Here are some of the highlights from Friday’s media availability sessions at Dover:
Pressure for the 48?
Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won since last year’s Dover spring race (which was in June, so it’s not a full season), which means you might expect him to come here feeling a bit more pressure than a normal weekend.
After all, it’s his best track — he has a record 11 victories here.
But Johnson says there’s actually less pressure when he shows up at Dover, because he’s so confident in how to get around this place.
Still, with Johnson in the midst of a career-long winless streak, Dover could be the best chance to grab a playoff spot and turn his season around.
Can the 48 get back to its old winning ways?
“I think we have created an environment of very high expectations because of the success we’ve had, and I think people forget how special our run has been,” Johnson said. “We certainly want to get back into those ways and have it happen again — but history shows it doesn’t happen very often. We were very fortunate to harness lightning for a long stretch of time.”
Johnson said he’s “a realist” about his team’s progress.
“The encouraging news is we are making our cars better each and every week,” he said. “… We’re a victim of our own success, and I hope to create the headlines that we want and the headlines being along the lines of ‘Well, they should have won. It was Dover.’”
Pit guns among drivers council topics
This is probably a big “duh” since you would figure the drivers would want to talk to NASCAR about the pit gun issue, but Joey Logano confirmed the topic was raised during Tuesday’s driver council meeting at the NASCAR R&D Center.
“We talk about everything — we talk about pit guns and lots of other things,” Logano said. “I think the pit gun thing will be fine. There will be growing pains with some changes. There is a learning curve for the teams and NASCAR, but we have to make changes to continue growing and sometimes there will be pain when that happens. You can’t stay in your comfort zone forever because there is no growth in your comfort zone.”
Logano praised the drivers council as a positive forum for competitors to air their concerns with NASCAR in a private group. And it’s not all bad, he added.
“Our sport is in great health and we talk about that,” Logano said. “We talk about the amount of fans that are still watching our sport and how great things are going and we have a lot to be proud of.
“There is also a lot to work on, and I don’t think that is a secret that we are trying to make our sport better and better each day.”
Pain in the grass
Austin Dillon was just trying to avoid a wreck last week when he cut through the Talladega grass and ended up destroying his car as a result.
“I saw the cars starting to come even lower, and I saw there was a gap in the grass, so I just cut left,” Dillon said. “When I cut left, the first part of the grass was OK — then all of a sudden it felt like I hit a tabletop jump or something and destroyed the car.”
Dillon speculated he may have hit a drain or a buried pipe that had raised the grass. Otherwise, there was no explanation aside from the grass itself.
“It completely destroyed the car,” Dillon said. “It knocked the front clip up and the rear quarter panel off of the car and punctured the radiator, too. We were done after that.”
Drivers like Kyle Busch have been vocal advocates of getting rid of grass at racetracks, but Dillon said he’d like to go back and look at the exact spot he hit before making a judgment on whether the grass needs to go in that area.
Suarez still healing
Daniel Suarez has been posting workout videos lately where he’s using his injured left hand. But while the thumb has made progress from the avulsion fracture Suarez suffered at Texas, he’ll still have to race with a brace on it for now.
“It’s not 100 percent,” he said. “I can use the front palm of my hand very well, but when it’s time to push, my thumb is not quite there yet.”
Suarez said he thought about trying to race without a brace this weekend, but his doctor said to wait two more weeks. The thumb no longer causes him pain inside the car (because it’s stabilized with the brace), but Suarez can’t grab the wheel the way he’s used to with the brace on.
“It’s still stiff and it’s still a little sore when I move it too much, but it’s much better than a couple weeks ago,” he said. “I’m excited to finally have a regular glove and to not wear this thing (later this month).”