Martinsville II: Johnson - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS: ON THOUGHTS OF CAR OF TOMORROW: "I think the look is less than be desired and I think a lot of us share that same opinion. I only tested it at Talladega and that is a ...


ON THOUGHTS OF CAR OF TOMORROW: "I think the look is less than be desired and I think a lot of us share that same opinion. I only tested it at Talladega and that is a really forgiving race track, very easy. I think that by the time we left Talladega, I think the package we came up well worked well, drafted well and will put on a good show at Talladega. But, I know from the other test sessions they have had, it didn't go that way. The cars were real difficult to drive in traffic; they are more aero-dependant than everyone thought they would be. There is a lot of work ahead of us to get these things right. I know that NASCAR is working with the teams, the engineers and the manufacturers; everybody is trying to get together to figure out how to make this thing as good as possible for next year. We do have next year on a limited schedule to run and get these things right. There is still a lot of work ahead of us to get these things right. I know there have been quotes out there about how great everything is going and it has been going well but there is still a lot of work ahead of us to get this thing right."

ON CERTAIN THINGS OF THE C.O.T. BEING ALREADY LOCKED IN: "I am not sure that anything is totally locked in and going back at the creative wording we are all familiar with, there may be some outs in there. They are going to do whatever they can to have the best package on the track. If that means changing some things around, then I think they are going to consider that."

ON TEAMMATE JEFF GORDON'S OPINIONS OF C.O.T.: "Knowing Jeff like I do and being a teammate and knowing what he is looking for in a race car, I am very concerned for the mile and a half race tracks and two mile tracks, there is no way around it. Speaking to all the drivers that competed at the Michigan test, the reason that the test went well and looked so entertaining is because you had eight lanes to run on. If you were at Chicago or Kansas or some of these tracks where you are stuck on the bottom with single file racing, there is no way you are going to be able to pass anybody. The lead car is punching such a big hole in the air that the car behind you has even less air than the current cars do now to get and create downforce. So on top of trying to learn the splitter and some of these other things, we still have to learn out to get performance in these cars and take the tight out that is in them as well. NASCAR built them with the wing and a lot of rear downforce and not a lot of front downforce so the percentage has shifted a lot to the back of the car and it is hard to get the car to turn. That is what we are trying to work on."

ON THE LOOKS OF THE C.O.T.: "The looks aren't so desirable I would say. I guess we are all creatures of habit, but I thought the cars we have now look really racey and sporty. The C.O.T. looks like it is from the '80s or '90s."

ON FEELINGS ABOUT CHASE: "I find myself in familiar territory. All three years of the Chase, I have been in the same situation. I don't dislike it anymore than I did the other two years. Ultimately it is better for the sport, so I am in favor of the Chase. We just need to figure out how we can do a better job, when these last 10 races come around. I really feel as a team, we have corrected a lot of things and we are doing better than we ever have in the Chase. But we don't have luck. It is hard to complain about luck when you have had five amazing seasons in the sport and won a lot of races and competed for championships. So I don't want to beat up on my luck too badly, but I feel like we have done a great job and that is what helps me sleep at night and thing I am very proud of. We have done an awesome job of being competitive in the Chase; we just haven't had the luck to go with it. We just need to get it sorted out."

ON HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS BEING PREPARED TO HAVE THREE CARS IN THE CHASE: "Hendrick Motorsports was more prepared than we have ever been. We have stronger equipment, better cars, drivers and crews that understand the Chase. We were just better prepared as a whole for this Chase than we have ever been. I think the performances show it; we just haven't had the finishes to go with it. If you look at Jeff, he breaks and engine last week, freak deal, the rest of us finish and everything is fine. The fuel pump problem and other issues I have had, luck just played a part in it this year. As a team and the competitors we are, we have to sleep, as Jeff Burton pointed out, you can only worry about the things you can control. The things that you can't control, but might determine a championship at times and make you lose sleep at times, but you really have to fall back on who you are as a team and what you are capable of and what you have been doing. I am sure our performance has been there, we just don't have the results."

ON VIEWING THIS AS A WILD CARD RACE THAT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT ON CHASE DRIVERS: "I certainly do. You can get turned around, you can cut a tire and end up on pit road from just some light contact you will lose two or three laps on the race track. This can definitely be a wild card race. I know coming in to this race in the past when I was closer to the points lead, I was really nervous and worried about things here. This year, where we are, I am kind of excited coming in here; don't have as much to lose. I am kind of far out of this thing but the luck may swing our direction. I have a suspicion about that for some reason."

ON PAST RACES GIVING HIMSELF MORE ROOM ON THE TRACK TO AVOID SOME POSSIBLE THINGS: "I think in general, my style as a driver is good for points racing so I don't want to do anything different. At Talladega, the second one, I tried to set in the back and stay out of the whole mess and as a result of that, lost the draft. Fortunately, I think it was the No. 22 that lost a tire and we were able to get back in to the draft and not get in trouble. After that, I told myself and the team over the radio that we had to go out and do what we knew how to do which is go race, sitting there trying to play defense was just going to get us in trouble. You spend your whole career playing offense, if you try to play defense for a race or two, you mess things up. I am going to show up here and race like I have every other weekend, I will be smart out there like I have always been. But I am going to race hard."

ON IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFYING WELL AND KEEPING GOOD TRACK POSITION HERE: "Qualifying is really important and track position is too. The one thing that I have always been fortunate with is having a good car and being able to make up ground on a long run. We have had lots of green flag racing here. I might not have the rhythm when I first show up at the track and I put myself in a bad situation after qualifying, but as soon we get in the race and the rhythm comes around, I have been able to drive the car and get in position to finish well."

ON IMPORTANCE OF LONG GREEN FLAG RUNS THROUGHOUT THE RACE: "For me, typically and stronger over the long runs here. I think of the short runs, I think of the No. 20, I think of the No. 8, he is always lightning fast for 20 or 30 laps. So it just depends on how the flow of the race works out will determine the winner."

ON HOW ATTITUDE YOU WALK IN THIS TRACK WITH IS WHAT DETERMINES YOUR WEEKEND: "I think that is true. I think there are guys that walk in and absolutely dread seeing this race track. Then there are other guys that come in and are excited about it. I can say for my first year, I walked in with the wrong attitude and watched Jeff (Gordon) walk in with the right attitude and dreamed and hoped I would come in with the right attitude. Now I do. After a couple of seasons racing here, I understand the track, I know what I am looking and I truly enjoy coming here."

ON PASSING MAKING A COME BACK HERE AT MARTINSVILLE: "I think so, the way the race went here in the spring. When they ground the bottom, I think that was the best track we had here for passing, then after they were forced to resurface the corners, it was better than I thought it was going to be in the spring. Hopefully we can get that going again. Hopefully we will get a lot of traffic on the bottom of the race track and it rubbers up and loses grip and we can move up and find another lane. It isn't as good as it was, but it is doing better than I thought that it would."

ON PASSING AT OTHER TRACKS UPCOMING ON THE SCHEDULE: "I can't give Homestead Miami enough praise for what they have done there. During the test session, from the white line all the way to the outside wall there were lanes to race on. They did a phenomenal job on the asphalt, the progressive banking and the transitions in and out and I think we are going to have an amazing race down there. At Phoenix, it is a little bit single file. Atlanta, is going to be Atlanta, it is always a great race. Texas is headed in the right direction. I think we will have some great races these last few."

ON ATLANTA: "The asphalt they have used is older technology and it is real abrasive and chews the tires up. Handling is a premium. The pace slows down so you can run side by side and you can look for other lanes to race in. That really makes for good racing. I think the new tracks, and Charlotte is a good example of it, they almost did too good of a job. The asphalt is so smooth and tightly compacted we have to run an extremely hard tire, the tire never gives up and we run qualifying laps all night long. We run side by side and it is hard to pass. Atlanta is a great track. Some day they are going to have to resurface it and we will be faced with issues of a new surface there. But right now it has aged perfectly. It is probably is one of the best places to challenge drivers."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton
Teams Hendrick Motorsports