JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the penalty for the No. 99 Carl Edwards, current safety issues, the Atlanta track and more.
YOU TESTED HERE IN OCTOBER. WHAT IS THIS RACE GOING TO BE LIKE ON SUNDAY? “The No. 48 car didn’t test. The No. 5 (Casey Mears) and I guess the soon to be No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) at the time did test. I know Casey was here for the tire test as well and they both were surprised with the grip we had here with the Car of Tomorrow. Hopefully the banking and the tire combination that’s been selected will work and will give the cars the grip that it needs.”
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE PENALTIES ISSUED TO THE N0. 99 CARL EDWARDS AND HAVE YOU HEARD OF THIS OIL COVER DOWNFORCE EQUATION AT ALL? “We’re all aware of it, especially for Daytona and Talladega. That’s been a tool for years that people have used. NASCAR has gotten on to it and we saw a lot of fines there earlier in the year. I can’t say that we’ve seen it on a downforce track. So maybe there is more there than when we first saw it. But from being in that position before, NASCAR is not in the position to really defend or understand what you’re doing. It’s either right or it’s wrong. I’ve been there. I know how difficult of a time it is. It’s no fun. It’s something that no team wants to go through. So you’ve just got to take your lumps and move on. And it’s certainly going to affect the way the team runs.
“At the end of the day, I know from my experience that it’s made us stronger as a team. And with how those guys have been running, from a selfish standpoint, I hope it doesn’t make them any stronger (smiles) because they’ve been awfully tough already this year.”
YOU’VE RUN THE IROC SERIES IN THE PAST. THIS WEEK THEY ARE AUCTIONING OFF ALL THEIR ASSETS. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO MISS MOST ABOUT THAT SERIES? “That’s too bad. I actually bought the car that I won the Brickyard IROC race with, I think it was ’04 or ’05 that I won there, and I had it restored. I was very happy to get the car but very sad to see it go. I ran it just a few years, but I know people like Mark Martin and Big E and a lot of drivers were very, very fond of it; including myself, but drivers who has more history in it I should say, some of the older drivers. It’s really sad to see the IROC Series go away.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT RUNNING THE IROC SERIES? “I really liked being around the other drivers from different disciplines. I have a great deal of respect for other drivers in motorsports. So to have a chance to meet those guys and spend a little time with them and get to know them was probably the highlight for me.”
YOU’VE WON ONE IROC RACE. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MOMENT? “Yeah, that was it. At the time, and since our one and only win at the Brickyard, that place is awfully tough on me. So to win something there meant a lot to me. It (the car) was pink and now I have it fully restored and it’s sitting in my warehouse. It’s crazy looking at that pink car and it makes me smile knowing that I won with a pink car.”
TALK ABOUT THIS ATLANTA TRACK AND THE NEW CAR AND WHAT YOU ARE EXPECTING HERE “I don’t really have a clue what to expect. We didn’t test at the end of last year. We decided to stay focused on the championship. And so I have a big question mark in my mind right now. I’m just eager to get out. Hopefully the rain stays away.”
HOW DO YOU APPROACH IT? “This will be the first track we haven’t tested at this year. So we should go out and maybe hold back 10 or 15 percent and make sure that you don’t put yourself and the car in a situation that it can’t keep up with and really try to find out where the baseline is and what you can do and what you can’t do and reevaluate from there.”
COULD THIS BE THE WEEK THAT YOU GUYS BREAK THROUGH? “We had a great race at California and at Vegas, thing didn’t go as we wanted. And we had some back luck in Daytona. We’d prefer to be in the No. 99′s shoes and winning race after race. But we knew that the competition was closing up. We knew that this year we were going to have challenges with the Car of Tomorrow on larger tracks and we’re not where we want to be but we’re working very, very hard to get on top of things. I wouldn’t expect us to have a poor performance much longer.”
HOW WAS THE PHOENIX TEST? “It went well. In some ways we’re more confused. The car is just tough to understand. The first day was so-so. The second day went really well for us.”
REGARDING SAFETY, SHOULD THERE BE MORE SOFT WALLS ON THE INSIDE AND ALSO ON THE BREAKS ON THE INSIDE, TO YOU HAVE ANY STRONG OPINIONS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER? “I certainly do. We know there have been a lot of advancements made. But it’s frustrating to know that there is still a lot left to go. We need to look closer yet from soft walls on the inside, the breaks in walls, and also the grass.
“There is no reason to have grass on the inside of a race track. It should be asphalt from wall to wall. But if you look at every car that flips on a superspeedway race, it’s because it gets in the grass and tips over. So those are hopefully areas we can look at and work on. I hate the fact that there has to be such a nasty wreck and that somebody has to get out of the car and say awful things about a track to get it motivated and get it going. Sometimes that’s the only thing we have to really have to vent and show our opinions.”
WHAT MAKES THIS TRACK SO UNIQUE? WHY DO THE CUP DRIVERS LIKE IT SO MUCH? “The transitions that are worked into the track give us options and give us the ability to run side-by-side. A lot of the tracks we go to, the transition in the corner only really provides for one racing line. At this track you can be three or four wide and it’s all because of the transitions in the turns.”