|Jimmie Johnson is 9/2 favorite to win Saturday night at Texas.|
YOU ARE BRINGING BACK THE YELLOW NUMBERS ON YOUR CAR THIS WEEK AND YOU ALSO HAVE SOMETHING GOING ON WITH THE ROCKETS TO RACECARS. WHAT’S THAT ALL ABOUT?
“We’ve got a lot going on this weekend and I’m very excited to have the yellow back on the car. We ran it once last year in honor of Jeff Gordon’s final race, and the fans have been speaking loudly through the social media channels. And the message was heard, so this is just another example of how social media really drives things that exist in our world today. So, I’m excited to have the yellow #48 back on the car.
“And then changing things up with our Jimmie Johnson ticket package here at the speedway, we’re excited to really call on the school district in the area to bring the students and teachers and build a program that I really feel fits our Rockets to Racecars program that we do in conjunction with NASA. So, I’m excited to have educators involved, more students attending, the school district here in the area, and multiple schools participating. So, all in all, it’s just an exciting time at one of my best race tracks, especially of late, so I’m just fired up to be here and get to work.”
YOUR RECORD HERE HAS BEEN AMAZING LATELY. THE CARS CHANGE AND A LOT OF DIFFERENT THINGS CHANGE, BUT YOU KEEP DOING WELL HERE AT TEXAS. WHAT’S BEHIND ALL THAT?
“It’s just this race track. I think tracks with an older surface; the bumpier it is, the more tire wear, it’s just a condition that plays into our wheelhouse. And we’ve hit on some things here over the last few trips and it consistently works for us and it continues to put speed and longevity in the car. We weren’t necessarily the best car in all those races, but we were in the top 3, top 5; and I truly believe if you run there long enough, you’ll have opportunities to win. And we’ve been able to win on speed and then when being at the right place and being able to take advantage of things, too.”
CHASE ELLIOTT DOESN’T HAVE A FAVORITE TRACK. HE THINKS OF THEM ALL THE SAME. YOU’RE SO GOOD AT MOST TRACKS AND YOU’RE GOOD HERE. DO YOU THINK, OH GOOD, I’M GOING TO TEXAS, OR DO YOU TRY TO HAVE THAT VIEW OF ALL TRACKS BEING THE SAME TO MASTER?
“For me, I’ve definitely had favorite tracks, and then tracks that I didn’t like so much. One in my early years in Cup that I loved and desperately wanted to race at was Bristol. And then when I went there, I couldn’t get out of my own way. I think one of my first trips there I left pit road and went thru (Turns) 1 and 2, and crashed. And not after, I had another car out there and crashed it. So, for me, I have had a different approach. I don’t know how Chase is able to keep it in that same box all the time, but I’ve now been doing this long enough where I’ve seen my best tracks turn into not very good tracks; and bad tracks turn into good tracks. And Texas is one, I think, that was very difficult for me to get going in the beginning and then of late, has been our best track. Richmond has come and gone maybe once or twice for us so if you do it long enough I think you can see things come and go.”
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE 2007 RACE THAT YOU WON HERE? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE NEW PACKAGE WILL ALLOW DUELS, LIKE THE ONE YOU HAD WITH MATT KENSETH, TO PRESENT THEMSELVES AGAIN HERE?
“From my standpoint, that race was a lot of fun; I’m not sure Matt found it to be as much fun, but late in the season, racing for the championship and having a car that I knew was capable of winning, and trying to find a clean way by Matt in a delicate way by him with all that we had on the line. Knowing it was Matt, I knew we were going to race hard and I didn’t have anything to worry about. And we put on a great show for the fans. I think tracks with high tire wear create so much lap time fall-off that it allows us to run side-by-side. It allows there to be comers and goers on the race track. So, I think that Atlanta and Texas and the old Darlington; there are some tracks that really play out, as we would hope. And as drivers continue to talk about taking downforce off the cars and putting on a softer tire, we’re just trying to create tire wear. And this track naturally does that. Atlanta naturally does that. We all feel, as the guys sitting in the seats, that’s what makes it entertaining and fun. So yes, I think the rules package is going to be another great step in the right direction here. But, we’re fortunate that this is a track already builds that into it. I’m sure everybody keeps hearing the drivers banging this drum, but we want to keep going with it. We want to continue to take more grip away from the cars and create more off-throttle time, and more tire wear.”
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT WITH THE LOWER DOWNFORCE PACKAGE THIS WEEKEND AND AT NIGHT?
“It’s warm during the day. I’m not sure how much it’s going to cool off. But the less grip, I think the happier we’re going to be, as competitors. If that’s through the slick track conditions, the tire wearing out, or lack of downforce, that’s going to continue to make good racing.”
SINCE THE START OF THE 2014 SEASON, KEVIN HARVICK HAS FINISHED SECOND TO YOU EIGHT TIMES. WHEN IT HAPPENS WITH THE FREQUENCY OF ONE GUY, DO YOU START PAYING ATTENTION OR DOES HE KNOW YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS AND DOES IT EVERY BECOME A ONE-ON-ONE CONTEST?
“Oh gosh, since he’s sat in that No. 4 car, he’s been at the top of everybody’s conscious thought and radar. They’ve rolled out in December of 2013, I guess it was, at the Charlotte test session and I wasn’t at that test session, but all I heard about was how much faster they were than the field. And they continue to do that through 2014 and ’15. We’ve all been essentially chasing the No. 4 in a lot of situations.
‘When somebody has an advantage on the field, everybody is using every resource possible to try to understand why. We don’t have many, but we all have photographers that take pictures and try to look at the attitude of the car and maybe how long the side skirts are and develop opinions of what they might be doing. And then through all of they, we’ve had an association with Stewart-Haas and we could look at the database and see what they were doing. We just couldn’t make it go like they did. So, it’s always one of the mysteries in our sport how the same equipment with different flavors of driver and crew chief produce different speeds. It’s always been a big mystery.”
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