[media-credit name=”www.mispeedway.com” align=”alignright” width=”175″][/media-credit]JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) and discussed last week’s pit road speeding penalties at Pocono, the speeds in testing at MIS and other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR TEST OUT THERE SO FAR THIS MORNING AND WHAT YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THIS AFTERNOON AND HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH PRIOR TO SUNDAY’S EVENT: “It’s been quite a rush for the drivers. To be on track and to go this fast and to run an average lap time of over 200 mph; you certainly feel the speed and the comfort is there. This asphalt and tire combo seems to be decent. My first set of tires I was on took a while for them to come in. As I got familiar with the track, I think as the track started to rubber up we put tires on later the car was still pretty comfortable. We wouldn’t be able to run this fast if we didn’t have comfort in the car and there wasn’t a lot of grip. I still think that we are going to have our traditional repave type of racing. It’s just kind of how it is when you are going this fast. The racing lane gets narrower and narrower the faster you go. With these record speeds it’s going to be pretty narrow until the track ages some. I know some guys are searching around a little. I’m hopeful we can find a third or fourth lane out there to run in to have some options. So far I think everything has gone well. It’s nice to get on track and get familiar with things today before we go into the race weekend tomorrow.”
LAST WEEK YOU WERE GOING 211 (MPH) INTO TURN ONE AND EVERYONE WAS SAYING THAT WAS FAST. NOW YOU ARE GOING 218 (MPH) IT SOUNDS LIKE HERE GOING INTO THE TURN. HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS THAT HERE COMPARED TO POCONO? DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE SPEEDS? “I don’t have any concerns about the speeds. Granted I haven’t seen one hit the wall yet to see how the car reacts with the safer barrier at this pace. At least the balance that we have under our race car right now has been very comfortable to drive. I think we are in a bit of a comfort zone as a group right now because of last week’s experience. Our eyes are kind of calibrated for the speed. I knew that I was going fast more due to the fact of my on power points and how far I was driving into the corner on the throttle. It really was from my eye telling me. I think we are used to the speed. Next year five, six, seven mile per hour it’s hard to feel that. Once you get over that 210 (mph) mark it’s tough to really feel the sensation. We will see how it unfolds. We had a good clean Pocono race and I think a lot of that had to do with how the tire and the asphalt worked out. Although the start of the race was a bit crazy, but I think a lot of that had to do with the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) rubber that was down. We will have to go through that again this weekend through qualifying balance and then also the start of the race. Well I guess we have Nationwide here this weekend. Whoever, is on track after ARCA from what we saw in Pocono it’s going to be a handful the first 10 laps. So I hope it’s not us, but if it is you just have to be prepared for it.”
GREG (BIFFLE) WAS SAYING THAT EVERY LAP FELT LIKE A QUALIFYING LAP, IT SOUNDS LIKE THAT WAS NOT THE CASE FOR YOU? “No, it is. I don’t want to paint the wrong picture. The thing that is nice is you might remember at Charlotte even Phoenix, Las Vegas a few years back. In order to run a fast lap you had to drive through a very uncomfortable feeling race car. The comfort is in the car, but the challenge is still there on the driver. Every lap does feel like a qualifying lap, but right now because the comfort is there you complete the lap and you kind of giggle. I got away with that? That is pretty awesome. Where at other tracks that I mentioned just a second ago, you complete a lap and you are like ‘I don’t want to run another and that is all I got, I’m ready to come to pit road.’ The comfort is there where you want to keep running. That is the difference.”
DO YOU THINK IT IS GOOD FOR THE SPORT TO HAVE THESE HIGH SPEEDS AND A LITTLE RISK OUT THERE THAT FANS SEEM TO WANT TO FEEL FROM THE SPORT?
“I don’t think it hurts any. I just want everyone to be ready that just because we are going faster doesn’t mean that the race on Sunday is going to be more competitive. The faster we go the more important aero becomes. At the same time the faster you go the more narrow the race track gets and right now we have a narrow groove because of the repave. For the best side-by-side racing the old Darlington, Atlanta, all those old porous used up race tracks or asphalts as surfaces this is where that comes from. So we won’t have that here clearly, but sure it is cool to see the headlines read record speeds. It doesn’t hurt anything for Friday and all the prerace media. I don’t know if it is going to be what all the fans want to see on Sunday. It is a necessary evil I understand we have to repave race tracks and we all have to be patient for the year or two some tracks it seems to be four or five years later before we get back to the way it was.”
THERE IS GOING TO BE ATTENTION ON DALE (EARNHARDT) JR. THIS WEEK BECAUSE TOMORROW IS THE FOUR YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF HIS LAST WIN. CAN YOU IMAGINE GOING FOUR YEARS WITHOUT A WIN? “You guys bust my stones after 16 races, I can only imagine four years (laughs). It’s been tough on him. I think that we all pay very close attention to what’s going on with the No. 88 and the speed in the car and how competitive he is. This year including last year we all know that a win and then multiple wins are right around the corner. He continues to carry the flag in the points for Hendrick Motorsports, leading a ton of laps and doing all the things he needs to. Those guys are real close to being on.”
GREG BIFFLE WAS SAYING THERE IS MAYBE MORE PRESSURE BECAUSE HE IS SO CLOSE TO WINNING. DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANY TRUTH TO THAT? “Yeah, it ramps up. I don’t know if it is any more, well I guess fans get excited and everyone gets excited that they can see it coming and trying to guess when it happens. Just through my own experiences when you are in that position to win a race and it’s been a while you do get a bit more animated in the car. I can say from winning in Darlington just going to the All-Star race or even to Dover after that, leading the race, being in control of the race at the end in the closing laps I was much more comfortable in Dover than I was at Darlington. There is something there to that.”
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU FEEL FEAR? “We feel it. In this generation of driver, racing safety measures have taken off a huge portion of that. Where we come to a race track knowing that our cars are designed for this and the walls are safe and we have the proper safety gear inside. When you are in the car there is moments your senses tell you where your car is and if you can push harder or not. If you are lucky enough to feel the uncomfortable balance before it takes off you can scare yourself a few times prior to crashing. If you don’t feel it or it happens too quickly usually when you are sideways is when the fear hits you. The distance to when you lose control to when you hit the wall that is the worst part because you just don’t know how bad the hit is going to be. The longer the distance the worse the ride is. I’ve talked about it before with my Watkins Glen crash that was the longest distance of knowing I was in deep you know what that I have ever had in a car. It seemed like it took minutes for that to go by. That is the worst part.”
IS THERE A SPEED AT WHICH YOU FEEL THAT? IS THERE A SPEED THAT YOU FEEL IT AT OR NOT SO MUCH? “Not really. Mark Martin told me a story at Martinsville that he left pit road throttle hung went down and slammed the fence in turn three. You wouldn’t think you were going fast enough there to get hurt. He said that it was brutal, pounded the wall. I don’t think it really matters. When you are out of control you are out of control and you tense up.”
EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT NEW PAVEMENT NARROWING THE RACE TRACK FOR A WHILE AT LEAST, BUT DOES THE ACTUAL SPEED THAT YOU ARE RUNNING ALSO HAVE THAT SAME AFFECT IN THAT THERE IS REALLY NOT A MOMENTUM ADVANTAGE TO BE GAINED AROUND THE TOP ANYMORE TO RUN THAT LONGER DISTANCE BECAUSE YOU ARE GOING SO FAST IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRACK? “Yeah, exactly, there are a couple of components to it and that is one of them. Running the longer distance around the track and just adding distance throughout isn’t worth it. It becomes more of an opportunity when the bottom lane is slick or worn out. Then take the extra distance you carry more momentum, more speed, the engine is in its power band and it kind of washes out. Your lap times are similar if not a little faster up top. When there is a ton of available grip there is no reason to leave the bottom.”
YOU HAD SOME DIFFICULTIES ON PIT ROAD THE LAST WEEK IF I RECALL. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE EXPLANATION YOU WERE GIVEN AND IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT HERE THIS WEEK THAT WE MIGHT WANT TO KEEP AN EYE ON? “I don’t think I have had a clear explanation following the race. Myself and 13 others certainly think there was something wrong with that last loop. It was last week and it is behind us. I don’t know what to do going back. It would be nice to have pit road speeds broadcast so that we could try to understand where and why and how we get in trouble. There are a few components to it. NASCAR measures pit road different than the way the cars are able to. We do it off a mathematical equation that spits out RPM they do it on an elapsed time between loops. It’s tough to really blend those two worlds together and know what is what unless there is maybe a GPS read out of a car going down pit road and what those speeds are. We don’t have that. Long story short there are questions and there will be debate until we are able to all see it live at that moment. We finished up the day at Pocono by gaining a ton of speed back through those segments and it worked. We will be cautious of it going back. We in our meetings talked about this race track being resurfaced but I guess pit road was updated last fall. So we have a race worth of experience on it and we didn’t have any issues here then. We don’t have any big concerns we think everything will be fine.”
YOUR CREW CHIEF IS ONE OF THOSE GUYS THOUGH HE SCALES PIT ROAD DOWN TO THE LAST INCH, IT JUST SEEMS SURPRISING THAT YOU OF ALL PEOPLE WOULD GET CAUGHT.
“Yeah, I mean the first time I was hit on pit road I thought maybe I could have left early. The second time through I’m not going to go through there the same speed and leave at the same point I just got in trouble I don’t want to make matters worse and I still got in trouble. That is where we feel there was something not right or something different than what was advertised on that sheet that is provided and take it from there. What’s tough is someone was telling me if that distance as they do elapsed time, if that distance is off 16 inches in the equation it would lead to the problem that we had. I mean so it doesn’t take much in their mathematical equation to have that wrong. I don’t know where the fault is. It could be on me, it could be something that was up with that loop and was different. When you have that many people having trouble we all kind of scratch our heads a little bit.”
JUST FOLLOWING UP ON THAT I GUESS THERE MUST BE A WAY THEY COULD DO REAL TIME MILE PER HOUR MEASUREMENTS RIGHT? IF THEY JUST HAD LIKE THE TRANSPONDER, BLACK BOX STUFF. THEY CHOSE TO DO IT THIS WAY HAVING SECTORS AND HAVING TIME OVER DISTANCE. THAT GIVES YOU GUYS A WAY TO GAME THE SYSTEM A LITTLE BIT AND GET CREATIVE AND FIGURE OUT WHAT PIT STALLS TO CHOSE AND EVERYTHING LIKE THAT. WOULD IT BE BETTER IF IT WAS REAL TIME AND YOU GUYS HAD TO STAY BELOW A CERTAIN MILE PER HOUR LIMIT THE WHOLE WAY OR DO YOU LIKE HAVING THIS ABILITY TO BE A LITTLE VAGUE AND BE ABLE TO BEAT IT? “I’m not sure it is all that vague necessarily. I do like the segments because it leads toward a good qualifying effort and you are rewarded for having a good qualifying effort. The front row clearly has an advantage, but there are 10 segments last week on pit road. There are probably 15 to 20 opportunities for guys, then there are others with gaps that it just plays out better and it rewards you for qualifying well. I think that if we could see the times it would end a lot of concerns. Even in practice we could go down pit road and calibrate. We would have found this out in practice or one of the two test days that we were there if those elapsed times were broadcast for us to look at. If it is channel that NASCAR provides, if it is at the truck, whatever it is that would be helpful and I think eliminate a lot of the problems once we get to race time.”
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