NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Brickyard 400 presented by BigMachineRecords.com
Topics: Brickyard 400 presented by BigMachineRecords.com
July 30, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Let's roll into our post-qualifying press conference for tomorrow's Brickyard 400. Jimmie Johnson is our third quickest. He's our five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. He'll start third tomorrow.
Jimmie, you said starting up front here in Indianapolis is key. You're able to do that. I'm sure you're looking forward to trying to get to Victory Lane here again tomorrow.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, so much importance is on qualifying. Doesn't matter the track. Some are a little bit more important than others. This track falls in that category of being more important.
Proud of the efforts. When we unloaded in first practice yesterday, we were in race trim, and even in race trim we knew we had some work to do.
It hasn't been an easy couple days here. But we've covered a lot of territory and really improved our racecar from when we unloaded to where we're at.
I know my guys are tired, they're spent, it's hot. Their brains have been spinning in circles trying to engineer a better mousetrap. I hope we all get a good night's sleep and I know we have a good baseline to start off with tomorrow. We're off to a good start with a top-three qualifying effort.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Jimmie.
Q. Jimmie, as important as qualifying is, why do you think the pole winner has not had as much success here?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't have a clue. Didn't realize that stat was there. I would have thought that it would show being up front, maybe from the top five or something, it would show more promising.
The only thing I can attribute that to is the format we always have had here is it's not an impound-style race. So maybe certain team's qualifying setup is great for that one lap, but when you get into a fuel run, it doesn't add up. There has to be something there in that.
Q. Jimmie, the two guys who ran faster than you did so at the end of the day. How much did the track change? How much did the weather affect what you were able to do and what they were able to do?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it stayed pretty consistent today, to be honest with you. The sun really never was out for a long stretch of time. Then throughout the afternoon, the clouds were coming and going.
I feel like with this later time, it worked very well this year. In the past we've had an early morning qualifying session. Going early was definitely the way to go.
If the sun didn't come out all day today, I think the position I was in with a slow first practice session, going out early, would have been bad. You'd think things would have cooled down as the day went on. I don't know, it's so humid and stuff, maybe I'm wrong.
Either way I think today was very consistent across the board. I left some time on the table off of turn four. I know I got three of the four corners right. It was a 10th and a half that I left over there. That would have put me up where I should have been.
Great lap. Got three of the four corners right, and we'll take it.
Q. Jimmie, when it comes to track position, does track position at this racetrack mean more than any other track?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, yeah, I think so. I think it is the most difficult track because there really is one lane. It's speed. Run a fast lap, there's one line around here. There isn't much banking. It really leads to a single-file race. Track position then is really, really important.
I can remember last year and in years past closing up a big gap on a car. I would get five, six car lengths back from them. You're stuck. It's just aerodynamics. Not much we can do about it. Without a real wide racetrack, progressive banking, you just run the one line. So I think this is the most difficult track for us to pass on and track position is most important here.
It's tough to pass. If you have someone in front of you that's smart, can drive a little bit wider car, is smart with cutting the air off in certain ways, keeping you in that dead space back there, they can make it impossible to pass.
Q. Jimmie, Chevy has won I think eight of the past races here and 12 of 17 overall. It seems like the Fords are a little bit better this year. Are those guys closing the gap on Chevy? Are you missing something?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I look at it a lot from an organization standpoint. Because of the rules, the manufacturers are all kind of held to a common ground. Ford did get a new engine package which seems to be helping them some. But we've been working real hard on our side, too. I think our Chevys are plenty strong under the hood. It's not in that department.
Look at a year ago, where the Roush organization was, where they are today. There's something big that went on in their company to make their cars faster. I don't think it was all the engine. They talk a lot about the simulation program being off, leading them down the wrong road for setups. I look at more the organization side of it and think that different teams seem to find speed.
We've been searching some at Hendrick Motorsports to get what we needed. We started this year with a whole new car, working on setups, and we're getting there. Hopefully by the time the Chase gets here, we're right.
Q. Jimmie, from what you've seen through practice and qualifying, is there anybody out there that you're kind of keeping your eye on that you think are one of the guys you're going to have to beat tomorrow?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't look at Lap Tracker today. But yesterday, the guys in race trim yesterday, the 29 looked good, the 4 looked good, the 24 looked good, and he was really happy in our team debrief. I'd say those would be the three that come to mind first.
Q. How would you describe David Ragan now? Is he a different person, especially after the win? Does he seem like he appears on the track and in the garage that he finally seems like he might be getting it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I wouldn't say post win. I feel like this year has been a good year for him. The cars are under him more. I think he's been able to drive at a hundred percent to get the results instead of stepping over that line. It's real easy for all of us to do. When you're trying to make up the difference, walk on the wrong side of the line too long, you're going to bust up your butt, tear up cars, make mistakes. I think more this year I've seen a change in him than since his win.
But I do know what a win does for a driver's and team's confidence. It's only going to make him stronger. Any type of success you experience, even a pole here, it's such a big event, that's going to help him evolve, be more confident with the things he does in the car, what he's asking from his team.
Q. Jimmie, this race has a history, there aren't fluke winners. I don't want to call David a fluke polesitter. You're more likely to have a surprise in qualifying than the race. Why are both of those things the case do you think?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Qualifying, I would say maybe because of the draw in years past. But that doesn't stand here today. I think qualifying was really equal from the start. Maybe from about the fifth or tenth car, once we worked some of the oil out of the track, I think it was consistent there on.
Race-wise, I don't know. I just don't know. I think that this track is clearly unique and we don't race on anything else like it. When you get it right, you have an advantage. I think that past history at other tracks and what you've done, how you've been performing don't really apply, because we don't race on anything like this.
I think there's probably something in that, where it's a unique track. If you get it right, it's on, you have a ton of speed.
Typically, I remember a while back there was a stat showing race winners here went on to championships. I think that stat speaks to your point there. That good teams, teams that can work on the fly, we only have so much track time here, it's such a different racetrack, you have to be on your game to really navigate through different sets of tires, adjustments you make.
I like that stat, where it shows guys winning championships, because it's such a demanding track. If it's your year, you can win here, I think you have stuff working well for you.
Q. Success here, experience on this track, how much does track positioning mean in a 200-lap race like this where you're concerned?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's everything. From pit road pick to on the racetrack, it's everything. The race starts on Friday in qualifying trim. You can make such an easier weekend for yourself if you qualify well. We have not been qualifying well. We had some good finishes. But I think we had race-winning cars. I look at New Hampshire. I know we had a race-winning car. Qualified terrible, a spin, a variety of other problems, we end up fifth. The race weekend really starts on Friday in qualifying.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, thank you. Good luck this weekend.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you.
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