Charlotte II: Johnson qualifying press conference

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Qualified 3rd: IS THIS THE SAME CAR YOU HAD HERE IN MAY? "We had two different cars here in May. We brought back a car that we won with in the 600. It's a great car, obviously. We broke an ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Qualified 3rd:

IS THIS THE SAME CAR YOU HAD HERE IN MAY? "We had two different cars here in May. We brought back a car that we won with in the 600. It's a great car, obviously. We broke an engine coming out to qualify, getting up to speed, and we had to start at the tail. We were able to work our way to the front before the rains came and was able to win the race. It's been kind of sitting in the corner, getting a little bit of loving and working on it. We were saving it for this race here Saturday night. It's been sitting there waiting for this weekend."

DOES IT GET FRUSTRATING SITTING HERE RUNNING GREAT LAPS AND THEN HAVE THE 12 CAR COME OUT AND KNOCK YOU OFF THE POLE? "They're doing a great job. They're doing it week in and week out. I wasn't around for Jeff's domination, and Ryan seems to have that momentum working for him now. There's frustration that goes along with it, but that's just the competitive nature of all of us. Anybody that finishes second on back is going to be frustrated and the winner's going to be happy. We're working hard and we're close, and we'll keep fighting for it and see what happens."

WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TIRE-WISE TO WIN SATURDAY NIGHT? CAN SOMEBODY DO A FUEL-ONLY LATE AND WIN? "I don't think the track will allow that. There's a small chance it could play out, but I think the odds are less. This track is so abrasive. I was just watching the replay of the race from last year, and we had 10 laps on four brand-new tires, and the majority of the field came in and put tires on again. There's a small chance, and I think there is every race, but this isn't Kansas or Chicago, because the tire does wear out here. There's a big advantage to having four new tires after 10 laps."

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO AS A DRIVER TO IMPROVE YOUR FUEL MILEAGE? "It's tough. The stuff we've been able to see--at our Dover test we played with that, trying to understand it, and you can get four or five laps, but we pay a big price in speed. It's hard for us to conserve fuel and stay fast. One comes with the other. If you're going to go fast you have to burn fuel to make power. I don't know exactly how or understand to tell you how they're doing it."

IS THE FUEL MILEAGE QUESTION FOR THE 12 CAR A COMBINATION OF ALL SYSTEMS--CHASSIS, AERO, FUEL SYSTEM, ENGINE--THAT WILL TAKE EVERYBODY A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT? "That's what they have. It's a little of everything. I don't know if you've seen the gauges they have to measure the fuel cells in our cars, but there's only a certain amount of fuel you're going to get in that car. You can stand there with 40 gallons, but NASCAR works hard to make sure that thing is only going to hold a certain amount. They've found a way to obviously stretch it. Everything we've worked toward, we've worked on going fast, being as fast as we can with as much aero in the car and as much grip, turning more RPM, more horsepower, all of that is going to consume more and more fuel. We don't exactly know. Everybody right now is working on theories and we have years and years of things in motion--build more downforce, make more horsepower, turn more RPMs, and it just changes midstream right now. We have to stick with what we have in place and what we're doing. Of course, we're looking at fuel mileage and trying to taper back on the aero, pull a different gear, try different carburetors and different manifolds, but everything we've messed with, and our guys have been working hard since the first time we were beat on this, it's small, small increments. I mean, eight laps on a 1.5-mile race track--we can't go that far. We can get a lap or two, but we can't get eight. Next year, there's changes coming that will mix it up again. The tires are going to wear out faster and take some of this away. A lot of people are trying to find a quick fix but not really committing toward focusing on the fuel mileage because there's a good chance that the fuel mileage might just take care of itself."

DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT RYAN NEWMAN, GIVEN THE KIND OF ATTENTION YOU HAVE GOTTEN IN THE PAST? "The way our sport works is based on the last time you were on the race track. The last time we were on the track, Ryan won the race. The last time we were on the race track, he won the pole. That's the unfortunate nature of our sport. You're only as good as the last time you were on the track, and I'm way down in third right now. We're working hard, and right now everyone's asking the same questions. You're talking to a guy that doesn't know much but can probably confuse you and make your articles that much better. Our engineers are the ones that are working the magic and we're just out there wheeling these things. We're working up theories and trotting them out there and our guys are working hard and trying to understand them."

A BRIEF COMMENT ON MOVING THIS RACE TO SATURDAY NIGHT IN OCTOBER: "I know the setup will cross over and be more like what we have for The Winston rather than the 600. Night racing, I think, brings the best out in everyone. It's neat to see the sparks, the race track all lit up and everything that goes along with it. I think night racing is a great thing to have happen. Also, we're close to home, and that means we get Sunday at home, and we get to watch football on Sunday for once. That's going to be nice to hang out and hope my fantasy football team does better."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup