NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES 5-HOUR ENERGY 500 POCONO RACEWAY TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT June 10, 2011
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed racing at Pocono, his foundation, shifting at Pocono and other topics. Full transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR STRATEGY FOR POCONO THIS WEEKEND: “We are getting closer, our cars are faster each and every week. We still need to put all the pieces together really from Friday on. Qualifying is so important. We’ve had a couple of different issue pop up and trying to get that stuff under control so we can qualify, hopefully in the top-five on a regular basis. It just leads to a great pit stall pick and really helps the weekend. We’re still trying to get everything right on pit road. I’ve got a group of young guys that are extremely dedicated and focused and athletic. They are some green guys that don’t have a ton of experience and we’re getting them reps. They are crewing the No. 38 Nationwide car trying to get reps from time-to-time and getting a little better each week. I think once we get everything in order and we are very close on all fronts, we’ll be there competing on a regular basis for wins like we want. We did win one, we are second in points, so yea, the year could be better, but we do have a win and we are second in points and we have knocked on the door a few times early in the year to win and just couldn’t capitalize on it. But we are looking forward to doing some celebrating here before long.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW OFTEN YOUR FOUNDATION IS APPROACHED FOR HELP AND DO YOU FIND YOURSELF WISHING YOU COULD HELP MORE PEOPLE THAN YOU ARE ACTUALLY ABLE TO TOUCH? “Yes, without a doubt, we are approached daily by many to help. Our focus here lately has been on educational grants and we’ve focused it on three areas. Where I grew up, where my wife grew up and then in North Carolina where we live. It is very difficult and we do a good job of raising around a million dollars each year but between those three areas, we can’t take care of every grant request that comes in and we feel bad, but, we know we are making a difference. We wish we could help more. That is just on that side of things. There are still many, many other great causes out there and we’re always fulfilling requests and we try to help out as often as we can with as many fund raisers that take place and donate items. Just help wherever we can. I’m not the only driver doing. There are a lot of drivers and teams in this sport that do it and very happy to do so.”
TALK ABOUT BRINGING BACK THE ELEMENT OF SHIFTING HERE AT POCONO: “We started shifting last year and even I tried some the year before that and didn’t see a lot of speed because the gear ratios we were allowed to use, there is just such a big gap between each downshift is one, very risky and two, we couldn’t run the coolers on the cars to keep everything cool, cold, because as you start downshifting…the transmission coolers…so if you are running in third gear a lot, you are going to build a lot of extra heat and you need to have coolers and stuff on the car in order to keep the transmission under it. It was kind of a risky thing, you only wanted to do it from time-to-time. Not-to-mention the power curve of the engine, if you are not shifting, you might want to move the power curve down and a lower RPM range where you will run and then if you shift you kind of want to do the opposite because you can stay in that peak RPM longer. So it really hasn’t been a strong effort to have a car shift and guys are dabbling with it. Now it just makes it easy where you can come in, you can put the coolers on the car, you can get the gaps closer so when you downshift you aren’t risking missing a shift and spinning the car out and crashing it. It won’t be as easy to tear up the transmission and you can build and engine package to suit what you plan on doing. So I think it has been a good move. It brings a lot of interest to the track and a lot of discussion from a fan standpoint and the media standpoint. Gives us drivers options. Gives the team options. The engine shops options. I think there is a lot of excitement coming into this race from the garage area.”
IS THIS RACE HERE ON SUNDAY WIDE-OPEN WITH EVERYTHING COMING INTO THIS RACE? It is and what comes to mind for me first is usually at the end of this race, we have some type of fuel situation that develops or two versus four tire strategy. We don’t get a lot of cautions here and every time I think of Pocono, I think we have a great race for two-thirds of the race and then strategy comes into play and we find ourselves in 20th on a restart trying to fight our way back to the front. That part makes this race exciting at the end. I guess it is exciting for the fans but frustrating for us competitors because often times the fastest car will start that last pit stop on or that second-to-the last pit stop on mid-pack because you have a lot of guys gambling and trying to get some track position and out-strategize the fast cars. So that part makes it frustrating and exciting all at the same time”.
A FAN MENTIONED ON A SITE MENTIONED THAT THE NO. 48 GUYS ARE HIDING IN THE BUSHES AND ARE GOING TO POUNCE IN SEPTEMBER AND WIN FIVE OUT OF THE LAST 10 RACES, THAT SORT OF THING, DO YOU FEEL LIKE WITH THE NEW GUYS YOU HAVE THIS YEAR AND SOME OF THE CHANGES THAT YOU CAN STILL COME BACK LATE IN THE YEAR AS YOU HAVE DONE IN SOME PREVIOUS YEARS AND BE A FORCE IN THE LAST 10 OR 12 RACES? “Yes, I really do and I don’t feel like we’re in a big hole. We’re second in points. We’ve been in much worse positions than we are now in years past and been able to get stuff in order and come back. We’re learning, we’re developing new stuff. We’re also developing a new group of guys over the wall as you mentioned and we’re trying as hard as we can each and every week just like we have each and every year. It may appear that we are laying in the weeds waiting for September. We are at 100% doing all we can on all fronts. I think it speaks to how competitive this garage area is and just because you have a good year the previous year and win a championship doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean you are going to come out and be successful. The garage area is very very competitive and we’re working hard to get back to the top of the mountain and if part of their observation is right, there’s time. There is time and that is what we feel, that is what we build a lot of confidence in is that we do have time to get our stuff right before the Chase starts. So we’re optimistic.”
JEFF GORDON SAID SOME TRACKS HE FEELS REALLY GOOD ABOUT AND SOME HE’S KIND OF IFFY ON AND HE SAID THIS ONE (POCONO) CAN CHANGE HALF WAY THROUGH A RACE, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS THAT KIND OF RACE TRACK? “Yes, we’ve seen that. I think this race in the spring last year, we dominated the first half or two-thirds and then the switch was flipped and we went the other way and couldn’t get out of sixth or seventh the rest of the day. In our sport, if you lose track position and that is what usually happens towards the end of these races, you have different strategies coming along, you can get up there in clean air and develop and really tune your car for that environment and then if you lose track position, you have a totally different race car. You don’t only see it here, you see it at all the tracks. I think there is a lot more in that than anything. Yes, this track is just very temperature sensitive, I think track position plays a big key in the success of your race here.”
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