Johnson - Charlotte test media visit

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES TESTING - LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS May 5, 2008, 2008 JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media during testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway and discussed ...

May 5, 2008, 2008

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media during testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway and discussed testing at Lowe's, repaving of Darlington Raceway, the progress of the Impala SS, various incidents on Saturday race at Richmond and other topics.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE TEST IS GOING SO FAR AND ALSO LOOKING AHEAD TO DARLINGTON? "It has been going well for us. I've run a bunch of laps today. The first thing that comes to mind is watching the track widen already. I think that is a good sign for us when we come back. We will see a lot of side-by-side racing. There is a middle lane right now that a lot of cars are running. So I think that from the No. 48 side, we have had a very successful morning, the first part of the test session I should say, it isn't morning. From a competitive stand point, I think the track is coming around and I think we are going to see some good racing.

"Sounds like speed which is tough to imagine at Darlington, it is usually about being patient and taking care of your stuff. So, I am excited to get on the track, looking forward to the practice session we are have on Thursday to sort things out to understand the track. I can't imagine going as fast as they say we are going to on that small little race track, I am excited and at the same time, not really sure what to expect going there except standing on the gas."

HOW CRITICAL IS IT THAT ADDED THE LOWE'S TEST WITH THIS BEING THE FIRST TIME YOU WILL RACE THE IMPALA SS ON THE TRACK? "It came last minute and I think all the teams welcomed it. It is so tough to get on-track time right now, especially at tracks that we compete at. You can go to Kentucky, you can go to Nashville and these other tracks, but if you aren't on the real track, it is really tough to get anything carry over and help the team. On top of that, to get tires and have the right tire to test with has been a very big struggle too. This test was welcomed by everyone and we are glad to be out here. I think it will help us advance the car of tomorrow on these bigger tracks and also put on a better show for the All-Star and 600 weekends."

NEXT YEAR, ARE YOU HOPING THAT NASCAR WILL MAKE SOME AERO CHANGES TO THESE CARS RACE BETTER? "Yea, I am hopeful that there will be some changes made. I don't have an answer as to what that is. I feel for NASCAR some because they have 43 drivers out there with 43 different opinions about what we need. And crew chiefs that all have their own opinions. I hope they are entertaining it and look forward to whatever changes may come along. I think if we can make the cars more comfortable to drive in traffic, I think it is going to put on a better show. In my opinion, I believe it is downforce. This car punches a very big hole in the air. There is a lot of turbulent air behind first car, second car, on back, it just gets worse. It is very difficult to run in traffic. So, I am hoping we can make some changes to that but I think a big step is all of us being here testing. We are all going to be smarter, we are all going to know this track better so we can come back and put on a better race because of this test session."

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MICHAEL WALTRIP'S ACTIONS TOWARD CASEY MEARS AND WAS IT A STIFF ENOUGH PENALTY TO PARK HIM? "That was Chad who couldn't believe it, I still haven't even seen it. Judging by Chad's voice and reaction, it sounded pretty exciting as Casey was pushed off in to the turn. I guess Casey's spotter didn't let him know that Michael was out there and ran him in to the wall. Michael was upset and carried him off in to the corner. Judging by the reaction over the radio from Chad, it sounded like a pretty big moment. Yes, it did shock me, I am sorry I didn't answer your question; it did shock me to hear that they parked him for two laps. (Someone interjects that it was for the rest of the race) The whole race? Wow, that is a big action definitely. It must have been pretty obvious what he was doing."

HOW DO YOU HANDLE DISAPPOINTMENT WHEN YOU HAVE A CAR THAT WAS DOMINATE AND YOU FEEL LIKE YOU SHOULD HAVE WON THE RACE AND DIDN'T? "A lot of it depends on how I lost the race. I don't know if he (Denny Hamlin) had contact that caused the tire go down or what exactly went on. I usually want more time if I am mad at myself, I just get away from the track, get away from everyone else and have a little me time. Racing is racing and stuff happens and I know that he is extremely disappointed at not winning at his home track after dominating like that. For myself, if it is something I can't control, I try not to dwell on it too long. Everybody can use a little time immediately after the race, but I usually get over it pretty quick."

HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP TO SHARE INFORMATION WITH DRIVERS WHOSE DRIVING STYLE IS DIFFERENT THAN YOURS AND WHICH OF YOUR TEAMMATES DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN GET THE MOST INFORMATION FROM? "Over the years I would say that working with Kyle Busch was probably one of the most interesting driving styles I have seen looking at the data. It was so different from mine that when Kyle was running well and when he does today, it is ok, I know what he does and I know how to change my style. Last year in the Chase I had to adapt to Jeff Gordon's style at Martinsville and at Phoenix. So knowing those guys and working with them so closely is helpful. It is something that we all use and try to help our cars in a variety of ways. But over the years it has been easiest for me to compare to Jeff because our teams are so close and we have communicated so well being in the same shop. As this year has gone on, if you looked at just the traces of our steering wheel inputs, throttles, brakes and things we do in the car, Dale, Jr. and my driving style are very very close. So we are looking for similar things. Our crew chief styles are a little different in the way they are going about setting up the cars, but if you just looked at our inputs, we drive very similar out there on the race track."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE EXCITEMENT AROUND THE NIGHT OF THE ALL-STAR RACE FOR EVERYBODY? "It is a great night. I think everybody looks forward to it, it doesn't matter if you are a driver or a crew member or whatever that may be, everybody is fired up for that race. The cool million at the end of the night is something everyone wants a shot at too. I really do love it. I really really enjoy the All-Star event and glad to see that it is growing in popularity and all that Sprint is putting behind it. They have been advertising it like crazy. So I am excited to see all that and look forward to putting on a good show."

DOES THE NEW GENERATION CAR MAKE THE EXTRA ONE HUNDRED MILES OF THE COKE 600 HARDER? "It could. We are getting a good feel for things and how the car is going to drive during the day. As we go into the night test session, I will probably have a better idea of what to expect. It is amazing when you are in the car how fast the 600 miles go. I feel bad for all of you who have to sit around and cover it because it is probably five hours of hell. For us, it goes quick. I am excited for it; I think it is one of our better races. Hopefully we learn enough here these next two days to know where our starting point is with the race car, where we need to be when the sun goes down and then the finish. We have been competitive, but we haven't won here at home in a year or two, so I am looking forward to a good performance and really excited for the 600."

HAS THE PRESSURE STARTED TO BUILD HER TWO OR THREE MONTHS IN TO THE SEASON AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ONLY HAS ONE WIN SO FAR THIS SEASON? "It does build, but last year when we were experiencing all the great success that is the first time I have ever been a part of something like that and won that many races in a season. It is the first time it has ever been done, to have one team win 50% of the races. We knew we had something special last year, we really did. We are thankful it happened and we really enjoyed it. We hope to get back to that point, but the competition in this sport is so tough. The drivers, crew chiefs and other team owners that are out there, they didn't enjoy last year. They didn't enjoy us winning so much and they have put themselves in position, I think we are still in the hunt on the short tracks and that is where we won so much with the car of tomorrow last year. I won a lot of races on those. Then we had the old car figured out so well on the big tracks, we had a great mixture of things. This year we have been a little behind on the big tracks, but I think we are making a little progress there right now. This test session has gone well, our second place at Texas really showed us inside the team that we are making the right decisions and going down the right road to make the cars more comfortable and faster. We will just keep plugging along, there is a lot of racing left. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed. Look at Junior last week, Jeff has been in the hunt several times. We hate that we haven't capitalized on those opportunities and things have popped up, but this is big time auto racing and stuff happens."

DID MR. HENDRICK MAKE THE CHANGE IN THE TESTING POLICY TO INVOLVE THE DRIVERS AND LESS DAVID GREEN OR WAS THAT EACH TEAM'S DECISION? "David and Max Papis has been involved helping us with the road course stuff, both of them have done a great job. The R & D team, Rex Stump and those guys have been going down the road and crossing things off their list and getting data for all four teams to work with. Nothing has changed there. One thing that did take place out of all the confusion, the season started and the No. 48 wasn't that good on the big tracks, but the No. 88 and No. 24 were, then we get our stuff turned around and run better and the 88 and 24 have trouble. It has been really confusing, and the change Rick did make was we all went to Nashville last week or maybe the week before. We took turns driving each other's cars, working with each other's crew chiefs, just mixing everything up and getting all these ideas floating around and help us understand why one car runs well and the other doesn't that weekend. It is tough for us to understand how we can be that far off at times. I was scratching my head at Vegas, I am two or three seconds off the pace with a perfect race car, there was no damage it. I should have crashed it, that way I would have an excuse to be running bad. We were just horrible there. It has been very confusing and we are trying to get to the bottom of it. These things are a handful on these big tracks and we just have to keep working on it."

WHAT IS SO DIFFERENT ABOUT KYLE BUSCH'S DRIVING STYLE AND ABOUT THE USO PAINT SCHEME YOU ARE ANNOUNCING TOMORROW? "I don't have a clue about the USO scheme. Maybe I should (Laughs). I don't know. What was the first one?

"Kyle, I like to use the brake to really set the nose of the car and carry brake pressure to the center of the corner and kind of drive it off the right front with loading the suspension in a certain way with the brakes to help pin the nose and get the car to turn. Kyle on the other hand, I mean I have looked at his data. He said 'I don't think I am using any brake.' I looked at my brake pressure and I had around 200 lbs of brake pressure and carried it so far. I looked at his data and I am like, ok, maybe the brake channel is not working because there is no brake, there is nothing and he said he was using a little. Then I flipped through all of his laps and I look at the end and I see him hit the brakes to come on pit road. I said to him and I am like 'I thought you were using a little brake.' And he said "Ah, I am not really sure.' I said Dude, you are using no brake, there is nothing.' There are ways you set the car up to turn and respond and handle like that. When I see Kyle at the top of the board and running really fast, I know my style of trying to over work the right front isn't going to work there. So I have to change my style and try to drive more like him. If Jeff is running really fast, I know that I need to charge the corner harder and use the brakes earlier to kind of throw the car in the corner that is Jeff's style. He likes to slam on the brakes, crank a ton of wheel in to it and almost slide the car off in to the turn. Where Kyle is real light on the brakes and kind of floats it in there. So there are just little styles that carry over through different drivers that I have been able to work with and just look at those styles and try to use them at tracks where I need the help.

"There are different rhythms at every track. I have a tendency to use a lot of brake and a lot of times I am on the gas and the brake at the same time. Not many other guys in our organization do that especially on the bigger tracks. But there is something about the way that works for me and the way I drive. But if I see Jeff, Casey or someone else faster than me, I mentally try to drive like they do."

IS CARL EDWARDS THE GUY TO BEAT COMING IN TO THESE RACES? "I think so; I think he is the favorite right now. I think we have closed the gap. At Texas we were really competitive and ran with him. So we are doing our part, we are getting closer, but I really think he is the favorite right now."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Max Papis , Kyle Busch