Daytona II: Johnson - Thursday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Jeremy Mayfield, Joey Logano's win, his season to date, and more. ARE YOU READY TO RACE AT DAYTONA? "Uh, yeah. I always forget how warm and humid it is until we ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Jeremy Mayfield, Joey Logano's win, his season to date, and more.

ARE YOU READY TO RACE AT DAYTONA? "Uh, yeah. I always forget how warm and humid it is until we show up and then its like, 'oh yeah, July in Daytona'.

I'm looking forward to the race and we've been fair here. I take a lot of the responsibility for that and plate racing lately. Some things with this car and things that I was looking to do, it just hasn't worked out. There was a time in 2006 and in 2005 where we were real good with the old car, but I just haven't been as competitive as I want to be.

I don't think I am looking for the right opportunities and setting up passes and defending as much. I think I have been a little too relaxed as far as defending in the plate stuff. So hopefully we'll make the right adjustments and be around at the end.

ARE YOU OKAY WITH RACING WITH JEREMY MAYFIELD RACING ON THE SAME RACETRACK AS YOU IF THAT IS THE WAY IT WORKS OUT? "I'm pretty sure that whenever he comes back to race, he will be tested. And if at that point, whoever it is, if they are sober and they pass the test then put them on the track. If not then they don't need to be on the track and that is what this whole thing boils down to.

It's hard to know exactly what is going on in this thing and it's been confusing and difficult to follow but at the end of the day we all wanted a drug policy and we have one and now we are living by it. We just want everybody that is on track to not be under the influence and that is the bottom line.

I am confident that when he does come back to the track that he comes back to that he will be taking a test, and at that point everyone should be breathing easily.

YOU SAID THAT YOU DIDN'T MAKE THE RIGHT MOVES HERE BEFORE. IS THERE SOMEONE THAT YOU GO BACK TO FOR ADVICE ABOUT MAKING CERTAIN MOVES OR DO YOU GO BACK AND WATCH WHAT YOU DID AND DECIDE WHAT YOU DID WRONG AND HOW YOU CAN MAKE BETTER DECISIONS. "It's tough to get a lot of help anymore(laughs). It was easier to do a few years back. But my teammates and I we talk about different techniques in the cars and about what we do and so far all the conversations that I have had with everybody........I feel like I'm doing what they are talking about. They are such small split-second decisions and I am missing it somewhere. The end result is where I have been running and how many laps I have led. I haven't been running all that well and I have been running in the back and haven't led many laps so I have a good idea about what I have been doing and I am going to make some changes and take a little different approach to the race this weekend and hopefully it pays off"

DID YOU GO THROUGH ANY SIMILAR SITUATIONS ON OTHER TRACKS LIKE 1.5-MILE TRACKS AND SHORT TRACKS IN TRYING TO FIGURE THOSE OUT? "I did. The first thing when I came into the sport, the 1.5-mile tracks came a little easier for me and because I was coming out of ASA the short tracks were great for me, but the cars were so different it took me a while to figure out how to be good at a short track with a NASCAR-style vehicle.

The restrictor plate tracks have been tough on me in general. There was a period of time where I won a couple of races and then the car kind of changed and went away from there. So in general, defending, trying to pick the right line to be in or to block.......those aspects of racing, I have never really been that good at. I am always working on it and there are very important races that are plate track races. One in the Chase and obviously the Daytona 500. So that is four trophies during the year that you have a chance to get.

I am all about doing well on those types of tracks but it's just not something that comes easy to me. It's not something for me that is natural or I am familiar with.

DOES THIS YEAR FEEL LIKE ANY ONE OF THE OTHER THREE CHAMPIONSHIP YEARS? CAN YOU DRAW ANY PARALLELS TO WHERE YOU ARE AT NOW COMING INTO DAYTONA THE SECOND TIME? "There is very little oddly enough. I guess because last year is so fresh in my mind and we were behind with the cars and this year the cars are plenty fast, so it's definitely different from last year but so far each year that I have won a championship they came from all different variety of ways with different cars. You know we had a split season, a full-time season, and then last year having to struggle so hard to find the speed and get our cars in order.

This year it's been more about small mistakes we keep making as a team. Like on pit road I keep getting busted and struggling with different issues on pit stops and with that stuff I'm glad that it's in that department because we can work on those details. With the way the rules sit and the way we operate right now if we were behind with the chassis it would be so hard to catch up and using the practice sessions that you have each week to catch up. So I feel like we are in a really good spot but it is a little different than the other years."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE WAY THAT THIS JEREMY MAYFIELD SITUATION PLAYED OUT AND THE FACT THAT IT HAD TO GO TO COURT AND NASCAR NOT HAVING THE FINAL SAY, BUT A JUDGE HAVING THE FINAL SAY? "You would think that the sanctioning body would be able to run their sport and do what is right for their sport. The way I understand it is that still at the end of the day, when Jeremy comes back to the track he can be tested at that point and if he passes the test then he can be on the track. And that is really the bottom line that they want to have people on the track that are sober and not under the influence of anything.

It is very confusing to understand what or if took place or any of this. It's been hard to really follow and the rumors have been wild. But at the end of the day we just want forty-three sober drivers on that race track. And I know when he comes back he will have to go through a testing policy then and a procedure then and if he is clean then he will be on the race track and there is no issues. So it's been a tough process for everyone and it's been hard to follow and I look forward to the day that it's behind all of us in this sport and we can continue one and get back to racing and stop worrying about this stuff."

WHEN JEREMY COMES BACK WILL YOU HAVE ANY FEAR OF RACING OUT THERE WITH HIM? "The way I understand it when he comes back to the track he can be tested and if he passes the test then he will be on the track and again that is where I find my peace. If he passes the test then put him on the track.

It's hard to know with all that has gone on over the last few months what is what. I mean it's just getting more confusing as every day unfolds. If guys are sober on the racetrack, then that is all we are after and that is the reason why I signed that affidavit just supporting the fact that the drivers wanted a drug policy in place and we need to live by it and unfortunately the judge has ruled outside of NASCAR and won't let NASCAR regulate how they feel they should and its confusing things even more.

HAVE YOU BEEN TESTED SINCE HE WAS SUSPENDED? "No I was tested that same weekend actually and haven't been tested since. I have had my baseline and two randoms so far this year."

SOME OF THE DRIVERS ARE SAYING IT'S TAKING A LONGER TIME FOR THE TEST AND SOME OF THE PROCEDURES ARE LONGER. IS THAT TRUE? "Well, I had to wait on Brian Vickers when we were all going somewhere. It went from like a thirty-minute process to an hour and thirty minute process and I think it had something to do with the fact that you had to take your driver's license to the test now and Kasey Kahne was in front of him and Kasey was in his fire suit and he didn't have his driver's license and they wouldn't let him leave to go get his driver's license and he didn't have his cell phone to call someone to go get his driver's license and it sounded kind of entertaining. I can only imagine what was going on inside that trailer while they were trying to sort it out."

YOU ASKED FOR DRUG TESTING AND NOW YOU GOT IT BUT JEFF BURTON SAYS IT CAN'T WORK LIKE THIS WITH EVERY POSITIVE TEST BEING CHALLENGED AND ENDING UP IN THE COURT SYSTEM. IT TAKES AWAY FROM THE SPORT AND IS BAD FOR EVERYBODY. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

"Yeah, I definitely agree with it and I think that through this process whatever mistakes have been made from NASCAR's side, and from the company that does the test, and wherever the mistakes are at and I don't even know where to look at this point but as we move forward things will be handled differently and I believe that we will continue to improve this system and we will make it better, and that is all you can hope for so unfortunately there is this bump in the road and the last thing you want to do is to have a false positive on someone.

"I don't even know where to start because you hear one rumor that its one way, one rumor it's another way and then the next you know there is a chance for him to come back to the race track and it makes you believe there is something wrong with the system and then you hear the rumors so it's just a confusing mess right now. I look forward to the day that it's all laid out plain and simple and done."

THE POINTS RACE IS REALLY TIGHT RIGHT NOW. IS IT TOO EARLY TO START TAKING RISKS AND MAKING SURE THAT YOU GET UP AS HIGH IN POINTS AS POSSIBLE? "You try to. We took a risk at Michigan and it didn't pay off and it hurt us pretty good in the points and if you can make some conscious decision to take risks but in general we are all putting in everything we can and all you can really do is a two tire stop or try to stretch a fuel window. Outside of that we are all doing everything we can to win the race."

SO MUCH POTENTIAL FOR RAIN. IS THAT GOING TO CHANGE YOUR DECISION MAKING HALFWAY THROUGH THE RACE? "Yes and no. We all have the radar systems to know what is going on but at the same time you can kind of sense it and you don't have to even hear from your team what is going on and you can kind of sense when you get to the halfway mark and everybody is racing around crazy then you know that rain is in the area and the word has been put out."

JIMMY CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS TONIGHT? TWENTY FIVE NAMES ARE PUT IN THERE AND NARROWED DOWN O FIVE NAMES. WHAT DO YOU THING CHARACTERIZES A HALL OF FAME ATHLETE OR A PERSON IN BUSINESS THAT SHOULD BE A PART OF THE HALL OF FAME? "I'm excited for our hall of fame to open up and to see these five people be inducted in whenever that takes place and the excitement surrounding twenty-five potential nominees. It's an exciting time for our sport.

In my opinion you look in a few different areas of success on track and what they did within the sport, to help to grow the sport, commitment to the sport, and really the type of person that they are and their character.

It's sad that only five are going into it in this first round because we have sixty years of racing basically now and it's hard to pick just five, but I am really excited to see who those five are and look forward to the other years to come a watch for the other people go in."

ARE THERE ANY DRIVERS SPECIFICALLY THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE IN THERE? "Driver-wise I would go through Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, and I would assume one of the fan favorites is obviously going to be Earnhardt. And I definitely think he needs to be in there and I think he'd be in that first year.

But if you go through the names and all the years of racing that has taken place and there are guys I don't even know about that really created this sport back in year one that need to be honored and need to be a part of it. So it's going to be a fun process and I am sure we will all learn a lot about the sport through this."

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE HALF OF THE SEASON AND IF SO DOES THAT CHANGE FROM YEAR TO YEAR? "The last three years the second half of the season has been really good. There is so much pressure and stress on your shoulders through a championship battle that it's tough to really say that you enjoy it but when it's over and you have finished well or won the championship its great then but the years that I haven't won are the years where I would say the first half was more fun and less stress."

YOU MENTIONED TOUGHNESS. WHAT IS TOUGH COMING UP FOR YOU AND WHAT IS TOUGH NOW? "Restrictor plate races have been tough for us. There was a period of time where we had it right and since it's been a little off and with one of the Chase races being a plate race track that is something that we want to make sure we do a good job at, but outside of that we have been running well at a lot of the tracks. Sonoma is behind us and we ran well there and we ran well at Bristol in the spring so hopefully we are improving on our worst tracks and going to be better."

WHAT DOES GETTING THAT FIRST WIN UNDER YOUR BELT DO FOR A YOUNG DRIVER? "You know it really does build a lot of confidence. You almost feel in a weird way that you belong and I know for myself that I was fighting such a battle. I didn't have the kind of hype that (Joey) Logano had coming in and there were a lot of people wondering why Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon picked me to drive the forty-eight car. For me it was a big moment to stand up and say look at me, I belong in the sport, I belong here, and I deserve this ride and life changed after that for sure. A sense of confidence came over me and just the world changed and I saw it through a different lens."

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JOEY'S ACCOMPLISHMENT OF WINNING AT NINETEEN YEARS OLD? "He has done an exceptional job and I think he still has a ton to learn but it is really refreshing and its neat to see him make gains from week to week, month to month, and you can visibly notice when you are out there on the track running with him in the decisions that he makes and how he races with people. He has a ton of talent and we all know that he is in the car earlier than he was supposed to be in it and he has done a great job with dealing with it all and he is going to be a big star in the sport someday."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Joey Logano , David Pearson , Lee Petty