Jimmie Johnson applauds NASCAR’s move to reduce downforce

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 26: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

DOVER, DE – SEPTEMBER 26: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 26, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

DOVER, Del.— With discretionary testing now off-limits under new competition rules released by NASCAR on Tuesday, race teams will have to find other ways to extract peak performance from the cars, says six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

With on-track testing options limited to Goodyear tire tests and sessions organized by NASCAR, computer modeling will become even more important in helping to determining baseline setups.

“We’re just going to have to focus harder on our tools—wind-tunnel, 7-post (shaker rig), simulation programs,” Johnson said. “The Goodyear tire tests are still up there. I’m not sure how those are going to be exactly handled, but that could be an opportunity, if they want to allow the whole field to go and get some on-track time.

“(That) would be amazing for Goodyear to really get those kind of race-time environments and conditions for the tire test; I think that would be good. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. That’s just an idea that’s come about in my mind.”

Johnson will be seeking his third consecutive and 10th overall Sprint Cup victory at Dover International Speedway Sunday in the AAA 400 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). Following Dover, 12 drivers will advance for the first time to the Contender Round of NASCAR’s revamped 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The testing ban is one of the most visible changes to Sprint Cup racing in 2015. Other obvious differences include a change in spoiler height from 7.25 to 6.0 inches and a reduction in horsepower from approximately 850 to 725.

“The rules package in general, I don’t think that any one change is going to make or break the rules package,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a combination of changes, mechanical grip, aero balance, the engine package and gear ratio that they’re working on for a long-term vision of bringing costs down.

“And then a very important piece of the whole puzzle is the tire. So, it’s not an easy process for NASCAR to juggle all those items and to keep everybody smiling.”

Reducing downforce by lowering the spoiler, however, is a step in the right direction, as far as Johnson is concerned.

“I feel that we made a good step in helping the drivers smile, with taking downforce out of the cars,” he said. “And, hopefully, that will allow the tire to soften up, and then we can have fall-off. I still think the drivers would love to see another big step in the aero department and less aero on the car and a softer tire yet, to really put the importance back on the drivers and the teams.

“The tires, for the most part, are pretty solid, with not a lot of give-up or fall-off in them. And that, in our opinion as drivers, doesn’t allow opportunities to pass and make passes for the win.”

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