Cadillac Racing Jimmie Johnson Zoom transcript

CADILLAC RACING WATKINS GLEN PREVIEW: ZOOM TRANSCRIPT

Jimmie Johnson, co-driver of the No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R, met with the media June 21 via Zoom conference to preview this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on the 3.45-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen International road course. Johnson will team with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller for the third round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.

Transcript of IMSA-related questions:

WATKINS GLEN, TOUGH RACETRACK. WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING THIS WEEKEND FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE?

“I’m happy to be back in the race car and happy to be back with everybody at Action Express Racing. Really excited to see Kamui and Mike – two great human beings and great guys to be around. All in all, I have a lot of excitement to come back to Watkins Glen. It’s a track and area that I really do enjoy. And to be on the track through the full loop – the Boot – I have not done that many times in all the trips that I’ve been there, so I’m excited to run the full-distance track. And in one of these DPi Cadillacs, the pace and effort you have to drive around that racetrack is quite impressive. Especially comparing it to my days in NASCAR. Some of the braking zones, the Bus Stop and the Carousel, it’s just mind-blowing how fast these cars can travel through those tight little areas. So very excited to get back and have that experience once again.”

HOW BIG WOULD A WIN BE FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND?

“It would be incredible to win at Watkins Glen. Incredible to win in another division and series. And then the way sports car racing and endurance racing works, the team atmosphere. I really feel like I’m part of the family at Action Express Racing, and to do so and to win as a race team and as a family in a sense would be really special, too.”

HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE IN TUNE WITH THE TEAM AND THE CAR COMING BACK TO WATKINS GLEN?

“I truly feel like I’m in a better place. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to drive the car at Sebring to see where I kind of fit in and get more time in the DPi car. Clearly, I’ve been a lot more busy in the IndyCar and have a lot more reps and I feel like I’m evolving and more on pace. I think the 24 and even Petit last year you can see that gap closing and I felt much more comfortable and competitive in the car. In a short race, a six-hour race, the importance of being on pace is even higher yet. I’m excited to get a few laps in practice, and I’m not sure I’ll get much more than that the way the practice sessions work out. Hopefully, the time I spend in the sim tomorrow actually will pay off and I can get a step closer to the pace I want to run.”

DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TIME YOU’RE EXPECTING TO SPEND IN THE CAR SUNDAY?

“I think it’s how things play out in the race. A six-hour race with three drivers there’s not a lot of drive time period. But I think the time I spend in the car ultimately depends on my pace.”

HAVE YOU HAD ANY MORE TALKS ABOUT LE MANS FOR NEXT YEAR?

“I’m still eagerly awaiting the (INDYCAR) schedule. I’m pushing behind the scenes to Jay Fry (INDYCAR president) and others to try to understand what the schedule might be. I want to go to Le Mans. It would be an amazing experience to go with Hendrick and Action Express and the way this whole partnership works. But I think so much hinges on the schedule being released to understand if I can and from the team standpoint what drivers would be at the top of their list. So, I’m thankful to have had a few conversations with them and I know that there’s interest. I certainly have a ton of interest to do it. We’re just waiting for that first domino to fall.”

IF THE INDYCAR SCHEDULE WORKS OUT, YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE PRETTY HIGH ON THAT LIST?

“I do. I feel like the interest is really high on both sides. We haven’t been able to talk anything more formal because the schedule is not out.”

WHERE DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF IN IMSA NEXT YEAR?

“I really think it’s schedule permitting and then the opportunity permitting. There’s such a shakeup next year within sports car racing. I’m not sure the dust is really settled yet to understand where opportunities might lie. I think in the next month or two there will be more clarity for myself and for a few others out there as well just as the series really comes together and cars and seats and opportunities are out there.”

IS IT MORE A CASE OF CAR AVAILABILITY?

“That’s definitely a big player in it.”

FOR 2023, YOU WANT TO DO A FULL INDYCAR SCHEDULE AND ANYTHING THAT FITS?

“Absolutely. What I’ve been doing has been so much fun and enjoyable. I continue to get better and certainly hope to do something similar next year.”

SINCE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN IN THE CADILLAC DPI SINCE DAYTONA, HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE TO GET UP TO SPEED?

“I’m putting a lot of stock into the sim experience I’ll have tomorrow. I know last year I had a testing conflict with INDYCAR and I wasn’t able to drive the sim with Action. After the practice session took place, it was obvious that the sim session would have been very useful for me. The drivers that did participate in it were very pleased with how close reality and sim were for that given experience. So, I worked really hard to get in the sim this time knowing how few laps you get in practice prior to the race. But I think my senses, my eyes have really adjusted well to how fast an IndyCar gets around a racetrack and I think that experience will carry over for us in the DPi car. From a comfort standpoint, the DPi car I’ve been more comfortable in it than I have the IndyCar. The side force properties of the car, the aerodynamics and just the way it rides fits more of my background, if you will. There’s a lot more side force in the car, and it’s always brought me a lot of comfort. So, with all that being said, I’m excited about sim tomorrow and really plan to trust sim and the braking marks and the aggression to drive the track and carry that right to the track and looking forward to that applying.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN LAST YEAR THAT WILL HELP YOU GOING ALL OUT FOR THOSE BIG LAPS?

“That was truly the eye-opening experience I had last year. I think I only got six laps of practice before the race, and I was nowhere near pace. And then my stint, towards the end of it, I think I had 20-25 laps in the car. At the end I was finally close on pace and ran my fastest lap. It took me 30 laps to find the aggression level, so that’s why I have so much focus on the sim session. The commitment level was just mind-blowingly high. One, it was an eye-opener but two it’s so much fun to rip around the track that fast, especially going through the Carousel with barely a slight lift and right back to the gas and wide open. What the other drivers said about the commitment level did catch me out when I was there last year, and I hope to do more on pace this year.”

IS THAT WHY YOU ENJOY THE EXPERIENCES IN THE CADILLAC DPI – WHEN YOU HIT IT RIGHT YOU REALLY ENJOY IT?

“I do. It makes me feel like a kid again. The years I spent driving cars my senses and body has understood a certain level of grip and speed and braking marks and throttle marks. And when you just shatter everything you know, it just makes you laugh. Inside the car I’m literally laughing like I cannot believe I just did that in a race car. That’s the part I’m really enjoying.”

LOOKING TO NEXT YEAR, DO YOU HAVE A SENSE THAT KAMUI AND ROCKY COULD RETURN WITH YOU?

“I really don’t have a good sense of things. I feel like Action has been able to help Kamui navigate through the Toyota conflict, and we’ve been able to do it for a few years. I feel confident if there’s an opportunity we would be able to figure it out. Rocky’s schedule is a little bit more open; he’s not running a race team like Kamui is at this point. I definitely know all of us want to stay together and I feel like behind the scenes and the political pieces of it we could get that organized. It’s just really about cars being available to drive. I think we’ll have a better idea in the next month or so what opportunities might be there.”

AND THE ALLY SPONSORSHIP IS SOLID?

“The relationship I have with them is rock solid. We’re still in this phase, whether it’s INDYCAR or sports car or any other ideas I have to go racing, people are just starting to talk about options. It’s usually end of summer, beginning of fall when paper starts moving around and people are looking to ink stuff and get it done. So, we’re early in the cycle and I’m certainly trying to keep my options open, and I know I have Ally’s support on and off the track whatever I choose to do. I certainly hope it involves more on track.”

CAN YOU EXPOUND ON HOW HAVING TEAMMATES IN VARIOUS SERIES IS DIFFERENT?

“I think sports car racing really takes the driver relationship to a deeper level. And in some respects, I think the team relationship, too. You all are working for a common goal at a deeper level than what I’ve experienced in NASCAR. Six days of the week in NASCAR we were that community, but Sundays was all about yourself and what you could do for yourself and your team. Adding that extra day – and especially the most important day of the week from racing terms – really takes those relationships to the next level.”

GETTING TO ATTACK THESE HIGH-COMMITMENT TRACKS IN A CADILLAC DPI, HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM A CUP CAR?

“I think whatever lane you’re in whether it’s sports cars, formula cars, big, heavy stock cars, at a young age your path is sort of chosen for you and you really start spending time on those tracks seeing the cars, the technology. It’s amazing all these little pieces you pick up along the way that help you be stronger in that given discipline. In the NASCAR space I clearly spent a career there, a lifetime there. I always wondered what it would be like to drive the other cars. I am realizing when I cross over all the things that I took for granted I’m now needing to relearn. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things of pit ins, pit outs, the little details on the track that after four or five braking zones those little details on those four or five braking zones add up to a second. It really is a specialized discipline. When you look at how strong the INDYCAR field is, the DPi field, the NASCAR field, they are very specialized skill sets for each one. I just think that’s a credit to motorsports and how strong the series are. I think generations back, certainly it was specialized, but I think there’s a bit more freedom for a driver to move around. This has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me to leave the top of one field and literally start over in these other fields.”

COULD YOU EXPOUND ON HOW RACING THE CADILLAC DPI HAS SHATTERED YOUR EXPECTATIONS?

“To use Watkins Glen and an area of the track as an example, qualifying coming to the Bus Stop, the brake markers start at 500. In qualifying, we’re at the 5 full brakes from fourth gear down to second towing through the Bus Stop in a NASCAR vehicle. In the DPi car, you’ll be in fifth gear, go down two gears with maybe a lift about the 75 mark – and it’s really just kind of a moderate braking zone. And off that brake wide open exiting the Bus Stop, upshifting with a slight lift through the Carousel. Just the braking zone alone is almost four times better than what we would have in the Cup car. That math really translates all the way around the track – the cornering speeds, the braking zones. The acceleration is less; the vehicle has less power than what a Cup car has so there is a tradeoff, especially in how a lap time is made. NASCAR vehicles really make up that lap time on the straightaways with all the power it has. Braking and cornering, these cars are just in a whole different level of performance.”

About Cadillac

A leading luxury auto brand since 1902, Cadillac is growing globally, driven by an expanding product portfolio that features distinctive design and technology. More information on Cadillac appears at www.cadillac.com.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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