Loudon: Raybestos Rookie Jimmie Johnson interview

JIMMIE JOHNSON, LOWE'S CHEVROLET: "I think the track is going to be different for everyone. There's going to be a variety of different things to look at and options and lines. Our race is double the distance of the Busch race and that, at...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, LOWE'S CHEVROLET:

"I think the track is going to be different for everyone. There's going to be a variety of different things to look at and options and lines. Our race is double the distance of the Busch race and that, at pretty much every racetrack, makes a lot wider groove for us. The truck series putting rubber down and widening the groove and our 'Happy Hour' and Busch North race, all of that is going to open up the groove and have more options for us. Without us being on the track yet, it's real hard to know what is going to be the advantage: the experienced line or is there a new line that is going to come around. For myself, I'm not too sure. I'm going to spend the first portion of this practice running laps and getting used the racetrack."

ARE YOU SURPRISED AT THE AMOUNT OF SUCCESS YOU HAVE HAD AS A RAYBESTOS® ROOKIE?

"I am. Watching Ryan, when Ryan was running the multiple series last year and all the success he had, we all knew he was going to be a threat to win races and the championship on the Winston Cup side. I had a decent Busch career; was consistent and solid, but I had no idea we'd come in and be battling for poles and race wins and be in the middle of the points championship at this point in the series. We're real happy to be in this position but it wasn't a position that we anticipated."

HAVE YOU APPROACHED YOU CAR OWNER, JEFF GORDON, ABOUT BEING IN THE RACE FOR THE WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP?

"In passing we have different conversations about it, but there hasn't been a sit-down meeting where we're working out strategies. We've accomplished a lot early in our rookie season and we need to hang on to our goals which is to get experience and grow as a team for the future. We're in a really neat situation right now but we're trying to still have some fun with this and not let the pressure sink in on you. I heard Mark Martin make a comment where racing for championships was a pretty big aggravation for him, something that he put a lot of weight on and that he's not doing that to himself now. He's in a lot different position in his mind and he's up there in the points. I'm trying to look around and see what some of the other veterans have done. Jeff is really relaxed and laid back and gets all that he can every race and if the points play into his favor they do. I've been trying to adapt that style. It's easy now because it's our first year and 10 years down the road from now some of the situations might be different. So far we're just trying to stay laid back."

WHAT IS THE FUN PART OF BEING A RAYBESTOS® ROOKIE IN WINSTON CUP?

"The thing that got us here was putting on the helmets and getting in the racecar. To be in those racecars and racing against guys you've watched on television as a kid growing up, your heroes, that's the best part about our deal."

YOU RECENTLY TESTED AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY.

"To be at the track where you've seen so much of it on television with the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, it was very neat to pull out on the racetrack and to go experience the place. It looks a lot different looking out the windshield than it does looking at the television set. Qualifying trim is a lot of fun. You are really carrying a lot of speed, four totally different turns, you are pretty busy in there, you've got a huge long straightaway and you've got to get slowed down and make a ninety degree turn in short period of time. That was a lot of fun. The race side, I don't it's one of the better tracks for Winston Cup cars to race at just because it's a narrow groove. It's going to be very hard to pass, but it's still a very fun track to drive. You are going to have to be considerably faster to get any passes done because of the all the aero stuff that everybody has been talking about. Flat tracks are hard for these cars. They just don't like to respond and have the grip levels that they do on a banked track. There's going to be a lot of work to get passes done on race time and I think that's going to make the hungry people show up and be at the front of the pack"

NEW HAMPSHIRE, LIKE INDIANAPOLIS, IS ALSO A FLAT TRACK.

"It's hard on a flat track to use the second and third groove unless there is some reason for you to go up there. These cars do not have a lot of grip on a flat track so the fastest line around the track is the shortest distance and it will be really interesting to see when we get on the track what can happen. Now the shortest distance around the track is flatter than the next groove. What the fans want to see and what we want to see as drivers is more grooves so we can race better. That's why we're here."

YOU'VE HAD SOME TIME RECENTLY AT A TRACK THAT HAS THE NEW SAFE WALL TECHNOLOGY AND NOW YOU ARE AT A TRACK THAT WANTS THE NEW SAFE WALL TECHNOLOGY. HOW IS PROGRESS COMING ALONG IN THAT DEPARTMENT?

"We had a safety meeting in Indianapolis and got a better understanding why it's not at all the racetracks yet or being made available due to the radiuses of the corners and the walls. It might change the strength level of the wall. We need to look in all areas. We spent a lot of time working on the cockpits of the cars and made huge improvements that we've been able to see. If we can adapt it to the walls and even building the chassis where they can absorb a little bit some way are all positive steps. We climb in as drivers not thinking that anything is going to happen to us but when it does you need everything working for you and we've all see that. Unfortunately we lost good friends and fellow competitors through some crazy crashes. The more we can do the better and I think that here we've seen a lot of growth and technology and learning and understanding it. I think the next phase of it all being implemented and put on the racetrack is right around the corner and something that is also going to make us better as drivers."

IS IT HARD TO BE PATIENT WHEN YOU GO TO A TRACK WHERE THE TECHNOLOGY IS ALREADY THERE?

"Not really. I guess I'm in a unique situation where at Hendrick Motorsports we have our own safety department now that's been working on cars (and) driver cockpit areas. We've been giving cars to the program for them to run in these tests to develop the wall. We've been getting good information and I think that information has been traveling throughout all the competitors before these meeting have been taking place. We're all up to speed for the most part, but we all understand that it's got to be put in at the tright time and you don't want to create another problem. Nothing ever seems like it can ever be done fast enough but at the same time we know that there is a lot of people working hard."

-raybestos-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports