Dover: Jimmie Johnson, pole sitter interview

Rain cancels qualifying at Dover; Jimmie Johnson to start from pole Dover International Speedway Note: All track activities, including practice and qualifying, were cancelled at Dover International Speedway today due to rain. Sunday's field will...

Rain cancels qualifying at Dover; Jimmie Johnson to start from pole Dover International Speedway

Note: All track activities, including practice and qualifying, were cancelled at Dover International Speedway today due to rain. Sunday's field will be set by driver standings; Jimmie Johnson, therefore, will start on the pole position on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe's Chevrolet

COMMENTS ABOUT SHANE HMIEL'S SUSPENSION

I guess, like everybody else, sitting back and watching what's going on. I haven't seen anything yet today. I'm pretty far behind. I slept in when I heard the raindrops on the bus, then motivated and went to the gym and got six miles in. Otherwise I'd sit in the bus and eat 1,000 calories instead of burning them. So, I went and worked out and now I'm back. I really don't have a clue what's going on. Just heard some things yesterday. I'm sure with the questions I'll hear here in a few minutes that I'll learn more just through that.

RAIN COMMENTS

You know, I feel good because I was in the Busch car, got some laps, got an idea of the track, the setup, and we didn't test, so whoever did test, they're loving the rain right now. They're looking forward to, probably, raining everything out. But for me, I'm real happy to start up front. Hopefully we can get 5 points right off the bat. I've slipped in my qualifying skills lately, so it's good to get a pole, even though it's not an official pole, it's nice to have. And, we'll just take it from there. This has always been a great race track for me. I'll be in the Busch car and the Cup car and just really looking forward to it. It's always been one of my favorite tracks.

DO YOU LIKE TAKING THE POLE THIS WAY?

I guess it was my rookie year, or maybe my sophomore year, I was in a similar situation and answering questions that I didn't really earn it or deserve it. And I went back in the garage area and Robbie Loomis pulled me aside and said, 'Hey man, that's the wrong way to look at it. You're leading the points. You HAVE earned the right to start on the pole.' So, I have to thank Robbie Loomis for giving me the right perspective on it and you know, they've got to line it up to race us somehow, and I agree with the way they line it up, that whoever is leading the championship should. We've earned that right, so I don't feel bad about it at all.

AFTER YOUR ROOKIE YEAR YOU HAVEN'T HAD THE SAME SUCCESS HERE. WHAT'S BEEN DIFFERENT?

It's a great question. We're trying to figure out what has changed. We've been in the top 5, top 10, but not as dominant as we were in that rookie season. I really think that Chad led the way of everyone being very conscious about the aero pitch of the car. And running the big springs in the back, soft springs up front. And, that rookie season we won a lot of races and were very competitive because of that. I think this is one track that had been overlooked in that department. The second year when we came back, the gap closed up tremendously and we're still trying to figure out how to get that advantage back. Last year, I think the #9 and the #19-and the #20-but the #9 and the #19 are going to be the guys probably setting the pace if I was going to pick a favorite right now. And I hope we're to be that guy again so we can have a great race car here. There's nothing like it. It's really a lot of fun.

MORE COMMENTS ABOUT DRUG USAGE, TESTING IN NASCAR

In our sport, we don't have any testing, in my opinion, required. I think it's the employer's obligation to test. I don't think it's NASCAR's responsibility. In our form of sport, we are not using our bodies physically to make the cars perform. We don't have any type of drug policy or evaluation that's taking place to find anything like that, like you would in the NFL, NBA and other sports that test people. So, it's based on what you see or what you hear in the garage or whatever. And, I don't think there is a problem with our sport. I don't think there has been. It is unfortunate that this has come up. It definitely doesn't help our sport. I think we've had a clean record up until now. As you look at other forms of sport, not any one sport is immune to it. It exists. It's out there. It's in our country, around the world. Drugs are all over the place. I don't think it's NASCAR's fault. I don't think it's our sport's fault. It's an unfortunate thing that goes on. I feel bad for the reputation being tarnished and things like that, but I personally don't think there's a problem and hopefully we can just move on.

QUALIFYING PERFORMANCES AS OF LATE

I don't know what's happened. My rookie year we came out and won a lot of poles. And, I remember a remark that Mark Martin made to my in my rookie year in Busch. He said, 'You know, you'll come into the sport and you'll qualify great but you won't race well. Then you'll figure out what you need to feel to race well, and your qualifying will go away.' And I guess that's kind of happened to me. I'm pretty sure the feeling you look for in the car and I know what you need to feel in the race. It's not necessarily the fastest for a couple laps, but it's fastest over the long haul. It's just a feel that I look for and I think it's also in conjunction with Chad (Knaus) and what he works on and what he looks for. Making the car last for a long time and making the car be strong over a long period of time. It's just doesn't turn into poles all the time.

RUNNING DOUBLE DUTY IN BUSCH AND CUP

On a funny note, if I take Richmond out of the mix, every time I've been in a Busch car, I haven't performed very well, but then I get in a Cup car and go fast. So, I don't know what the deal is except for that. I feel bad for the Busch shop-they've been through a lot of race cars. I crashed one testing in Charlotte, I crashed one in Virginia, smacked the wall yesterday. I hit everything in the Busch equipment and then I'm clean in the Cup car. The Busch crew guys have been giving me a hard time and saying, 'Hey man, the big picture for the company is on the Cup side, so if you need to crash our Busch cars to get it out of your system, that's fine with us.' So, I hope that's not what's going on with it. I really want to win in the #5 car. I really also want to win in the #48 when Chad's crew chiefing it. It's helpful to me and gets me out there and gets those juices flowing in my mind and gets me out there and thinking about driving that race car. But, they're two totally different cars, they require two totally different setups. Chad's philosophy. I guess it's not necessarily Chad's philosophy, but we're able to do more with the Cup car than the Busch car. I'm still learning how to set the Busch car up and give them the right information on the car. I don't have a lot of things correlating yet, except for the seat time in the race car.

WHAT ABOUT THE SPOILERS, TIRES, TRACK, ETC

I think Biffle's been doing it for a while. Carl (Edwards) and his crew chief have been doing it on the Cup side. They're able to bridge the gap. I think Kyle Busch is able to do it well. He really knows the Busch cars and is now learning the Cup cars. So, I think those guys are learning how to bridge the gap. I'm still not really there yet. If you are able to test and get data on the track, there are some things you can take from that. But not many.

YOUR DOMINANCE AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY

At Lowe's, on the old track, I would say it just fit our style. I knew our line, I knew where we needed to be. I knew how to work the car through the night. Chad knew the changes to make. But with the surface change, in my opinion, I had to start over with a clean sheet of paper. I know Chad did with the setups. I really worked all night long to find the right line and searched it out. Probably two to three runs to go, finally narrowed in on where I needed to be. And made a charge for the win. It's just a good track. I don't know what works and with the track changing, we still got it done. I'm still amazed and we've won a lot of races there. It's obviously a good thing, being the Lowe's car at Lowe's motor speedway, but I don't know. I don't have an answer. Before I did, but now I don't.

WHAT IS THE ONE ASPECT AT DOVER THAT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE?

I think handling, if you break down the categories of handling, mileage and all the stuff. You can really overwork the right front tire here. You really want the car comfortable. And a little secure when you're getting into the corner, but it really overworks the right front tire. And you see tires blow here. That's one of the things that happens. A lot of that is just on the handling of the car and the things you do to make it comfortable. So, if you can get the handling right, getting the car comfortable getting into the corner and not overwork the right front tire, you're going to be up front. You're not going to have any tire issues. And it's going to be a comfortable day of racing.

HOW TOUGH IS GETTING TO YOUR PIT STALL HERE?

It's tough. And I would say that it's a good move (pit lane speed limits), it's making pit lane safer. We, as drivers, had to be aware of, and I'm glad there haven't been any major incidents yet and I hope there won't be any more incidents, but when we have that pit road line that's being moved back further and further, and that means we start slowing down sooner and sooner, and on some tracks we aren't able to get out of the racing lane. And everybody has done a good job to be aware of when people are pitting, running in the back of someone trying to get into pit road. So, that's the only concern I have with the system. I think it's really ruled out some of the things that were going out before. And I think it's made pit road a safer place. A fairer place. And I'm for all the changes that have gone on.

#9 AND #19 - COMPARE YOURSELF TO THEM HERE

I don't really have anything to base it off of, except for how strong Kasey and Jeremy were last year. Everybody is smarter now and we know everybody isn't coming back with the same setup. We're coming back a little different. So, I'm not sure where we stack up. You can usually look at the race previously and figure out who you're going to have to deal with. I'm just basing my comments off of that. With the Busch car, learned some trends. I think we're going the right direction with the Cup car, but until you unload it, it's just tough to tell.

COMMENTS ON THE BOOS YOU'VE RECEIVED AND IF THERE IS ANY ADVANTAGE TO THAT

Everybody has heard the phrase that Earnhardt coined that 'any news is good news.' And I agree with that. I know my fan base and the interesting thing to me is that my sales are higher than they've ever been. I think I'm third in sales right now, I think, to Junior and Jeff. And the boos have gone up. A lot like Jeff-Jeff's been #1 in sales and he's been boo'd the loudest. I don't think that it necessarily means that you're the bad guy or disliked. I think a lot of depends on whose fans are attending that race, what part of the country you're in, those things all play into who boos for you and who cheers for you. When I look at the big picture and understand it, at least they know I'm there. It's a good thing, it doesn't bother me. We have the controversy that was going on and I was being labeled as a bad guy or causing wrecks or whatever it may be. That bothered me, not because of what the fans were doing, but of the spin that came through some of the press that came off of that. I didn't think it was accurate, or fair. One of the things I've always prided myself on is my respect in the garage area. Through the deal in Daytona with Harvick, he and I talked it through. There were opinions formed outside, but that's fine, Kevin and I had it figured out. Jeff Burton and I have had it sorted out. It looked a lot worse in the press and on T.V., but we had it sorted out between us. Tony Stewart and I-he's cooking me pizzas in his bus the week after. Phoenix, we're talking about me driving one of his sprint cars with him or racing in the chili bowl with him. Everything fine, but the momentum is building of being a bad guy. Talladega happens, comments are made, I see those guys and they laugh about it, think it's funny, apologize that it's taken on the form that it has. But, I can't stop that momentum that's going on in people's opinions. I understand that now. I'm smarter from going through it. It made me stronger in realizing that the respect I have in the garage area and the respect I have with other drivers-that's what I really have to focus on. Depending on where you are in the country, they're going to boo and cheer. My sales are up. It's a hard dynamic to understand, but all of my indicators are showing that everything's fine. My fan base is stronger than it's ever been. When the controversy did come around, my dedicated fans or my fans became more loyal. And I think they believed in me more, and hopefully by the way I handled things, I made some new fans. Professionalism and kept my head up, so hopefully I got some fans in the process.

COMMENTS ON DRIVER / CREW CHIEF RELATIONSHIP

It's the quarterback/coach routine. It's so important. You don't have to see eye-to-eye and that's an important thing, too. Through any relationship, you have to speak your mind. You have arguments, you have great days. But in our sport, there's more bad days than good days. And it's what you do with the bad days if the two of you work together to develop the car and keep the team up and get everything moving in one direction. That's the biggest challenge we have in our sport. I think people really make the difference and if you look at the majority of the big teams, you can take up the top 25-30 cars in points and why does one team of 5 cars pick up the championship, if you look at Roush. Why is there a disparity? And it really boils down to people and chemistry. I'm not saying that there's bad people, but if you get two people with two different views, you're not going to go down the road very far. It's a very important thing. Hopefully you can get a hold of it and bottle it and save it and make it last for a long time. If you look at what Jeff and Ray Evernham did. Those guys were on top of the world and nobody ever saw them apart. And now Ray owns his own team, Jeff's still winning races and has great chemistry with Robbie Loomis, so there are multiple matches out there. But it's tough to develop and tough to believe from a driver's standpoint if you don't see eye to eye. You know, I'm strapping my butt in this thing and putting my life on the line and if you don't have confidence that the guy and crew chief is putting you in something safe, you're going to be out there at 95%. And 95% doesn't cut it anymore in our sport.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Ray Evernham , Robbie Loomis , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin