WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — The hardest thing about road course qualifying, says Jimmie Johnson, is jumping in the car after a long break and trying to put down one perfect lap.
Unlike the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which qualifies in groups of six at road courses, with a chance to post a strong time over several laps, the Cup cars are one and done.
“It’s more about getting out of rhythm,” said Johnson, who qualified third for Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen. “(In) the Nationwide Series, you get a couple of shots at it, and that’s a nice way to find your rhythm, and it’s really good for the Nationwide Series to qualify that way. A lot of the drivers don’t have a lot of road course experience in this style of race car.
“At the Cup level, you don’t get that luxury. To me, it’s all about rhythm. It’s a problem that I have at Martinsville (a .526-mile oval). I’m such a rhythm driver that Martinsville qualifying gets me, because we sit on ice for a couple of hours and then go back out to run — and I miss it. But road-course-wise, I’ve been doing a better job.”
So much so, in fact, that Johnson wouldn’t like to see the Nationwide qualifying format at road courses adopted for Sprint Cup.
“From a selfish standpoint, I’m finally good at this style,” he said. “I see a lot of guys making mistakes, so I guess I’m content with it being like it is. But a couple of years ago, I would have lobbied for the other way.”