Indianapolis: Brickyard 400 qualifying press conference, part 1

ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman Saturday, July 26, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway MODERATOR: First up, second fastest qualifier, the driver of the No. 8 U.S. Army ...

Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Ryan Newman
Saturday, July 26, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

MODERATOR: First up, second fastest qualifier, the driver of the No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet, Mark Martin. Mark, you've been talking about confidence recently, and tell us about that lap today?

MARK MARTIN: I really knew we had something when we came off of (Turn) 4 for the green flag there. It really flew through Turn 4 coming in for the green. I knew we had something.

The car was just spectacular. You know, just really want to commend the U.S. Army team and everybody at DEI, Tony Gibson and ECR, Earnhardt/Childress Racing Engines. They've got a real special engine in that car this weekend.

I really appreciate their dedication and everyone's dedication in putting me in such incredible race cars.

It was a great lap. That's one step in not embarrassing myself. You know, I predicted that we were going to be strong here this weekend, so at least we've been strong in qualifying. Hopefully, we can go out and back that up with a tremendous run and contend for this thing tomorrow.

I really, really would love to see the 8 team in Victory Lane, and I'd like to enjoy that with them. They're overdue, and they deserve it. All those guys have really big hearts, and they're really dedicated to this program. I'd like to see that for them.

Q: What would it mean to you to win this race at this point in your career? You've done so much already?

MARTIN: You know, I don't think about it in terms of me. I think about it as my team. I couldn't be a contender if it wasn't for the heart and dedication of all the guys that work on the 8 team and everybody at DEI.

I think about them. I don't think about the trophy and what it would mean to me personally. I think about what it would mean to see their face in Victory Lane.

MODERATOR: We're joined by our third-place qualifier, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge. Ryan, good effort. Tell us about your qualifying run today?

RYAN NEWMAN: Well, we obviously had a great draw. We had a good car from yesterday's practice session. Just, basically, put in a good, solid lap, and it was good enough for third. It will be a good starting spot for the Alltel Dodge.

I was watching the highlights last night from last year on ESPN Classic, and I forgot that we had qualified third there, but didn't have any good results in the race. So look forward to improving this year.

Q: Qualifying is one thing, what do you expect in race trim?

NEWMAN: We did about eight laps in race trim in the first practice yesterday. Our car was decent. We were basically spending time filling the track in with rubber.

We'll see today, just due to the fact that it's probably not going to rain, what the track's going to be like. Hopefully, it doesn't rain tonight for tomorrow so that we can have some good green flag runs.

Honestly, we didn't change a whole lot on our race car from race trim to qualifying trim, so I think we'll be in good shape for race trim.

Q: As late as Mark went out, were you surprised by the lap he put down?

NEWMAN: He was stout. He was really stout around the straightaways. If you look at the tracker, he was making a lot of ground on the straightaways. But you have to make it through the corners to make it on the straightaways.

If had he would have had an earlier draw, he and Johnson would have had a good shot. If he went out nose to tail, they would have had a good shot tying each other, in my opinion.

Q: When you look at Mark Martin, can you imagine yourself at that age? Will you have any difficulty getting out of a car and staying out of a car, or will you have three or four farewell tours?

NEWMAN: Well, Mark's doing all right on merchandise when it comes to that stuff. I would say that for me would I imagine for what my long-term goal is, I wouldn't necessarily be here when he is.

My intention is to win a championship before I'm 40-whatever years old. And I know he hasn't, and I know that's what he's going for. That's what his goal is.

Obviously, he's got a great opportunity next year with the Hendrick ride and a full-time schedule. Mark's a great competitor, and he's a great racer. Honestly, I don't think the age makes a difference as much as what people think the age makes a difference.

Q: Gillett-Evernham has seen a huge pickup with the new engine package they're using. Have you experienced similar gains at Penske, as well?

NEWMAN: We don't have the new engine in our cars yet. It's still being developed.

MODERATOR: We're joined by our pole sitter, Jimmie Johnson. Former champion in this event, two-time series champion. Jimmie, great effort. Tell us about your qualifying laps today.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you. It was a great race car. A car that I could get aggressive with. From the first lap off the truck, we knew we had a lot speed in the car and we were toward the top of the sheets, or the sheet, I should say.

All in all, I was really impressed with the car. Takes a little bit to get used to this track and remember the reference points and where to be. And we only ran six or seven laps yesterday, And things were working well. Woke up this morning, and drove probably 50 laps this morning in my mind mentally to make sure I hit my marks.

Rolled out there and got two of the four corners right and got the pole. I had a great car. I did make some mistakes on my lap. This track sucks you into doing things that you regret.

I nailed (Turn) 1, felt really good through 1, got into (Turn) 2 too hard and missed the exit at 2. Then went down into (Turn) 3 and tried to make up some time and made another mistake. Then calmed down and got Turn 4 pretty good and came back to the start/finish line.

So just great car, great effort. I'm very proud of my guys and how hard they've been working. Since the start of the season, we've been playing a little bit of catch-up here, and I think we're going down the right road in making a lot of progress.

Q: Pretty much single-car traffic at this point. How do you think the new car is going to be once you get more traffic out there this afternoon and in the race?

JOHNSON: I'm sure you're going to hear a lot about tight, aero push and things like that. This racetrack is probably one of the worst for us being as narrow as it is, as flat as it is.

Great facility, tons of history and all positive things about this racetrack. But when you run single file, the first car has the best air, and on back it gets worse and worse.

You'll hear a lot about being tight, a lot about track position. I predict more than what you've heard in the past. This car seems to be more sensitive to that stuff.

We're very proud of where we're starting, that's why I put so much effort into starting up front, and, hopefully, we can maintain that on Sunday.

Q: Your description of your qualifying lap seems like it was quite an eventful experience, but at the same time it kind of underscores how you had the time to gather it in, you know, in order to make things right. Was that indicative of the run you had here, the adversity you had? Your team still gathered it in and made it right at the end?

JOHNSON: I think our team does a great job over the course of the race adjusting and really trying to put ourselves in position or get ourselves back into position. We haven't had a funner day of that than when we won here. Overcoming the flat tire that we had, worked through traffic, pit stops, get up there for the race and win.

It really was a special day. This track is so challenging mentally. We call it Turns 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. But normally from when you leave the wall going into Turn 1 in the oval, your arc's in motion in one continuous corner. So here you have four chances, two more opportunities to mess it up. And it is really difficult to get around this track.

(Turns) 1 and 3 looks very similar, but drives totally different. (Turns) 2 and 4 look similar, but they drive completely different from end-to-end. And you have to continuously adjust as you're going around the track.

Not only for the corners, but as your tires wear off even as you take your qualifying lap, Turn 1 you have the most grip, as you get back to (Turn) 4, you're losing grip. So whatever the balance of the car is doing, if you're losing the front it just keeps getting tighter and tighter. If you're loose, you're getting looser and looser. It makes it exciting. You have a lot to stay on top of inside the car.

Q: Can you talk more about going over the laps in your mind if you do that every weekend? How can you click into that focus to do it, where you do it, and how much that helps you?

JOHNSON: I spend a lot time doing that. I've just done it my entire career. I know where it came from. My swim coach in high school had us memorize our starts. How many strokes it took to get to the end of the pool, your kick turn and back to the finish. We'd sit there with stopwatches as we were stretching and kind of work on that. That just got into my mind at a young age and has been real helpful for me in the Cup series.

In off-road racing, a lot of the races I ran on, you'd never see the same terrain again, so it didn't really apply. But in oval racing, especially NASCAR, you get so few laps on track before you've got to qualify and make it count, so I just look forward to that and go through that in my mind.

Q: Thank you for letting us know you wore Speedos, that's new information.

JOHNSON: I said that. Now there will be photos everywhere. Fantastic (laughing).

Q: When you were in Pocono you were seeded next to Mark Martin. And he said, and I plan on winning the Brickyard. And I remember you kind of got a look on your face like, "Wow." Looking back now, was that a -- that's awfully cocky or what was your initial reaction when Mark said that? And now that you guys are 1 2, how does that play out? Is it going to come down to two and he's already got this overconfidence that the race is his?

JOHNSON: You know, when Mark said that, I looked at him with that face because Mark never is optimistic about things. The fact that he was so confident about it, I couldn't believe it was Mark Martin sitting next to me.

For him to say that, I think that's a huge statement. He backed it up today with qualifying. He's a much better racer than he is at qualifying, so I would assume he's going to be one of the guys to beat.

Of course, I'm very optimistic about our car and what we're doing. But for Mark to go out and say that type of comment, he's got something in store for us.

Q: What conditions are you going to be looking for? What do you need to have come together tomorrow to be successful and grab your second win here?

JOHNSON: I think you need to have a car that's going to stay turning all day long. I would prefer in most cases to have a loose race car, especially here. These corners are really tight. If you're in any traffic, you don't have air on the nose of the car, and the car's going to get tighter yet. You need the car to really turn well for you.

So the guys that enjoy loose race cars are really going to pull ahead from everybody and find their way to the front.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin