JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at The Glen and discussed racing the Nationwide Series at The Glen, Kurt Busch incident at Pocono and other topics.
JUST TALK ABOUT THIS WEEKEND AT THE GLEN: “It is a cool weekend for me. I get to go back to the Nationwide Series and run the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) and the Jimmie Johnson Anything with an Engine sponsorship on that car. We have our video game coming out in September. Excited about that. Excited about the extra laps. When I heard the Grand-Am cars roll by this morning, I was a little bummed that I wasn’t in one of those. I really road course racing and I wish I could get more laps in all vehicles. So, big weekend. Looking forward to it.”
YOU HAVE RACED THE BOOT HERE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD THAT TO THE CUP RACE AND YOUR TEST AT ROAD ATLANTA, DID THAT HELP FOR THIS WEEKEND? SHOULD YOU BE ALLOWED TO TEST AT SANCTIONED TRACKS AND BRING BACK TESTING? “We need to be able to test. It would be ideal to be able to test at the track we race at on the tire we compete on. But with that not being the case, we have to go to work. It is difficult and expensive to take information from a track and a tire that you don’t compete with or on and try to apply it. So, I don’t know how our testing will come through. I do hope that, Road Atlanta holds some very fast races and race cars and there are some areas around that race track that are pretty dangerous and could take a looking at. I hope that because of Brad’s (Keselowski) big impact, that it will kind of get these guys to look forward and try to make some changes to the race tracks.”
JEFF BURTON SAID HE HAS GOTTEN WRECKED IN THE LAST LAPS OF THE RACE HERE AT THE GLEN TOO MANY TIMES AND ISN’T GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE, IS THAT THE WAY IT IS HERE? AND ALSO, YOU WERE FIREY AFTER THE POCONO RACE, IS THAT PRODUCTIVE? WITH IT BEING SO AGGRESSIVE NOW TO LAY DOWN THE LAW, GO TALK TO SOMEONE, LAY IT ON THE LINE AND HAS THAT PROGRESSED AFTER THIS PAST WEEK OR IS IT OVER? “I guess I will also go into what happened last week. I see hands flying and everybody is ready to talk about it. On road course racing, when you get inside that final window, we have that contact. Last year, I was a part of the wreck that (Jeff) Burton was in between turns 10 and 11. It happens..the sport has hit a point now where it is so competitive and you race with each other enough that things get under your skin and you want to react.
“I guess I will kind of go into kinda what I had thought about for…since I hadn’t seen anyone since what took place at Pocono. There are two parts to this thing. First part is on the track; second part is pit road. The on-the-track part, we all know we come off of turn one and Kurt (Busch) gets to me to side-draft me. I try to break the side-draft and then from there he felt it was necessary to run into the side of my car and tear my car up. So, yes, I was mad at that point.
“And then it brings me to the other part which was on pit road. When we got to pit road, I’m not sure if anyone has had words with someone before. When you are in that moment and you’re having words with someone and as the crowd starts to build around, that guy all of a sudden gets brave and when you think it’s over and you walk away and that guy gets real tough, I don’t know about you, but that really makes me mad. Bottom line, he just started running his mouth. If you look at over the years and what his mouth has done for him, it got my biggest fan Jimmie Spencer to punch him in the face. It’s led to issues with NASCAR officials on pit road. I think we all tune in weekly and wonder what’s he going to say to his crew guys. You look at what he said to Roger Penske, his car owner. So, that aspect is the part that really got me mad. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let him run his mouth at me. That is just kind of how it is.”
IT SEEMS PRETTY CLEAR WITH JUST FIVE REGULAR SEASON RACES REMAINING THAT KURT COULD BE A FACTOR IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE, HOW DO YOU KEEP THE EMOTIONS FROM INTERFERING WITH YOUR FOCUS ON THE BIG PICTURE. “There is no secret about it that there is no love lost between the two of us. We can do it. We have done it. We didn’t have wrecked race cars at the end of Pocono. I could have easily gone down on the tunnel turn and done something stupid, but I didn’t. So, there’s lines there that you cross. The stuff on track, yes, it made me mad, but to have somebody run their mouth like he does and did to me, that’s the part…if you look back at the timeline and where I was the maddest, that is when I was mad. So, that’s where we are.”
YOU NEVER RUN NATIONWIDE RACES, CAN YOU LOOK BACK AT YOUR FAMOUS NATIONWIDE CRASH HERE IN 2000, WAS THAT AS SPECTACULAR AS IT LOOKED ON TV? “Man that is one of two moments that I have had in my career where I thought it was over. It is such a weird experience to go through. When I came up over the rise in turn one and saw the white, I thought it was concrete. So, at that point, I knew what kind of trouble I was in. Fortunately, multiple layers of a soft wall system and everything turned out like it did. But, the Nationwide Series, I have a thing in the back of my mind. I hate the fact that I have only won one race. I want to win some more in the Nationwide Series. The other part to it is that I love road course racing. I know that the more laps I get, the more reps I make, the better I’m going to be. Since I have taken on Grand-Am racing and some other stuff to gain road course experience, man, I’m really enjoying it and it’s a break from the constant oval stuff that we do. So when I had the chance, (Dale Earnhardt) Junior kind of came asking saying ‘Well, we need to run the car, you interested?’. I’m like, yes. I want to fun for a variety of reasons. I’m glad to be here, glad to do it. Hopefully I can learn some stuff. More than anything, just get the rhythm and have a few more laps on this tire before I get in the Cup car so I can make better changes there and take it from there.”
WHAT SPECIFICALLY DID KURT SAY TO GET YOUR FEATHERS RUFFLED TO THE POINT YOU WERE SO MAD? BECAUSE YOU ARE IN THE NNS WITH HIM, IT IS A RARE OPPORTUNITY FOR BOTH OF YOU WITH NO POINTS ON THE LINE, IS THAT AN OPPORTUNITY TO KIND OF SETTLE THE ISSUE THERE? “My first option is to not tear up race cars. I have too much respect for the guys working on my race car and too much respect for Roger Penske and his organization to take it out out there. So that’s not my goal or my objective. I made zero contact with Kurt at Pocono until once he hit me, then I leaned on him back. I went to break the draft, I never touched him. He instigated the contact. So that’s not my goal.
“What he said, you were standing there, you heard it. He said plenty.”
IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH A SPECIFIC DRIVER BEFORE THE CHASE WOULD YOU TRY TO MEND THOSE FENCES HEADING INTO THE CHASE TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS OKAY? WHAT WOULD YOU DO? “In theory yes. You don’t want enemies, issues, or anything lingering but you just don’t have that luxury at times. Its just not how it works out. Issues that develop throughout the year, they have their arc and they run their path. Some are more heated and last longer, while others kind of burn out and fizzle quicker. You just have to take it as it is and I think the way that things are handled on the track sets the tone from there on out. And if it turns into wrecking cars……..man that is the worst kind of situation that you can have going into the Chase. Because as soon as that driver……if he is a Chase driver or even if he is not, he holds all the power and all the cards. And at some point……..he can just dump you. But if its something other, if its something verbal and just a dislike situation between some drivers then you just make it difficult when you are around each other and you shoot each other the bird on the straightaways and its fine. But when it turns into tearing up race cars……….that is the part that no one wants to have happen and things rarely get to that level so you just kind of roll with it.”
THE BIGGEST THING ABOUT LAST WEEK’S ALTERCATION IS THE FACT THAT IT WAS UNLIKE YOU JIMMIE. IS THIS THE NEW JIMMIE JOHNSON? “(Laughs) No, that is not the case. We know there has been plenty of history over the years. And there are just things that just kind of boil to a head and when I hopped out of the car and started talking to him, you know, he had one level of interaction with me while he was sitting in his race car. And when he got out of the car, neither one of us where happy, but we were talking. And the crowd started to build and his bravery started to build. I walk away……………and he got awfully tough. That part frustrates me and that is where you saw me engage like you did. I mean, if you are going to say something, say it to the man’s face and eye-to-eye when he is there. Don’t wait until he walks away.”