Jimmie Johnson sticks to plan during Daytona testingBy Ashley McCubbin
Everybody always question how success is attained and it happens. One part of that in racing is your preperation. You first need to be prepared if you’re going to win races. That is something any racer will tell you. Five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and his team know the definition of that as they came to Daytona with a plan and stuck to it. As a result, they learned a lot over the course of the three days.
One of the highlights was they skipped the all important Friday afternoon drafting session, not wanting to cause damage to the car. For them, it was all about crew chief Chad Knaus’ magic list of things to do.
“We have a long test list of things we want to try and that’s really what would hold us up more than anything,” Johnson said just before that afternoon drafting session.
Skipping the drafting session may had been the best idea that they had as while 10 teams were sent packing after the big one on Friday, Johnson and team were able to test all the way into Saturday afternoon and work at their list. They also had teammates Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the draft so they will bounce off of those notes going forward.
Critics have suggested that maybe Johnson should participate in draft sessions more as he hasn’t finished well on the restrictor plate tracks – involved in a lap two wreck in last year’s Daytona 500 and finished outside the top 15 at Talladega last fall. However, while some may say that’s due to lack drafting, it’s also been due to lack of luck. With how close the racing is, it’s all about finding that right line, but also being lucky to avoid trouble. Johnson just hasn’t been lucky.
For his team, he says that they don’t draft on race weekends as they spend so much time working on their cars that they don’t want to risk it when you really can’t get the cars to be that much faster with practice.
“You show up here and what you have is what you have,” he said. “You go through the tech room and it is what it is. For us, it makes no sense to go out there and draft because you aren’t going to learn anything. You’re just taking a chance of ruining your best race car.”
Johnson added that right now the inventory isn’t there as this is the only speedway car they have built and they want it to be their back-up, while also building a car for the Shootout and a car for the 500.
“I mean we have four deck lids for our cars that are legal and they are on the four Hendrick cars that are here now,” he added. “We’re playing a big game of catch up right now.”
When it came to the single car runs, another part of sticking to their own plan was seen. While some teams waited for the cars to cool to have that strong speed, Johnson didn’t do that as he didn’t want to go through that mess.
“We’ve got grill tape off and the car really in race format just trying to see with the changes we make what helps the car and what doesn’t,” he said. “Then going through our motions.”
He knows they have speed based on their teammates and by skipping the cool time, it allowed him to have more time to get data. More data equals more notes equals more chances of striking it right. As a result, he already guaranteed that the car they tested will be their back-up car come Speedweeks.
“We know that we’ll build a better car and apply what we learn here.” he said. The combination of their notes along with what Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne learned will brings lots to the table.
It’s all about playing the cat and mouse game of trying to gain that advantage and complain if other manufactures get an advantage, or find what you’re missing. It’s the game that racing has played over the course of the time and one that will never go away. Everybody can’t be equal or else there’d be no point in watching to see who strives stronger. For right now, Johnson feels good with how they’re doing.
“I know we’re going to learn a lot as we get going here and be very competitive,” he said. “NASCAR is going to work hard to make sure they are all equals. It won’t take away the opportunity to complain, that will always be there and this is racing.”
For now, there is no way to tell as to whether Johnson and team will have the early advantage. Though one thing is certain – they will be one of the teams in the hunt when it comes to the Chase.