Jimmie Johnson says that despite winning the last three races at Phoenix he is still exploring new settings to find even more speed at the one-mile-oval.
The Californian has been the man to beat recently at the Arizona track, where he leads all active drivers in number of wins. Back in November he dominated the race from pole position, leading more than half the distance to close on his third consecutive Sprint Cup title.
But despite the testing ban put in place by NASCAR and his recent success at the track, Johnson says he is still experimenting to try to find an even better set-up that can help his team not only at Phoenix, but also at similar tracks in forthcoming races.
"Without testing this is a good opportunity for us to work on our short-track program," Johnson said. "What we kind of learn here we'll cross over to Richmond. We'll also cross over to New Hampshire to a certain degree. So we can spend the first practice trying to develop something. Even if it doesn't work we can go to the shop, dig in deeper and show up at Richmond a generation ahead of where we are at now and maybe a step closer to a better package."
Johnson actually ran fastest in the opening practice session of the weekend at Phoenix today and then while doing a qualifying simulation he topped the second session as well. Despite that, the reigning champion is not getting carried away and remains on his toes for Saturday night's event.
"I think in getting the experience over these years, I've come in too cocky in my own mind," Johnson says. "I've come in not really confident enough in some respects because of what's gone on during the season. Through those highs and lows I've just kind of found a spot where I come in with confidence and I feel like I've got a good plan and take today is today and just try to keep it simple and stay even-keeled through it all because we've showed up at tracks where we had great success at and didn't react soon enough when the competition caught us.
"We were like, 'Oh well we won here the last three or four times, we're good, we don't need to worry about the track will come to us.' We start the race and we're going to the back and guys are going by us. So we really try not to be caught up in that."
Johnson currently runs second in the championship to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.