JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS, TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT RULES VIOLATIONS AND THE STRONG DRIVERS FOR SUNDAY'S DAYTONA 500 ON BOTH TOYOTA AND JUAN PABLO MONTOYA COMING INTO THE AMERICAN SPORT OF NASCAR "They're new.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS, TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT RULES VIOLATIONS AND THE STRONG DRIVERS FOR SUNDAY'S DAYTONA 500
ON BOTH TOYOTA AND JUAN PABLO MONTOYA COMING INTO THE AMERICAN SPORT OF NASCAR "They're new. They're coming in. You have the hardcore NASCAR fan, who has never seen a foreign make in this sport. And with a foreign driver coming in, I'm sure he's getting some ribbing. When you come to NASCAR country, that's part of it. You've got to have thick skin to come into this sport. And Toyota has hung in. They fit the rules that NASCAR has set out for them to make their entry to the sport. And I welcome the competition. Lowe's is in this sport because they're competitors and we want to outperform them."
CAN THE FANS RECOGNIZE THAT IT'S NOT THE SPONSOR'S FAULT WHEN A TEAM CHEATS? "Nobody wants to get caught up in that or wants their reputation to be tarnished. A malt beverage company might be more forgiving. The family based companies don't want that reputation associated with their products. So it can have varying impacts on different corporations. It can challenge corporate mindset."
DO YOU THINK THERE IS A LOT OF CHEATING GOING ON BECAUSE OF CORPORATE PRESSURE TO PLEASE THE SPONSOR? It's not the sponsors' fault by any stretch of the imagination. You can go to a local short track and they've got a sanctioning body and rules in place to keep people from getting unfair advantages. Unless the sanctioning body provides you with a car for you to race in, people interpret the rules different and approach things differently.
"One short track rule is that you can go buy the engine out of a car that you raced against just to limit that from taking place because those guys can't have the technical inspection like they do here at a Cup race. You can see the pressure equate all the way from a short track all the way to NASCAR cup level. It's just the desire to win. I don't think corporate America puts that pressure on us any more than the teams do to succeed themselves."
WAS IT HARD TO DEAL WITH YOUR SPONSOR WHEN YOU WERE PENALIZED AT LAST YEAR'S DAYTONA 500? "Yeah, it certainly was one of the harder things we had to deal with. We have a very good relationship with our sponsor and we were able to work through our issues in a short period of time there and getting everything rectified and in control. For me, the longest thing that took place was with the fans. It takes a long time for the fans to forgive in some respects. Going through all that, that really was the toughest part. Even today, I can see some lingering affects from it."
HOW SO? "It gives the fans something to yell at your for during driver introductions. I was yelled at and called a lot of crazy things. Not as much now. Now, the cheater word is getting less and less in the screams."
HOW DO YOU THINK MICHAEL WALTRIP IS DEALING WITH IT? "I can only imagine. Michael is so good with the fans. I'm not sure how bad the impact will be on him with the fans, but for me it took a while.
DO TEAMS PUSH THE ENVELOPE MORE AT THE DAYTONA 500 THAN OTHER RACES? "If you look at each year, you have 61 cars trying to make this race the Daytona 500, the biggest race. And you get the infractions. When you roll into California and Las Vegas, you might see a thing or two lingering. But once the season gets going and you have your core group of teams and everybody there working, you don't see these issues. I think a lot of it is the fact that this is Daytona 500."
CAN YOU HANDICAP THE FIELD FOR SUNDAY'S RACE? "I think you're going to see - not in any particular order -- a race between the No. 20 (Tony Stewart), the 24 (Jeff Gordon), the 48, the 17 (Matt Kenseth), the 2 (Kurt Busch) and the 5 (Kyle Busch) - there are six in there. The 38 (David Gilliland) is showing a lot. I would put him as a wildcard. Five hundred miles is a long time and he's learning at a rapid pace. He's got a great piece of equipment as we all know. The 88 (Ricky Rudd) didn't show a lot of strength yesterday, in the Duel, I thought. But the 38 certainly did."
-credit: gm racing