JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO returns to Dover International Speedway with hopes of the same success he enjoyed here in June when he captured the second career win of his rookie season. He sits just 40 points away from the ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO returns to Dover International Speedway with hopes of the same success he enjoyed here in June when he captured the second career win of his rookie season. He sits just 40 points away from the NASCAR Winston Cup Series lead and 24 points back in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year chase. Johnson will start 19th in Sunday's MBNA All-American Heroes 400.
JIMMIE JOHNSON - (IS YOUR CAR TOP FIVE MATERIAL?
"We hope so. The tire has thrown a lot of us for a loop. We were just watching Happy Hour on tape and everyone was saying how tight they are; but we were the opposite. We've been really loose. Typically at Dover, the car gets tighter through the runs. So we've been kind of slow to change anything because Dover always tightens up. Our lap times are good. I almost crashed a couple of times sliding it around. But when we get into the race and the track opens up, and the long runs start, I think we'll be in good shape."
WHO LOOKS GOOD OUT THERE?
"The only one I really didn't get behind was the No. 2 (Rusty Wallace). Looking at his times he looks pretty strong. They kept putting on new tires so they should have been strong. I ran with the No. 12 (Ryan Newman) and caught him, I ran with the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) and the No. 6 (Mark Martin). We were able to run down all the key players. We didn't change tires throughout all of Happy Hour, so I think we'll be in good shape."
WHY DOES THIS TRACK SUIT YOUR DRIVING STYLE?
"I think that because you have to attack and charge here, it suits my driving style a little more. Plus, the way you have to drive the center of the corner, the car has to be real loose so that when you hit the banking and climb back out on the track it won't get too tight and push you into the wall. In a sense, you have to slide it into the banking, which is similar to the off-road days of sliding around. So I think that has a lot to do with it. And, the fact that you have to attack all day long is really in my favor."
ON THE KANSAS RACE NEXT WEEKEND
"I'm really looking forward to Kansas first time in a Winston Cup car). We tested in Kentucky. Unfortunately we crashed in Kentucky, but we're going back to test again on our way to Kansas. We've got a new engine package we've been working on and we've worked on our cars a little bit. So we're really excited to get back to a mile and a half track to see the improvements we've made. We're going to Kentucky on Wednesday and shake the car down."
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET WHEN YOU'RE TESTING?
"In most tests you can try some off-the-wall stuff. You've got the data on the car and you're looking to collect information and find something out of the ordinary that you wouldn't find on a race weekend. The test that we're having at Kentucky is more of a shakedown test. So we won't really do much except get some laps and try to make sure all the geometry is right and the balance of the car is close. So it'll be a pretty low-key, mellow test for us. Established teams get seven opportunities (to test) and rookie teams get 12 (test sessions) to get some data and learn something."
ARE YOU WIPED OUT AFTER TESTING?
"Yeah, you're pretty exhausted. Plus, you're able to spend some time with the crew guys and go get some dinner and relax. You're working all day long and then you're out a little later than normally with the crew guys and in the middle of summer it's pretty hot."
ON PARTICIPATING IN THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS CUP IN SPAIN
"That's going to be pretty neat. To be able to get back on the dirt is going to be neat for me. I've always wanted to drive a world rally car and this is that opportunity. We'll be able to meet a lot of neat drivers and riders from all over the world and in all forms of motorsports will be fun. I'm really excited. Also, I've never been overseas. To spend a little time in Spain during the off-season is going to be neat."
HAVE YOU EVER DRIVEN A CAR LIKE THAT BEFORE?
"No. I've driven some buggies and a lot of truck, but everything has been a two-wheel drive (vehicle). Two of the three vehicles we're going to drive over there are four-wheel drive. So that's going to be a new experience for me. We plan on testing around the Phoenix weekend. We're going to bring Travis Pastrana out - he's the two-wheel rider for our group. Jeff (Gordon) is the asphalt guy and I'm the dirt guy. These other countries are going to have a lot of great rally drivers for the dirt representation, so I'm going to have my hands full. With all my off-road background, I qualify as the dirt guy."
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THIS?
"A friend of my that used to work for the No Fear company is involved with the event and is in charge of putting together the teams. Last year, they put together a team with Shaun Palmer and Robby Gordon and somebody else. Anyway, he contacted me around the time that we were testing for Indy. I thought it was a neat opportunity. I talked to Robby (Gordon) about the experience and he said it was great. They were looking to me to find an asphalt driver. With Jeff's open wheel experience with Sprint Cars, I went to him and he was interested in it and here we go."
WHAT IS THE FORMAT?
"It's a two-mile course where you run side-by-side with one another. Half of the course is dirt and half of it is asphalt. The two tracks are separated by big tall dirt berms. There's actually a cross-over bridge. They start you side-by-side and you race the guy next to you. Whoever wins goes on to the next round."
ON THE CLOSE WINSTON CUP POINTS RACE
"Nobody has been able to run away with it. So there are a couple of ways to look at it. One is not to make any mistakes. At the same time, if somebody could put together a stretch of races and win three or four, the championship would be theirs. So you've got to take the approach to finish first but first you must finish. So you keep all the fenders on the car and stay out of trouble. We've got a ten-position point race on our hands here. For a while there, it was a three or four car breakaway. But now, the top 10 cars have a shot at this championship. So I think the emphasis is more on performance now than in other championship runs where it's conserving."
ON BEING A ROOKIE VS. THE MORE EXPERIENCED DRIVERS
"I would think they have the upper hand and a lot more experience at these tracks and have been in other points races throughout their careers. Jeff (Gordon) is coming off a championship from last season. Everyone has their own motivation and their reasons. I guess don't know any better so maybe there's an advantage in that as well. It seems to be working at this point, so we're just going to play dumb and see what happens."
ON POSSIBLY WINNING THE RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR HONOR
"That would be great. There's an outside shot that I could win the championship and not be the Rookie of the Year. We're keeping our priorities in check. We want to win the Rookie of the Year battle. We've had an exceptional year so far. If we don't win the Rookie of the Year or the championship, then yes, we're going to be disappointed. We set our focus on the Rookie of the Year and we have a legitimate shot at winning the championship, but we can't frown on what we've accomplished this season with four poles and two wins so far. With everything that we've done, it's been an incredible year."
ON SHARING INFORMATION WITH AND COMPETING AGAINST JEFF GORDON
"It's an open book between our two teams - really, between all four (Hendrick Motorsports) teams. Jeff and I have a great relationship on and off the track. We are able to communicate what's going on with the cars and we have similar driving style. Robbie (Loomis, No. 24 crew chief) and Chad (Knaus, No. 48 crew chief) have their offices back-to-back so they can walk in one door and out the other and communicate with each other. We have a great foundation to pull from there as a rookie team to get that experience and to get those notes. But on the track, when we're racing for a championship, I make sure I give him plenty of room. But at the same time, if I beat him I get five more points. So that's what I've got to do. It's the same for him. We joke about it. We seem to race each other harder than anybody else out there. But at least we do it without running anybody over."
WHICH UPCOMING TRACKS WILL BE GOOD FOR YOU?
"I think Lowe's Motor Speedway and Atlanta are two really good tracks for us. We led a lot at Lowe's in The Winston and the 600. At Atlanta we finished third. Looking at weak tracks, we had a bad performance at Martinsville."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (ON THE NEW TIRE
"It's definitely a little different than the tire we had here in the spring. It's a little bit faster initially. It may fall off just a bit quicker than the other tire. But it's still a pretty decent tire. I'm pretty happy with it. We never put tires on that whole last Happy Hour session. We were still running some pretty competitive lap times with the guys that had put on tires. So I was pretty pleased. I think it's going to work out fine. The wear looks fine. The heat looks good. I think it's going to be a good tire. It's always better when you're working with new tires to keep them out there. But in this last practice, I think the majority of the top ten cars put new tires on every time they came in. We didn't do that. We stayed on the same set of tires the whole run out there to get a good wear reading and good temperatures and to see what the tire is going to do. I think it's good."
CAN THIS TIRE GO 100 LAPS?
"As of right now, yes. We can go 100 laps. I feel very confident with that. Our wear is tremendous. The temperatures look great. We're not abusing it in the least. I'm running almost the same air pressure we ran in the spring, so I feel great about it."
WHAT ARE YOUR CHANCES FOR THIS RACE AND WHAT CAR ARE YOU RUNNING HERE?
"We're always shooting for the top 10. That's always our main goal is to get into the top 10 and then to see what we can do beyond that point. As of right now, I feel pretty confident. I think we've got a shot at it (the win). This is the same car we ran here in the spring and it's also the car we crashed in Bristol."
-team monte carlo-