PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS SPEAKS WITH MEDIA REGARDING NASCAR SANCTIONS LEVIED AGAINST CREW CHIEF CHAD KNAUS FOLLOWING SUNDAY'S DAYTONA 500 POST-QUALIFYING INSPECTION AT DAYTONA ...
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS SPEAKS WITH MEDIA REGARDING NASCAR SANCTIONS LEVIED AGAINST CREW CHIEF CHAD KNAUS FOLLOWING SUNDAY'S DAYTONA 500 POST-QUALIFYING INSPECTION AT DAYTONA (FLA.) INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY.
JOHNSON: "I just felt it was necessary to come in. I know everybody is busy and obviously what took place is very damaging to the Lowe's team. A lot of people have questions. We have a few minutes before practice starts and I wanted to come in and speak on the team's behalf and make it easier on everyone and take a little time before practice started. So I'll just answer a few questions and then I've got to get back out there and practice."
WERE YOU AWARE THAT THE CAR HAD BEEN ALTERED OR THAT THERE WAS A PROBLEM? IS THAT ANYTHING YOU HAD ANY KNOWLEDGE OF?
"No. The drivers.we just get in and drive the cars. I do know that the team and crew chief are responsible for everything that takes place. They're going to work as hard as they can to work over all the gray areas. And with that in mind, gray areas were looked at and worked over. When the car came back, the template didn't fit. Chad (Knaus) and the team and I accept what has happened. We're trying to move forward and move on and get into the Duel and do our best job in that race and then into the (Daytona) 500 and try to win the 500. But there is no doubt that NASCAR was put into a position to make a ruling and (they) made the ruling and we're going to live with it and go on and try to do the best we can down here."
HOW DOES THIS CHANGE YOUR ROLE FOR THE WEEK? AND DO YOU THINK OTHER FOLKS ARE DOING SIMILAR THINGS AND JUST GOT AWAY WITH IT?
"I think all crew chiefs and engineers on all the race teams are all working areas over trying to find an advantage. As we know, there are more templates now than there have ever been. It's just a deal where you've got to massage the gray areas. And I'm not saying that anybody else had a problem, but we're all flirting with that line and when you step over that line, it's NASCAR's job to call you out on it and they called us out and we're living with the consequences from that.
"But my role I think, is going to change. Chad is such a great leader and cheerleader for our team and obviously is there when the garage opens until it closes -- keeping everybody's energy up and keeping them focused on the right things. I think that Darian Grubb who is going to be filling in as crew chief and Ron Malec (car chief, rear tire carrier). It's going to be their jobs to really stand up and lead the team along with myself. I'm obviously not going to be there and going in with them in the mornings when the gate opens. So these guys really have to step up. I have all the confidence in the world in them. I think they're going to do an amazing job. It's going to be quite a loss not to have Chad here, but he's done a great job of training us all and hopefully we can be out on the track and perform as if he were here."
DOES IT CONCERN YOU THAT OVER THE COURSE OF TIME THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL VIOLATIONS CALLED AGAINST CHAD AND BY EXTENSION, THAT YOUR TEAM IS DEVELOPING A REPUTATION OF SOMEBODY THAT PUSHES THE ENVELOPE BEYOND THE LIMITS AND THEREFORE SOME OF THE SUCCESS YOU HAVE ENJOYED OVER THE YEARS HAS BEEN TAINTED BECAUSE OF THAT REPUTATION?
"No, I don't think so, it just depends upon how you want to look at it in my opinion. We look at what took place last year; we had an appeal overturned. That, I thought, would have sent a big message out to the racing world that said 'Hey, look. They were accused of something, then it was overturned.' Because, as we all know, the appeal process is never overturned. So, with that in mind, I thought that was a big credit to our team. With the Dover incident and the shocks, NASCAR patted us on the back and said 'Hey, great job, but we don't like these so we are going to outlaw them'. If they were illegal, they would have penalized us. I think NASCAR is doing a great job of being fair. They have a precedent they have to keep up with. If we look at this punishment for Chad, it is in line with what happened with Todd Berrier (crew chief, No. 29) and that is all you can ask for racing in the series. Keep the calls consistent. I hate it for the fans and anyone else watching and listening to think that this stuff puts a black cloud over No. 48 team at times.
"I hate it. I don't like it. Hendrick Motorsports doesn't like it. Lowe's doesn't like it. But in our sport, we are paid to push the envelope. We are paid to work hard in the gray areas, especially the crew chiefs. That is where Chad has found some success and where Chad has helped Hendrick Motorsports grow to the next level. It is just unfortunate that something like this has happened at the start of the season at the biggest race and there's a huge thing that goes along with it."
IS THERE ANY WAY YOU CAN QUANTIFY JUST HOW MUCH CHAD'S LOSS WILL BE AS FAR AS THE ACTUAL RHYTHM OF THE TEAM DURING THE RACE? DOES IT CUT YOU CHANCES BY 25% OR IS THERE ANY WAY TO FIGURE THAT?
"No, I don't think there is any way to figure it. But we chose Darian specifically because he sits on the box next to Chad every week. He is the one that is working on tire pressure adjustments, pit calls, two tires, four tires -- in all the different calls that take place, he is sitting along side Chad doing that. We have rhythm other crew chiefs at Hendrick Motorsports that have been involved for a long time that would easily be able to bring their experience and get on the box and do the job. I felt that having some one up there that thinks and works like Chad when we are trying to talk to Chad at home in the evenings, someone that Chad can relate to and has been working with. That is going to help us out the most to have that right person in there, someone who is a 48 guy. Darian Grubb is that perfect match. He has been our engineer for the race team who has been on the box. He was going to be on the box all year next to Chad but now is he going to be solo on the box for the next few races. We feel we are taking every steps necessary to have a smooth experience with Chad gone."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT BECAUSE OF THE NUMBER OF INCIDENTS, YOU ARE BEING OVERLY SCRUTINIZED?
"No, it is what it is. We had something called against us, we crossed over the line and the decision has been made. I can't sit here and tell you we weren't trying to push the gray area, we got in trouble. It is obvious. We know that there are ramifications that come with it. All I can do is get out on the track and represent Lowe's and my team, do the best job as I can and try to move on. That is the position we are in."
WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THIS? HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE PUSHING OF THE LIMITS? WHERE IS CHAD NOW?
"I had lunch with him (Chad Knaus) yesterday; we worked on our game plan. He is in Charlotte going crazy right now I am sure on the phone and emailing and the different things he is allowed to do. I didn't find out until after the Bud Shootout. I walked in the transporter and was changing into my street clothes to leave. Chad walked in. We had run well, finished fifth, led a little bit so I expected a big smile on his face. But I looked at him and saw a frown. I thought there was something wrong with our Shootout car. Then I found out exactly what it was. At that time, we didn't know what the penalty would be, so I went on home and found out later that evening what the penalty was going to be.
"We will learn a lot in the practice session today, we are learning as we go here. This is an entirely new experience for us. This first practice is important. I know there are a lot of templates, I know that they have their gauge, I don't even know how far off it was I don't know any of the details. I just get in the car. That is what the drivers do; we just get in the car and go. I sleep well at night knowing that Chad Knaus is working his butt off to find me an advantage. Unfortunately, he stepped over the line. It's something that he admits and he feels terrible about. He is at home going crazy over this and I would imagine he will come back much more conservative. In some ways I am disappointed because he has always been one to drive technology in our sport. He will be back after just a couple of weeks at home and he'll get over it."
CAN YOU STILL WIN THE DAYTONA 500 WITHOUT CHAD?
"Absolutely. This team is 100% capable of winning the Duel that we're in -- starting last -- and also the Daytona 500. We have an amazing team. Hendrick Motorsports has given us all the resources. Rick's (Hendrick) vision of the team and how things take place; we've been taking a lot of pressure off the crew chiefs of having to worry about every single detail. Darian has been experiencing some of the load and understanding what it takes to crew chief. He has been sitting next to Chad on the box. It is his chance to shine; it's our entire team's chance to shine. It will be easy to think well, the 48 is out of it. But all of our pride is on the line and we want to show the racing world this isn't going to keep us down, we can come out and be competitive and have a shot to win races."