Talladega II: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed his outlook for this week, how the smaller plate will affect the racing, his trip to the World Series game and more. WHAT'S THE...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed his outlook for this week, how the smaller plate will affect the racing, his trip to the World Series game and more.

WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEK? "I just don't know. I think we're all excited to see what takes place in the race. We all know the dangers and what exists at this track. What can happen and we just hope we're not in that category of what happens. So we'll just prepare and do all we can. Focus on the things we can control and just be smart in the race. Still at the end of the day points are being paid. We'd love to finish as high as we could and hopefully that's ahead of the No. 5 and the No. 24 but we'll just have to take it as it comes."

DOES YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE RACE ON SUNDAY DEPEND ON WHERE YOU START? "Yeah it does. It would definitely impact the start of the event. At some point there would be a surge of cars from mid-pack or whatever coming forward and if I made some wrong moves and started to lose site of the front of that point you've got to make some decisions is everybody being smart and safe or do you need to fall all the way to the back. So that just depends on where you start. Again if you start in the back no need to run up through there in a hurry and get caught up in anything. Just take your time and hang at the back at that point."

IS THIS MAYBE A LESS HARRY, LESS TENSE TALLADEGA FOR YOU GUYS? "In some ways it's less tense. When I look at the points and know we've never been in this strong of a position in the points it does make me feel better about things but there still is just as much to lose points wise and yes the deficit wouldn't be as bad if the worst situation happened for the No. 48 but I still look at it and know that anything can happen in those other three races and I also know that I'm racing my teammates right now for this championship and the No. 5 car won at Phoenix, Jeff won at Texas so I look at the races following I don't want to lose and points. I don't want to spot these guys any points. I don't want to have to chase them in the points because there are great tracks coming up for the No. 5 and No. 24 as well. As soon as I find some comfort in the fact that we're 118 up right now, I think about the other three. I feel good about them but I also know they're going to be good for my teammates. I'd love to leave here with at least 118. That would be the goal. I'd love to have more clearly. Man we could really put ourselves in a really good situation if we left here without losing any points."

HOW DO YOU THINK THE SMALLER PLATE HOLE IS GOING TO EFFECT THE RACING OUT THERE, DO YOU THINK ITS GOING TO BE ANY SAFER? "Yeah definitely. Slowing the speed down in the car is going to keep them on the ground when they get turned around backwards. So in that respect yes it will be safer. We will still be in the big group, it won't change that aspect any. The potential is there for the wrecks but for a car being airborne I think the chances of that go way, way down with the speed loss."

WHAT ABOUT THE RACING IN GENERAL? "There's an argument for the fact that we have less power so there will be less pull up and inside the pack if you have to let off the gas and get back to the throttle there will be less close up in the engines in that point because of the horsepower, but I don't really see it changing it too much. Maybe a little but we'll still have the same product. And this track is so wide and forgiving we will put on one heck of a show."

ALTHOUGH YOU ALWAYS SEEM SO COOL, CALM AND COLLECT, THERE HAS GOT TO BE A SIDE OF THIS THAT IS STRESSFUL EVEN FOR YOU, DO YOU FEEL THAT? "No I definitely sense it. Falling asleep lately has been difficult I have to admit. The brain wonders and thinks about a lot of different things. Especially when I come to a track like this where I just don't want to miss an opportunity. I think one aspect that helps us stay calm in some respect is we think things through and we're very well prepared when we come to the track. With this race you can look at probably eight scenarios and then on top of that all of those scenarios can go out the window and may not even exist. Chad and I were talking yesterday and spent probably an hour or an hour and a half on the phone talking about different ideas and things. At the end of it we were like you know we can't control anything. So we know the car is going to be strong, we know you're going to be prepared, we know pit stops are going to be great, let's just have some positive thoughts. Let's just think about the good things that are going to take place, put the right spin on this and go racing and just take it from there because you could worry yourself to death on how things will turn out here. All it's going to do is shorten your fuse, potentially put the team on edge to where you make bad decisions and we don't need that."

JEFF GORDON JUST SAID HE THOUGHT ONE OF THE REASONS YOUR POPULARITY IS NOT JUST SKY ROCKETING NOW DESPITE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS IS THAT YOU HAVE NOT HAD A REALLY DIRECT RIVALRY LIKE AND EARNHARDT, SR. OR A PETTY, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? "I've watched my fan base grow more and more every year. Even now you walk through the grandstands or the infield or whatever it may be I see nothing but great growth year after year. Especially from last year's championship to this. There's no doubt I don't have the same situation that Dale Jr. does for the popularity with his family and legacy of his father and what he's done in the sport. Jeff has been in it along time and experienced the highs and lows, people rooting for him and not, I've gone through some of that as well but I just look at it as sports. I've got a lot of years left, this is only my eighth year in this sport and I'd be curious to see where somebody's popularity was only eight years in. So yeah it can always be better and sure I would love to have the largest fan base and other aspects of what other drivers have but man I'm really happy with what's gone on in my life. I'm real happy with how I'm performing on the track. I'm very thankful for the solid fan base that I have and I think popularity is changing big time. It's really changing. From everything I've seen and all the research we do, like souvenir sales and all the things people base this stuff off of its all growing. It's all been very good."

APPARENTLY JEFF GORDON WAS AT THE WORLD SERIES THE OTHER NIGHT AND THEY SHOWED HIM AND I HEARD YOU WERE THERE AND THEY DIDN'T SHOW YOU ON TV, I WAS WONDERING WERE YOU THERE AND WHAT'S YOUR THOUGHT ABOUT THEY DIDN'T PICK YOU OUT OF THE CROWD? "Man I was up there eating peanuts and having a beer. I didn't want to be on TV. I was there and had a blast and didn't need to be on TV. We're on TV enough. It was a great game. Too bad it rained and the Yankees lost but I was just having a good time."

YOU SEEM A LOT MORE RELAXED NOW AS OPPOSED TO THE LAST SIX WEEKS, ITS OBVIOUS YOU'VE BEEN DREADING THIS PLACE, IS THERE THIS WEIRD DYNAMIC NOW THAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY HERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY NOT WORRY ABOUT WHAT ITS GOING TO BE LIKE? "Yeah, I think that in some ways I feel organized that I worried about a lot of different situations and there is no more worrying left which is kind of a false statement because there's plenty to worry about. You know it's here and I think our conversation yesterday when Chad and I talked, I mean we had calculators out and discussing scenarios and points and what if's and if this happens and that happens. It just brought a lot of confidence. It changed my attitude, helped my attitude out. I relaxed a little bit more with that conversation because we went through the steps and Chad's outlook on things, his view on it really helped turn it around for me in some ways and make my outlook more positive. I guess its easy now because I haven't even been in the car yet but it will ramp back up. The nerves will kick in and the stress will be there because there's just so much to lose. I end up in this argument in my head that there's so much to lose and then we have great tracks following that and we've been running really well and good tracks for us. Then a smile comes on my face and I'm calm a little bit inside. I've calmed down and then I think shoot they are great tracks for the No. 5 and no. 24 so there's these arguments that just keep going on and on about how to stay calm and right now things are going well."

WHAT'S CHAD'S OUTLOOK, WHY IS IT COMFORTING? "You can go through the numbers and work up arguments to be really concerned and then arguments to find some comfort in and in the end it was like we've got to go run this race and at the end of the day we're really worried about the No. 5 and the No. 24. So it's not this overall spectrum of worrying about us against the field, it's about two cars and what are those two cars going to do in the race. That's really where our focus needs to be and our concern needs to be. I guess that may have helped a lot and I didn't realize until I just now mentioned it instead of worrying about 41 cars and overall points schedule it's really about two guys and that's a lot less to focus on and worry about."

CHAD OBVIOUSLY IS A METICULOUS PLANNER AND YOU OBVIOUSLY PUT A LOT OF THOUGHT INTO THIS TOO, WHEN YOU GUYS SAT DOWN BEFORE THE CHASE DID YOU SAY WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO WIN IT OR LOSE IT AT TALLADEGA? "We didn't sit down and talk about it. I think it was kind of one of those unspoken things that we knew about. As we started off good in the Chase and got some wins and things started going in our direction it was like alright this could be a nice cushion to get us through Talladega. We started thinking about it more but that's about the extent of it I would say. It's just been that 300-pound gorilla standing in the corner and now we're in front of it so it's time to get it done."

HIS THOUGHTS ON HOW THE RACE ENDED LAST WEEK AND HIS REACTION TO NASCAR'S STATEMENT. "So far to their credit we haven't had any issues and I think my reaction is like everyone else's where we need to cut it that close type thing. We haven't had a problem and they've done a great job calling these things even from the Daytona 500 that played out where it went down to the last possible second and they threw it. I give them credit for doing that. It is a little alarming to come off of turn four in the gas and I see a car and I hear caution is out and it's like oh okay. Hopefully he doesn't fire the engine up and I'm kind of surprised and he may have been sitting there the whole time and NASCAR heard on the radio the car won't start and they know he's not going to pull out into the traffic. So there are elements to it that I don't understand and for whatever reason we haven't had an issue. Let's just make it a little big sooner, a little bit earlier is all I'm suggesting. I just think it would be better for the overall good of everybody."

EARLIER THIS WEEK THERE WAS A CREW CHIEF CHANGE OVER AT THE NO. 18, ARE YOU SURPRISED THEY PULLED THE TRIGGER ON THAT? "Yeah I didn't see that one coming. I was shocked to hear they had parted ways. I guess maybe there's a bigger vision internally of how things are going on that maybe we don't understand or know. Steve (Addington) has done an awesome job and I'm sure a very hot commodity if he's not in the crew chief role at Gibbs. So definitely shocked. Didn't expect that, didn't see it coming and curious to see how everything else shapes up over there as time goes on."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup