TWO-TIME AND DEFENDING NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES CHAMPION JIMMIE JOHNSON is making his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway driving the no. 81 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Silverado owned by Randy Moss. Johnson met with members of...
TWO-TIME AND DEFENDING NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES CHAMPION JIMMIE JOHNSON is making his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway driving the no. 81 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Silverado owned by Randy Moss. Johnson met with members of the media following practice and discussed his first impressions of the truck, why he is racing a Silverado in NCTS competition at Bristol, his No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS team's position for the Chase, the penalties announced today by NASCAR in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and other subjects.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU OUT ON THE TRACK IN THE TRUCK? "Today is my first time ever in a truck, even sitting in one. I expected to have a lot of room in there and I was shocked out of the gate that I didn't have the leg room that I expected to see in this thing. Today has been a learning curve from just sitting in the race truck all the way to driving it. We are making some good progress. Been a little too tight, but there at the end, we were making some stuff work and moving up the speed charts."
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RACE TRUCK AND A RACE CAR? "The lack of horsepower. In the center of the turn, the truck feels similar to the Cup car, but when you go back to the gas pedal, there is not much there and I am used to one of our Cup cars and all the power that they have. I have been very impressed with the level of competition out on the track running with guys. There are a lot of guys running the same pace. I think we are going to see a good race."
HOW DID THIS COME TOGETHER? WHAT DO YOU AND RANDY MOSS HAVE IN COMMON? "Not much. (LAUGHS) Truthfully there has been a relationship between Hendrick Motorsports and this race team through the years and a lot of drivers have come over to do some development work. GM has had an association with the team and it just made sense for us with our relationship with GM to come over to this group and run with them. One of the perks of that was having Randy as an owner and a lot of people have paid attention to that, so we have gotten some extra media out of it. I wish Randy could make it down here. Evidently he has got some work with camps and all that stuff. We hope to give these guys a good run tonight, get some points. Hopefully be up there and get them a trophy if it all works out right."
IS THIS TIME IN THE TRUCK GOING TO PAY OFF FOR YOU FRIDAY AND SATURDAY? "It can't hurt. That is why we are here is just to give me more laps on this track and get the rhythm of this place a little bit sooner. We'll see, the true test will be where we run on Sunday and how we finish up. This can't hurt, that is why we are doing it."
THREE RACES IN FOUR NIGHTS IS KIND OF TAXING. "I am only doing two in four nights; I am not doing the Nationwide race. It is a taxing track, mentally and physically. But, when you are right, it is one of the best tracks we race at and you can have more fun than anywhere else. If you are having fun, you forget about all the small stuff."
BIG PICTURE. HOW DO YOU CATCH KYLE (BUSCH) AND CARL (EDWARDS) IN THE CUP SERIES? "I think we are there. I think we are close. I think we are competitive. We still need a little bit more speed to be in our comfort zone of what we want, but we have made a lot of progress over the summer. We just get in to those final 10 and see what happens. Carl has shown a lot of strength. I think we have over the last few weeks as well. Kyle has been rock-solid all year, so you know those three are the obvious ones, but when you get in to the Chase and that points margin closes up, there are going to be some other guys we will need to think about and worry about as well. We are just going to keep doing our jobs and give 100% and hopefully get the job done."
DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST THING THAT HAS KEPT YOU OUT OF VICTORY LANE HERE AT BRISTOL? "I can truthfully say it is not equipment. I have been here before with the identical setup to Jeff (Gordon) and Jeff is on the pole and winning the race and I am qualifying 20-something and running 15th in the race. Certain tracks fit certain drivers and also crew chiefs and setups as well. This place has been one of the toughest for me to sort out. At times I think I am flying around here and doing well, I am a 12th or 15th place car, it just doesn't fit my style. I have been very fortunate at other tracks, like Lowe's Motor Speedway, where regardless of what I do, it has been a good track for me and I run up front. This is one of the very few that has always troubled me."
WITH THE EXTRA ROOM TO PASS HERE NOW COMPARED TO THE OLD SURFACE, WITH 20 LAPS TO GO, CAUTION COMES OUT, DO YOU WANT FRESH TIRES OR DO YOU WANT THAT TRACK POSITION? "Especially in the truck race, I think you stay out. Cup race might be a little different, but still at the end it is so tough to pass that you will take your chances and hit pit road early. As the race starts to slow down, you start stretching those fuel stops a little further and don't come for tires as often. At the end, the excitement picks up. Everybody gets a little more aggressive and you catch some cautions so you can almost play it like a road course at the end and pit early. Then hope for 10-15 caution laps and typically get them."
DID YOU SEE THE PENALTIES THAT NASCAR LEVIED AGAINST JOE GIBBS RACING? "Yes, I saw. The crew chief penalty, right?"
YES, THE CREW CHIEF, CAR CHIEF, ENGINE TUNER FOR BOTH TEAMS PLUS AN ADDITIONAL EMPLOYEE INDEFINITELY SUSPENDED, 150 POINTS AND $50,000: "That is substantial. I think everyone in the garage can say 'Point taken'. It is unfortunate that those guys went to that and tried to slide in that magnet and I am impressed that NASCAR found it and saw it. When you blatantly go after stuff, they come down hard on you. I mean we were ¼ inch wide on a template that didn't exist and had six weeks suspension and a bunch of other stuff go. So, I can imagine if it is a rule like that, if it has to do with traction control, tires, messing with the power like that -- NASCAR does not like that. They have said it all along, there are a few unwritten things that you don't' touch, I think that falls in that category."
DO YOU FEEL GOOD ON THE CUP SIDE THAT YOU GUYS ARE PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME? "Yes. I mean, I would like to be in Kyle's position where on a bad day, you are running second. That is really where we want to be and what we did through the Chase last year. I mean on a bad day, we were in or near the top-five and it paid off. We are a little behind this year at this point. We have worked real hard to close the gap and I think we are on to the right things and will continue to close the gap. We have a lot of testing ahead of us and certainly working on stuff. We are doing all we can and hopefully we get in the Chase and some things come our way and we get some stuff ironed out."
-credit: gm racing