New Texas? No worries!
Early on Friday before the cars hit the track, a reporter brought a question to Jimmie’s attention that he hadn’t pondered before, and perhaps it even made him worry slightly heading into Sunday’s race at the newly repaved and reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway:
Is it at all frustrating or worrisome that a place that has been a real chip for you, especially in the playoffs, is now an unknown quantity when you come here this time?
Johnson pondered before replying:
“I hadn’t thought of it that way. I know Phoenix - the repave and reconfiguration certainly brought me some heartburn. I guess maybe I learned my lesson then that I can’t do much about it. And at 16 years in the sport I’m at a point where a lot of these surfaces are going to change. Just comes with the territory. I haven’t thought much about this one, but the Phoenix repave definitely messed with my mojo for a while.”
Fast forward just over 24 hours and Johnson’s No. 48 sat atop the board when final practice drew to a close: 27.719 seconds at a speed of 194.812 MPH. While it was a good question at the time, Johnson looks to be in A-1 shape heading into Sunday’s 500 miler.
When asked which would have the biggest impact on the race: the repave or reconfiguration, Johnson opted for the blacktop:
“I would say the asphalt itself. Tire wear has been so high here and any caution you would take tires otherwise you would be lapped right away and we won’t have that issue. We will probably scuff every set of tires that NASCAR will give us. We might put cold tires on, but they are not going to be worn out. You might have a little speed on the front side of the run with cold right-side tires. I doubt we will put many left-side sets on. I think the asphalt itself is going to be a bigger factor in this first race. As time goes on I think the extra real estate we have in (Turns) 1 and 2 will become more the story, but getting started it’s going to be tire wear related and the asphalt.”
Logistics and details aside – does Jimmie have it in him to conquer the new TMS?
“I have it in me, but I think it’s a clean sheet of paper. You can’t pick a favorite right now. Anytime there is a reconfiguration, a new asphalt it’s a total game changer. All of past history is now out the window and it’s like we are coming here for the first time.”
It should be fun to see exactly what Jimmie does have in him as he takes the fastest car in final practice and starts at the rear due to having to change tires after a wild ride in qualifying. Check out his loop-de-loop and amusing comments over the radio in the video below:
Will Johnson capture Texas win number seven to match his seven championships Sunday? There’s only one way to find out: watch the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at 1:30 PM ET on FOX.