JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed night racing at Chicago, Mark Martin's goal to win the Brickyard this year, visiting Chicago, and more. WHEN YOU COME TO A TRACK WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO RACE AT NIGHT FOR ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed night racing at Chicago, Mark Martin's goal to win the Brickyard this year, visiting Chicago, and more.
WHEN YOU COME TO A TRACK WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO RACE AT NIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME, WHERE DO YOU START? CAN YOU LOOK AT OTHER TRACK NOTES? "We really do go off of notes of a track similar to this. To a large degree we're speculating in some respects. I do feel that though that with the schedule and as painful as it is to sit around all day and have everything take place in the afternoons, this would be our best attempt to understand a great race car from a practice session into the race. If you look at Charlotte, we practice in the morning and race at night. There are a lot of other examples where we practice during the day and race at night. So this is really the closest we've had actually practice conditions to race conditions, which is helpful.
"As time goes on, we just learn how to adjust and anticipate what things will be like. I would assume that a lot of guys will have the philosophy that you would in the 600-mile race that we have and the track changing and having spring rubbers and a lot of adjustments that you can change quickly on a pit stop built into the cars. But we're all learning.
"Yesterday was an interesting day. There was a lot of grip, I felt, in the track and know that the track conditions did help that. When you're out there, I can see how this track has aged. And I really think we're going to see the best race that this track has ever had this weekend. I think the night conditions are going to help. I also think the asphalt has aged enough to where we're going to be searching around and it's going to be early. You're going to see guys in practice moving up to the top. So I'm really excited about the race."
IS THIS WHERE THE ENGINEERS STEP UP AND YOU LEAN ON THEM MORE BECAUSE THERE WILL BE CONDITIONS YOU HAVEN'T ENCOUNTERED AND THEY CAN SIMULATE THAT TO SOME DEGREE? "Yeah, sometimes we get ourselves in trouble trying to over think things. I think we've been guilty of that a little bit in general in the No. 48 car (laughs). We've certainly learned a lot of things not to do. We're making a lot of progress right now. But you do look to the engineers. We don't have data from this race track for quite a long period of time, especially with this new car. So there is a lot of guessing going on and engineers are working hard with the crew chief to dream up the optimum set-up."
MARK MARTIN'S GOAL IS TO WIN THE BRICKYARD. HOW SPECIAL WOULD THAT BE? "I think it would be important and great for NASCAR. It would be awesome for Mark Martin. NASCAR has 43 stars that are on track each week. I'm sure the track would want to see one of its native Indiana boys win the race. I think a California guy, especially a guy from El Cajon, California would be best to win that thing for a second time (laughs). But you can not help but respect Mark Martin and respect what he's done in the car and want to see him do well. I'm excited for him at the Brickyard. I don't want him to win there until he's in a Hendrick car, personally; I want it to be in one of our vehicles and I'll be selfish in that regard. But it's exciting to see Mark being competitive and it's exciting to see him come to Hendrick Motorsports next year. I'm looking forward to working with him."
HOW REALISTIC IS IT FOR A GUY LIKE THAT TO WIN? "I don't think it's unrealistic. You look at Mark, you put him in a car, and he's going to make up for a lot. And I think you look at (Martin) Truex and what that team has done and how competitive they were last year and in the points this year, that No. 8 car and even the No. 1 car have been right there in the thick of things. I don't think it's unrealistic or unfair to think that DEI or Mark could win that race. It's tough to really think about that I guess right now, when you have the No. 18 car (Kyle Busch) and the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) has been on a tear at times and the No. 9 (Kasey Kahne) has shown some strength. It's so hard to hold on to that magic over a long period of time. And I'm pretty confident in saying that in the back of Kyle's head and the team's head saying, 'When is this ride going to be over?' It just doesn't last forever. And it may last this year and those guys could win 15 races and be the champions, but at some point it comes down. All of us are betting on that happening soon and hoping that it does (laughs) and hoping it's our team. I know it's tough to think about other people outside the guys who have been dominating right now, but Mark can make up the difference in a lot of situations. Also you have to look at him and think of when he goes out on a limb and says something like that, Mark always thinks the world is coming to and end and the sky is falling, so for him to say that he has a shot at winning (means) he's feeling pretty good about things and I believe him."
GIVEN THE LOCATION OF THIS TRACK, DO YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE YOU'RE RACING IN CHICAGO WHEN YOU'RE HERE? DO YOU FEEL THAT ATTACHMENT TO THE AREA? "I do because when we ran on Sunday's I would go up to Chicago and enjoy the city. This weekend I won't be able to, but it's one of the few tracks that I'll make the drive into whatever city is in the area and spend some time. So in my mind it feels like it is. So yeah, I guess I do feel like it. And it's tough; I don't know if it's closer than California Speedway is to L.A., but I seen to make this drive from here to Chicago than I do from the track in California to L.A. to go have dinner and enjoy the town."
WOULD CHANI'S CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS WOULD REFLECT THE FACT THAT AT LEAST PART OF THE JOHNSON CLAN HAS VISITED CHICAGO? (laughter) "Yeah, I've been called by American Express three times already (laughs), so yes. The credit card statements do reflect that Chicago is a great city (more laughter)."
-credit: gm racing