE: "NASCAR has slowly been growing on the West Coast. As a kid growing up we had Riverside and it went away and Phoenix was there. I know that I have a lot of friends that are excited to have more races in California. Especially when I grew up in Southern California, I guess the west coast was looking out for the west coast drivers. I know Kurt's (Busch) from Las Vegas, which isn't too far away. Hopefully all of us West Coast guys will get some support from all the fans."
DID YOU KNOW WHERE YOU LOST SOME TIME ON THE TRACK? "It was at the end of the track, through 10 and 11 where I felt I made the biggest mistakes. At that time, we were in the green -- Fox has this lap tracker -- until we got there. There's definitely some more guys to come that went faster than a lap that we could probably have put up. The grip level of these cars is so small, so fine, and when you drive over it it doesn't really punish you that bad, you're just slow. And once you slow down enough and hit that grip level for the tire the car's on rails and, boom, off you go. I got three-quarters of the track and then at the end of it I didn't realize the lap I had going or what was really going on and I drove into 11 like I had been and smoked the left front going into 10 and then blew 11."
AFTER COMPETING ON OVALS FOR THE FIRST HALF OF THE YEAR, HOW DIFFERENT IS IT TO COME TO A ROAD COURSE? "It's real different. There's such a trade-off. You can pick up a lot of speed in the braking zones but in race pace you can't do that all day long. So it's a cat and mouse game to see who's doing what, how fast are they running, how are they using up their equipment. It's a big difference, totally 180 degrees opposite of what we do on a normal basis. I think it's a lot of fun; I wish there were a couple more road courses in the series so we can get some more experience doing it."
WERE YOU NERVOUS ENTERING SEARS POINT ON THE ROAD COURSE? "I don't know if I was necessarily nervous but I hear people walking up and down in the garage and everyone will tell you that they're concerned and thinking about wheel-hopping it, setting the tire off, missing a corner. If you get off track here, there isn't much room and you start knocking things down. Not that I was nervous, I was excited to come out. I've been excited since we left Michigan to come here and race. I was disappointed with myself with how practice had gone and did better in qualifying; (we) will start over tomorrow and do much better."
HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE DID YOU HAVE IN ROAD RACING BEFORE SEARS POINT? "(In) Asphalt road racing I ran two SCCA races out in West Virginia when I was 15-16 years old and beyond that I've had the two Busch races at Watkins Glen, So, as far as asphalt road-racing, that's it. But I think that off-road racing, especially the desert racing I did was -- not that it was the same, there were some similarities, with upshifts and downshifts and left and right hand turns. Not a ton."
HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING IN RELATION TO TRACK POSITION IN THE RACE? "It's huge. I guess it's now changed. Obviously my first time. When 'Gilligan's Island' was there qualifying had much more importance on it. Qualifying these days is extremely important. Track position is very important for a lot of reasons. Here, once you get strung out single file you can be, like Jeff (Gordon) said,10th, but it's really like 20th. Because how few passing zones there are and single file on a road course you just get spread out really quickly."