JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the crew chief change on the No. 88 team, how the HMS teams work together, differences in driver styles, downforce on the CoT, IndyCar racing, and more. ON THE COMPETITION AT...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the crew chief change on the No. 88 team, how the HMS teams work together, differences in driver styles, downforce on the CoT, IndyCar racing, and more.
ON THE COMPETITION AT DOVER "I'm hoping the rain moves out. We've all had enough water for this month. It looks like things will be improving and we can get out and get racing. I'm real excited about this race. This track is so demanding and it's so much fun to compete on. I think we'll put on a great show. I think the CoT last year showed how competitive of a track this is and how good a track it is for our car right now. So I'm hopeful that we'll put on a great show."
ON THE NO. 88 CREW CHIEF CHANGE, HOW DO YOU SEE YOU ROLE, AND JEFF GORDON'S AND MARK MARTIN'S ROLES AND HOW SOON COULD THIS SHOW SOME RESULTS? "It's a tough thing. Everybody has been working as hard as they can. It's a tough environment for Tony Eury Jr. and for Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. to work as hard as they have and to not get the results and have everything that spins off of that. As teammates, I need to do everything that I can to explain my car and answer any questions that Junior may have and in our debrief meetings that we have, explain as much as I can; and the same for Jeff and the same for Mark. That will help on Junior's side. On the crew chief's side, all the notes and the sharing and the same type of communication lines that exist there. Outside of that, I don't know what else I can do. I'm here for my teammates. Anything that he needs from me or Jeff or Mark need from me, I'm for it. Last year we had the freedom of testing and the whole company went to a test session and we took turns driving each other's cars and it really helped the No. 48 team turn around and rally back through the summer months last year. Too bad we don't have that now. I think that would be helpful just to go spend time driving one another's car's and maybe picking apart different suspension components and shock packages and things like that, but we don't have that luxury right now."
DO YOU THINK DALE JUNIOR HAS BEEN ABSORBING WHAT YOU AND OTHERS HAVE BEEN SAYING IN GROUP DEBRIEFS, OR DO YOU THINK HE NEEDS TO BE A LITTLE MORE OPEN TO WHAT YOU GUYS SEE AND ARE SAYING? "From my standpoint, I haven't worked with him in any other capacity. I've been impressed by both (Tony Eury Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) Juniors; Dale Jr. is on time to these meetings and that's a pretty big statement on a funny note. One time we came in the truck and he had food and drinks for us set up. So all that being on the funny side. But on a real note, I've seen a great commitment out of both of them. Before they worked at Hendrick, the rumors were around that maybe there isn't the focus or the commitment and all that stuff is BS. Both of those guys are extremely committed and extremely focused on what they're doing. And that's what makes this so tough. When the results aren't there and the effort is there, it is a hard world to live in. And they're both doing all that they can and sometimes you have to shake things up and that's what's going on right now."
YOU'VE WON HERE MANY TIMES, WHAT MAKES YOU SUCCEED AT THE MONSTER MILE? "It's just a track that is extremely demanding on the driver and also the vehicle itself. But the straightaways are a higher elevation in the corners and you're almost airborne in the turns and then you've got to turn and come back out of the hole. There are multiple lines. It's almost a double apex, especially in (Turns) 3 and 4. So there are just a lot of challenges and I think when a track is quirky and it's real challenging, I kind of excel and it just works for me."
WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE PIT ROAD CHANGES AND HOW MUCH ADJUST IT TAKES TO GET USED TO THEM? "I haven't been out there to see it yet. I saw a press release and an overview shot of what they've done. First and foremost, I'm thankful that they've re-worked pit road to make it wider. Soft walls are always good (laughs) and we really appreciate that. Forty-three stalls were so needed. One concern I have, and I'm sure they've put thought into it, is where the pit wall starts. I think looking back on it, I would have suggested to have it extend around further into Turn 1. That way, entering the corner; there's no way to get down and hit a blunt wall. But again, I've only seen it on paper and I need to go over and look at it. So my first reaction is thank you. It's a great job and we needed it. It's going to elevate the safety on many levels, I just hope we don't have an issue with that blunt wall."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NASCAR TOWN HALL MEETING AND IF THERE WERE ANY DISCUSSIONS THAT YOU WISHED THEY HAD HAD? "You know, everything was really open. I'll use an example that I went through that maybe will show the productivity of the meeting. We spoke about a lot of things and a lot of good information came out. All the heads of NASCAR were there and I think it was very helpful for the group to watch and listen to Brian France and Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton and Steve Phelps, and all the guys from all angles. It was very, very helpful. It helped us the decisions they're making and how they're making these decisions and what's going on. I think it was very, very helpful on that front. Another helpful matter was, when I went into that meeting I thought we needed more downforce. When I look at the world we live in and how the cars drive in traffic, my opinion was that we needed more downforce in these cars. The discussion opens up with teams, drivers, NASCAR, and everybody started talking about downforce and the pros and cons of it.
"And then the guys like Tony Stewart and some of the open-wheel drivers that have raced in vehicles that have relied on downforce brought up some comments. In those vehicles, they know that tool is there with the front wing to make the car turn better. But they really try to find mechanical grip to help the cars be more comfortable and turn and respond better because when you're in traffic, there is less of a discrepancy in how the car handles. So then that fired up a whole line of discussion on how we can put more mechanical grip in the cars and not rely on downforce. So just the fact that we were there and spend 20 -- 30 minutes talking about that, changed my opinion of what I thought we needed in the car. And I think an open forum like that is helpful, and as time goes on it will help everybody understand; help NASCAR have all the tools they need to make decisions and hopefully a better product."
WITH BIG EVENTS THAT HAVE BEEN SHORTENED BY RAIN, AND THE JEREMY MAYFIELD CONTROVERSY, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE SPORT HAS STRUGGLED TO GET SOME MOMENTUM AT THE START OF THE YEAR OR ARE THINGS NORMAL ON THAT FRONT? "When I look at sport and other major TV events, if you look not just at sports, but in television in general, ratings are down for everyone. If you took the time maybe to look at, and I don't know where this is, but if you look at our decline versus others, I don't think that we're out of the window of what's going on in the world today. What causes that, I don't know. People speculate that it's the racing or it's the car and the economy, or whatever it may be. I don't know what the answer is. But I think that we all know that the cars could be a little bit better on the 1.5-mile tracks and with that in mind, once we figure out how to make the right adjustments that are affordable to the teams, I think we'll see an improvement on that and hopefully snuff that concept out. Statistically, you look at the races, the race leaders, margin of victories, the cars on the lead lap, a lot of things show that the racing is good. And I feel once we get the comfort in the car on the 1.5-miles, we can run side-by-side and really help that. But if you look at this race here last year, I, unfortunately was in fourth watching it, but those three Roush cars put on one heck of a show. So this car and the right circumstances on the right track, can put on a great show and it does. We just need to fine-tune a couple of things on these bigger tracks."
WE HEAR THAT ALL THE HENDRICK CARS ARE THE SAME AND EVERYBODY HAS THE SAME STUFF. AND YET JUNIOR SAID YESTERDAY THAT ONE OF THE REASONS HE THOUGHT HIS TEAM GOT OFF TRACK LAST YEAR WAS TRYING TO CHASE SOMETHING THAT YOU WERE DOING WHEN YOU WERE EXPERIMENTING WITH SOME STUFF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON. HOW SIMILAR ARE THE BASELINES AND HOW DIFFERENT DO THEY GET BASED ON DRIVER PREFERENCES? "Everybody has the same stuff and has access to all the same components, engines, bodies, bodies are the same now, it doesn't matter, but everybody has that there. Based on driver's style and crew chief's style and what works and what feeling a driver is looking for steers you in many different ways. With today's car and chassis, bump stops, when one you use and how you use it and how much load on it, and there are a lot of options in today's world. Decisions that are made based on style and feel and comfort takes you down your roads. And it's tough and we've experienced it many times too. You watch your teammates run, and they're successful with something and you put that in your car and it doesn't work for you. Sometimes you are three-quarters of the way there and that prevents you from making it work. When you really try somebody else's set-up, I mean, every single thing has to be there, otherwise it won't work. We've learned that time and time again. And then the other factor is style. And then not only the driver's style, but the crew chief's and the adjustments he makes. The car might not respond to the adjustments that a crew chief is familiar with making in that particular set-up. So there are things there that can steer you in different ways and they're shaking things up with the No. 88 car. Tony (Eury Jr.) has done an amazing job and is still a big part of the company. In fact, next week he's going to come and work with us at road course tests. Chad (Knaus) is not going to be able to make it and he's going to be there working with us. So, there's a lot of different styles and ways to go about it. And sometimes things just don't work and you've got to shake it up. And I don't know where I'm going, I guess with this, but there are a lot of options. Tony is a very smart man and does a great job. The options just weren't working out."
THE INDY 500 WAS RUN LAST SUNDAY. COULD YOU DRIVE AN INDY CAR OR WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN THAT? HOW MANY OF THESE GUYS OUT HERE ARE LIKE RYAN (NEWMAN) COULD DRIVE AN INDY CAR AND HAVE FUN OUT THERE? "His shoulders are too broad (laughter). I would love to. As a kid growing up, the Indy 500 is what I had my eye on. And the guys that went into asphalt racing from off-road racing, all went IndyCar racing. And the Toyota Long Beach Gran Prix was the premier race on the west coast. I'd go up and watch and hang on the fence and sneak my way into hospitality tents and wish that I could someday drive in it. My early conversations with Chevrolet were going the open-wheel route and moving in at the time maybe to TransAm, then maybe Toyota Atlantic, then IndyCar. And when their direction changed and they were pulling out of open-wheel, my options were pretty clear at that point. I packed up and moved to North Carolina (laughs). So I would love to do it. And there is no way that you're going to take a driver from NASCAR, bolt them into and Indy car and they're going to race with the top guys. The same goes the other direction. I do think, based on conversations with Juan (Pablo Montoya) and with Sam (Hornish Jr.) and with Tony (Stewart) and Dario (Franchitti) for that matter, it's easier going to drive a vehicle that has more grip. So I think in some ways, granted you bust your butt in those cars and it hurts (laughs), they don't absorb the impact very well and they're very dangerous cars, but I think if you went the other way it might be a little easier until you get started, but at the same time it's still such a specific discipline that it would be tough. But I would love to do it. Hopefully someday the moons would align and I could pull it off."
-credit: gm racing