JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed fuel mileage at Michigan, running out of gas in his personal vehicle, racing at Eldora Speedway, road course racing, and more. JIMMIE JOHNSON WON ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT ELDORA...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed fuel mileage at Michigan, running out of gas in his personal vehicle, racing at Eldora Speedway, road course racing, and more.
JIMMIE JOHNSON WON ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT ELDORA SPEEDWAY, BUT HAS YET YOU WIN AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY. WHAT MAKES THIS TRACK SO DIFFICULT FOR YOU AND WHAT PLANS YOU HAVE TO SUCCEED THIS WEEKEND? "It's been really busy. We were supposed to test at The Milwaukee Mile and got rained out, so it gave me a little time this week. But the Eldora race--what a fun night to go out and slide around in the dirt. It's amazing how much I've learned about those cars in the three years that I've been doing that. I've only driven the car at the Prelude [to the Dream]. To go there this year and qualify I think third in the heat, and then to win the feature with a lot of great competition from Kyle and Clint who was coming strong and Carl was in there. It was just a great night and ton of fun.
"Then yesterday, of course I had to stay and celebrate for a little after the race, so that led to very little sleep going into yesterday's Winner Circle appearance I had at Indianapolis. That was a really fun day for me because I spent some time with Rick Mears who was the guy that blazed the trail for off-road racers in Southern California. We all idolized his path and thought that maybe someday we could make it to open wheel like he had through the off-road ranks. We had our Winner's Circle appearance there and then got here. Still need some more sleep, but we'll get that tonight and move on."
HOW AGONIZING IS IT TO RUN OUT OF GAS ON THE TRACK, AND HAVE YOU EVER RUN OUT OF GAS IN YOUR PERSONAL VEHICLE? "Last year, after the first one there was a lot of hope that we'd make it to the end of the race and came up two laps short or something. Then the next time I knew the lap that we pitted on and what was going on. Then the next race, it was a very, very similar situation and I could tell in Chad's [Knaus, crew chief] voice that he didn't believe what he was telling me and that we were going to make it, but I had to try. I was just waiting and I knew that it was coming, and sure enough I ran out of gas. That happens. We know we built great power. As a driver I know that I just do not get good fuel mileage--just my style and the way I use the throttle to turn the car--it just uses fuel. That's just how it goes. So I'm hopeful that this weekend's race doesn't turn into that again. I think of last three races that we've been in contention to win here, the last two I lost because of fuel. I feel very good about this weekend and excited for it.
"Between the span of the last two races here last year, I wasn't paying attention to my Tahoe--I guess I ignored the bell or buzzer telling me that I was low on fuel and we were late going to the airport trying to get to a race. We were riding along and the car shuts off. It was out fuel. I heard about it from my wife then, and I still hear about it today. I'm pulled over on the side of the road, and I had to call someone from my office to help us out, get some fuel and bring it over, and we were pretty far from a gas station unfortunately. It's amazing how many people were angry that I was out of fuel on the side of the road. I had an old lady shoot me the bird, which I just couldn't believe. She was behind me and just honking, so I walked back and said, "Man, I'm out of fuel, what am I supposed to do?" She just shot me the bird. I was like, "Wow. This is great!" [laughs]. My wife still reminds me of it today."
0-FOR-16 HERE, JIMMIE. HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT TO YOU AND HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT TO BREAK THAT STREAK? "No, we don't want to win here. We were just talking about the last three times here, we were really close to winning the race. There is only a handful of tracks left that we haven't won at, so it's important to us from that standpoint, and to also be here in Michigan in Chevrolet's backyard--we want to win here. I feel like we're close."
IS IT THE FACT THAT SO MANY OF THE RACES HERE HAVE BEEN FUEL MILEAGE RACES? "Yeah, the last year, for sure, before that we had a situation where we knew some guys could make it and we just couldn't and had to pit. Then I can recall some tire strategy--I don't recall if some others took four and we took two, or if we took two and others took four--but there has been some tire strategy late in the race that affected us as well. I think we're close; very close."
CLINT [BOWYER] SAID THAT YOU WERE CLEARLY THE FASTEST THROUGH THE CORNERS AND WHEN YOU FIGURE OUT THE STRAIGHTAWAY YOU'LL REALLY BE A MONSTER. COULD YOU COMMENT ON THAT, AND ALSO BEATING HIM IN HIS OWN CAR? "That dirt car--I have a hell of a time on the straightaway. The way the rear suspension is in the car, when you let off to go into the turn the rear of the car moves around a foot if not more to help the truck steer through the turn. I'm cool with that and comfortable with that, but as the car goes down the straightaway and gets traction, it drives the right rear forward and takes the car from where I think I'm going straight and it makes it turn right as the right rear is coming forward, so we have some funny stories about when I tested last year. We were at a small track in North Carolina, and I'd fly through the turn and almost hit the wall on the straightaway. I'm straight and everything is fine and then it turns right. It did that four or five times and I finally had to stop and control-alt-delete in my brain and just stop. They asked if everything was ok, and I was like, "Just reracking, hold on." I just took off and tried it again. It's just been tough for me to go down the straightaways. I've learned to just keep the tires spinning all the way down the straightaway, and that's helped some. As new guys came in this year, I talked to them about it--I talked to Carmichael about it because we were pitted next to each other. To see him climb out of the car and he said, "The turns are fine, but do you think the straightaways are difficult?" I said "Exactly! That's exactly the problem that I had with these things." Clint's been riding me hard about that. It was fun to be in his equipment. He has a great race team, it's good stuff clearly. I know they've had some issues this year working on engines and trying to get the power curve right where they need it. We were all real, real happy. I know Clint doesn't like losing, but I think he was pretty happy to see me win and the excitement that I had."
BACK TO FUEL MILEAGE, WHEN YOU ARE GETTING CLOSE, YOU KNOW YOU ARE CLOSE BUT IS THERE ANY INDICATOR WHATSOEVER BEFORE IT STARTS SPUTTERING THAT YOU ARE JUST ABOUT OUT AND SECOND PART, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SAVE FUEL? "In the old days, you had maybe a lap or two where you could pick up in the fuel cell, kind of grab some air and the car would like of stumble a little bit and you knew you needed to get to pit road pretty soon. But today the way we trap the fuel in these little boxes and draw so much out of it, when you lose, when it finally sucks air, there is nothing left in the fuel cell and it is over. The difficult thing is with the cable-drive fuel pump, it takes much longer to actually get a steady stream of fuel to the carburetor to have the car run right. So, it is really a double whammy these days to run out of fuel. From a driver's standpoint, you can try to make the shortest distance around the track and then you start working on rolling out of the gas sooner and trying not to use the brake. In my eyes, you are kind of wasting energy if you drive in the corner real deep and then use the brake so you try to find the right rhythm of letting off early and really not using any brake. Sounds easy, but you lose probably half of a second to three quarters of a second. In a world where we live in tenths, it is just so hard to do that lap after lap and watch guys drive away. The other part would be going to wide open with the carburetor. It is easy to flood the engine in a way with fuel injection; it tends to control the fuel mixture. With the carbureted engine, if you have fast roll to wide open, in some cases, you can flood it and waste fuel in that case."
IT HAS BEEN TWO YEARS SINCE DALE, JR. WON HERE, IS THAT SURPRISING TO YOU AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THE REASONS ARE FOR HIS CURRENT WINLESS STREAK? "Man, I see great progress within their team. I see race weekends where they are fast at different times and think it is time for them to win a race and break through and end that streak. I'm not inside their team enough to know exactly what all goes on, but I know he feels and knows that it is time. That has been well documented with getting excited on the radio and the drive from team, their level and how hard they are pushing to get to victory lane. As a teammate and a friend, I am hopeful that happens very soon for them and I know that they are working hard."
DO YOU LIKE BEING THE GUY THAT EVERYONE WANTS TO BEAT SO BADLY AND WHAT IS THE SECRET TO JIMMIE JOHNSON? "Man, I really feel that I love all forms of racing and that has been helpful. I've raced a lot of different things growing up. All of that experience, I don't know how it all directly applies, but I know that it helps. From the two wheels that I raced on the dirt back when I was younger to off-road trucks. I know that running the Grand Am car today helps me and will help me get more time on the road courses so I can figure out the Cup car on road courses. The more stuff I can drive, the more I believe it opens my mind to different techniques and different ways to drive a car. I'm excited about the success on the dirt track the other night. It was certainly a lot of fun and I don't know what the secret it. I know that I have dedicated my life to the sport since I was young, you can ask any grade school teacher what Jimmie Johnson said we wanted to be when he was a kid or what he wrote about in English class and everything was about being a race car driver. I believe there is something within all of that. This garage area is awfully competitive and guys have a great hunger in this garage as well. I believe we can keep it rolling."
HOW MUCH BETTER EQUIPPED ARE YOU TO GO TO SONOMA GIVEN ALL YOU JUST SAID AND WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN ON A ROAD COURSE? "It would mean a lot. Man, every year, since the start of the No. 48 team, we've tested more for road courses than any other specific race track. I continue to run the Grand Am series when I can to help. I feel like last year, we were close. We tend to qualify well, but fade in the race some and last year was kind of the reverse of that. We qualified decent and had some troubles early in the race but rebounded and came through and ended up fourth. I have a lot of confidence but at the same time, after eight years of trying, I'm hopeful we have overturned a stone that we have missed in the past. I don't think we have forgotten any area or missed something, but we'll go out and give it a shot and see what we can do and I am ready mentally, physically and we did some testing. I think we found a couple of small things that will bring speed to the cars."
-source: gm racing