Johnson hints at NASCAR format changes; seeks continued improvement

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“Format changes” were the buzzwords of Jimmie Johnson’s first media availability of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, even if the six-time champion didn’t bite on exactly what they were.

Earlier this week, NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France hinted during an MRN Radio interview potential format changes could come either in terms of points adjustments or race start times. Still, to Johnson, that doesn’t change the goal.

“From being in the car, it doesn’t change the driver’s mindset much,” Johnson said. “It might take someone from roughing ‘em up to dumping them. I think it’s more about perception. But looking at it and putting more weight on winning, it’s not going to change what I do.”

Johnson hinted at new qualifying adjustments for 2014. NASCAR’s road course race qualifying structure has already been announced, but nothing has been said of the remaining 34 races although the possibility exists single-car qualifying could be axed.

“Qualifying will be far different,” he said. “I thought I knew it and then Chad (Knaus, crew chief) brought me up to speed. The last I heard about it was at a town hall meeting, and then I disconnected.”

Johnson estimated he may need to “perfect things” a bit more in qualifying, rather than settling for compromise.

Of course, this availability also represented the first time the media had a chance to ask about the possibility of a record-tying seventh Sprint Cup title, a storyline that will no doubt rule the headlines all of 2014.

“I haven’t put much thought into it yet,” Johnson admitted. “If the opportunity is there, that reality will be hard to put out of my mind.”

Also of note: Johnson has at least one other test scheduled before Speedweeks, and in terms of improvement, Johnson says each member of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet unit at Hendrick Motorsports can correct things year-on-year. For Johnson, he said knowing how to judge restarts – after his Dover faux pas last year – was something to work on.

He’s not a guy to rest on his laurels, and that relentless pursuit of perfection has kept him at the head of the NASCAR field year-on-year.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”