SHARPIE 500 - WEEKLY TOP 10 Behind the Hauler Chat, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS HOW DO YOU AVOID THE ROAD RAGE THAT PEOPLE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT HERE AT BRISTOL? "I don't think you can plan to avoid anything. You've just got to get...
SHARPIE 500 - WEEKLY TOP 10
Behind the Hauler Chat, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS
HOW DO YOU AVOID THE ROAD RAGE THAT PEOPLE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT HERE AT BRISTOL? "I don't think you can plan to avoid anything. You've just got to get out there and race hard and hope that you've got enough speed to be passing people. You usually find yourself in trouble if you drop a little bit and guys are getting into your bumper and with it being a one-lane track, trying to move you out of the way. The goal is to be moving forward instead of moving backward."
DO YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY KNOWING THAT GUYS ARE GOING TO BE RACING SO HARD BECAUSE THIS IS A SHORT TRACK? "No, if you've raced here before, I think you've got a good idea of what you need to do to stay out of trouble and do what you need to do get around the track. Everybody is striving for the same thing and when the flag drops for the race, that's when you'll see who's got what."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RACING THE CAR OF TOMORROW NEXT YEAR? "I guess it is coming next year. I've been so occupied with this year and working on the current package, that I guess I forgot about that. I drove the car at Milwaukee and on the short track, from my experience, and what everybody tells me, there's not a lot of air involved in the aerodynamics. The car drives good. There is a little bit of an issue on two-mile tracks and 1.5-mile tracks and getting the car comfortable and get it to where it's competitive to pass. Jeff (Gordon) was just at Michigan with the car and that was his big complaint. In traffic and behind other cars, that car has such a big wing on the back and so downforce dependent aerodynamic dependent that when you get back in traffic, the car is very, very difficult to drive. I think there is still some work to be done on the car. I know that with our tests there, we've learned a lot. And hopefully we can make the right adjustments when we get back on the big tracks. But the short tracks and road course stuff, it's going to be a pretty easy crossover."
MARK MARTIN SAID BRISTOL IS AS UNPREDICTIBLE AS TALLADEGA AS FAR AS DEALING WITH POINTS. DO YOU AGREE, OR IS IT EVEN WORSE FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT CONTROL OF THE PLATE TRACKS? "It might be a little worse. I definitely back what Mark (Martin) said. At Talladega, if you want, you can drop out and ride around in 30th and try to dodge the wrecks. But here, you don't have a choice. It might be a little bit more dangerous here than at a plate track."
A LOT OF PEOPLE REALLY LIKE COMING TO BRISTOL, BUT YOU'VE MADE IT PRETTY CLEAR THAT YOU JUST WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE, RIGHT? "Well, I think I probably have more of a comfortable position than anybody. I've had some top five runs here. It's been a hit or miss track for me - for whatever reason. I'd really hate to be the guy in 11th, 10th, or ninth - that whole area - because it's so much out of your control here. Maybe I guess I've been a little more honest with myself; and the risks that you have here at the track. But a lot of people look forward to this track. It's a good track for them. When I walk in here, it's hard to not get excited. It's such a cool race track. But at the same time, It's a very risky race track."
DO YOU HAVE FEWER ROOTS TO SHORT TRACKS LIKE COMPARED TO SOME OF THE OTHER GUYS? "Yeah, I would agree with that. I had two years in ASA and two years in Busch, and then now in the Cup Series. But this track really reminds me of where I won my first pole at Anderson, Indiana. It was on a smaller track, but similar in banking and kind of like the flow of the track. I've always liked Anderson. I ran well here in the Busch car and I've had some good races in a Cup car. I've just got to figure it out."
ARE YOU ON THE EDGE HERE? "Yeah, you are so on the edge here. It's just so crazy. If you're half a tenth off, you're in the way. If you're a half a tenth faster, you're moving forward and life is good. It's just a really weird track. On top of that, the thing I do like about it, is that you can drive it three or four different ways - even though it is a single groove track. You can help the car a little bit with how you drive it, which is not very common at short tracks."
WHEN RUNNING BRISTOL, IS THERE ANY POINT DURING THE RACE WHEN YOU CAN RELAX? "When the caution comes out (laughs). I guess that's when you relax and catch your breath. Other than that, it's pretty tense the whole time."
AFTER THIS, HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF WILL CALIFORNIA BE? "California is a great track for us. I think everybody likes it when you have a little bit more room - especially this time of the year. Everybody is just in crunch mode. Every point counts. I think that's a common reaction from all the drivers. Everybody wants to get out of here with good points. I think Richmond is going to be exciting. I'm hopeful that I can lock myself in so that I don't have to have a lot on the line at Richmond and I know that everybody else wishes they were in that situation too. So we've got to put in a couple more good races and see where we end up."
EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE IN THE POINT LEAD, WILL IS BE A RELIEF FOR YOU WHEN THE RACE TO THE CHASE IS OVER? "Yeah, I think so. The first goal is to get locked in. The second goal is to be the champion going into the final 10, or be the point-leader I should say. We'll just take it from there. Either way, I think once we lock in, we're going to be in great shape for the championship. We've gained a lot of strength this year and a lot of maturity."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT WHAT IS GOING TO GET YOU THROUGH THE LAST 10 RACES? "We've matured as a team and I think there's a lot that comes with that. I think we're a lot stronger race team and a lot more mature. We're just smarter and more mature and a better educated race team right now."
WILL YOU CHANGE YOUR APPROACH FOR THESE LAST THREE RACES IN THE CHASE TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP? WHAT'S YOUR MINDSET? "No, you can't change your approach. I think we're all in a points-racing mindset from Daytona on. And it's not that you're just going to ride around and be happy to finish fifth, but every point counts. You need to pass the guy in front of you. You need to try to win races. You've got to continue to have that attitude."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU GUYS THAT THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS YOU'VE HAD SO MANY RUNS THAT HAVE STARTED OUT HORRIBLY, BUT THAT HAVE ENDED UP IN TOP 10 FINISHES? "I think it's good. It's a great boost for the team. Each year, we've been some adversity that we've had to overcome. We've been through a lot of different things - some things that we certainly didn't want with the tragedy of the airplane going down a couple of years ago. We fought through that and came back. So, it's going to be a long 10 races. And as we all know, a lot can happen in two races, let alone 10. If you can make it clean throughout the final 10, I think you'll be a shoo-in for the championship. But the last couple of years, everybody has had a problem and has had something to fight back from."
HAVE YOU FELT CONFIDENT THE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS THAT YOU CAN OVERCOME BAD PARTS OF RACES TO GET GOOD FINISHES? "Yeah, it's always a boost when you go through it and come out the other side and come out of it. We do have some confidence from it, but I think more than anything, we're just a more mature race team right now."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN YOUR OFF-ROAD DAYS THAT HAS HELPED IN YOUR NASCAR CAREER? "I really think I've learned how to race. I didn't learn anything about set-ups and the way to work on these race cars, but I learned the basics of racing. And I learned how to push the envelope. On the dirt, you can really flirt with the envelope and if you end up upside down, it's not a big deal."