JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Talladega, racing speeds, and how the CoT has evolved, what suits his driving style about Richmond, Clint Bowyer's consistency and more. TALK ABOUT COMING TO A RACE...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Talladega, racing speeds, and how the CoT has evolved, what suits his driving style about Richmond, Clint Bowyer's consistency and more.
TALK ABOUT COMING TO A RACE TRACK WHERE YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS "The last couple of years it's been a great track for us. I'm looking forward to a good qualifying effort and a good race. I've always loved watching the races here and usually watched it as I was being lapped and running mid-pack to the back (laughs). So now it's nice to be up there racing for the wins and I'm looking forward to Saturday night.
IT APPEARS THAT THE NEW CAR HAS REALLY SUITED YOUR STYLE AT RICHMOND. IS THERE SOMETHING TO THAT? "When we had the CoT car at tracks for the first time, we had the mindset that it would be a good equalizer for us and help us catch up at Bristol, here (RIR), and some of the other tracks. I can't really recall, but I know at Bristol it didn't make a difference and it took us getting better there. And I can't really remember here if that's the case or not. I think it was more of learning how to really drive the track right and the right adjustments to make. When we have a tight car, there are probably 20 adjustments you can make to help it and I think we were just working in the wrong areas; and the same for a loose race car. And we finally figured out the things to help the car turn, but also keep it in the track with a lot of grip. And we've been able to do that here the last few times. I think once we found the baseline to work off of for my style here, we've been on the mark and have been pretty close since."
DID THE LIGHT GO ON AS FAR AS YOUR DRIVING STYLE AT RICHMOND THAT MADE A DIFFERENCE? "Without a doubt, this track just hasn't been one that really fits my style and the techniques that I use. From the two years of running the Nationwide Series and then five or six years in the Cup car, and coming here twice a year, I just couldn't get it. I qualify well, I think I got a pole in '04 or '03, but when the race started we weren't right for a couple of reasons. I certainly learn more every time I'm on the track and feel like I still have room to go here and understand this track even better yet."
IF YOU WERE CARL EDWARDS ON THE LAST LAP AT TALLADEGA, OR IF IT HAPPENS IN THE FALL, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IF A GUY MAKES A MOVE LIKE THAT? "Really, the same thing. I mean, Carl did everything that he could. He could have maybe anticipated the 09's (Brad Keselowski) move to the bottom and tried to be in front of him through that and he would have just gotten pushed, you know, on the rear bumper. Or, maybe understanding if it's a little more communication with the spotter or the mirror that you have, but it's really tough in either condition because it happens so fast. But to know that you're beaten and not block it. But it's the last lap; every other time we've seen that happen, the guy runs below the yellow line and it's worked out that way for the leaders. So it's really tough to look back. There are some small things that could have changed, but I think on both sides, those guys did all that they could to win the race. I don't really see a lot of fault in either situation. It's unfortunate the car got in the fence and people were injured, but in making a split second decision, both guys did pretty much everything right."
ON CLINT BOWYER'S CONSISTENCY THE PAST TWO SEASONS, IS HE UNDER-APPRECIATED? "I think Clint does a great job. It's a lot of fun to be around and I think he's raced enough on the dirt and I think in other forms of motorsports to where you learn how to points race and how to be good with your equipment and not just beat your equipment into the ground and tear stuff up. I think when you look at collecting points, that's an important part of it. You need to be running at the end of the race. On dirt tracks you're not roughing people up that often and knocking people out of the way and turning people around. So I think there's a style that comes from that, that helps you race for points and helps you in the long haul. Clint's been very smooth and consistent through all of it."
ON TALK ABOUT NASCAR ISSUING PENALTIES FOR BUMP-DRAFTING, IS THAT AN EFFORT TO DEFLECT ISSUES ABOUT THE PLATES THEMSELVES OR THE TRACKS THEMSELVES? "Truthfully, we all want to have a good solution for this. It doesn't matter if it's NASCAR, the tracks, or the drivers. At the end of the day, the reason we're in this position is because of the restrictor plates, and because the track is so fast and forgiving. I guess it really starts with the fact that the track is so fast and forgiving that led to restrictor plates and now we're all in a group running together. As Jeff (Gordon) was saying, once we learn something, you can't take it away from us. We know what the bump-draft does now. As Jeff pointed out, we're going up through the middle on those tracks. We can make some adjustments and make the cars not draft as easily and maybe not have as much closing speed so we'll have less opportunity to bump draft and less opportunity to have the surges that we do that cause some of the wrecks. At the end of the day, we're still going to run around in a pack, three or four wide all day long, and cause big wrecks as long as there is a restrictor plate. So the only way to get around that is to take some tractors over there and knock down the corners and make them flat to where we have to lift. That's the only way you get around it. I don't think the fans want to see that. I don't think Daytona and NASCAR want to tear down the race tracks and start over. So I think we'll end up with a package where you have less opportunity to slingshot and pass and less opportunity to close and bump-draft, and we'll have less passing that will take place. It would kind of be back to what we had with the old car where we were under the criticism that there wasn't enough passing. But it was safer at that point. So there really isn't a happy medium. Everybody is trying really hard. So it's hard to put blame on anyone that it's their problem, when it's really the circumstances that we're working with."
IF YOU HONESTLY THOUGHT BY GETTING IN THAT CAR THERE WAS GREAT DANGER, WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO JUST NOT PARTICIPATE? "I have never felt like I've climbed in a car and there's a chance I wouldn't come back. I've never felt that way. I look back and think it's crazy that we raced without a Hans device. It's crazy that we raced without soft walls. And I look back at the risks we took the, but I guess ignorance is bliss. I just didn't know any better. I have never felt that way in a car. I climbed out of my race car, good and mad after last weekend with all that went on, and I'm sure some of those emotions were in there for Carl (Edwards). And being the guy that was in that car landing on top of the wall and into the fence, I'm sure he sees things differently than the rest of us do. And I kinda thought he was speaking more on the fact of the fans and he got out and ran to the start/finish line like a Talladega Nights move. So I took it more as hurting someone else; maybe not the drivers, but someone else."
WHAT MAKES THE RICHMOND TRACK SO POPULAR? "Just the fact that you can race side-by-side. All night long there's a lane that you can race on. I think that's what the fans like to see the most is the side-by-side competition and what makes the drivers enjoy it so much is that you can move around and find a place to run."
PUSHING SPEEDS AT TALLADEGA REGISTERED 203 MPH. WOULD IT BE A GREAT DETRIMENT TO THE RACING THERE IF NASCAR COULD JUST SHAVE 5 TO 10 MPH OFF A PUSHING SPEED LIKE THAT? "No, not at all. And to help you guys understand what goes on in that situation, the cars now are by design, are bigger and boxier on purpose. They want the lead car to punch a huge hole in the air so that the rest of the cars can keep up. From the shape of the car to the wicker that's on it, that's all by design. They focused hard on the single-car speeds and they're very close to what you saw with the old car, so they're at that threshold. But in the race it's hard to understand what circumstances are going to develop and how fast the cars will go. So with all that in mind, you now, with the tall wicker and how big and boxy the car is, when one car gets inside that other car, you're in that pocket, and there's so much less drag on your car, with a bigger engine than before, and now I mean, you're truckin'. So, I think yes, we can say the car is down. The racing is going to be just fine. By design, they wanted to create a slingshot and mores passes for the lead, but looking back on it now, that may be what caused the problem at Talladega. So it's just that balance of how NASCAR can keep the racing exciting and at the same time, get us back to a spot where the car's won't go airborne and things like that. So, they're going to work hard on it. I was a part of all the testing when they were trying to figure out the package to start with and it's very important to them to have a good show. And that's why the CoT is here. So there are some growing pains that are coming with the car and not only with the car, but the drivers are learning how to manipulate the way the cars work now. With the old car, you could never push somebody that long and get up to 203 mph. That would never, ever happen. So it sounds odd, but we're all still learning as it's going on."
DO YOU AGREE WITH JEFF GORDON ABOUT THE SIZE OF THE WICKER BILL AND PERHAPS NASCAR SHOULD SEND A FEW DRIVERS TO TALLADEGA FOR SOME AERODYNAMIC TESTING? "Yeah, Jeff is speaking from a place of knowing because I was there with him, there were a bunch of us, actually, a while ago that went through a variety of different restrictor plate and wicker packages. We had packages where the cars would close up even faster yet, and we all agreed that that was too much and it would create a lot of big wrecks. And there were packages that had smaller restrictor plates and smaller wickers and we couldn't pass as easily. So there was that middle ground that was found that okay, this is where we need to be so we can be slow enough, but also make the competition exciting and create passing opportunities. And I think that's an easy change for them. Jeff brought it up to me on the ride up today. I think he's right. I think that would be a very smart move. We may get some criticism that there's not as many passes and passes for the lead, but we've seen it's gone a little too far and we need to back off of it so. So I think that's a great idea."
-credit: gm racing