Atlanta: Johnson - Saturday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S / KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET met with media and discussed new Kobalt Tools national program, conditions at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the tires, and more. ON THE LAUNCH OF NATIONAL "TOUGH TOOLS FOR COOL SCHOOLS" PROGRAM:...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S / KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET met with media and discussed new Kobalt Tools national program, conditions at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the tires, and more.

ON THE LAUNCH OF NATIONAL "TOUGH TOOLS FOR COOL SCHOOLS" PROGRAM: KOBALT TOOL PACKAGES DONATED NATIONWIDE TO HELP PREPARE AMERICA'S FUTURE SKILLED WORKFORCE "It was a great day yesterday. We had a very successful event. I just find it fun to go back to school and the memories that it jars loose in my own mind. We went back to my high school a few years ago and Kobalt donated a bunch of stuff to the shop classes that I was a part of. It's just neat. I wish that when I was in school some of this stuff came along. It would have really helped me perfect my craft and trade and give me a head start in my professional career. In some ways it did because we didn't have the best tools. That discouraged me from working on stuff. And I cannot work on anything today and it really helped me pursue the driving aspect of racing (grin). So I'm thankful in that respect. Yesterday was a great event. I can't thank Kobalt Tools enough for coming up with this. It's something that will really impact the youth throughout the country and help them develop their skills moving forward. We're looking forward to giving back to the youth and giving them a head start."

ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT YOU ARE GETTING OFF TO A SLOW START IN '09 AND THAT CARL EDWARDS IS OFF TO A SLOW START TOO? "In some ways it doesn't surprise me because everything changes so much within the sport. I look over at the No. 99 (Edward) crew guys and there is a whole new army of crew guys working on that car. We've got a few new guys on our team as well. From my standpoint, we just need to hit our stride. The one thing we didn't have last year was fast race cars. We had great stops and hit our strategy; I wasn't making mistakes. We were ready but the car wasn't. This year the car is more than ready and we've been making mistakes. I was looking for the walk-off home run last weekend, but I took a big swing and a miss and had it stuffed in the fence. It's just about getting that right mindset and just being in the rhythm and clicking things off. And where we are in points, we'll certainly race for wins, but we don't want to be in a big hole. We just need to come out here and put in a strong race and if we have a chance to win, we're certainly going to take that but you're not going to see me with seven laps to go, trying to get up there and win it. Well, I say that but last time we were here I guess I was 11th with a few to go and I got up to second. But I will try to back it down that five percent to keep the rear end on the car."

IS YOUR BEARD BAD LUCK? "No (laughs); I've heard a variety of opinions from the fans. Some love it and some hate it. But again, if momma likes it, it's staying. I disagree on the unlucky thing. We've created most of the issues we've had. It hasn't been the beard."

ON THE TIRES "When we went to Las Vegas, it was amazing how much grip that track had with the tire that was there. I know it's a newer surface and all those things, but it reminded me of the old car when a new tires was made, it was like wow, that took care of a lot of problems. Depending on how you look at it, it helps most but probably hurts the guys that were really fine-tuned on the old tire and making it right. So it took away their advantage. Here, I left pit road thinking the car was going to drive like it did in Vegas, and this track is typically faster than Vegas. And I went into Turn 3 and expected just to staple it to the floor and almost run flat through there, and I was in the fourth groove, looking for the fifth groove and getting ready to knock the wall down. And I just could not believe how little grip there was and the imbalance in the tire and the just did a tire test here. And with that in mind, I think there are a couple of factors. The car versus how rough and abrasive this track is. I don't know if we're going to make the cars really drive better here. And I assume through the tire test they've found the best one and put it on the car, but the cars don't drive all that well here. Throughout the day, once we worked on it, we made our car much better. So we could have just been off. But I think everybody, when they left pit road the first time and went through (Turns) 3 and 4 coming to the green on their qualifying lap, it was like what's going on? Nobody expected the cars to drive that poorly. But I think the times came down. We put up some good laps last night once the sun went down. I think during the daylight hours, during the race, this place is going to be a lot like what we saw last year; a lot of slipping and sliding. You're going to be able to burn the tires on the front stretch, on the straightaway if you want to. There's just no grip. It's Darlington now.

"The one thing that's tough and favors whoever is on top of things, and it's racing in general, but with how fast the tires wear out and the few amount of tires we get before the race starts, you only get a couple of shots to get it right. So it puts a lot of pressure on the practice sessions that we have coming up. And granted this first one, the air is real thick so we're going to create more downforce. The sun hasn't been on the track, so there's going to be more grip. So this first practice really isn't going to mean much to the set-up and balance for the car for the race. You've got to be on your game, especially here today. And today's Atlanta."

DO YOU DO HOME IMPROVEMENT OR HOUSEHOLD CHORES? "I'm still not delivering. My wife has a honey-do list for me, I'm sure like every other man does and I rarely get to it. I think it's on purpose just to watch her get riled up. One thing that she gets most frustrated with me are light bulbs that are burned out. I just like to see how long they'll sit there and how many times she'll ask me to change them (laughs), but I guess that's just me being mean to her. I shouldn't do that. But as far as anything serious with work around the house, I can take stuff apart but putting it back together is a whole different world and it's been a long time since I've put stuff back together so I stay away from it."

WHAT'S ON THE "HONEY-DO" LIST? "It's typically lights, written down four or five times. Light bulbs. We've got a couple gates that aren't necessarily working right and we've got a sprinkler or two that have gone awry. So I need to get on top of those two."

SHOULD ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY BE REPAVED? "I really don't believe so. I don't think it's time yet. At one point, this track was my favorite track and I watched people slice around and I'm like no, it doesn't need to be changed. And now when I'm out there I'm searching with this car and haven't found exactly what we need here yet. In the back of my mind I'm thinking, man, if they repaved it we'd probably be just fine. We need different race tracks. We need different surfaces. And I think we need to leave it alone for now."

ON THE CoT "Without a doubt, the car has probably 40 percent less downforce. If you look at mechanical grip, it's probably a 30 -- 40 percent chunk as well. And then with less downforce, the car goes much faster down the straightaway and accelerates a lot faster. And you get to the corner and you've got no downforce and no grip and you're really just hanging on. And over the years, in the age of the track, in the winters and the summers the track just develops bumps and swells around it. So those continue to grow. And then if you go out and just look at the race track, the stones in the asphalt on a new pave job, there's a lot of material or whatever it's called in between the stones and it's kind of a flat surface. If you walk out there now, it's just nothing but jagged rocks and stones sticking up. So that just wears the tires out like a cheese grader.

"From one lap to the next, especially in race trim, you'll lose three to four-tenths a lap and probably be four seconds off the pace from new tires to old tires. It's tough because it's hard to build an engine to run in that powerband with a four second swing. The cars are so sensitive to how you use the bump stops and how far they travel that when you slow down that much, now the car comes off the bump stops that we're using and creates an entirely different animal the way the thing drives. We count on those bump stops to really secure the car and then built the balance into it on that, and then when you come off of them, you've just got a car that's dead sideways. So again, I'm not complaining about it. It's just one of the challenges that we have here and I think it's good that we're challenged like this. From all the racing that we do during the year and all the cookie-cutter style tracks, this place is it's own. It's very unique and I think it's a good thing."

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NEXT WEEK DURING THE BREAK, AND DO YOU THINK IT'S A GOOD TIME IN THE SCHEDULE TO HAVE A BREAK? "Oh, maybe change light bulbs and fix some gates and sprinklers (laughter). I'm kind of used to it I guess. We usually have two right out of the gate and in my opinion, I still think we need an off weekend between the 26th and 27th races in case we run into any problems with weather or a national disaster or whatever it may be so we're not caught trying to make up a race at the end. Outside of that, I'd like to see them spread out a little bit more where we can give the teams a break. But this first one is usually needed for the crew guys. They work so hard to get ready for Daytona and to get their car count built up. Rules changes usually come along in January and sometimes even in February. So the guys have really been putting time into building the '09 fleet of cars right now. I think it's a timely one (break) for the crew for sure."

HOW'S YOUR SHORT TRACK PROGRAM? "The short track program, I'm hoping it's good. We haven't had a chance to be on track with anything to see what we have but last year, especially at Martinsville and Richmond, we were in great shape. Bristol, I think we've got a great car there but I just don't know how to get around that race track yet. I will show up and focus and do all the things that I need to and hopefully get it right this time. I'm just not going to admit defeat at that track. I'm not going to let that track beat me. I will win there one of these days before my career is over.

"Maybe the beard will bring luck to Bristol (laughs)."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup