JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the challenges of winning on a road course, his desire to capture his first road course victory, double-file restarts on a road course, fuel mileage races, and more. WHAT MAKES...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the challenges of winning on a road course, his desire to capture his first road course victory, double-file restarts on a road course, fuel mileage races, and more.
WHAT MAKES A DRIVER A GOOD ROAD COURSE RACER? "It's hard to say what the particular skill set is, but there are a lot of things to it with the techniques of shifting and downshifting and putting together a series of corners and looking far enough ahead. I also think the vision from driving on an oval versus a road course is much different. On an oval you've got a lot of room to maneuver and you're more worried about momentum. Where on a road course you have to be very precise and look where you want to put the car and place it there. So, it's a different skill set. But I enjoy it and I hope to run well and I look forward running well because the way I grew up racing was just like it, so I really hope it comes together for us."
WHAT SORT OF EXTRA MOTIVATION DO YOU HAVE THIS WEEK WANTING TO GET THAT FIRST ROAD COURSE WIN? "My biggest motivation is that I've always sucked here in Sonoma (laughs). We qualify well, but when the race starts, we have our reverse lights on and we're going backwards. That is enough motivation to me alone."
IS A WIN AT WATKINS GLEN MORE REALISTIC? "Yeah, the Glen has been easier for us. We've been very competitive and run up front and had led some laps. So that track flows better. It's something that works a little easier for us. But I love how tight and technical this track is and I hope to get the result here."
HOW IS THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTART GOING TO WORK HERE? "You just take it as it comes. I think that there has been a lot of concern about the double-file restart here and I don't know what the big concern is. I guess I'll have to get in the race and see what the potential problem would be, but to me, it doesn't seem like it's a big deal."
HAS RICK HENDRICK TALKED TO YOU ABOUT THE GM CUTBACKS AND ARE YOU ANY MORE CLEAR ON WHAT THAT MIGHT MEAN FOR HMS? "I haven't heard yet and I know that the relationships with the drivers and the manufacturers are still being determined now. So I don't know specifically how it impacts me or Hendrick Motorsports yet, and I think in the next week or so we'll know a lot more. I certainly hope that the relationships are still there and we're able to maintain them and want to continue that relationship. And regardless of what it is, we're going to do our best to represent GM and help them get back on their feet and show how important motorsports is for their marketing program."
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT MARK MARTIN HAS BECOME SO SUCCESSFUL THIS YEAR, AND ARE YOU SURPRISED BY THAT? "Our sport is physical, but it's not like football. Mark, at 50, has done a very good job of taking care of himself mentally and physically. So, I don't think there is any physical disadvantage that he's at now, whereas in other sports, it could be that way because of the repetition, the hits, and all the things that take place. Luckily, we're surrounded steel and metal that absorbs much of the impacts that we take over the years. But from the mental aspect, I don't think you can every have enough experience. I think the mind is still plenty sharp and the experiences that come with the years and years of racing plays into it. Mark has seen and done a lot and knows what he needs on certain tracks and knows how to motivate his race team and knows how to show up and only run three laps in practice before switching over to qualifying. All those things take experience to kind of build that playbook in your mind and build those skills. And he has them. Plus, he's still in great shape and it's all coming together and he's in the right equipment and he's running fast."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO ROUND OUT YOUR RESUME WITH A ROAD COURSE WIN? "Extremely important. I'll take it in any form of racing. I've run that Rolex 24 race all the time because I love road course racing and want to be a part of that. I certainly would love to win in a NASCAR vehicle to round out my resume, so it's really important."
BRISTOL OR A ROAD COURSE WIN, WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE? "Tough question. I'm going to go with the road course, and I've spent so much time focusing on myself, this team has, focusing on road courses and running the extra events, so a road course win for sure."
ON DANICA PATRICK POSSIBLY JOINING NASCAR NEXT YEAR "If she wants to come racing in NASCAR, I certainly welcome her. I think she'd do a lot for our sport. I definitely think she needs to spend some time racing stock cars and understanding what stock cars are about at these tracks. It would just be unfair to her to show up and be in a Cup car if that was the case, and have to worry about qualifying and all of the other issues that come along. But she is a talented race car driver that would do a lot for NASCAR. So I would welcome her and I hope that's the case."
SONOMA IS NORMALLY A FUEL MILEAGE RACE. HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GO BACK AND REVIEW PAST RACES WHERE FUEL MILEAGE WASN'T GOOD FOR YOU? "It does turn into a fuel mileage race and there are only so many things that we can do to save fuel with all the rules and regulations that we have in the sport. Last year, the No. 18 car (Kyle Busch) was very fortunate to pit. Both of his pit stops were at the exact perfect time and it left him with great track position and he did a good job of driving from there. But if you can time it right on the cautions and be on pit road when the caution comes out, you have a huge advantage. Last year, both cautions, we were on the race track when the caution came out and it just didn't work out for us. So that part makes road course racing frustrating. And hopefully everything goes our way this weekend."
HOW CAN YOU SAVE FUEL ON A ROAD COURSE? "Slow down. That's the only way you can. It's the same thing as an oval. If you're on the gas pedal, you're burning gasoline, so you have to almost say that you're not worried about being competitive and just slow way, way down and try to make it on fuel."
DO YOU SEE THE DOUBLE FILE RESTARTS AFFECTING STRATEGY? "I don't see it affecting the strategy. It may be lead to some more cautions, which would maybe affect the strategy that way. But I don't think it will have a big impact."
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR THE DISAPPOINTMENT TO GO AWAY AFTER A FINISH LIKE YOU HAD AT MIS? "I hate to lose races, especially when you have a chance to win one, like we had. But for me, I tried to get over it pretty quick and it was easy to get over it fast because we had such a dominant car. I just felt like there would be more bad things to happen and I could tear the team apart or tear it down or beat the confidence out of the team if I was upset about it and carried on too long. I found myself once I got out of the car and took a couple of deep breaths, doing around and grabbing the guys and trying to cheer them up and thanking them for such a great race car. We can't let one thing tear apart what a great day we had."
DOES CHAD KNAUS HANDLE IT THE SAME WAY, OR A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY? "It depends on the situation. Some weekends he can have that presence of mind and hold everything together. Other weekends, he doesn't. Some weekend's I've got it and some weekends I don't. So we kind of share that responsibility."
NEXT WEEK WE GO TO NEW HAMPSHIRE. IS LOUDON LIKE A BIG MARTINSVILLE? "Yeah, it is. We've been pretty competitive up there the last few years, so I'm excited about the race. It's fun because it's such a short distance race and you really run every lap as hard as you can and fight hard for position. So it's going to be a good race for us. I've been close to winning there the last couple of times, so hopefully we can."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE FIRST PRACTICE AT SONOMA, AND HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING? "Track position is so, so important that we're not going to really worry about the race stuff (in practice). It worked well for us last year. We qualified well. We might be a step or two behind the other guys that are starting in race trim, but any more it's really about how far you can stretch the fuel and the track position you have. You can give up a lot of that if you start in the first two rows and not have to worry about it.
"We've never been good at fuel mileage. When I come to a track with a fuel mileage mindset, always get bummed out. We just never, I don't know if it's me or what it is, but we've only won one race on fuel mileage and that was Phoenix last year. And that was a shocker as it was. But you just show up and try to go fast. That's all we know how to do is go fast."
ON THE COMPETITION "You know it changes every week. People talk so much about the road course ringers and they haven't won a road course event in a long time. It's been the NASCAR regulars that have been winning the races. I know that Kyle (Busch) is always competitive on road courses, but I didn't think of him as a road course guy and he won both last year. So I think it's an open book and then everybody has a shot."
-credit: gm racing