JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his success and how it is affecting other drivers, the new spoiler, techniques for racing at Martinsville, double-file restarts, and more. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES FOR A SEVENTH ...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his success and how it is affecting other drivers, the new spoiler, techniques for racing at Martinsville, double-file restarts, and more.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES FOR A SEVENTH VICTORY AT MARTINSVILLE THIS WEEKEND? "We were just talking about it. I feel very confident and good about things coming to the track, but you just can't take anything for granted. We still have to come in here and qualify well. I think qualifying is going to be a very important part. Pit stall pick is very, very important here as we all know. But I have a good feeling about things. I feel like we'll be competitive, but I love to live in the world where I've got to go out and earn it each week and not take anything for granted. We'll get after it today and see what happens."
LAST FALL THIS RACE WENT TO A GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER AND YOU STARTED OUTSIDE OF DENNY HAMLIN. HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO OTHER PLACES WE RACE? "First of all, I was watching a classic yesterday of a Martinsville race from 2008 and we didn't have double-file restarts and I forgot how difficult it was at the end of the race to have a shot at winning. So double-file is really good for our sport and given guys a chance to win the race. And I guess if you look at Bristol, if I would have started fifth in line, there is no way we would have gotten there. With all that in mind, the double-file starts are really good. I think that here, for me at least, they seem more intense. You can hit your marks and do your thing, but other guys can really affect you. And they can on the bigger tracks (too), but here it's so easy to make contact with someone and not have a huge problem. The people take that opportunity; they are more aggressive and not afraid to use the bumper. And if you're going back to the gas and a guy hits your bumper at the right time, it's going to bust the tires loose and you're dead in the water. So, there is a lot more stress at the end of a race here. On top of the fact, you're just expecting. So it all feeds itself. You just know if it's green-white-checkered, the rear bumper is going to be knocked off, the doors are going to be caved in, and it's going to be pretty rough and tumble."
ON RACING AT TEXAS WITH THE NEW SPOILER "I think the test (at Charlotte) went well. It was useful for all the teams to go out and work on set-ups and collect some data. The drivers got a feel for the spoiler versus the wing. All that said, we never really raced each other. I don't think I tried to pass a single car the whole time. I certainly didn't run side-by-side with anybody. We have a lot to learn. Texas will be a huge measuring stick to where this spoiler fits into things and where things are. NASCAR has thought this through well and they're doing a good job of introducing the spoiler at this track and then Phoenix and then at a big track so we all have some time with it. But what I kind of predict is that the car is going to be more difficult to drive in traffic. I've heard a lot of people mention that's going to make for better racing. And I'm just not buying that as of now. The end plates on the wing allowed the car to get really far sideways and then it would catch you and straighten you back up. And that's the limiting factor you have in traffic.
"You push until the car moves around and then you know you're at your limit and that's all you've got. I think it might create more spins and more wrecks. If you remember back to when the wing was first introduced, we'd see cars totally sideways and like how did he save it? And with the old car there's no way. And we're going back to that set-up. So there's a chance there will be more cautions because of that; because you don't have the end plate of the wing to catch you when you get really crossed up. But again, we're all throwing opinions out and Texas will be the weekend when we find out what's up."
EARLIER THIS MORNING, KYLE BUSCH SAID THAT HE CAN ONLY DRIVE AS GOOD AS HIS CAR IS. THE IMPLICATION WAS THAT IF 10 GUYS HAD CARS AS GOOD AS YOURS, THINGS WOULD BE MORE COMPETITIVE. IS THAT WHERE WE ARE NOW, OR DO THE OTHER DRIVERS NEED TO STEP THINGS UP A NOTCH? "Yeah, I think it boils down to people and not just saying that a driver needs to step it up. It's the whole organization. When you look at the racing we have today and the cars that we have today, the box is so tight. The cars are so equal. It's more equal than it has ever, ever been. So I can't say a lot of blame goes into the cars, because you can only be so far off now. There is no doubt that the people that work on this No. 48 team work really, really well together. We're prepared and we find the small, small details. But there are no big changes between organizations, between teams; and my teammates for that matter have all the access to all my set-ups and run my set-ups and we're all running the same equipment, the same engines the same cars, and same bodies. But the people on this No. 48 team, as a unit, work really well together and we've been taking advantage of opportunities. We haven't been the best car in the three races we've won, but we've left with the trophy. And that's because the people on our race team are making it happen when it counts."
AFTER THE BRISTOL RACE, KURT BUSCH GOT OUT OF THE CAR AND SAID, 'ANYBODY BUT THE 48'. WHEN YOU HEAR THINGS LIKE THAT FROM OTHER DRIVERS, WHAT DO YOU THINK? "It made me smile. I was getting ready to do my victory interview and I could hear that. Man, I've always wanted to be that guy that frustrated the field, frustrated the garage area. I was fortunate enough to watch (Dale) Earnhardt do that during his run and (Jeff) Gordon during his. And you ask any driver in the garage area. They want to be in my shoes. They want to be that guy that is referenced when someone loses and they say 'anyone but'. They all want to be in my shoes. So I'm pretty excited to be here."
NOW THEY'LL ALL DENY THAT YOU'RE IN THEIR HEADS, BUT DO YOU THINK THE NO. 48 TEAM HAS GOTTEN INTO THEIR HEADS? "Just in his (Kurt Busch's) comment alone? Absolutely, we're in his head. Maybe not everyone's. Everybody deals with things differently. But if you go through and read any press remarks or interviews, if someone talks that they're not worried about us, it's already in there; which is great."
ON THE DANGERS OF OVERDRIVING AT MARTINSVILLE, TALK ABOUT HOW YOU LEARNED AND THE BEST WAY TO GET AROUND THIS TRACK "You can't tiptoe around the race track. There are certain areas where you really have to attack to turn a fast lap and they don't come natural for the majority of the drivers. It took me a few trips and I was in a position where I was being lapped by the race leader, who was Tony Stewart at the time. To follow him and visually see where he was attacking, I had it all wrong. And we've all talked about it, but there is a certain rhythm that the track requires for you to run a fast lap time. And on top of that, a fast lap time is maybe a tenth of a second better than a slow one. So there are really, really small adjustments that you have to make. And it's been well discussed where you can't overcharge the entry; and then the forward bite up off onto the straightaways is really important. But there is a combination of the three sections of the turn from entry to the center of the corner to the exit where you have to compromise in two of the areas but be really aggressive in the center of the corner and try to play that rhythm lap after lap, and hopefully you're on the right side of the tenth bracket that you need to be on."
HAS THE DOUBLE-FILE CHANGED CHAD'S ABILITY TO MAKE DIFFERENT OR RISKY CALLS AT THE END OF THE RACE BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS SAME OPTION WITH WAY RESTARTS ARE NOW STRUCTURED? "I have to say to it has probably been a win for the majority of the field. I would say the first maybe two or three cars have a little more pressure on their shoulders as we all see, whatever the leader does, the majority of the field does the opposite just to try to gain an advantage. So if you are first or second, third possibly, it may be a little more difficult for you then. But in general, I think it has opened a lot of possibility. The fact that you are racing the cars that you need to. Sometimes you aren't in the right lane over the course of a season and over restarts, it all balances itself out. Some days you are in the right lane, some days you are not. In general, I think it has been a very very good change for our series. It has given us more opportunities as drivers and it has put a better product on the track for the viewing audience."
HOW MUCH IS IT JUST THE CHANGE OF THE LOOK OF THE CAR WITH THE CHANGE FROM THE WING TO THE SPOILER? "We won't really know until we get to Texas. At the end of the day, here, at Phoenix we will learn a little bit more about it, but the speeds aren't high enough here to have an affect. The balance of the car in a straight line in a wind tunnel it provides more rear down force than what we are used to, what we had with the wing. NASCAR intentionally overshot that number a little bit to give us something to work with. But when you are in traffic, a spoiler is less efficient than a wing so with that in mind, at high speeds your lose efficiency, you are going to lose down force in the back of the car. On top of that, we had more side force with the end plates on the wing itself which was a security blanket in some respects, it kept us from spinning all the way around in traffic. I've seen a lot of people who have said it is going to make for better racing and not many pointing out these other difficulties with the spoiler versus the wing and I just have a feeling it's going to make it more difficult. When we get on these faster tracks, it is going to make it tougher to close that gap and to get someone's bumper and put a pass together."
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH ANOTHER GRANDFATHER CLOCK? "We have to go earn that clock first. We've worked very hard to put ourselves in this position. It didn't happen by accident, we didn't luck in to it. It has been a lot of hard work for nine seasons and the last four years have gone extremely well for us, but, in general, I feel very fortunate because the people that work on this team, we all came together at a young age and had a common goal. We still have a lot of great years left in us of working and being committed to this sport. To have us all peak, if you look at Chad's career and where he is peaking. Myself. Ron Malec, Greg Ives, our tire changers. You go through the list and break it down, everybody is the best they've ever been and the best at their position. We are very fortunate to have that team together right now and it has led to the success that we have had."
HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE PRESSURE? "I've always had pressure and all driver do coming up through the ranks. At a young age I found a way to deal with the pressure, maybe it is just my personality. It has worked very well for me over the years. As time goes on, the more I am prepared, the more calm I am. At home, during the week, whatever work stuff I have to do then also here at the track. I walked through the tunnel today knowing I came in here as prepared as I could be physically and mentally. I know the team has. We've had plenty of meetings to discuss our setups and where we are going and what is going on. So in the end, preparation helps me deal with a lot of the stress leading up to it. Then in the car, during the race, I can't explain why, but I think it is one of my best assets, is the fact that pressure doesn't affect me as much as it does others. It certainly does, my heart rate picks up and all the things that come with pressure enter my mind and my body but I don't seem to make a lot of mistakes in that moment. That's something I have been very proud of and as I reflect back on my career, there have been key moments just to keep a job that I had to go out and perform that weekend and did all the way to this level now to where we have been able to win four championships, still when the pressure when it has been on, I've been able to keep my composure and do a good job."
DO YOU HAVE ONE CAR YOU LIKE MORE THAN OTHERS AND THAT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER WHEN YOU GET TO THE TRACK? "You know from Chad's perspective and the guys at the shop, they're more aware of that and have little reasons. As simple as how easy a seat bolts in or how easy the car is to scale, there are little differences that the notice because they are with the cars all the time. But truthfully any more, the cars are all the same. Yes, ideally a restrictor plate car is different than a down force car but we finishes second or third in the Bud Shootout in our short track car two years ago when we all crashed and we had to go to our third backup. So, man, it is really tough to say a driver has a favorite car anymore because they are all the same from and aerodynamic standpoint and a chassis standpoint. But there are cars that are more friendly to work on for whatever reason. They all come off the same fixtures. They are all built the same, but some cars respond a little easier to the scales and shocks and different things like that the guys like."
HOW DO YOU SEE FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE SEE HOW DALE, JR. AND THE TEAM HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PUT THEMSELVES BACK IN THE TOP-12 AND HOW IT HAS IMPACTED DALE? "From my perspective, he has always walked in to meetings and applied himself and has been in a positive mood. I tend to hear more outside of our environment about lack of confidence than what I see for myself. I can also say with the changes made and really combining the No. 88 and the No. 5 cars, the shops, the setups, the cars and all the stuff, I think it has been good for him to have that mark, literally Mark (Martin). That car to follow and chase and adapt and come out of his comfort zone in some ways. I saw where Lance jumped on him in the race last weekend. I think he is letting people push him and he is pushing himself in areas that are not comfortable and that's helping him a lot this year. Lance, I don't know the exact words, I know Lance jumped on him about 'buckle down, don't lay down on me' and being pushed like that, that pressure sparks things in people. He kept his composure, stayed up on the wheel, drove up and got a top-10 finish. I think it is good to be pushed and Chad does it to me. He'll drive me freakin' crazy telling me to let off; I'm using the brakes too much. Do this, do that. As much as it annoys me and I hate to hear it, it is good to have that pressure. I think that this year he has put more pressure on himself, the fact that the two cars are the same now, there is more inherent pressure through that and I think Lance is also applying more pressure. It is helping him continue down the road and develop and fall in to our system better."
-source: gm racing