Jimmie Johnson: Faster speeds change approach to driving at Pocono

Jimmie Johnson drives the #48 Lowe's / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson drives the #48 Lowe's / Kobalt Tools Chevrolet during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

LONG POND, Pa. — For an eloquent explanation of the difference new pavement at Pocono makes, just ask five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and two-time Pocono winner Jimmie Johnson.

The new asphalt has made a dramatic difference in speed at Pocono Raceway, which in turn has changed the way Johnson and his fellow drivers negotiate the 2.5-mile triangular track.

“You’re in the gas a long time,” Johnson told the NASCAR Wire Service. “I’d say the corner that is most apparent for that is Turn 3. You’re in the throttle well before you ever see any part of the straightaway, and you make up time on throttle around here.

“We certainly are getting into the corners deeper and rolling the center faster, but the thing that stands out to me the most is how soon you’re wide open. Then, if you’re shifting, how quickly you need to grab fourth (gear). It’s a considerable distance from last year when we were shifting.”

Despite the increased speed, though, Johnson said a lap at Pocono isn’t uncomfortable.

“Even though we’re going so much faster, the comfort is there in the cars, and that’s why we’re able to lay down these laps,” Johnson said. “Then the tire is holding up, so then again, I think it speaks to the tire/asphalt combination and how important that really is that those two materials agree with one another.”

As far as Johnson was concerned, there was plenty of agreement where the rubber met the road on Friday afternoon. His No. 48 Chevrolet was fourth fastest in the first Cup practice at 178.678 mph.

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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.