Rain at Atlanta Motor Speedway cancelled qualifying for the NAPA 500 this evening and NASCAR has set the field for Sunday's race by points. Currently second place in the Winston Cup point standings, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's ...
Rain at Atlanta Motor Speedway cancelled qualifying for the NAPA 500 this evening and NASCAR has set the field for Sunday's race by points. Currently second place in the Winston Cup point standings, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo will start on the outside front row next to point-leader, Tony Stewart. Johnson visited with the media:
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IN SUNDAY'S NAPA 500? "This is probably one of my favorite tracks to compete. We can race from the top of the race from the top of the race track down to the bottom and that gives us options as drivers to race and work traffic and come through the pack. So I'm really looking forward to the race. We finished 3rd here in the spring. That was our first top five. There are a lot of good things going on. I feel that I'm a better driver now. Our team is growing and we've grown together. Our pit stops are better. Everything is better. I'm really hoping that we're able to utilize the experience we've gained all year long and bring it together and put up a strong fight Sunday afternoon. We want to keep chipping away at the point lead that Tony (Stewart) has on us right now in the Winston Cup points."
IN PRACTICE, HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOU TO SEE TONY STEWART GO OUT AND RUN A FAST LAP EARLY? "Of course you want to be up on the board. But after I completed my laps, I was out of breath. I knew something spectacular had happened. I didn't realize we were that slow. I thought it was good. I was on the edge of crashing. We adjusted on the car and tightened it up. When something like that happens in qualifying or practice, you're a little worried as far as track position is concerned - especially if you're at somewhere like Loudon. But here, it didn't really bother us. In Phoenix, at 4:30 p.m.(end of race) if Tony is up front, that's going to be tough on us. But at this particular track, it doesn't really phase us. But if it's that way in Happy Hour, that's when you start to worry. That's where you get a real feel for where you're going to be on Sunday."
DID YOU HAVE A TOUGH TIME GETTING INTO TURN 3 IN PRACTICE? "This happens at all quad-oval or D-shaped tracks where the way you catch the banking in turn 1 vs. turn 3 is a lot different. The majority of the turn 3's in Chicago, Atlanta, Vegas - the entry is so flat that the car handles differently getting into turn 3 than it does into turn 1. When you have the banking in turn 1, it catches the car and gives you the grip that you need. In turn 3, it's so flat and you're carrying so much speed, you're loose and you're sliding all the way in there and it's really hard to get that balance right. And that's what we were fighting again today. We were really loose. Getting into turn 3 was pretty spooky."
ON BEING 2ND TO TONY STEWART IN THE POINTS "Ideally, I'd like to take a big bite out of it. But you know as well as well as I do that Joe Gibbs Racing - those guys are going to run in the top five, top 10 the rest of the year. And I know that and that's kind of why I use the phrase 'chipping away at it'. We're going to go out and try to win each race to get maximum points. And it's going to be hard for us to pick up 20 points per race to really close that gap - the way the points pay out and the way everything works. At best, we'll be able to chip away at it. It's going to take something on their behalf - having a bad day or something happening - for us to really take a bite out of it. I don't really see that team not performing."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING THE LAST HOPE TO WIN THE TITLE AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "I've been saying this for a while and using this excuse for as long as I can. Maybe I can use it for four or five years and not let the pressure get to me. But we're not supposed to be in this position. But we put ourselves in this position by racing hard and having fun. If we change that and we let it bother us and we start worrying about it, we don't know how we're going to act in that situation. And we don't want to put ourselves in that situation. So, we're just going to keep smiling and having fun. This team has had some of the craziest adversities thrown at us - everything from being wrecked with one (lap) to go to being wrecked coming to get the green and crashing and blowing up on Fridays. With all the different stuff that's been going on, we've still rallied back and leave with a smile on our faces. We're just going to keep doing that. If we win the championship, New York won't be the same. If we're second, we're still going to go up there and have a big time."