Recipe for experimentation

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 22:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2013 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

FONTANA, CA – MARCH 22: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2013 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

FONTANA, Calif. — With NASCAR’s Gen-6 race car making its debut this year, and with five distinctly different race tracks opening the schedule, it should be no surprise that race teams are still trying to discover ideal setups for their cars.

In the case of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, a win in the Daytona 500 and a third-place standing in the points provide more latitude for experimentation than most other drivers enjoy. That’s not to say though, that working with radically different setups isn’t endemic to the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization.

“We’re still on the fence right now, and we have things going on with the front suspension on the car where we’ve been racing one way, we’re considering another way, and we’ll change it in and out during practice,” Johnson said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “Even the rear spring rates and such — just trying to get that under control with what the attitude of the car wants to be.

“We don’t have a deep notebook yet. At Bristol (last Sunday), I would say,¬† even though it’s a small track, would be probably the best example of all four (Hendrick Motorsports) teams going in different directions.”

Johnson ran well at Bristol before he blew a right front tire and smacked the outside wall late in the race. Teammate Kasey Kahne, running a significantly different setup, won at Bristol for the first time.

“I felt like Kasey and I were pretty competitive throughout the race — and he certainly won — but our front ends on our race cars couldn’t have been more different,” Johnson said. “They were polar opposites, but we were both very fast and competitive all day long.

“With this new car, there are still quite a few things to sort out, and so, yeah, one of our four cars at least will race with a big unknown just because‚Ķ why not? It’s that time of the year to explore and experiment.”

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