Feb
26

Jimmie looking forward to less downforce

Racing
Interviews

Today Jimmie Johnson spoke about his thoughts looking ahead to the new low-downforce rules package, which will be used for the first time in 2016 this weekend in Atlanta.

Driver of the No. 48 is excited to be headed back to a track where he has 13 top five’s in 24 races. Team Lowe’s Racing won this race a year ago, and a win this Sunday would put Jimmie in a tie with Bill Elliott, Bobby Allison, and Jeff Gordon with five wins a piece at the 1.5 mile oval.

“Expectations are high. We are very excited to get to a 1.5-mile track. I’m excited about the new rules package. I think these cooler temperatures are going to add a lot of grip and maybe not show the real potential. The drivers are so excited about the rules package. I’ve always had great success here. It’s been a lot of fun. I think this track with the high tire wear and the bumpy conditions and the fact that you have to search around for lines really suits my style, and suits my upbringing racing on the dirt. It’s been a great race track for me. Looking forward to a strong performance.

“We definitely have less downforce on the cars, which directionally will lead to (sliding around like the Atlanta of old). I’ve kind of felt, and maybe it’s just my opinion, but I’ve felt like the surface of this track has always created the slick conditions. Even with a rules package that the drivers might not love, we still come to Atlanta and the drivers still love racing here. As rough as it is and how porous the asphalt is it just continues to create an environment that we love regardless of rules package or tire that shows up. It’s always fun here.”

Johnson is optimistic about the progress his Hendrick Motorsports team has made in developing a suitable low-downforce package.

“There is still a lot to learn. The Las Vegas test for us went really well. That is our only true kind of measuring stick and how we think we will perform for the ’16 season with the new rules package. But it’s going to be a constant evolution. The teams are going to continue to figure out how to create more downforce and more mechanical grip. It’s just kind of what we do every year. Honestly the amount of downforce that has been taken away, I assume by the time we reach Homestead we will get most of that back. It’s just the way these engineers work and the evolution of race cars. Hopefully, we can take a bigger chunk out moving forward and really keep the downforce off the cars for all the reasons we have been talking about. Nothing has changed underneath mechanically really with the race car. It’s kind of aero over the top. I don’t think there is a huge learning curve for everyone. I think it might fit the style of some drivers, the feel that some drivers are looking for more than others.”

Johnson elaborated on why drivers love it when their Goodyear tires (safely) wear off at speeds.

“The problem is if we are all running the same speed every lap nobody is passing. The faster we go, the harder it is to pass. So, you start a run and you are running quick lap times it is great, it is fun and exhilarating and fans love it. But, slowing up a second or two, if you don’t have an average lap speed posted somewhere, you can’t see that. But it makes a huge difference in our worlds. It really allows us to race side-by-side. It also allows comers and goers. From a handling perspective or a driver style perspective if you are going to be nice to your tires they are going to last longer and work your way to the front. If you are a young guy and have something to prove, you are probably going to start off quick and then fall fast. It creates passing. That is what we are all after. You’ve got the best drivers, best teams in the country. Put them all in equal cars running the same speed it’s a parade. We don’t want that.”

Finally, the six-time NASCAR Champion feels like the fans can expect better racing as the drivers should be allowed to use more tools in their toolbox of tricks (Kobalt tools in Jimmie’s case).

“Directionally I think if you can get to the bumper in front of you with the smaller spoiler it will be easier to create the high pressure area and take rear downforce away from the car in front of you. In the two races we ran last year (with the low downforce) it seemed that we could, more than anything, run closer to someone and get inside that three to five car length window easier. So, we are all speculating and assuming that with the smaller spoiler it’s allowing the air to change directions and get back down low again so that the approaching race car has proper downforce on it. That is something we have kind of strategized and said would work and then we were able to really feel it in those two races.”

Be sure to tune in on Sunday at 1 PM/ET on FOX as Jimmie goes for win number five at Atlanta Motor Speedway!