Las Vegas: Johnson - Friday media visit



ON THE NEW LAS VEGAS SURFACE: "I think the track is in good shape. It's not the smoothest re-surface job that we've been on, but I think it will help us find an outside lane to make for better racing. I've found that the middle of the track was working really well for myself at the end of the test. As the races wear on, we'll need to get a lane higher up the race track and get up near the wall. I think it's really going to put on a good show and they've made a lot of good changes to this race track."

IS THE TRACK BUMPY? "In Turn 1 there are some bumps that upset the car and you really have to be handling right to get through them to run the bottom. Aside from that, the track is relatively smooth. It's just getting into Turn 1 where there are some bumps that make the car upset."

AFTER WINNING AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, WERE YOU HOPING THEY WOULD LEAVE THE TRACK LIKE IT WAS? "Yeah, I think so. The success we've had here with the old configuration has been pretty strong and hard to argue with. But I'm excited for a new challenge. The No. 48 team does a great job of adapting to new challenges and this is one of those."

ON A RACE THAT WILL HAVE SO MANY PIT STOPS WITH SO MANY DECISIONS TO MAKE, HOW WELL EQUIPPED IS THE NO. 48 TEAM TO HANDLE THAT? "We're definitely well-equipped. Hendrick Motorsports does a great job of training our pit crew guys. We're always solid on pit road and I wouldn't expect anything else out of my crew. They work very hard and I'm very proud of their efforts. It's going to be challenging. There are going to be a lot of stops. I think it's tough with this type of tire on this track. We're going to be in a (decision making) position of taking no tires or two tires and that's hard. That's frustrating. You can have the best car and not make the right decision and lose the race."

DOES THIS TRACK REMIND YOU OF ANY OTHER TRACK? "The transitions into the corners are still the same transitions. Getting into Turn 3 takes a similar approach. And into Turn 1 is a similar approach. But now instead of having to run the bottom before and there was no room to move up, now if you miss the bottom where your car isn't handling down there, you have another lane to help out in the center. Hopefully we can get an outside lane going. But the track doesn't relate to anything else we go to. It still has its unique Las Vegas feel."

ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW TESTING IN BRISTOL AND THIS RACE IN VEGAS, WILL IT BE A RELIEF TO GO TO ATLANTA WHERE THINGS ARE STILL FAMILIAR? "Yeah, but at the same time Atlanta is such a challenging track, I don't think many guys are comfortable getting into that race track. Personally, that's one of the best tracks we run on. The old asphalt is abrasive. We race from the top to the bottom and it's rougher than pretty much any track we go to. I hope they leave that place alone and never touch it and never think about resurfacing it. I think it puts on a great show."

CAN YOU THREE-PEAT THIS WEEKEND? "I hope so. We've got a great race team and I certainly hope we can put ourselves in a position to three-peat."

ON JUAN PABLO MONTOYA'S WIN OF THE BUSCH RACE IN MEXICO CITY: "I still haven't seen the tape. I heard about what took place."

YOU WENT THROUGH A SIMILAR SITUATION LAST YEAR WHEN BRIAN VICKERS TOOK YOU OUT. IS THAT AN UNWRITTEN RULE THAT YOU JUST DON'T DO THAT TO YOUR TEAMMATES? "It happens. The think you've got to ask yourself is if it was intentional. With Brian, as mad as I was and with the bad timing of when it took place, I knew it wasn't intentional. So it helped me get over it. It doesn't mean that I got over instantly, but it helped me get over it. That's what Juan Pablo and Scott Pruett have to ask themselves. If it wasn't intentional, they can go on from there."

TWO RACES INTO THE SEASON, ARE YOU IN GOOD SHAPE? "I think we're in good shape. At Daytona, we weren't even close to where we thought we would be. So that was disappointing. But our performance in Fontana was really strong and I am excited for all the intermediate tracks coming up. The COT test went really well. All things considered, we're off to a good start."

DOES ANYBODY REALLY STAND OUT AS BEING AHEAD OF THE GAME? "At Bristol, it's hard to tell because a tenth of a second makes you look like a hero at that track. It's really hard to tell.

But I thought the Gibbs cars and Evernham cars looked strong and I thought our No. 48 car was really strong. It's hard to tell. But that car is so different than what we're used to running. With the transition we have getting into the corners there, it's tough to get the car to turn. I would predict the same problem at Dover because you slam into the race track so hard on the corner entry."

SO IF YOU'RE HAVING A PROBLEM WITH YOUR COT, IS THERE GOING TO BE STUFF THAT YOU CAN'T DO NOW? THINGS THAT JUST AREN'T GOING TO HELP? "We've very limited on some things because of the splitter. The splitter has to be at the right angle and the right height on the race track. If you put more right rear spring in the car, now you've lifted the splitter up off the ground, so we don't have that tool like we've always had. At the front of the car, we don't want to drag the splitter on the ground because you'll wear it off and then you're downforce is all gone. So there are a few things that have really boxed us in. That's not to say we're not going to find ways to make the car turn in other areas. I think that's why the big teams are excited about the Car of Tomorrow -- to try something and find something that hopefully somebody else doesn't know about or find it before they find it."

IS IT TOO EARLY TO WORRY ABOUT POINTS? "No, I think two or three races in is a good time. After the fifth race, the top 35 are safe in the show. I know there are some top teams right now that have had two bad races and are in a bad position getting started right now. We had a bad first race and rebounded last month in California and got back up in the points. So there is certainly some concern and the guys need to be worried about it."

IN TERMS OF MAKING THE CHASE? "I think it's more about the top 35. There is no doubt the Chase is going to be on everybody's mind. There were just a few points that separated guys. Every time you're on the track and can make points, it counts."

HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU'VE LEARNED ABOUT THE VEGAS TRACK TRANSLATES TO THE NEW SURFACE? DO YOU HAVE TO START WITH A NEW NOTEBOOK? "It's a lot different - the surface, the tires, the fuel cell. But the basic characteristics are still there. But it is a lot different. As far as the set-up, all the teams are there. It's really about working with the tire data and understanding this new tire. The first one who gets that is going to have an advantage."

ON THE LAS VEGAS ODDS FOR THE RACE? "I heard I'm not a good bet. A friend of mine told me I'm not a good bet."

ON JOINING TEAM CADILLAC FOR FOURTH ROUND OF SCCA SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE GT AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY "I just want to be better in road course racing. I've driven for GM for my entire career in Chevrolets and a couple of times in Pontiacs and to have this chance to race the Cadillac is something I'm excited to do and thankful that GM is letting me play around in another brand inside the family. The Cadillac is very similar to what a Cup car feels like in the weight of a Cup car, so I'm hopeful I can learn some tricks and get some more seat time on road courses that will help me in the Cup Series."

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE HISTORY WITH ANDY PRILGRIM AND HOW HE WORKED WITH DALE EARNHARDT SR. ON ROAD COURSES? "Yeah, I did. I tested the car at Sebring. And I guess Andy Pilgrim and Dale Jr. had been emailing the night before and Andy told Junior I was going to be down there. I had a great time and Andy couldn't have been more help. He really helped me get up to speed and get used to a track I'd never seen before. And Sebring is really a tough course. When I left there at the end of the day, I was where I needed to be."

DID YOU THINK, 'HERE'S ANOTHER CAR WITH A SPLITTER AND A WING ON THE BACK'? "I really didn't think about it all that much. I was more road course-focused. The adjustments we made on the car never dealt with the splitter or the wing. It was mainly shock stuff. And I think that's going to apply even with our racing because you know where the splitter needs to be and that's as low as possible and then you want maximum rear grip so you tilt the wing up as much as the sanctioning body will give you. So, it was interesting to be out there and see how close the CTS-V was to a Cup car. It's very similar. And then I got to drive 13 laps in the Corvette, and that was a whole different world."

MARK MARTIN SAID TURN 1 IS WAVY AND HE'S A LITTLE CONCERNED ABOUT IT. WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THAT? "I think the inside groove certainly has some waves in the track, like swells in the track. For our cars it's probably a good thing because as soon as we couldn't get the car to work through the bumps and drive around on the bottom between (Turns) 1 and 2, we strarted moving up the track. So I think we'll see the lane continue to widen out and hopefully two and three-wide racing. I'm not worried about it. I like it. It's a challenge. If you can get your car to work on the bottom, there's one lane. And if it doesn't work, with the progressive banking we have here now, move up the track and find a land that works for you. I think that's what we need to focus on for good racing is making these tracks where we can run two and three wide."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Scott Pruett , Andy Pilgrim
Teams Hendrick Motorsports