Watkins Glen: Pole winner interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, POLE WINNER HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING RUN TODAY?: "A really cool day for us to be able to get the pole. We were close at Sonoma once or twice and I lost it by a small margin so to get it done hopefully...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, POLE WINNER

HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING RUN TODAY?:

"A really cool day for us to be able to get the pole. We were close at Sonoma once or twice and I lost it by a small margin so to get it done hopefully shows the progress that I'm making, the team is making on road courses. Today was just one lap and there's a lot more laps to be made and a lot of racing on Sunday. Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come for us. We had our issues during qualifying. The track was slick and truthfully we had a trouble in practice when we switched over from the scuffed tires that we had been making qualifying runs on to stickers. It took me two attempts just to complete a lap just because I had a ton of problems in the braking zones. Even on that lap I was pretty nervous with the brakes and locked them up a couple times and made a few mistakes. When I heard the lap time I knew it was quick, but I wasn't sure it was going to hold up. I felt like I was a little sloppy on my lap and when the 2 (Kurt Busch) ran his lap, I felt like we were looking better and then Marcos (Ambrose) ran his. We did a good job today. Tough circumstances, I think a lot of people could speak to how loose the track was. The S's, I'm not sure what's gone on over there, but it looks to me like something has been put down like they've sprayed some type of sealer over the track and it is a handful getting through there. It took probably an hour of practice before we could get through there even close to what the speeds were the last time we were here. The track was evolving and getting more comfortable and we made some good adjustments and those types of things and it worked out."

HOW BAD DID YOU WANT THE POLE FOR THIS RACE?:

"Truthfully in anything, second really sucks. Third or fourth is much better than second because second you're looking at what could have been. When I heard Kurt (Busch) was right behind us, I was pretty excited about that. I was really happy to hear the lap time and impressed with our pick up in speed because we struggled when we put stickers on at the end of practice and I ran two tenths faster on six lap tires than I did on stickers. I was really nervous for the lap and really relieved when it was over and excited that we pulled it off. Especially when the 2 (Kurt Busch) was right behind us, I knew we had put in a good one."

HOW HARD DID YOU PUSH THE CAR TO GET THE LAP THAT YOU PUT DOWN?:

"I pushed, turn one I was trying to evaluate my brakes through the lap and that was my issue in practice. One time I came out and took the green and I went into turn one and locked up the right-front early in the braking zone and I had to slow down to second gear all the way around the track because it blistered the right-front and it was getting ready to pop. The next time out on stickers I did a better job of getting through turn one, but still smoked it into (turn) one and then locked them up into the bus stop and again into turn 11. I thought I was so fast and so good on the brakes into the corners on scuffs, I didn't know what was going on.

"I went into (turn) one in qualifying a little conservative, got through there decent and then into the bus stop, I started to lock the fronts again and I knew if I stayed on the brakes, I was probably going to go off the track so I just jumped off the brakes and let the tires recover. Now I entered the bus stop at a much higher pace than I anticipated and bounced off the curbs and made up some time looking at lap tracker now as I got through there. But it was a function where I had them locked up and I was trying hard definitely. After I made it through the bus stop I knew I could charge hard back and I put in what I could and messed up turn 10 as I was charging too hard. I think where I made up a lot of time was into the bus stop when I started to lock the tires up, I had no choice but to get off the brakes and I got off of them and somehow made it through there."

DO YOU HAVE TO MANAGE YOUR TIRES OR MANAGE YOUR BRAKES?:

"No, I feel that from what I saw, I think the brake situation that I had -- it's not uncommon to lock up front tires with these cars. It's usually on old tires that you do that, not on new tires. I think it has something to do with our set up of our car and what we were doing with tire pressures and stuff like that. That was creating my problem. I know the track was slick in general for a lot of people, but my issue with locking up front tires was really what we were doing with the balance of our car."

HOW TREACHEROUS IS THE 'BUS STOP' DURING THE RACE?: "It is tough and I think with the double-file restarts, that first lap is going to be awfully damn exciting. You get to the bus stop -- on the initial start everybody is pretty calm, you don't want to be out the first lap so give and take takes place. You get three or four restarts and you lose some spots and the herd just gets agitated. It's going to be exciting going through there. If you can stay on the black top -- there's going to be a lot of pushing a shoving, but if you get on the grass then you're going to end up in that sand trap on the outside. If you can stay on the black top then you're going to be okay. That's my goal on those restarts."

ARE THERE DRIVERS YOU WANT AROUND YOU IN THAT AREA?:

"It depends on the situation. When you have clean race track, I really have learned a lot following Ron Fellows through the bus stop with all the experience he has here. How you can go through there smoothly and kind of glide over the curbs where most of the Cup guys, we take a similar line, but the car pounds off the curbs and a lot of air underneath the car and real violent. Ron (Fellows) if just real nimble through that stuff and I have really focused on that and feel that I have done a better job from watching him and trying to follow his approach through there. When you get into a situation where you're side by side, especially late in the braking zone in the bus stop, it's just survival mode at that point. It doesn't really matter who's next to you. Especially if they are in there deep and late and you're both at the edge of your brakes -- you're just hanging on. I think it was Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon in a Nationwide race that went in there side by side on the last lap and I think Robby (Gordon) ended up in the grass and slid back up and hit Kurt (Busch) and Kurt (Busch) was in the grass coming out. That's just because it's so narrow trying to get through that area. You've got two of the best going for it and there's just not a lot of real estate to work with."

WHEN IS IT STEPPING OVER THE LINE AS FAR AS AGGRESSION GOES OUT ON THE RACE TRACK?:

"I think if you blatantly spin someone out, that's where NASCAR is going to get involved. Up until then, it's just hard racing and truthfully it's what the fans have been asking for and what led to the change in the rules. It's going to have to be to that point where you have someone deliberately just cleaning someone out before NASCAR steps in and that's how it needs to be. Something blatant like that, they need to address, but the rest of it is just racing. On the big tracks, the cars are so aero-sensitive that you can get close to someone and turn them sideways and never even touch them. At Chicago on that restart, Denny (Hamlin) was right up on my rear bumper through one and two and I lost control, luckily didn't hit anything. At Pocono we saw a lot of that as well where guys were just close to another car and off they go."

HOW MUCH HAS YOUR OFF-ROADING HELPED YOU FOR THE ROAD COURSES?:

"It hasn't helped me a bit, which is weird. I was saying it earlier when I was doing some stuff -- I felt like coming to road courses would be really easy for me with my background, that's what I did even though it was on the dirt. In those vehicles you can really hustle the vehicle and make up time. In these stock cars you really have to look at it in a way that you have a lot of opportunities to lose time. There's very few places to make time and it's just been tough for me to switch over and I've had to forget everything from what I've done in the past to drive fast in a Cup car. Now when I get into the Grand Am car and run it at the Rolex 24, my old styles and habits work really well with that type of vehicle. This car, not so much. I think Robby (Gordon) had a lot of time running road course stuff in the Trans Am Series and Indy Car that he got his feet underneath him for road course racing at that point and it's just taken me a long time with only doing it twice a year to figure it out."

DID YOU NOTICE THE PATCH OF PAVEMENT IN TURN 10?: "Turns 10 and 11 seem fine. It looks like there's some concrete on the way into turn two and there's a lot of dust from that concrete that hurt us when practice started. Up through the S's, the color alone through there, it's darker and there's a shine on top of it. The rest of the track is kind of dull and a flat black so I've noticed that in that area, but not in 10 and 11."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ron Fellows