JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed safety improvements at Pocono, the six races leading up to the Chase, secret fines and penalties, and more. TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU THINK NEED TO BE DONE TO GET...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed safety improvements at Pocono, the six races leading up to the Chase, secret fines and penalties, and more.
TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU THINK NEED TO BE DONE TO GET YOUR 6TH WIN OF THE SEASON "It's been a while since we've won here (at Pocono). I feel like we've been making slow progress each trip here and closing the gap. For a while it was the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) and lately it's been the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin). I feel like we're making small gains. The race we had here in the spring, we started really deep in the pack because of some pit strategy that was going on and worked our way up to a top five finish. I think we could have been probably second or third if things worked out a little better for us. So, I'm excited and looking forward to it. The cars have been getting a little bit better for us, like I said; and I think we can be more competitive this trip than we were here in the spring."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU OVER THESE NEXT SIX RACES TO GET YOUR TEAM INTO THAT CHASE FOCUS WHERE YOU'VE BEEN THESE LAST FEW YEARS? "That's what it's all about. We're getting to that part of the year. I've had strong years where we've entered the Chase with a lot of momentum and have won a championship; and we've had years where we didn't have the best summer and have still gone on to win the championship. So I don't think there's a rhyme or reason to it. The 10 tracks in the Chase, a lot of them are much different than anything we run on during the summer and very special and unique into their own.
"So, I'm optimistic. I look at Loudon. I look at Dover. And both of those races were really good for us this year. Martinsville is typically good for us although we didn't have the best spring race there this year. I think we're getting smarter on the bigger tracks, the 1.5-mile and 2-mile stuff. We seem to be making small gains although we haven't really finished on one of those tracks recently like we should have. I feel like we're getting better there. Our team always responds well at the end of the year and especially under pressure. I'm excited and looking forward to whatever comes our way."
YOU WERE GOOD IN PRACTICE EARLIER TODAY. HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DOES THAT GIVE YOU FOR SUNDAY, OR IS THIS ONE OF THOSE TRACKS WHERE PRACTICE DOESN'T REALLY RELATE WELL TO WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO IN THE RACE? "Yeah, it's far different. We were just in qualifying trim so we didn't try any race stuff that practice session. I know a lot of other teams did spend time in race trim. Some of our teammates did; I'm not sure that they were real happy (laughs). So, I think we're going to have to work a little bit tonight. The track always does change a lot here as well, so we probably won't overreact just because we know things will be a lot different come tomorrow after we get the truck (race) rubber down and ARCA stuff and all of our cars on track."
THIS TRACK HAS BEEN CRITICIZED FOR THE RACES BEING TOO LONG AND NOW IT IS GETTING BEAT UP FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE IT'S NOT SAFE ENOUGH OR PARTS AROUND THE TRACK AREN'T SAFE ENOUGH. ARE THERE SOME THINGS YOU'D LIKE TO SEE DONE HERE TO IMPROVE SAFETY? "Yeah, I think this track; although we have safer barriers, there are some areas that could really use some attention. When you look at the straightaways and especially Long Pond and guys that have had big wrecks sliding through the grass; we look at Kasey's (Kahne) wreck here this last spring, and without a catch fence down the back a few more feet whichever direction that was over the wall, I mean he could have been out there in the trees. So, there are some areas that need to be looked at. And not just this track, but I don't think grass has any purpose inside the walls of a race track anymore. There's no friction to slow down the vehicle and then the cars just hammer the wall when that's the case. And then you get mud and rain and a wheel can sink into the mud and flip the car over and get it flipping. We've seen that at Daytona and Talladega and even here. So, hopefully that stuff can all be addressed this week and keep moving forward."
WITH THE SECRET FINES FOR PEOPLE SAYING THINGS DETRIMENTAL TO THE SPORT, DO YOU THINK THAT PLANTS THE SEED OF DOUBT TO PEOPLE WHO ARE WATCHING THAT PERHAPS WHAT THEY ARE SEEING OR HEARING ABOUT WHAT'S GONG ON ISN'T EXACTLY WHAT'S TAKING PLACE? "Living it like I do, everything that NASCAR does, from a competition side, is above board and out there and open in front of everyone to look at and to pay attention to and to form opinions on and report on all the things that makes our sport the circus that it is. I don't feel that any of that has ever been in jeopardy. I've heard things in the past and then I hear things about my team and what goes on and know how ridiculous it is and how high of a standard our team is held to, and sometimes people still think oh well, it's the No. 48 and they cut them some slack. B.S. Our car is looked at more often and is more scrutinized than any other car in this garage area. And we know that and we live by that. So stuff that may slide through on other cars at HMS do not happen on the No. 48. Our car will have to go back through tech and be looked at again.
"So with all that in mind, I don't think there's anything there for the fans or anyone to worry about. I look at this being a private matter and think that it's actually a good thing. The fact that they went to the drivers that they didn't like what they were saying and penalized them and fined them and talked to them about the comments they made and how it could hurt our sport was good. I don't think that it's good to have everything out in the press because all we continue to do is focus on negative things time and time again and the circus builds around it and it goes on and on and on. I think that they had a great attempt to handle this behind closed doors and some things should be kept from the media. There are things that should take place between NASCAR and the teams and NASCAR and the drivers that isn't public knowledge. If it's held in the light that it's good for our sport, then I have no problems with it. And on the competition side, everything is out in the open and has always been that way; and these two were separate instances in my opinion."
IF THAT WAS REALLY THE CASE, WE WOULD NOT BE TALKING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW. "That would be awesome. We have so many other good things to talk about in our sport. Why is this even an issue? At the end of the day, NASCAR was doing everything they could to not have drivers slam their sport because we've all seen the comments that drivers make instantly and immediately impact the fans and how they're involved in our sport. So NASCAR is just trying to help us not hurt ourselves. We're all walking around with loaded guns shooting ourselves in the foot from time to time. They're just trying to take that gun away."
I'M NOT SURE I UNDERSTOOD WHAT YOU SAID. ARE YOU BLAMING THE MEDIA FOR MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF THIS THING THAT SHOULDN'T BE MADE OUT OF, THIS $50,000 FINE? "I don't think I said that. I think that's your interpretation (laughs)."
WELL WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO SAY? TONY STEWART WAS JUST IN HERE BLAMING THE MEDIA FOR THE SMALL CROWDS, SO I DON'T KNOW. "Either way, I think we all have the ability, if it's a driver or the media, what the stories are and what you report on; now I'm getting sucked into Tony's comments which I don't even want to begin to get sucked into that. But at the end of the day, it's not a bad idea for NASCAR to pull some guys aside and say, hey look, shut-up, okay? And (due to) the fact that you're being an idiot and saying things that are hurtful to the sport, we're going to penalize you. I don't see that as being a problem because now, we've uncovered something that has this whole negative impression that's going to hit and has been out there amongst our fans that there's something secretive going on. That's bad! At the end of the day, that leaves people with a bad impression of the sport and that's really what I was getting at. I think that whoever the drivers were, it would be great if they just didn't say anything and really listened to what was being told to them and the actions that were there, and moved on. It was supposed to be quiet for a reason, and now it's turned into something negative. And it's bad for not only those drivers, but for NASCAR and the sport and now the fans will have this question mark in their head (about) what's going on. In other sports, leaks, there are all kinds of things that go on where they're talking to their players. And this is no different than that."
POCONO HAS THREE DIFFERENT CORNERS. WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE? WHICH IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE? "It really just boils down to which one your car is the fastest in, and then the other one's the slowest. At times I've had Turn 1 be a really difficult corner to get through and then that would be my least favorite. And then when Turn 1 seems to be wrong, Turn 3 is usually right. Those two flip-flop each other. The tunnel is a lot of fun to get through. The handling of your race car isn't ideal there all the time, but it's a fun corner to drive through at least."
-source: gm racing