Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson - GM top ten interview

Weekly Top 10 with Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS answered questions from the media today at Martinsville Speedway during the weekly "Behind the Hauler" Q&A session. Johnson won...

Weekly Top 10 with Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS

Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS answered questions from the media today at Martinsville Speedway during the weekly "Behind the Hauler" Q&A session. Johnson won the fall race here in 2004 and has posted seven straight top-10 finishes at Martinsville Speedway. He is currently third in the NASCAR Nextel Cup standings.

ON PRACTICE: "It was good. We fought a loose end condition through most of practice. Finally there the last change we made we found out what was causing that problem. We also had that problem a little bit yesterday when we were in race trim. We did a qualifying trim just running one or two laps. The condition went away and we felt really good about things. We didn't expect to have that problem today. The majority of the first two practices we spent trying to get the loose end out of it. Right there at the end we hit on it. I feel very, very good about it. We jumped up the board to third at the end of that practice and had really good lap times."

ON HIS TEAMMATES: "They do (look good). I'm excited for all of them. This is such a tough track and I know it's been a very challenging track for myself to learn how to drive it and be patient with it. I'm excited for Brian (Vickers) and Kyle (Busch) for finding that rhythm and doing what they need to do out there. Of course Jeff (Gordon), his track record speaks for itself here. With all that in mind hopefully we have a real strong Hendrick performance tomorrow."

WHO IS FAST OUT THERE? "The track is really changing right now. I think the Truck race is going to get it back to where it normally is come race time. The rubber really hasn't been going down that fast. There was a lot of grip and almost an easier condition on the track for everyone. Mid-way through the second practice the track started to rubber up. You could see where the right sides were really laying down a lot of black. The conditions were getting tough and I saw a lot of guys struggling. The only car I've really ran with at the end when I felt like I was good was the 9. I wouldn't expect the 20 to miss the set up or the 24. I think the typical Martinsville guys will be up front but the 9 will be strong as well."

ON THE TRACK CONDITION: "I think the best racing we had was when they roughed up the bottom in an attempt to make it smoother, and it gave us a second lane. Since then it seems like it takes a while for the tires to give up and once the tires give up, then we can start passing each other. Until then it's really single file so around 20, 25 laps on the tires on a run, then everybody starts having their handling characteristics show up and you can really start passing people. So we're focusing on having a strong car on the short run. We felt like last year that we couldn't pass and the run didn't go long enough. We didn't have 50, 60, 70 lap runs to utilize the good handling and set up in the long haul so we're trying to make sure our performance is better on the short run."

ON OVERDRIVING THIS TRACK ESPECIALLY FOR THE ROOKIES: "It's so tough. There's a certain spot where you need to be back to the gas to get off the corner. If you get in too hard and you miss that spot and your back to the gas, the car acts wrong. If you get in too easy and you're to the gas too early and you exit the corner so tight you either clip the inside curb or run out of race track because of the outside wall. It really is a rhythm track. There's really one or two ways to drive this track and it's so hard to find it. There's people all over the place searching for different lines and different rhythms. Once you hit it and you remember that, you always look forward to coming back here. That's kind of what I went through personally."

ON THE START OF THE RACE AS THE POLE-SITTER: "It'd be nice to lead a lap. I'm just really happy with the pit pick being the first pit stall down there. I've never really been in that position before. I was talking with Jeff during practice and he's like 'man, you're really going to love it there.' That's five positions every stop. Hopefully we're able to capitalize on that and have a good day tomorrow."

ON ROOKIES RACING HERE: "I don't have a thought that rookies have been off anywhere. They've done a great job. Today's racing has guys that have won Busch Championships and won championships in a lot of different forms of racing. They've been racing for a long time. They all know how to drive. They all know how to race. They may not know how to get around this place just right and the fastest way yet but they're up to speed, they're friendly to the other guys on the track, when to give some guys a break and when to race. I've been really impressed with the rookie class."

DO THESE ROOKIES MEASURE UP TO THE ROOKIE CLASS WITH YOU AND RYAN NEWMAN? "It's tough to say. I think I won my first event 10 races into my rookie season. I think we'd have to look closer at the stats to see where these guys end up. Ryan and I both won. Ryan won a lot of poles which he typically does. I thought we had a very competitive rookie class. I led the points at one point that season. We'll just see how this season develops. These guys are in great equipment and they're talented drivers. I think they'll be household names before long."

ON THIS TRACK COMPARED TO BRISTOL: "This track is a lot easier for me personally than Bristol. I don't have the rhythm at Bristol that I need for whatever reason. We can run in the top five or 10 but I can't go up there and race for the win and do what I need to do. Here after my second trip to this race track things started to make some sense. I really worked with Jeff and fortunately he was nice to share some information with me and help me get around here. At that point the light switched turned on and it's been good for me ever since."

WHAT'S THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO REMEMBER HERE? "You have to get around the corner far enough so when you get back on the gas you only get into it once. A patient entry is needed but you still have to get off the brake and let it roll around the corner far enough. In my mind I'm always saying let it roll, get off the brake and let it roll."

ON GOING TO TEXAS: "It's really a tough track for us. The entries to the corner have really given me some problems. We just can't get our car into the corner right. The transition is pretty abrupt. We find that the valance comes off the ground and the front tires almost float into the corner. Then when the car lands and the valance seals off it grips real hard and makes the car loose. That combination from the straight away to maximum compression, we're still working on trying to get that better. We feel like what we've developed this year and the package that we're refining right now is going to be a lot better with that so I'm excited to go back."

HOW HARD IS IT AS A DRIVER WHEN YOU CAN'T GET YOUR CAR RIGHT? "It is tough especially at a Martinsville or a road course. There's so many opportunities to mess things up that you don't know where to start. At Texas after a few laps you get a feel of the car and there's a certain rhythm that isn't all that difficult to hit lap after lap. When you're at a road course, or Martinsville or Bristol and things aren't working right you sit there with a big question mark in your mind and you don't know where to begin."

ON GOING TO PHOENIX AND THE TRANSITION FROM DAY TO NIGHT: "I think the spring Phoenix race is great. I won last year. It's nice with the sun being in a different position. It didn't blind us coming down into turn one. I love getting out to the west coast. I love seeing the sport travel and the new date that is there for more west coast exposure. It's also a good race."

-gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson