Dover: Johnson - GM Top-10 interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS, WEEKLY TOP-10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT Q. On sharing a pit box and affect on potential affect on Sunday: "I have never been in this situation, so I am not sure what to expect. I have got to ...


Q. On sharing a pit box and affect on potential affect on Sunday:

"I have never been in this situation, so I am not sure what to expect. I have got to understand it a little bit more, but if somebody falls out, I guess we pick out box up and go to where they were. I would assume that who ever is in highest place on the race track has priority in the pit box. It is tough for me to believe in today's world of racing they can't modify pit road and adjust to all 43 cars having their own pit stall. I believe there are other tracks that we have this is I am aware, but I have never been in this position before, I just hope it gives everybody a fair shot."

Q. Did Chad (Knaus, crew chief) go and speak with someone about this and express his concerns?

"I guess all along there have been a lot of people who have voiced their concerns. Hopefully it will be addressed. I don't really know to be honest with you. We just have to make the most of it and stay ahead of the No. 4 car so we have priority on pit road and then when someone calls out, we can split up and take it from there."

Q. Have you guys discussed if you will be the team that moves or stays when somebody falls out?

"I think it is an option that when somebody falls out, you can decide but I am not sure who moves and who stays - whether I do or the No. 4 car. I have no clue. We are all learning together. Everything subject to change. I assume that the first opportunity we have to separate; we will do whatever we can whether it requires us to move or the No. 4 car. I guess we do have the option but we will split up as soon as we can."

Q. How good is your car?

"All I can get, we are working on that. Brian (Vickers) and his team have obviously been very fast in this practice today. We have been very loose. The 24 car is fair; the 5 car is about the same as I am. We are going to tighten it up a little bit."

Q. What was going through your mind during the spin during qualifying yesterday?

"There was a lot of luck. I know from spinning here before and hitting the inside wall, you can lessen the impact by trying to keep it up the hill longer and maybe even get in to the outside wall. I lost the car I didn't stay in the gas as long and I let it kind of slide on the race track and I missed the outside wall. Then from there, the car was spinning; I could feel the momentum of the spin. I was trying to re-direct the car up the track. So I got off the brake and hit the gas and let it try to shoot up the track when I got the front wheels pointed that way. And it all worked out. There is no way I could do it again and not hit something. I had a lot of luck on my side. "

Q. Was there any damage to the car?

"Zero. Absolutely nothing which is pretty amazing. I heard I filled the 11 (Denny Hamlin) car full of dirt. When I spun around, the left rear tire dug into the grass and it shot dirt and mud inside the 11 car sitting on pit road."

Q. Did your team get a kick out of that save?

"They loved it. We were pretty excited afterwards. You'd think we would be disappointed. Shortly there after we found out that we have to share a pit stall and the smile went away. At the time we were pretty stoked."

Q. On going to Pocono:

"Last year we struggled there. I lost a car in practice and made a mistake. We're looking forward to going back. It's a good track for us. It's important for us to run well there so we can go to Indy. Indy has kind of been the hard part of the season for us the last few years so if we can get through Pocono and get the cars right, it will give us a lot of hope going into Indy where we've had some troubles in the past."

Q. What are your general thoughts on the race track at Pocono?

"It was a lot more fun when we could shift. Now it's such an odd shaped track. Now that we don't shift it's kind of boring to drive the track. I think it's tough to really put on a good show there. The corners are tight. There really isn't an outside lane except for turn one. You've got to wait to 50-something seconds before you have another shot at getting position on someone making the pass. I felt like the passing and racing was better when we could downshift. Maybe an option would be that you could run some different gear ratios and we'd have a little separation in the cars where you could play with some things. The track is old. It's fun in the respect that it's very sensitive to the sun. I think it puts a lot back in the team and drivers' hands as the sun comes out and the track heats up. It's a tough track to get a hold of and I like that challenge."

Q. When did the shifting aspect of the track at Pocono change?

"Last year, I think, we went to the new gear rule and that eliminated the downshift."

Q. Who looks really good out there for tomorrow?

"I'm not real sure. I wasn't really around many people. The first practice the 6 (Mark Martin) looked pretty strong and after his truck win yesterday, I'm sure he's nice and hungry. This has always been a good track for him."

Q. Do you have anything in your contract that limits how many races you can run outside of the Cup Series?

"Nothing that limits (me) but I'm required to get written permission from Hendrick Motorsports and the sponsor."

Q. How often do you have to do that?

"The three Busch races I run haven't been an issue with the Lowe's car. That's been fine. Then the 24 Hours of Daytona. I didn't race that this year so I haven't needed to cross that road."

Q. Do you think we'll see more of that with future contracts?

"I don't know. The thing that makes us drivers who we are and perfect our skills is the fact that we're in cars and then on top of that being in different cars. I think my diverse background in race cars taught me a lot and put a lot into my style and the way I drive a car. I think Tony (Stewart) and Jeff (Gordon) would confess to that. I think it's good to have other disciplines. It's just that little balance of what the car owner and sponsor are willing to risk, if they're willing to allow you to go out and risk injury to let you be yourself and do your thing. I think it's really in the sponsor and owner's hands. The drivers just want to drive anything that has wheels and an engine."

Q. Do you have a trainer at Hendrick Motorsports that works with drivers that get injured?

"Definitely. We have a full staff that does all the physical training and also rehabilitation."

Q. Is that how far this sport has come now that you need trainers these days?

"On the crew level and over-the-wall, those guys twist ankles and hurt knees. They see a lot more injuries. Granted the driver is a high priority for them but I think it was more the crew members going over the wall that really drove that at our organization."

Q. Can you assess where you are at this point in the season in relation to the last couple of years?

"I feel we're in a very similar situation. The one difference would be that we've had a lot of success and I don't feel that our cars have been as refined as they were in previous years so that gives me a lot of excitement. Looking forward and getting closer to the Chase, I still think we have a lot of room to go with our race cars."

Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Kyle Busch and the team dynamic in regards to some comments that he made yesterday that he doesn't hang out with his teammates? Is it because of age that you guys aren't as close?

"I think so. To a certain degree, definitely, especially when he (Kyle) came in being 19. I think a lot of it has to do with personal tastes. Jeff (Gordon) spent a lot of time in New York. I started going up there and met my wife up there. Right when Kyle started, I was spending all my free time up in New York chasing my wife around trying to convince her that she needed to move to Charlotte and marry me. I think that's where it started. It's really more on what our interests are. Over the years Kyle has made a big effort to work his way through the team professionally, personally and to get to know everyone. I see that there's been a lot of growing amongst his relationship with myself and Jeff since the season started. It's not that it's anything more than our personal interests and where we spend our free time. I think Jeff and I have similar interests. Brian (Vickers) came along and saw that and was like 'Oh wow, New York City. I grew up in Thomasville. I want to go see something different.' That's kind of what got Brian going and him being of age was a crucial part of the whole thing too."

Q. So Kyle's not an outcast or anything?

"No, not at all."

Q. Starting 42nd, does that change your strategy? Will you do two tire stops where you otherwise would have done a four tire stop?

"It depends on the feel of the race. If it seems like there will be a lot of cautions we'll take that risk. But being back there in traffic, if you're off and take two tires and then you have a nice run come after that, the leaders will be on your bumper putting you a lap down. We just really have to see how the feel of the race starts off and take our risks according to that."

Q. What are your three favorite tracks?

"Darlington, Lowe's and Atlanta."

Q. Would Lowe's be number one?

"It was until they started putting down new surfaces. I still have a good time at the track but the old Lowe's Motor Speedway with all the bumps and jumps and different things were a lot of fun. That's why I like Darlington so much. I hope they never repave it. There was some rumor floating around that they were going to repave Darlington and I almost had a heart attack for a couple of reasons. One, it's great. Leave it alone. Two, if they repave it with today's technology in paving, that track is 50 feet too narrow and we'll have a heck of a mess if you repave it and let us run around there at the speeds our cars are capable of."

Q. On his spin. Was there any element of you saving it or were you in the car thinking there's nothing I can do?

"In the back of my mind I didn't think there was a lot I could do but I was on the gas, on the brake, off the gas and brake, steering, just really trying to keep the car uphill. I could feel when the momentum was swinging around I was trying to redirect in and shoot it up the banking with it didn't really do. I think it just delayed the slide and slowed down the slide to the inside wall. I was doing everything I could but I've hit the inside wall here a few times and I was doing everything I could then as well and this deal just worked out."

Q. If Michael Waltrip can buy his way into Charlotte, can you buy your way into your own pit box?

"My first question was what car are we sharing with. The 4 (Scott Wimmer) is a regular on the series and it's very important to them to keep their points up so they have a guaranteed start. I'm not really sure where they are in the points. It's not a bad thing but I don't see them being willing to negotiate or do anything at all. It's very important for them to collect points. If it was somebody doing a one-off race and just came in and made the show, we'd be in a different position but with a regular like that, they've got to go racing too."

Q. Does that concern your team more than you or is it more about you coming into the pit box?

"From my impression how this works, there's a lot in my hands as well because whoever is the furthest up on the race track is going to have priority in the pit box. We've got to stay ahead of them on the race track. At the same time the guys have got to really work through the pitting situation. I'm not sure who's toolbox they sit on or what air wrenches they use. I'm not sure how any of that works. It's going to be really complicated."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Scott Wimmer , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports