|"Just stay away from those knuckleheads..."|
The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion swore off drafting during the three-day Daytona test, after consulting with crew chief Chad Knaus and deciding that the potential risk was not worth the reward.
Despite his take-no-changes approach, Johnson said, “We’re learning stuff. I think (Jeff Gordon) is probably a good gauge as to where we are right now. We’re sitting on some speed. We just don’t want to cool the car down every time we go out and go through that whole mess. We’ve got grill tape off and the car in race format, trying to see what helps the car and what doesn’t.
“This isn’t the car we plan on bringing back for Speedweeks,” said Johnson. “It will be a backup. We know that we’ll build a better car and apply what we learn here. (We’re) not the most stellar on speed, but the engineers are learning a lot and going through the motions.
“From the driver’s standpoint, it is absolutely painfully boring to be a part of it,” said Johnson, before waxing sarcastic and saying, “I’m excited to be here.”
|Kasey Kahne paid the price|
Johnson explained his decision to remain out of the drafting battles, saying, “I would love to be out there and draft. I am tired of sitting in that long-ass line waiting my turn to get out on the race track, but it’s up to Chad. And what he wants to do and what was on his radar when we got here. It’s been so slow to get on the track, we haven’t been able to work through our single-car stuff like we want to.
He reminded critics that he also passed-up a majority of the drafting sessions in last year’s preseason test, adding, “For us, it makes no sense to go out there and draft because you aren’t going to learn anything. You don’t make (the car) any faster... you’re just taking a chance of ruining your best race car.
“We just don’t have any cars,” he admitted. “This is our only speedway car for the 48 (and) we want to have it as a backup when we come back. We still need to go home and build our 500 car, (so) we just don’t have the inventory. We have four deck lids for our cars that are legal, and they are on the four Hendrick cars that are here now. We’re playing a big game of catch up right now.”
While some may have scoffed at Johnson’s “better safe than sorry” approach this morning, he and Knaus were looking a whole lot smarter by mid-afternoon.