Talladega II: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega, tight points battle, the role of teammates and other topics. YOU HAVE A SIX POINT LEAD IN POINTS HEADING INTO...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega, tight points battle, the role of teammates and other topics.

YOU HAVE A SIX POINT LEAD IN POINTS HEADING INTO TALLADEGA, YOU HAVE SAID ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS THIS YEAR THAT THIS IS A "WILD CARD", YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RACE ON SUNDAY: "It definitely is the wild card. There is a lot of risk at every track we go to but at this, we've all been here enough to see it, there really is no safe place to be on the track. It seems like you can prolong your opportunity to crash until later in the event which is a strategy we've played over the years. But at the end, when everyone is still trying to get the best finish they can, it's just full chaos at that point. I think coming to the checkered last year, Mark (Martin) and I were nose to tail, obviously in a tight points battle, the crash collected him and fortunately it didn't collect us and we went on. So, with all that being said, we are excited to be here. I really, really do enjoy racing at this race track. I had a blast here in the spring, when you come back at the end of the year and the points are on the line, it is a more stressful event. If we come out of here close to the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin), I know we have a great chance to race in from there. If things go our way and we have a gap or something at that point, then we just have to be smart in the final three races and race accordingly. So, we'll know a lot more Sunday afternoon. We'll all have a better understanding of how the final three races will go. We'll just do our best until then and try to stay out of trouble."

CONSIDERING HARVICK'S RECORD ON PLATE TRACKS THIS YEAR, WINNING TWO OUT OF THREE, LED THE MOST LAPS IN THE DAYTONA 500 AS WELL, IS THIS HIS BEST CHANCE TO BREAK OUT IN THIS CHASE AND TAKE A LITTLE COMMAND AWAY FROM YOU AND DENNY AND ALSO COULD THIS BE HIS LAST CHANCE? "Gosh, I think with both the No. 11 and the No. 29, this track is really anybody's race, anybody has a shot to win. In the past, I know our record doesn't show as a favorite but a lot of it has been because of the strategy we've run. We just haven't been at the front; we've been at the back trying to be smart. But, if I take this race out of it and look forward, the No. 29 is going to be great at Phoenix, their mile-and-a-half, two-mile program has been awesome and there are two mile-and-a-half tracks left on the circuit. You look at the No. 11 and the fact that he has won at Texas and also at Homestead, and it is no slouch on the flat miles, he's going to be competitive there too. I don't think this is anyone's last chance to break out. I think that all three drivers that are in contention right now have four really good race tracks, especially the final three for all three teams.

"I don't think so; I really don't think this is Kevin's best chance. I think that the three tracks remaining, in my eyes, I think more about Phoenix than anything because of his success there over the years and how many laps he has at that track. That is probably the track he is smiling the most about, I would expect."

BECAUSE OF THE REPAVE AT DAYTONA, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TESTING, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A MODIFICATION OF THE CURRENT TESTING PROGRAM OR IN TODAY'S ECONOMY WOULD THAT SEND THE WRONG MESSAGE? "I understand the economy and the difficult situations that puts the race teams in. We've talked about it for years and there are a few options that would work but at the end of the day, I think a handful of test sessions for all of the race teams at different tracks where we can collect data would be beneficial for everyone. There is arguments that say come in a day early, let the teams have the day and go about it that way. At one point, we had I think five test sessions that were open test session for the sport to come in and run. That would be an option. Or, you open it up and let teams travel to maybe five tracks of their choice to collect information. Either way, I think if they regulate it and keep it a low number, it will be better for everyone. Yes, it is going to cost a little bit of money, but teams are going to get so much out of it from a technical standpoint. I think it will help improve the racing, or at least take it in the right direction and make all the cars competitive."

DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS ARE CONTROL FREAKS SO GOING TO A PLACE WHERE YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER ANYTHING, WHO IS THIS RACE TOUGHER ON, YOU OR CHAD? "I would have to think that it is more difficult for the crew chief, because at least in the car, you are occupied and feel like you are connected to what is taking place. I know from watching my younger brother race, I'm more worried for him and worried about the race watching someone I care about being in a race than I ever have been being in the race. So, I would have to think it is along those lines because all he has is a button to push really connected to the car to talk to the driver and outside of that there is not much he can do. His hands are really tied from where he is sitting."

BECAUSE OF THE RANDOM NATURE, IF YOU HAVE A BAD DAY HERE, ARE YOU ABLE TO BE MORE PHILOSOPHICAL ABOUT IT THAN YOU WOULD BE THAN IF YOU HAD A BAD DAY AT ATLANTA OR MARTINSVILLE? "A bad day here, is easy to kind of write off. You think 'well, guys didn't work with me; I picked the wrong; caught up in the big wreck'. You can kind of write it off. The cars are so equal here, there are small little gains in performance the teams can find but it's not like Texas. If you are off at Texas and finish 25th, that is probably because you had a poor performance and went down a lap or two because of running slowly where you won't see that here."

BEFORE THE CHASE STARTED, YOU SAID YOU WOULD GLADLY TAKE A 10TH OR 15TH PLACE FINISH HERE AND BASICALLY WATCH THE RACE FROM YOUR COUCH, NOW THAT WE ARE HERE AND AS CLOSE AS THE CHASE IS, DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO TRY TO GAIN SOME POINT? "I always want an opportunity to gain points. Especially the past three years we've left here, this has been a very good track for us in the points.

I'm hopeful for that but the worrying that is going to go on over the next few days, especially during 499 miles of the race really, even 500, because I think Mark (Martin) was within a mile of the finish line when he got taken out last year running in the top-10 and ended up sliding across the finish line on his roof. There is a lot of stress that goes on leading into it. As tight as the points are, we're going to have to race and I'm excited for the opportunity to race for this thing. At the end of the day, max points would be ideal, but we'll just see how things shake out."

WE SAW TEAMMATES COME INTO PLAY LAST WEEK WHEN KYLE BUSCH RACED YOU PRETTY HARD AND TOOK AWAY THAT POSITION, IS THIS A PLACE WHERE TEAMMATES CAN STRATEGIZE AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CAN SORT OF FOCUS ON THE NO. 48 AND WHAT THEY NEED TO DO TO GET WEDGED IN THERE BETWEEN THE CHALLENGERS? "Your teammates can help you on a restrictor-plate track probably more so than anywhere else. The way that the bump drafting works now if you can just have one of your teammates push you at the end of the race, be in the right position to push you, that can really be helpful. It is so difficult to find each other and get linked up at the end of the race, so I don't think you can really strategize on how you get together. You just look for one another. I'm hopeful that my teammates will keep an eye out for me and if I need to get into a slot, will cut me some slack. At the end of the race, if they have a decision to push two or three different cars, that they would pick pushing me and help us out. I also think that it is important during to race to make sure that you have other friends on the track just to increase your odds of someone pushing you given the opportunity comes along. I feel good with my three teammates and hopefully the Stewart-Haas cars as well. I will just try to build more relationships on the track during the first 400 miles."

IF IT IS A WILD FINAL 10 LAPS AND YOU HAVE THREE HENDRICK CARS UP THERE ALONG WITH YOUR CLOSEST COMPETITORS, DO YOUR TEAMMATES HELP YOU THEN AND TRY TO WEDGE THOSE OTHERS OUT OR ARE THEY RACING FOR THEMSELVES? "I would think that if they are up there racing for the wins, I would expect, I don't mean this in negative way, I would expect about my teammates to be thinking about winning for their own reasons. If they are fighting for the win, they shouldn't be thinking about where is the No. 48. At the end of the day, if they are taking the win away from the No. 29 or the No. 11, then they are helping me with that 10 point margin that they can take away. If you are mid-pack and really don't have a shot to win, then I think their mind would activate 'hey, there is the No. 48 how can we help'. But, if they are racing for the win, they are going to stay focused on that."

TWO-CAR BREAKAWAYS HAVE BEEN THE COMBINATION IN THE LAST TWO SPRING RACES WITH CARL EDWARDS AND BRAD KESELOWSKI AND THEN KEVIN HARVICK AND JAMIE MCMURRAY HERE, DO YOU THINK THAT WILL COME INTO PLAY SUNDAY? "We can all make it happen and we do it at different points during the race. Being in the right situation at the end of the race is really the key. The examples you mentioned, those guys played it right and were at the head of the line essentially and got hooked up and got going. It's tough to do it and every driver through the field is trying to make it happen with two or three to go. It is just tough to create the circumstances because once you get hooked up, if the road is full of cars in front of you, you have nowhere to take that speed and momentum. Circumstances really have to be correct to make it happen. That is one of the few tools that we have and that position, the guy in second place, most times comes out on top. You're looking for that opportunity as well and you are thinking 'ok, at worst, I might finish second here, but I have a really good chance of winning the race so let's lock bumpers'. At some point, you seem to become disconnected so you know you can hold on for maybe a lap or two laps connected and you take your chance and go. At that point, just hope you don't get disconnected because if you do, the speed and inertia of the pack coming it's going to eat you up and you are going to finish 15th or something."

DENNY (HAMLIN) HAS SAID HIS STRATEGY IS TO BE WHEREVER YOU ARE ON THE TRACK, HOW WELL DO YOU RACE WITH THE NO. 29 (KEVIN HARVICK) AND THE NO. 11 (DENNY HAMLIN) AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS? "I've had a lot of good luck and success over the years with both guys. When it comes to the end of the race, I guarantee you that everyone, we're all going to scatter from one another and try to not help, say the No. 11 is behind me, he's not going to push me to the front, there is no chance or the No. 29, it's just not what you are going to do. I think for the first 70%-80% of the race, it is probably smart to ride together and if something happens to one guy, it happens to all of us. I also think there Is another angle that you may want to stay away from one another. That way if you take three cars out, now it brings fourth, fifth and sixth back into the equation. There are so many ways to think through it and I've said all along that I really don't get caught up in all of that. Denny loves playing the odds and is very focused on that side of things and it works for him. For me, Chad and I have a great strategy in mind, we know what we are going to do and we will get out there and race. At the end of the day, you have to race here for a finish and we need to make sure we race at the right time and with the right cars."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin