Phoenix: Johnson - GM Top-10 interview

Phoenix International Racway Weekly Top-10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS: HOW HARD IS IT TO GET AROUND PIR? "It's very ...

Phoenix International Racway
Weekly Top-10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS


HOW HARD IS IT TO GET AROUND PIR? "It's very difficult because you have such a tight radius in Turns 1 and 2 versus Turns 3 and 4 and the banking is different. It throws some challenges at you. I'd rather have a loose race car and make sure that I can get through 1 and 2 and I'll deal with it loose off of 4. With that being said, we haven't been the most competitive over the last few times here. Maybe I need to switch that up and go the other direction. But we've been learning a lot and our mile program in general is getting a lot better for us."

ON THE BUMPER CHANGES FOR TALLADEGA NEXT WEEK: "It's going to be good racing. We're all going to adjust to whatever the rules are and try to go out there and win the race. I feel very good about the race obviously since we won the Daytona 500. I'm excited about the new car we've had to build and take there. Hopefully it will be better than what we had at the 500."

WHY ARE WE SEEING MORE DRIVER ARGUMENTS AND ROUGH DRIVING LATELY? "I think that stuff has always been in our sport. The media is doing a much better job of being involved in our sport and knowing the personalities of the drivers and what takes place at the race tracks. I don't see it any more than it's been. I just think that a lot more people are aware of it and smarter to understand what's going on."

OBVIOUSLY YOU WANT TO WIN ON SATURDAY, BUT WHAT RESULT WOULD YOU BE HAPPY WITH? "I'd be real happy with a strong top 10. A top five would be great. If we can go out there and lead some laps and compete well, I'll be real happy."

ON THE VALUE OF TIRE TESTS "At the tire tests, we're there on Goodyear's time. We have to work through test figures for them. There is some knowledge that you get by being at that test session and getting a head start on the tire that they're going to bring back. On top of that, you do get some track time and we're allowed to have our data and get current data.

"On top of that, it just helps to further your relationship with Goodyear and better understand them and communicate with them and work with their engineers. So it's definitely a benefit to go to a tire test. We had one unfortunately earlier in the year at Lowe's Motor Speedway. We crashed a car, which was the downside, but we did learn some things to understand more about the tire."

ON RETURNING TO LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY "It still, in my opinion, drove a lot like Lowe's always has. Granted, it was much smoother and faster, but it still had the characteristics I look for. I feel like I can go back and be very competitive and hopefully keep this streak alive. But with the new tire we're taking there and with the new small fuel cell and everything it's really going to be a crapshoot. I think a lot of the instances are going to be on pit road and how your pit strategy plays out with a real hard tire and a small fuel cell. It's going to be a much different race at Lowe's Motor Speedway than we've ever seen."

EVEN THOUGH IT'S STILL EARLY, DOES THE SEASON ALREADY SEEM LONG? "No, I don't think so. The year has been going by fast. In some ways, I think it has been a longer year for me than in other year. But at the same time, I think I'm learning and understanding the sport more and how I should approach things. There have been a lot of 'ups' at the start of the season. And when I look back, that's all I see right now. I'm very proud of the team."

IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIFIC YOU'D LIKE TO WORK ON IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS? "Richmond, Phoenix, and Loudon -- that size track and that combination, we've been a little bit off. We've been a top 15 car, but we need to be a top 10 and really a top 5 to race for this championship. So, that's where we're a little soft right now and we're working real hard on that."

DOES YOUR WIFE (CHANDRA) HAVE A JOB ON THE PIT BOX? "No, not on the pit box. I love her being there and being a part of the team. This sport is so much about family. She helps me stay focused on my career and I love having her there because that's what the whole week has built up to is that event. At the same time, she has a career on her own and she's modeling and doing different things.

"So she doesn't get involved in the race team aspect of it; she's just there to support me and tries to keep me pointed in the right direction."

ON THE GIRLFRIEND INCIDENT AT THE TEXAS RACE TWO WEEKS AGO: "Yeah, I have just a couple of comments on that. One, you're never supposed to go to another team's pit box. That's a delicate subject. Secondly, I think it was a shock to everyone -- and I'm sure Nicole (Lunders, Greg Biffle's girlfriend) is regretting the fact that she did that since there was so much attention drawn to it. I believe she didn't feel that people were going to be paying attention or really even care what she did. I know that she and Greg have a relationship with Kurt (Busch) and (girlfriend) Eva (Bryan) and that they know each other and talk to each other. I think everybody was shocked and surprised at how big the thing really was and what it turned into."

WITH THE EXCEPTION OF TALLADEGA, SEVERAL OF THE NEXT RACES ARE AT NIGHT. DO YOU ENJOY RUNNING UNDER THE LIGHTS OR WOULD YOU RATHER RUN IN THE DAYTIME? "No, I'm good with night racing. It typically means that we're home on Sunday and can have a bit or normalcy in our lives. I have no issue with it. I think the night races in general are very popular. We just had a few on the schedule and the fans loved it and the teams loved it and that's why we have more now. So I'm definitely a fan of it now."

DOES IT MESS UP THE ROUTINE ON RACE DAY? "Good question. As we become more familiar with the scheduling of the night races and how to work it out. The week before we get there, I just make sure my schedule is adjusted and mentally prepare the right way to sleep in or do whatever I need to do to."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RACE AFTER THE RACE -- GETTING TO THE AIRPORT? "If you're not in the top five and don't do any media, you race back and change (clothes) as fast as you can. You have the golf cart positioned in such a manner that you are quick to it and quick to the helicopter pad. And then you're out there bartering with the helicopter service about why you should leave before anyone else. Hopefully you do that.

"And then at the airport, our pilots have learned where to park and how to park so that they can in line as fast as possible to the taxiway. From there hopefully you get out and get going. Of course the racer in all of us is looking at planes that perform so that we can beat each other back home and we're standing on the tarmac back home or Charlotte or wherever it is, laughing at your friends as they're pulling up. So it's a race.

"The flipside to that is not racing out of there. You can slow down and let everybody do the mad rush. You can sit in the motor home and cool down and take a shower and get something to eat. There really isn't a clean way to do it. That's why the travel is probably the hardest thing to deal with in our sport."

ON NOT HAVING DAYTONA 500 WINNING CAR AT TALLADEGA: "We built a new car to take over there. Our backup car, the car we ran in the Shoot-Out was strong. But Chad being as competitive as he is, he felt the Daytona 500 car was stronger and he wanted to replicate that and hopefully build one a little bit better. So we have a new car we are taking there and really just get out there and be as smooth and calm as we can. Talladega really promotes four wide racing and that is a risky environment out there when that takes place. I learned a lot winning the Daytona 500 and how calm you really can be and have a shot at the end of the race. I am going to take those lessons I learned there and apply them at Talladega."

ON CONFIDENCE GOING TO TALLEDGA WITHOUT TESTING NEW CAR BECAUSE OF NEW TESTING RULES: "The guys at the shop really document everything they built and put on the cars, all the templates and measurements and all those things. It is very scientific which allows us to build the same car all over again. We can practically do and are proving that on a daily basis with our downforce cars. Once we find a body combination, we are able to produce them and build them within a small tolerance and after that we have the shakedown rigs and also the wind tunnel to help us document to help us understand where the car is at. From all that, we can get it real close."

ON MAKING TALLADEGA A DAY SHORTER EVENT: "The less time at the track, the better everyone feels. But, we are on the road so much, any time we can spend another day at home to get the race cars ready or spend another day with family, it is all appreciated."

ON FORD AND DODGE CLOSING THE GAP TO CHEVROLET ON RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES: "I would have to say that some of the Fords, especially the Roush Fords, are pretty strong. I don't think that it is make related as much as it is team related and the teams that Chevrolet has are very, very strong in restrictor plate racing. It is a great, fine product as well; there is no doubt about that. Everybody is working really hard. If you look at who runs a Chevrolet, they are all very strong restrictor plate teams."

ON NEW BUMPERS FOR TALLADEGA: "I think NASCAR put a good rule in place with all the bumping and side drafting that took place at Daytona that took place, I think we should see a relatively calm race at Talladega. At Daytona, it is much narrower so you didn't have four-wide racing. Talladega is much wider and the four and five wide racing is what starts some of the wrecks. We will just have to see what takes place."

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson