Jimmie Johnson wants to win at Bristol Motor Speedway. It's one of only seven tracks in which the Nextel Cup Series competes where Johnson hasn't visited Victory Lane. That's the main reason that the reigning Sprint Cup Series Champion will not...
Jimmie Johnson wants to win at Bristol Motor Speedway. It's one of only seven tracks in which the Nextel Cup Series competes where Johnson hasn't visited Victory Lane. That's the main reason that the reigning Sprint Cup Series Champion will not only compete in Saturday night's Sharpie 500, but will also make his Truck Series debut in Wednesday night's event at the .533-mile bullring, piloting the No. 81 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet for Randy Moss Motorsports.
"That's really why we're running the truck race, so that I can get some more seat time on that track," said Johnson. "The trucks are closer to a Cup car than the Nationwide cars are and Chad (Knaus) will be up there and involved. It gives us an opportunity to learn some things without the pressure of being in the points race. Everybody learns a lot more when the pressure's not on, so it's a good way to give me a little more experience and for Chad to adjust on the vehicle and learn a bit more about the track."
In his 13 starts there, Johnson has collected two top five and six top-10 finishes.
ON BRISTOL, DID YOU LIKE THE OLD STYLE WITH MORE BUMPING AND BANGING AND ONE GROOVE, OR DO YOU ENJOY MORE THE PASSING WITH MULTIPLE GROOVES NOW? "It funny because the tracks the drivers say they enjoy the most are tracks where we have options and we can pass. Typically they are tracks that the fans aren't too receptive to. Michigan is one of the best tracks for the drivers, but we get spread out and there aren't a lot of cautions and you have some people that think that's not good racing because there are no cautions. Bristol kind of falls in that same category now where there are a lot of options on the track to use. From a driver's standpoint, Bristol is much more enjoyable now than its ever been. You can really race people, try different lines, explore around the track, and explore set-ups. So I like the challenges that Bristol gives us now, but it's because I can control my own destiny. And I'm sure the fans paying for the seats have liked the fact that there was so much pushing and shoving and knocking people out of the way in the past and we just don't have that there anymore."
HOW MUCH HAS THE NATURE OF SHORT TRACK RACING CHANGED WITH THESE NEW CAR AS FAR AS HOW YOU SET PEOPLE UP AND HOW YOU SCHEME FOR THE RACE? "In some ways there are more opportunities because the cars don't handle as well. So that's a plus. And then in other ways, it's tough to move guys out of the way now that the bumpers line up so well. You really have to keep some speed and nail the guy in front of you in order to be able to move him (laughs). Where before, you kind of scoop him up and get him out of the way with the slope on the nose of the cars. But I think this car has raced really well on the short tracks. I think it's done a really good job on road courses, and kind of the problems we had setting the car up help with the racing and make the racing a little better. The problem we have is when you get on the big tracks and the speeds are so much higher and the consequences are so much greater with an ill-handling car, that's where you really abuse the tires and where you have drivers and teams struggling to find the balance and find the comfort in the car."
WHAT CAN YOU LEARN FROM THE TRUCK THAT YOU CAN APPLY TO THE CUP CAR? "I don't know. I'm going to find out. I would assume, not much with the fact that the cars run bump stops and the rules are much different, but at least I'm on the track. Every lap that I make on a track, the more I learn and the rhythm comes to me. That's really a big part of Bristol. There's a certain rhythm to that race track and if I can find the rhythm sooner and adjust to that and practice and be doing the right things when our Cup practice starts, from a driver's standpoint, it will hopefully put us ahead of where we've been in the past and we'll be more competitive in the race."
* Chassis No. 433 will be the primary for Saturday night's Sprint Cup event. Johnson drove that car most recently at Bristol Motor Speedway in March, where he sat on the pole and finished 18th.
* The backup chassis is No. 419.