JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media to discuss the Jimmie Johnson Foundation (JJF) sponsorship of the NASCAR Camping World Series West race, NASCAR's drug testing program, the challenges of the new race car, gains made through...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media to discuss the Jimmie Johnson Foundation (JJF) sponsorship of the NASCAR Camping World Series West race, NASCAR's drug testing program, the challenges of the new race car, gains made through testing, and more.
ON THE JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION 150 TONIGHT - Note: Jimmie's wife, Chani who is the co-founder of the foundation, is the honorary race starter:
"I'm extremely excited for tonight's race. It came together a couple of weeks ago and I really have to give Brian Sperber and everybody out here at the track, credit for it. Racing was very important to my family. Not only are we able to put the Jimmie Johnson Foundation out an about, but there are also some families that are going to come in and enjoy the race as well. It's really a well-rounded program that came together in a short period of time. And I can't thank everyone out here enough for this opportunity. Hopefully, through all of this, we can raise awareness for the causes that are important to the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and do some more good in the world. So we're very excited about that."
ON THE RACE THIS WEEKEND: "I'm also excited about the race this weekend. We've been making our stuff better and better each week. We're back on a short track where I think last year we showed that we have the success on short tracks; even the few that we've had this year, we should be right there in the thick of things. We're looking forward to a good performance."
LAST WEEK AT TEXAS, YOU AND A LOT OF OTHER GUYS WERE FRUSTRATED ABOUT HOW THE CAR DROVE IN TRAFFIC. THE RACE WINNER ESSENTIALLY SAID SHUT UP AND DRIVE BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE. HAVE YOU TALKED ABOUT ANY POSSIBLE REMEDIES FOR THIS SITUATION, OR ARE YOU STUCK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW?
"No, I think we all recognize that the rules are the rules and we've got to go out there and drive the car. I've been in Carl's (Edwards, TMS race winner) situation where you're dominating and you don't want to see a change. You've got the magic set-up and you don't want any rules changes or any more testing. The world is right as far as you see it. But from being in this (NASCAR) seven years now, I try not to say anything until I've really formed a solid opinion and have everything there in front of me to form an opinion. Up until last week, we weren't running well enough to form an opinion. We had other problems inside of our set-ups and what was going on there. When I got into that race, I was shocked, even with the best car, how difficult they are to drive in traffic. It really, really surprised me. I thought a lot of what I'd been feeling was just our set-ups. We got the set-up closer and some of those same sensations were still there. In all fairness of the car, this is the first year of this car on the big tracks and we need to take time to sort this out. Another way to look at it is when we started the Car of Tomorrow on the short tracks, there weren't very many nice things said about it. But over time, it came around.
"Is there a change that needs to be made for the cars? I think there can be to help the cars on the 1.5-mile, 2-mile tracks. Will we get it? I'm not sure. Are we counting on it? We're still continuing to test and make our stuff better and better. If you look at what we did over the off-weekend, we went from being a 20th place car to a second place car. So we're on the right track and doing the right things, but it seemed like not only did I have that opinion, there were a lot of guys -- everybody but the winner I guess -- felt like some things needed to be looked at. And I know NASCAR is paying attention and they want to have the best show possible. In time, we'll get this thing right where it needs to be."
DO YOU SEE THE NO. 99 TEAM (CARL EDWARDS) AS THE TEAM TO BEAT THIS YEAR? "Yeah, the way things have started off the No. 99 is certainly the team to beat. I'd say inb general, Roush last year showed they were moving in the right direction and had a lot of speed. I thought maybe the No. 17 (Kenseth) would come out of the gate and be the lead driver and team at Roush, but it's turned out to be the No. 99. It's not really a surprise. Carl is a great driver. I really think a lot of Bob and everything that his team is about. They've set a very high mark for the start of the season and we're all trying to catch up."
IF NASCAR IS NOT GOING MAKE CHANGE WITH THE FRONT END OF THE NEW CAR, WOULD MORE TESTING HELP? "Yeah, I think so. More testing is definitely the answer. I also think we could, as a group maybe, talk to the smart people at Hendrick Motorsports, Roush, Yates, Childress and get some opinions of where we think we could make a change, and if NASCAR would be open to that. And maybe test it and see. It's an easier job to set this car up to run a single lap with no one around you. When you get in traffic is when things really get interesting and are tough. So open test sessions I think are great. It's certainly a big help. I also think another small thing that could help is opening up more tires and making more tires available so teams can test and go to 1.5-miles and test on their own schedule. There is something there where NASCAR can show a little love, or whoever it is, can open up some tracks, send us some tires, and let us try to make our cars better so that we can race like we want to."
ON HIS EXPERIENCE WITH BOB BONDURANT AND HIS HIGH PERFORMANCE DRIVING SCHOOL "I've had a great time over the years at the school, everything from working on my road course stuff before we got to Sonoma to taking friends out there. I've taken our crew through the shifter cart school and we came out a day early to do that. It's just a great facility with knowledgeable people and it's really a lot of fun. We've had a surprise appearance from Bob (Bondurant) from time to time and that helps things out there as well. It's a great school. I'm really a big fan of everything they do out there."
IN THE 7 YEARS YOU'VE BEEN RACING, HAS THERE BEEN A BIG CHANGE ON HOW DRIVERS SET UP FOR THE LAST FIVE OR 10 LAPS OF THE RACE AT TALLADEGA? CAN YOU RACE BETTER THERE NOW IN THE LAST FEW LAPS THAN YOU COULD PREVIOUSLY? "Yeah, I think so. I think that the Car of Tomorrow and the new pavement that we have down give more opportunities to different car and drivers in the closing laps. The track is racier now because of the whole package. The Car of Tomorrow, there is enough room now where it's not like Daytona where you need to handle as much so with the big hole that this car punches in the air, you can take advantage of that. You need that much space to really take advantage of the hole these cars punch in the air. Talladega fits it well. We'll go there and put on a great race. I felt like the fall race last year a lot of the key players were worried about points, including myself. We sat in the back. Right now, points are important, but I expect this Talladega race to be very exciting. I don't have any intentions of riding in the back unless the boss comes down and says hey, let's be smart and ride in the back. But I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be three and four-wide and great racing. That's because of the new surface and that package works so well on the track."
WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE SPONSORING YOUR FIRST RACE FOR THE JIMMIE JOHNSON FOUNDATION? WHAT'S IT GOING TO BE LIKE WEARING SEVERAL HATS THIS WEEKEND? HOW IS YOUR WIFE, CHANI, INVOLVED? "Yeah, it's exciting. My brother is running in the event. Chandra is going to say, 'Gentlemen, start your engines,' and I'll be driving the pace car and well spend some time this afternoon with the pre-race stuff that's going on. It's going to be fun and interesting to not have that pressure of starting an event and actually enjoying the pre-race ceremonies, and hopefully raising a lot of awareness for our foundation."
HOW GOOD IS YOUR LITTLE BROTHER? "We're going to find out" (laughs)
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT HOW HE DRIVES? "He's done a great job. He's been running at Hickory in the Late Model Stock Car division up there. He won seven or eight races last year, which was great. He had a chance to run a couple of truck events a few years back and ran an ARCA race and I things didn't really work out too well for him. It may have been a little early in his driving career to get those chances on those big tracks. This came together last-minute and I haven't seen him yet so I have no clue how things have gone. He just met the owner and saw the car for the first time yesterday. He welded his own seat in, out on pit road (laughs). It was really a last-minute, thrown-together deal, but I'm excited for him to be out there and get some experience on this great track."
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO AARON FIKE'S ADMISSION TO RACING WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE? "I cannot believe it. That is absurd. I don't know what this means or where things go from here, but I'm so happy they figured out or found out what was going on and got him off the track. That is absolutely unacceptable."
KEVIN HARVICK SAID IN 10 YEARS HE'S NEVER BEEN TESTED BY NASCAR. HAVE YOU BEEN TESTED? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE POLICY THAT'S IN PLACE? "No, I've not been tested by NASCAR. I'm confident that every driver in this garage area is willing and open to whatever NASCAR decides to do or whatever policies are put in place. I see no issues with that from any driver."
MAYBE YOU'VE BEEN ON TRACK WITH A GUY WHO IS UNDER THE INFLUENCE. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR REACTION IF YOU KNEW THAT? "Gosh, I think if anyone really knew, especially other drivers, you'd go straight to NASCAR and try to come out with the information and help them understand what you heard, what you know, what you saw to get that person off the track. There are no exceptions for that on track, period."
CAN YOU JUST TALK ABOUT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR SEASON? WHERE ARE YOU RIGHT NOW? "We're definitely making things better. At Daytona, we just got caught up in something and got turned around racing hard in the closing laps. At California, things went well, but we still felt like we were pretty far off the No. 99 even though we finished second. We tried some things at Vegas and Atlanta, and really just didn't have the events we wanted. I'd say that Las Vegas was a disaster. We've never been that bad before. It reminds me a lot of what the No. 24 went through last weekend. On paper, even in Las Vegas, our set-up wasn't that much different than the No. 24, but we were two or three seconds off the pace and he was up there racing for the win all day. We're still very confused with the car. I think the testing we did over the off-weekend helped. We feel confident with the short track program and with the road course program. Superspeedway stuff, we feel like we have a very good hold of as well. But this downforce stuff is new for the car this year. It's evident that some teams have picked up on it right away and they've got it. We are one of the teams that have not. And we had to go to work and make things better. And we made some big gains, but I still fell there are a few tenths that we need to find to really race with the No. 99. He's certainly the best Roush car and best car out there. So, we've just got to keep working on it and we'll be back where we need to be. We've moved up a lot in the points and we're excited about that. We need to keep our goal on making the Chase and hopefully have out stuff right when the Chase starts and be a champion again."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE AT HMS THIS WEEK AFTER JEFF GORDON'S BAD RACE AT TEXAS? COULD HMS TEAMMATES SHARE SET-UPS? "That just shows you how confusing it is right now. Those races at Vegas and Atlanta, our set-ups were not far off. In fact the points in each event during practice we put in their set-ups and didn't run well. At Texas, Jeff put in our set-up and it didn't work for him. In the testing we've done, we've realized there really isn't one big thing that we were missing. It's a combination of a lot of small things. And when a crew chief or driver looks at a set-up sheet, 25 pounds here or there and a little bit of difference in track bar height or wedge, bar pre-load, there are all these different things we look at. And the numbers are close. But all that adds up to make your car terrible if you're not on top of things. That's what we found out through testing. It just takes more and more testing to get it right. And that's just part of learning a new car. I know NASCAR isn't thrilled to hear that. They're trying to keep costs down. But we've got to do something to be better. And we're not the only team. There are a lot of teams out there that are trying to make their stuff better. Trying to find the right tire to test on is impossible. We have some tires that we're trying to strategically use at the right time for the right things, but it's really tough to catch up once you're left behind."
-credit: gm racing