JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the changes at Hendrick Motorsports, the rumors about if Dover will be sold, NASCAR penalties on the No. 66 and No. 70 teams, how the new race car reacts on concrete vs. asphalt,...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the changes at Hendrick Motorsports, the rumors about if Dover will be sold, NASCAR penalties on the No. 66 and No. 70 teams, how the new race car reacts on concrete vs. asphalt, running at Eldora, and more.
TALK ABOUT HOW THE LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED IN THE PAST YEAR WITH HENDRICK BEING SO FAR AHEAD OF EVERYBODY, BUT NOW THE OTHER TEAMS HAVE CAUGHT UP "Motorsports is a tough game. It doesn't shock us. We wish we still had the advantage that we did last year, and we're working really hard to get it back. The last three weeks to a month have been really good for this Lowe's team. Some of my teammates have still been struggling, but for the No. 48 team, we've really made some strides and I'm looking forward to showing it this weekend as we get back onto other 1.5-mile tracks. And there's nothing easy about this sport. We talk about how competitive it is all the time and how great these other teams and drivers are. And examples like this show that. It's a tough, tough sport to stay on top of."
WHAT HAS DALE EARNHARDT JR. MEANT TO THIS OPERATION? "Who's he? What's he do?"
DID YOU MEET HIM? HAVE YOU MET HIM YET? "No, haven't even heard about him (laughs). I don't know who he is. He's done a great job to come in and adapt to the Hendrick philosophy and the Hendrick way. He jokes about all the work we put in and says man, I've never worked this hard in my life. But this is what you want to do when you at Hendrick Motorsports. And he's taken on a challenge and he's done a great job."
THERE HAS BEEN SOME TALK ABOUT DOVER MAYBE BEING SOLD SOMEWHERE DOWN THE LINE AND MAYBE LOSING A RACE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT? "There are so many rumors that float around, I try not to listen anymore. I would be bummed out if it was that. This is a great track. It's a unique race track. There are a whole different set of challenges because of the surface and the design and shape of it and I'd hat to see this go away, so I hope that's not the case."
DID YOU TURN A CORNER AT THE POCONO TEST THIS WEEK? "Yeah, the last three weeks, starting with the test we had at Lowe's Motor Speedway, we've sorted some stuff out and we took that to Darlington and improved on it and came back to the 600 and made it better yet. At Pocono, we kind of pieced it all together. Granted it's a flatter track than what we have here and some of the 1.5-miles, but things are repeating. Things are making sense and we can slow the car down with the same adjustments and then speed it up with the other ones. So it's nice to see things repeating and I think we're getting real close now."
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO BE THE HARDEST THING FOR JOEY LOGANO RACING AGAINST THE VETERANS? "I really think it's the outside pressure. When you're a driver and you're coming in, all you know is how to stand on the gas and go. It's these outside situations that put more pressure on you than you've ever been used to. You're lining up next to the guys and the guys may have heard all this talk and they're going to give you a hard time; the voices inside your own head with all these expectations that pop up. So if I were him, I would not pick up a paper or turn on a TV and just go out and run hard, if you run good or bad. He's going to hit walls, he's going to have troubles, and that's part of it. So if he could get rid of those, or ignore those outside influences, I think he'll be fine."
YOU MADE A GREAT RUN AT THE END OF LAST YEAR. DO YOU THINK YOUR CAR IS READY TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT AGAIN? "Short tracks, we're in great shape. The big tracks, we're still working on that and we're making a lot of progress."
TALK ABOUT THE MAJOR ADJUSTMENTS YOU HAVE TO MAKE GOING FROM ASPHALT TO CONCRETE? "In years past, we would make some pretty big adjustments to the cars. But with the way the rules are now and what we have with the Car of Tomorrow, we are very limited with what we can do to the race car. So we just bring one of the short track cars and scale it up and get it ready to go."
HOW HAS THE CAR OF TOMORROW ADAPTED TO THIS TRACK? ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE WITH IT NOW? "Yeah, the more times we come back with this car, the better. We prepare our set-ups and are starting points are much better. The higher banked tracks really help this car. It helps give us more grip and it hides the fact that we have less downforce and less mechanical grip. Last year I felt like there was some good racing here. A couple guys figured it out and checked out but outside of that, there was good competitive racing in the field."
ON THE PENALTIES ISSUED TO THE NO. 66, SCOTT RIGGS, AND NO. 70 JOHNNY SAUTER, TEAMS BY NASCAR "What was the penalty? I didn't even see it."
150 DRIVER POINTS, 150 OWNER POINTS, BOTH CREW CHIEFS AND CAR CHIEFS SUSPENDED FOR SIX RACES, PLACED ON PROBATION AND CREW CHIEFS FINED $100,000 APIECE "I would assume we all knew that it was going to be a harsh penalty and higher than what we've seen in the past. The points show that. The six-week suspension has kind of been a standard thing and hopefully that's all that it is and it stays that way because six weeks is a long time. But you can't fool around with this car. They're going to nail you."
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON HOW KYLE BUSCH TREATS YOU GUYS WHO HAVE BEEN HERE LONGER? "There is no doubt that he enjoys trying to run us hard and trying to finish better than us, which is what he's done this year. He's been very quick in that car. Some of his cockiness shows up from time to time. There are things that are said on the radio about all the Hendrick drivers and he and Jeff (Gordon) have gotten into a few little things. And what's sport without trash talking? What's sport without these little rivalries? I'm glad it's being publicized, but I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be. And honestly, I'm going to have fun with it and if everyone wants to trash talk, that's cool. We'll just roll on with it and have some fun. But me and Jeff had a good conversation or two last week and this week and we'll all stay tuned and see where it goes."
DOES NASCAR NEED A VILLAIN LIKE KYLE BUSCH? "I wouldn't call a guy who weighs 130 lbs a villain. He definitely has a lot of confidence and it's going to be a lot of fun for the fans."
THERE IS A REAL STRUGGLE AMONG TOP MANAGEMENT AT THIS RACE TRACK ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT TO SELL TO BRUTON SMITH AND THAT MAYBE ONE OF THE DOVER DATES COULD GO TO KENTUCKY. CAN YOU FATHOM THAT? "No, I can't. The facility needs some improvements on pit road to make it safer and to make it more fair to all the race teams. But outside of that, the track is unique and it's different and I would hate to see us lose any dates here. I don't know what's going on with upper level management and where things really lie and all of that, but as a competitor I would hate to see this race go away."
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT GOING TO ELDORA FOR THE FIRST TIME? ARE YOU NERVOUS? "I'm really excited. I'm nervous at the same time because I haven't tested the car and I'm not really sure what to expect. But it's a charity event and I would love to go out there and run up front and win and who says I won't? But I'm looking forward to going to the race track with no pressure with my buddies and sliding around in the dirt and raising money for charity. So all in all, I'm extremely excited about it."
IS THERE A LOT OF PRESTIGE IN WINNING THAT THING? CARL EDWARDS WAS REALLY EXCITED THAT HE WON IT LAST TIME "Without a doubt. It's a track that regardless of what type of surface you race on or what kind of car you drive, you know it's Eldora. And in a dirt world, it's Daytona. So it means a lot. The only thing I would say that would mean more to Carl from winning that last year, is if all the dirt Late Model guys where there. When you're running in someone else's cars, the guys that do it week in and week out are better than any professional coming in and running that car. Carl runs a lot of dirt races and he's won plenty of them. So I would really take the sincerity in winning that event and what that means. It means a lot."
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE ON DIRT? "It was my rookie season on Busch. I hot-lapped a dirt Late Model at Texas Motor Speedway. And before that it was back to '97."
ARE YOU NERVOUS TO GET BACK OUT THERE WITH GUYS LIKE KYLE BUSCH WHO HAS HAD SOME EXPERIENCE WITH IT? "No, not really. It's different than when I hot-lapped that car before. The car has a lift bar in it so it lifts up the back of the car when you stand on the gas. And everything I've raced on the dirt squatted. So there is a much different sensation in driving it. But again, it's for a good cause. I'm not going in with the mindset that I've got to win."
CLINT BOWYER IS BUILDING YOU A CAR? "Well, he built a new car. And I've been begging him not to take me to a race track with a brand new car. And Shannon Babb just won the feature a couple weeks ago, so they're taking that proven car and putting me in it so that they know the car is right and the set-up is right and it's going to handle well. So I almost fell more pressure now knowing that it's a race-winning car. But I'm glad it's not a brand new one, to be honest with you. The bottom line is we will have fun."
REGARDING THE NO. 66 AND NO. 70 PENALTIES, IF YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING ILLEGAL DO YOU EXPECT THAT SOMEBODY IS GOING TO TELL ON YOU? "Yeah, we've had that happen to us with our Daytona 500 penalty. It was that way. It's good and bad. The bottom line is there are more engineers working on meeting the rules than NASCAR has in enforcing the rules. So our policy, like it or not, works well. And you now see people in F1 and IndyCar doing the same thing where you can't cover up cars. It's needs to be open so that other teams can see. So there is some merit to it. It is what is it and I guess it's the only thing I've know, so I don't have an opinion either way. But it sucks when you get ratted out, that's for sure.
-credit: gm racing