Johnson questioned by PIR media on penalty

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Team Chevy Racing press release

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media today at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the new configuration of the Phoenix track, the penalty levied against the team by NASCAR and other topics. Full Transcript:

Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TALK ABOUT RACING AT PHOENIX: “I love coming out to this race track. It has changed quite a bit since the reconfiguration was done for the fall race last year. We didn’t run all that well in the fall race. We are here with high hopes. I feel like we have learned a bit and can apply some things to the race car to take on track for this time. We will just have to get out there and see. I’m optimistic as to all the work we have done over the off-season to improve our race cars and our short-track program. I’m just excited to get on the race track and get to work.”

CAN YOU SHARE THE MOOD OF THE NO. 48 TEAM COMING OUT OF DAYTONA AND THE DISAPPOINTMENT WITH THE ACCIDENT? CAN YOU ALSO DISCUSS THE PENALTY? “The race, we were certainly disappointed in the way the race unfolded for us. To make it 2.6-miles in the Daytona 500 and to be torn up just isn’t the way we wanted to start the season. I am focused on this weekend. Obviously, there is a lot that has gone on since last weekend’s race including the penalties that have been passed down. But, I’m focused on this weekend’s race. We need to go out there and get as many points as we can. Win the race, that is what Lowe’s has hired us to do and what HMS (Hendrick Motorsports) has worked for all winter long to get us prepared for this year.”

IS THERE ANY MORE SENSE OF PRESSURE TO DO WELL THIS WEEKEND CONSIDERING YOU ARE MINUS 23 IN THE POINTS? “It is certainly not a position we want to be in. But, there is a lot of racing between now and September, Richmond I’m thinking of and the cut off for the Chase is. Right now we are focused on doing the best job we can and get as many points as we possibly can. We finished 42nd at Daytona.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE ANY STRATEGIES CONSIDERING HOW BIG OF A HOLE YOU ARE ALREADY IN WITH THE POINTS? “No, no strategy change. The end result is winning races. The worst case scenario would be fighting for a wild card spot (in the Chase) and that boils down to winning races. It is no different than if we won the Daytona 500. We want to go to the race track and perform as well as we can each and every week and win races. That is our agenda.”

BEHIND THE SCENES DO YOU GO BACK TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AND TRY TO DETERMINE HOW SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS, RESULTING IN A PENALTY? “There is a lot of work that goes into these race cars. I have all the confidence in the world and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports on the No. 48 team and across the board. We are building race cars to go to the race track and win races with. I believe in our system, I believe in my team, I believe in my guys, it is what it is. We are here to race and win the race this weekend.”

SO YOU DON’T GO ASK? “I believe in the system. I know and believe in my crew guys.”

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS LOST A BUNCH OF RACE CARS AT DAYTONA. IS THAT A PROBLEM GOING FORWARD? “It will definitely put a load on the system. What we look back on right now is how much time it took to build all those cars and then you don’t bring them home and the affect it has on this race and on Las Vegas and on Bristol. We need to take three cars down there and have back-ups for each team. It is just a huge burden on all departments getting ready. We do have some time before the next plate race and we don’t have a qualifying race or a Bud Shootout or anything like that. We will be fine. It is definitely a lot of work for the guys. Just getting ready for the (Daytona) 500 is really the peak of the work load. Getting our stuff ready to go to Talladega is tough, but not as bad as getting ready for the (Daytona) 500.”

IT WAS A SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, BUT CAN YOU TALK ABOUT LAST YEAR’S RACE ON THE NEW CONFIGURATION AND WHAT YOU LEARNED AND CAN YOU GET BACK TO BEING DOMINANT ON THIS TRACK? “Yeah, I think so. It just takes a little time to figure out race tracks from time to time. We have always been good at adapting and I think that this weekend we will run a lot better than we did in the fall. The tough thing here; just to kind of summarize a race run, the car gets tight relatively quick so you need to start the car really loose at the beginning of a run to be good over the long haul. That difference makes it tough. Your balance of the car from the start of the run to the end of the run, there is a huge swing in events there and that is what we fought so badly here in the fall. I feel like we know where to go this year.”

IS THE ABILITY TO BLOCK OUT DISAPPOINTMENTS A PRODUCT OF EXPERIENCE? COULD YOU HAVE DONE THIS EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER AS WELL AS YOU DO IT NOW? “Experience does help, but at the same time there is such a work load on the teams, the driver to come and perform at this high level each and every week. There is no space to worry about it. I have to focus on my job here at the track and give my team 100 percent focus on this race track here in Phoenix. It ends up taking care of itself once we get going.”

I PRESUME YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH THE PENALTIES WHY ARE YOU APPEALING THEM? ARE THEY FAIR OR NOT AND WHY? “The appeal process is underway as we all know. Through that process there will be a lot of facts presented to NASCAR on our behalf. At this point in time I just can’t share or get into an in-depth discussion about what those are. I need to go through the process; the team needs to go through the process. I’m clearly not a part of it I’m just the driver. The team goes through the process and once that process is over there will be plenty more to talk about then. Right now we have engaged in that process and we are going through it.”

JEFF GORDON HAD AN ENGINE FAILURE AT DAYTONA. DID YOU FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED? DO THEY DISCUSS OTHER MAJOR FAILURES WITH YOU? “Yeah, they go through the issues and share with the drivers; especially, things that we can control and work on from inside the car. We had such a condensed week because of the rain delay. I left town two days ago. I had to go to an event in Las Vegas for Lowe’s. I am normally in meetings at Hendrick (Motorsports) during the week to be up to speed on things. This week was a very short week for me. I just don’t know what has happened with the No. 24. It really is amazing the scientist that come in and look at the metals, the oils and diagnosis what went on. It can get pretty accurate. They know where the issue started and can give that data back to us after having a bunch of scrap metal sitting there. It’s pretty neat.”

WITH THE PAST HISTORY OF INFRACTIONS DO YOU BELIEVE THAT PLAYED INTO WHY THE PENALTY FOR THE NO. 48 TEAM WAS SO SEVERE? “That would require me speculating. I’m just not in a position to do that. You will have to take that question up with NASCAR.”

THE POINTS AND THE FINE IS ONE THING, BUT BEING WITHOUT CHAD (KNAUS, CREW CHIEF) POSSIBLY FOR SIX WEEKS; HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO AT LEAST GET THE PENALTY REDUCED SO THAT YOU HAVE SOME NORMALCY? “I haven’t thought it through. Whatever ends up happening post appeal, I have a lot of confidence in Hendrick Motorsports and the depth we have in our organization. We will respond to whatever we need to then. Right now, again, I’m focused on Phoenix and we will move on from here and deal with things as they come up.”

ARE YOU CONCERNED AT ALL ABOUT REPUTATION OF THE TEAM? “Absolutely not, there is a very strict tech procedure that exists in our sport and there isn’t a car that has been more scrutinized over the last decade than the No. 48 car. I have no concerns.”

YOU HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO BE THE CHEERLEADER FOR YOUR TEAM, DO YOU GO TALK TO THE TEAM AND GIVE THEM A PEP TALK? “Yeah, absolutely, I am a leader of this race team along with Chad (Knaus, crew chief). Ron Malec is in charge of the mechanical side and the guys there. We are a very tight unit. Yes, we have had conversations and we will continue to. The other good thing is when you go racing, as I mentioned earlier, your focus is solely on the job at hand. Once this practice session starts here in a few minutes we are all about Phoenix and the rest is behind us.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, jeff gordon, johnson, phoenix