Pocono: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed double-file restarts, how the season is unfolding for him, communication between driver & crew chief, and more. IT'S RAINING, BUT WE'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE A DRY, SUNNY TRACK ON...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed double-file restarts, how the season is unfolding for him, communication between driver & crew chief, and more.

IT'S RAINING, BUT WE'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE A DRY, SUNNY TRACK ON SUNDAY, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RACING WE MIGHT SEE? "I don't know if I have any thoughts at this point. Usually you get some practice in and can form an opinion. We raced here well here the last two times. So I think we'll be good. This was a big race for us last year, kind of a turning point in the season where things started to come around for us. So I've got a good thought process and good memories of the track. I think the asphalt in the third lane down in Turn 3 kind of made things a little more exciting for the drivers and gave us some more options. I'm just looking forward to getting on track and seeing what we've got. Technology has changed from last year to this year as you'd expect. So we won't have the same baseline set-up to roll out with. So we'll work through some of that with the shortened practice and hopefully things are right."

ON THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? ARE THERE SOME TRACKS WHERE IT COULD REALLY BE AN ISSUE STARTING ON THE OUTSIDE? "Well, the leader is going to have control and that's a good thing. I think another very positive aspect to it is that you're going to be racing cars that you need to be racing with. And lead lap cars will be racing lead lap cars. Guys fighting for Lucky Dog will be racing against themselves. So, I think it's going to help keep things organized and every position on track is going to mean something and that's going to be good. I think the biggest concern, and NASCAR shares this concern and think we all are in a position to be patient with it, is there an advantage to the wave around cars in any way, shape, or form? On a track like Pocono, and maybe even a road course, there could be. But I know they've been working very hard to prevent that from taking place. I think this weekend is as good a time as any to try it. I would suggest, and I'm glad to see us trying stuff now, instead of in the Chase or say at the start of the year at the Daytona 500 where we don't know what it's going to do, and it can really impact a big race or something, so I'm all for it."

ON STARTING ON THE INSIDE OR OUTSIDE "On short tracks, the inside is probably the best. Most of the larger tracks, the outside is the best. And it really boils down to the fact that you can side-draft a car and slow it down. On a short track, you can't. It doesn't really matter. On a big track you can sit on somebody's right rear quarter panel and slow them up and affect the balance of the car to where they have to let out of the gas and then the outside lane will prevail. So short tracks, I would anticipate a lot of guys, whoever is leading, will take the inside and on bigger tracks, it will be the outside."

THE CHASE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE SEASON. WHAT DO YOU DO NOW THAT THE REGULAR SEASON IS HALF-WAY OVER? WHAT DO THE NEXT 13 WEEKS LOOK LIKE FOR YOU AS YOU PREPARE FOR CHAMPIONSHIP? "For us, we're always trying to make the cars better, but with no testing, it's real tough to learn anything for the big tracks. We find ourselves on race weekends playing and trying to understand new ideas and dedicating a little time for that. We'll continue to do that. I've been very proud of our cars and there have been some other small issues; everything from me making mistakes on pit road to pit issues and things like that. So I think it's more of us gelling together as a team. There are some new guys on the team. We've done a great job, but to be championship-ready over the next 13 weeks, we just need to polish things up and not have those small mistakes. I think we have a lot of speed in the cars. And at some tracks, we've been a little off. But we've still been able to stay in the top five, top ten, and I feel good about things. There's just some fine-tuning from here and hopefully we'll be where we need to be."

LAST YEAR YOU SAID IT WAS HARD TO PUT ON A GOOD RACE HERE. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE THAT? IS IT AS SIMPLE AS CUTTING THE MILES OR IS IT THE TRACK? "It just depends on which aspect. From a TV viewing audience standpoint, I think the distance of the race is one avenue to look at. This track has really long straightaways and one, maybe two passing areas. It's just by the design of the race track. Eliminating shifting took away some of the opportunities. We're trying to make this car better on the big tracks. And the faster we go, the more the aerodynamics come into play and the difference between mechanical grip and aero grip and that's kind of a big picture thing that we all discussed in our meetings with NASCAR last week. So hopefully there are some changes around the corner that can help. But any time we can create another lane of racing, it's going to help. We've had this patch down in Turn 3 and it's been the sought-after line because it has so much grip. Hopefully that has gone down in grip some and now there's more of an equal situation from the inside lane to the outside. And that will give us a second lane of racing which would be much needed and could be helpful in the race."

ON THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS, SOME OF THE DRIVERS FEEL CAUGHT OFF-GUARD ABOUT IMPLEMENTING THIS WEEKEND. DO YOU THINK NOW IS THE BEST TIME? "Somebody's got to lead this thing. There was an opportunity for us all to talk about it at the meetings they had. We had a week or so after that to go to the truck and talk. So I think NASCAR has done more than they ever have to have teams involved and we're always welcome to go up in the truck and talk about things as well. So it's one of those things for NASCAR where they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. The fans on one side are saying they'd like to see this change, and then maybe some competitors on the other side that don't like it. In the end, it's a race at Pocono so let's try it and see what happens. And if it makes a better show, then it works. If not, at Michigan we can go back the other way. So from my standpoint, I think it's a good time to try it. Their intentions are to make things better and to make the racing better and it's more of a procedural thing than a competitive issue, so if it doesn't work, we can always go back."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE WAVE-AROUND PROCEDURE AS YOU UNDERSTAND IT? "The way I understand it, is when the caution comes out, lead lap cars will pit. Then lap-down cars will have their chance to pit second time by. At that point, any car could choose to stay out to try to get a lap back. When you come to one to go, the cars that are in front of the leader will be waved around and they've got to come back and fall in at the tail end of the line of cars. So at that point, the wave-around will take place and we go back to green."

IS THAT SUFFICIENT HELP FOR THE CARS THAT MIGHT BE TWO LAPS DOWN AS OPPOSED TO SAY THE LUCKY DOG THAT THE ONE-LAPPED CARS GET? IS THAT GOING TO BE A BENEFIT TO THEM THAT THEY WILL BE ABLE TO SUFFICIENTLY WORK THEIR WAY BACK? "That's what we need to figure out. That's what this race is all about. At the end of the day, it think the biggest concern is to not give the people that get the wave-around an advantage. We want cars on the lead lap. There's no telling. I mean especially on the small track if you go two (laps down) and you get the wave-around, there's no way they're going to have a chance to pit. And now they're only a half-lap ahead of you and you're on new tires and you're going to catch them and run them down. So in most cases it's going to be a risky move and you've got to be lucky to take advantage of it. So it's kind of hard until we really get into it to know what the circumstances are going to be, but again, let's try it and if it doesn't work, we can go back."

HALFWAY TO THE CHASE, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SURPRISE THIS SEASON? HAS IT BEEN TONY STEWART'S PERFORMANCE, OR THE FACT THAT CARL EDWARDS IS NOT NIPPING AT YOUR HEELS? "I think both of those are great points. I still think Tony is crazy for starting up his own team, but he's doing a great job with it. And those guys have been very successful. I don't know what's more shocking. The Roush cars got off to a quick start with Matt (Kenseth's win) and then they've had some issues. As strong as they were last year, really all their cars, it's a bit shocking to see that, including Carl. So it's kind of a toss-up of those two in my opinion. In some ways I look at Tony's situation and think that it's a little more shocking as a start up team and where that team was before he and Ryan (Newman) came in to drive and management changed. And in other ways I look at the No. 99, as strong as he was at the end of last year, and think that his story is more shocking. It's a long season. That's the one thing I do know. Thirteen down and to a lot of us, I'm sure it feels like 8 months already. We've got 13 and then 10 (races in the Chase). So there is a lot of racing between now and the end of the season."

IT'S RAINING. WHAT DOES JIMMIE JOHNSON DO IF THERE IS NO TRACK ACTIVITY? "Usually you just sit in the bus and eat all day (laughs). My bus driver found a gym down the road, so at least I'll go get a workout and then eat so I feel better about myself (laughs). Days like today are really actually relaxing. At home there's a lot going on. At the track, I usually catch up on emails and phone calls and catch up with friends and stuff like that. I'll just sit around and hopefully not eat too much."

COMING OFF A RACE LIKE YOU HAD AT DOVER, DOES YOUR MIND PLAY TRICKS ON YOU AND SAY YOU CAN'T HAVE ANOTHER GREAT DAY LIKE THAT AGAIN? "No, I'm encouraged and it lets me know that the things we're working on and when you get everything right, that there's a lot of speed in it. So it gives me a lot of hope about the direction we've been taking the car and the set-up. It gives me more hope about Dover in September and if we're in the Chase, we've got a great starting point. It's hard to imagine technology will change too much between now and then, so hopefully we can go back and fight for a win. Overall, it leaves a positive mindset. But you couldn't have, here at Pocono, a track more different than Dover. So, once you hit the track here, you really fall back into the Pocono mentality and going off of last year's notes more than anything. So if we don't get on track today, we'll enjoy the high from Dover one extra day and then usually when practice starts everything re-racks and last week was last week."

ON DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND LANCE MCGREW'S RADIO CONVERSATION AT DOVER BEING MORE COMMUNICATIVE THEN IN THE PAST "You know, where they were after the years of working together and everything, it's tough to say. We can all look at relationships and say man if I could start over I would do 'X'. I think there's some of that in there. I think that when the pressure is on, and what I watched with my own eyes, was Dale Junior and Tony (Eury) Jr. doing everything they possibly could and trying extremely hard to make things better. So, sometimes I've found with my own experience, when we're off base and things aren't working and I'm describing things, I'm trying to solve the problem and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) is and there's just tension that's there. So there's a lot of things that have added up to what has taken place. What I've found in my own ride and I'll share with Junior is the best thing I can do is to tell him (Knaus) what I feel. And the times I've personally said I need this spring or this sway bar, sometimes I get it right. I know what those adjustments do. But there are engineers that know how to play all these things together to give you maximum grip and make the car as fast as possible. So I've found that I just tell him what it's doing and I'd rather one person be in control. That way you work through your problems faster and just describe what you feel. I know they had a good race. And there's still a lot of racing left. So hopefully things will get going for them. Honestly, both Junior's have worked their butts off. And it's a bummer to me to see the fact that they had to separate. I've been inside their transporters. And I know you guys listen to them on the radio and it hasn't been run for them and they've been fighting. But those guys have worked really, really hard the past two years. Watching them come into Hendrick Motorsports, I was really impressed with Junior's feedback and understanding of what was going on underneath him from DEI over to us. So, they're both very talented guys and hopefully the shake-up will get them both where they need to be."

ON RACING WITH DARIAN GRUBB. WHAT IS IT ABOUT HIM THAT HAS ENABLED HIM TO PUT THAT TEAM TOGETHER SO WELL SO QUICKLY?" Darian is kind of a book-smart and a common-sense smart type of guy rolled into one. He's not just one or the other. In a lot of cases, you've got the book-smart guy and then the common-sense guy and they hardly mix. He has a great blend of both. That's what I enjoyed the most in working with him. He could back-up his ideas with technology and something on the computer and data and things that would come out. But at the same time, he had a realistic approach to implementing it on the race car. And he has great people skills. People want to work for him. People enjoy being around him. So he's just a really balanced guy. I think the position he had at Hendrick, he always had aspirations of being a crew chief and the last few years of watching and filling in when Chad (Knaus) was suspended and some other projects he's been on, have helped him get a good overview of what that job entails and in some areas, he may have been too nice and he's had to toughen up a little bit. And I think he had a couple of years to really take a look at what it took to be a good crew chief and what he needed to adjust himself. And he's done an awesome job and he's going to be somebody we hear a lot about over the years."

DID YOU GET TO TEST WITH TONY EURY JUNIOR ON TUESDAY AND IF SO, WHAT WAS HIS MOOD? "Yeah, we tested. I guess the ultimate judge or ruling of it will be how we run in Sonoma. But I feel like we had a great test session and things went really well. It was hard for me to see him in a bad mood, I mean he was in a great mood, it was a great time, and we had a great test. I think he's doing well. In some respects it's probably nice to have the pressure off so I think he might have been relieved and then also at the same time, kind of bummed out. But he seems to be doing well. And I was trying to talk him into coming to the track, but I don't think he's ready to do that yet. Hopefully we'll get him to the track sometime soon."

-credit: gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports