JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Bristol, short track racing, tire test at Lowe's Motor Speedway. F-1 championship rule change and other topics. TALK ABOUT...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Bristol, short track racing, tire test at Lowe's Motor Speedway. F-1 championship rule change and other topics.
TALK ABOUT YOUR PREPARATION FOR THIS WEEK AND YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY. "I've studies video, I have worked with engineers, I've driven many laps in my head and I started the whole process of convincing myself I love this track so my outlook is I love this place and cannot wait to get on track."
LAST YEAR TO WIN A RACE AT BRISTOL WAS ONE OF YOUR GOALS FOR THE YEAR, ARE YOU SHOOTING FOR THAT AGAIN THIS YEAR? "Yeah, it's really the same. Last year I set that goal. Usually I make some progress for goals that I set for myself but last year I failed in all three categories, Bristol, the Glen (Watkins Glen International Raceway) and Sonoma (Infineon Raceway). I didn't get the results that I wanted but I still have that same outlook. I hope to win on one of those three tracks soon."
YOU SORT OF INHERITED THE TITLE OF "MR. MARTINSVILLE", WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE INCLUDED IN THE COMPANY OF GUYS LIKE DARRELL WALTRIP, RICHARD PETTY AND JEFF GORDON WHO HAVE HAD SUCH SUCCESS THERE? "It means a lot. It is such a difficult track and a challenging track not only you have to deal with frustration and understand that track, I don't think you can grow up racing on any surface or any level racing in the country and be ready for that track. My first time there I tested and I think we tested twice because the first test there went so bad. The second time we came back for the race and nothing worked. When I came back the second time and Tony Stewart was lapping me I followed him and learned the rhythm and it clicked in my brain and I was like oh that's how you do it. I salvaged a decent day out of that run and I've been getting better and better each time I've been there. I really enjoy the track. It's such a quirky, odd track that we run at. When friends also ask me what one of the tracks they should go watch at, I always tell them Martinsville. I tell them here (Bristol), I tell them Richmond. Somewhere where you have good short-track racing and you can get up close to the race cars and action. I think the race fans are going to have two great weeks with here and Martinsville."
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO PUT YOUR FINGER ON WHAT IT IS ABOUT THIS PLACE THAT GIVES YOU TROUBLE? "Yeah, we have. The first year we came and I think we tested before the race and Jeff (Gordon) has had so much success here with the old configuration, we'd go on track and make runs and I'd tried to overlay the driver inputs and just try to find the rhythm of this track and I couldn't get it. We've tested here every year that we've had the opportunity to test and I just still have not been able to find the rhythm that it takes. I've had good runs. I've finished in the top-five I think a couple of times and in the top-10, so my outlook on the weekend really is get to the half-way point. The races that I've had really bad finishes my frustration got to me and I was caught up in something before the half-way point and had a bad finish. The races I make it past half-way we have a good day, maybe not the day we want but we leave here with points. That's really what my mindset is for this weekend. From the engineering staff, Jeff's driven my car, I can't drive his I can't fit in it he's such a small dude, overlaying data, we've spent a couple of days of overlaying data and looking at Kyle Busch's driving style from data that we had, Jeff's -- we try so hard at this track and that's why our frustration is so high. We put so much input into it and usually end up running back."
THE FACT THAT YOU ARE SO GOOD AT MARTINSVILLE MEANS NOTHING? "Yeah, two totally different worlds. Honestly here you probably spend more time on the gas and if not more wide-open throttle in the corner than you do on the straightaway. It's just backwards to me. When you're coming off the corner and transitioning on the straightaway typically you have to let off some because the transition is so abrupt. Then you let off at the start-finish line if not before on a race run so you just have this small zone where you're trying to get some traction and go forward and then you coast in the corner and the center of the turn you blast the throttle and then again start letting off coming out of the straightaway. That just doesn't work for me. I don't know why but it's backwards and doesn't work. You go to Martinsville and you're off the gas when you should be and you're on the gas when you should and I can get that rhythm."
YOU RACED HERE ON THE OLD CONFIGURATION, YOU'VE RACED ON THE NEW ONE NOW, HOW HAS THAT CHANGED STRATEGY? WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW THAT YOU COULDN'T DO BEFORE OR VICE VERSA? "Now we can run side-by-side a lot easier. Now with the ease to run side-by-side you can't complete a pass. So I think when you have a track this small and this tight you're gonna have bumping and banging and things that have made Bristol so popular. You don't have the blatant bump and runs now as often as you did with the old track but still to complete a pass on a fast car you've got to give them a shot in the bumper or you have to come in and run them up high and lean on them some to get by. Otherwise you'll just sit there side-by-side forever. There's nothing bad about it, it's just it's changed some and it's a little bit different to race and in the end I think when our frustration level gets high it sees people on their feet and makes them smile. That's what it's about."
BETTER OR WORSE? "It's easier to drive. For the majority of us I think its better. I also wish it was an asphalt track which I know is impossible to where the track would start to age and different lines will start to develop. With it being concrete it's just going to last forever like this. At Lowe's Motor Speedway when I was there testing the grove is changing. It's finally old enough where it's starting to age a little bit and wear and we'll move around. Where the steepness here will never allow them to pave it and we'll never have that evolution of the track, unfortunately."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF F-1 CHANGING THEIR POINTS STRUCTURE SO THAT THE DRIVER WHO WINS THE MOST RACES WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I didn't see that so I feel like I am dropping the ball here. I tested two days so I guess I have somewhat of an excuse. I have not seen that. That is interesting. Initial thoughts are, if they raced 36 times a year, I would be curious to see how their champion would be crowned at that point. I think they are different worlds. You have three teams that can really win and fourth if it rains. I just think it is a different environment and I am not sure it would work in our form of racing. I still think we could spread out the points and reward guys for finishing better in the top-three, top-five and keep breaking that out further and go that direction. I think basing it solely on wins is probably a bad idea."
TRG MOTORSPORTS WITH DAVID GILLILAND AS THE DRIVER HAS MAYBE FIVE PAID EMPLOYEES AND ARE 34TH IN POINTS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT ACCOMPLISHMENT? "Those guys really are racers and they are acumen really means something. I don't' think I have really raced against them in the Rolex stuff, but I have seen their equipment around for years and they have always been competitive and dominant in whatever division they race in. They came in to the Truck Series and won and now they are on the Cup side. They have a good core base, even though it isn't a lot of guys, they are really racers at heart and out there doing what they can. I have a lot of respect for what they are doing. I think today's world has hurt some teams and has forced some mergers, but at the same time, it has allowed other teams an opportunity to come in to our sport. It is nice to see some good things come out of the tough economy and the tough market we have right now."
HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FACT THAT BRISTOL IS PROBABLY THE FIRST TRACK YOU HAVE BEEN TO SO FAR THIS SEASON WHERE THE DRIVER HAS SO MUCH INPUT IN THE FINAL RESULT? "It is great. I have to tell myself I love this place. I have such a difficult time getting around here and I can make it around and I complete a lap and I am like 'wow that was good' and hear the lap time and go 'oh, that wasn't good.' I can't wait to learn this place and be able to make a difference and help my team out. But I do agree, the aero situation, we had the nose ripped off our car last fall, I spent 30-40 laps behind pit wall getting stuff fixed and I came out and I could run the pace of the leaders with no nose on the car. So you learn here a little bit about an aero push but it is not as important as many of the other tracks we go to. It just boils down to good short track racing."
AFTER FOUR RACES THIS SEASON ARE THERE TEAMS OUT THERE THAT HAVE SURPRISED YOU EITHER BY HOW WELL THEY ARE RUNNING OR BY THE PROBLEMS THEY HAVE ALREADY ENCOUNTERED? "I would look at the No. 2 car (Kurt Busch). I think we saw him coming on the end of last year. I think it is great to see Roger's (Penske) team winning races and running up front and Kurt for that matter. When he was in the Roush car, every time the No. 97 pulled on track, you knew you were going to have your hands full. They aren't necessarily a surprise, but I think I saw it coming, I am not sure if anyone else did but I saw it coming. I think that the Stewart-Haas organization and what Tony has been able to do, that is extremely impressive and shocking to me to be where they are at. A lot has taken place in a short period of time for those guys, certainly happy Tony. As we all know, he is off on a small branch right now and he is doing a great job with it. I expected the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) on the 1.5-mile tracks to be a little faster and probably the No. 18 for that matter, based on what we saw on these tracks early last year. Even though he (Kyle Busch) did win at Las Vegas, I just kind of expected to see those guys up there a little bit more. And ourselves for that matter. I can't leave myself out of it. We have led some laps, but I have made mistakes, had some bad pit stops, strategy stuff has gone on. We just need to clean up our act and put together a good race start to finish and get the finish we should."
TALK US THROUGH HOW MUCH YOU WILL PUT IN TO YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT HERE. "That is a huge focus today. It is amazing when we have qualified fair here, the attitude it helps with practice on Saturday. If you are off, for us it is a thrash and we are faced with that reality of 'Well, here we go again'. If we are slow I should say. If we are fast, it is more relaxing and we are like 'ok, we have a good starting spot, let's just make the car drive well. We will have track position on our side, a decent pit road pick'. It really does change the dynamic of the weekend for you and I am praying that today it goes smoothly so (Chad) Knaus has a smile on his face."
AT THE CHARLOTTE TEST YOU SAID YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN GOING A LITTLE TOO FAST, WHY WAS IT TOO FAST? "No I wouldn't say there was a safety concern or a durability concern. It was more, the faster you go, the more race track you need so it becomes more of a single-file race. We all want to see side-by-side racing. It is nice to have a fast qualifying lap and hear the announcers say a new track record and all that stuff. To me, and I wish, and I know Goodyear is trying hard and I had a great experience with them this week at the track trying some stuff they had never done before with a tire and understand where their mindset was at, their goal is to build stability in to the cars and a durable tire. They are doing that. The Vegas tire they made is much more stable than what we have had in the past and it is durable. With stability come comfort and the fact that you commit to the speed and it is so durable, it never gives up. My dream, if it seemed possible and I know they are trying to, is to build some falloff in to these tires so that five, 10 laps you slow down a second and now you can run side-by-side and work on passing people and have the tires wear some so that it comes back to the driver's setup and feel. What the crew chief down for the setup on the car. It is mainly to help promote side-by-side racing. It wasn't anything safety wise or durability wise I was really looking at."
-credit: gm racing