|"Five Time" speaks out|
“I know a lot of teams are working hard to sort out the Gen-6 car.” He said. “As the year develops, we will see different teams and manufacturers emerge with strength. But right now, I feel like our No. 48 car is right there at the top.
“It’s so difficult to get the recipe right,” said Johnson. “This race track is a perfect example. For the longest time, we didn’t think the racing was all that good from a competitors’ standpoint. But we had a sold out event here, with a long waiting list. They changed it (and the) drivers are happy, the track is very racy, but you can’t sell out the spring race. Last year’s race, we were all fighting for one lane which was at the top instead of the bottom. Somebody throws a helmet and it’s considered a good race. So, I’m not sure racing and entertainment kind of go in the same piece.
“I think racing is the top priority for NASCAR and it has been,” said Johnson. “They have created a very safe race car and a very equal race car. I think the next step is to look at the tracks and figure out how to improve the tracks. The competition side of NASCAR has worked so hard… to make sure the big teams don’t get away from the little teams. You just have to think about it a little bit. If the cars are that close, you are probably not going to be able to pass easily. That is just one aspect of an equal field.
“If we have race tracks with multiple grooves, multiple lanes (and) high tire fall off, I think you will see a lot better racing. But then there is still a portion of people that want to see fist fights. so that is the balancing act.”
|"Put down some abrasive asphalt."|
He said track owners need to step-up and make necessary (though admittedly expensive) changes, adding, “NASCAR is aware (of that) and I’ve had great conversations with them. I know other drivers have too. The suggestions I made are probably hundreds of millions of dollars to change (and) I don’t see anybody jumping at that opportunity. When a track is resurfaced… some tracks will listen (to drivers). Others feel that they know what they need to do -- through their engineers and modeling -- and come back with something none of us ever talked about. I wish there was a better connection point between the guys on the track and the people that pay for the tracks to be resurfaced and redesigned. That channel could work a little better and help make the racing better.
“I do sympathize with the track owners in trying to create the right surface. Bruton (Smith) did everything in his power to create a racy track here. We had it, the driver’s loved it… but the fans didn’t like it. There is that balancing point, and I think we have to keep the fans in mind… what is going to keep people buying tickets and sitting in the seats. I don’t have the magic sauce, (but) I do know that looking at the competition side of NASCAR and the team owners to make another change or to build new cars or do something different… we have exhausted all avenues.
“High downforce, low downforce, bump stops, no bump stops; (we’ve tried) all those different combinations and the cars are equal. You are going to have negative affect from equal running race cars. It’s just how it is. There are a lot of smart people in the garage and abroad, (and we need to) start focusing on tracks. I think an easy route is to use some of the older aggregate on these tracks. This new stuff that they have used at a variety of different race tracks lasts a long time. It doesn’t wear the tire out.
I’m sure it’s a smart decision when you are looking at your bookkeeping at the end of the year. You don’t have to resurface the track as often, but I don’t think it’s helpful for good racing. We need tire fall off and tire wear in order to do that.
“Our biggest concern is the mile-and-a-half tracks for side-by-side racing. I would go to the newest mile-and-a-half -- or the one with the newest asphalt -- and start there. Just put down abrasive asphalt. The old mix, whatever that was.”