Fontana: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA met with media and discussed the pothole at Daytona, expectations of the first downforce track, the importance of qualifying, HBO 24/7, Tiger Woods, and more. AT DAYTONA, DID THE POTHOLE INITIALLY CAUSE YOUR...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA met with media and discussed the pothole at Daytona, expectations of the first downforce track, the importance of qualifying, HBO 24/7, Tiger Woods, and more.

AT DAYTONA, DID THE POTHOLE INITIALLY CAUSE YOUR PROBLEMS "I think we got our flat tire from the pothole, originally. The tire still had air in it and it separated and did some damage to the right front. But that was the first red flag. Fortunately it blew right when that caution came out for that red flag and we were able to stay on the lead lap. As far as the damage that took us out of the race, I don't think it had anything to do with it. Something with the left rear hub assembly failed and then it got so hot it started melting things inside of there and then actually broke the axel. I don't think the pothole had anything to do with that."

SO DO YOU KNOW WHY THE SECOND THING HAPPENED AND IS THAT A CONCERN GOING FORWARD?"It was kind of a fluke. It's a fluke and a concern. We haven't had any issues with our hub assemblies in a long, long time. Same people; same stuff, same assemblers and all that; so we're concerned. We haven't had a rash of these problems so we're kind of like all right, maybe it's just a fluke deal. At the same time, we want to figure out why but there was so much damage and the hub got so hot that we can't go back through and logically say this failed first."

WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF A CONCRETE PATCH TO THE POTHOLE AT DIS?"I'm excited that we're not going to change the surface. I guess the fans may want it resurfaced so we run three-wide for all the laps, but Daytona has separated itself because it's rough and the asphalt is real porous and wears the tires out, so I'm happy to hear they're just trying to fix that area. It was impossible for them to know that the track was going to come apart and all the issues that we had. I'm on the track's side and NASCAR's side and think they handled things very well and I'm hopeful that patch gives us a few more years to use the race track as is."

HOW FAR CAN WE LET IT GO AND WHEN DO WE KNOW WHEN IT'S TIME TO REPAVE THE TRACK?"I remember when Talladega found some evidence when the track was kind of shifting down the banking and sliding. I guess at some point somebody in that industry knows when it's coming apart. But from a driver's standpoint, we like the tracks that are more porous. The new aggregates that are put together that Talladega was resurfaced with and Charlotte Motor Speedway, that aggregate has so much fill in it that the stones don't really show up and they don't wear the tires out. So from a driver's standpoint and what we want is probably far different than a track operator's desires and they've got to find that happy balance. But I'll leave it up to the smart people and hopefully they get it figured out (laughs)."

HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING TODAY AND WHAT WILL WE SEE FROM YOUR EFFORT?"It's important. We all think weather (rain) is going to be here tomorrow so I would think a lot of teams will focus on race trim today; including us, which is kind of unusual. Being the first race of the season for downforce cars, we need to work through some things to make sure our work in the off-season works well. So track position is important. Pit road is very friendly here. This track is very wide. It's not a bad race track to have a bad qualifying effort, although up front is the best place to be."

THIS IS THE FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW YOU'VE COME TO CALIFORNIA AFTER A 20TH PLACE FINISH OR WORSE AT DAYTONA. HAS THAT BECOME BUSINESS AS USUAL?"In my crazy mind, I'm trying to find a way I can win a fifth because the last four we've finished terrible at Daytona and I'm buying into it and finding some silver lining in all this (laughs) saying it's a good sign. But I just hope that at the end of the Chase that we don't need the points that we lost at Daytona. I think we were in position to have a shot at winning. I was running with the No. 1 car (Jamie McMurray) and the No. 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) when we had our failure. Those guys both were up front shortly after we went out of the race. So I hate to look at an opportunity missed and then I hope that we don't need 10 or 15 points or shoot, even 100 points for that matter, I mean (finishing) 35th is a big points loss."

THIS IS THE FIRST RACE OF THE 'REAL' SEASON, WHICH HAS BEEN A GOOD INDICATOR OR WHAT TEAMS WILL MAKE THE CHASE. WILL THAT STILL BE THE CASE THIS YEAR OR WILL IT CHANGE BECAUSE OF THE CHANGE TO THE SPOILER ABOUT FIVE OR SIX WEEKS IN?"That's a good point. I haven't thought about the spoiler equation into things. There are five or six races here that we need to go out and earn points and my mindset coming in here said that this is really important and this is going to show what the season is about. I don't think that the car is going to be terribly different with the spoiler and I could be totally wrong, but you have to find a way to put downforce in the back of the cars and if it's a spoiler or a wing, it is what it is. I think the car may behave differently in traffic and that could be an advantage for me. So I'm not too concerned about the spoiler at this point."

WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU WANT ANSWERED AFTER THIS WEEKEND?"Truthfully, it boils down to validating the tools and resources we worked with over the off-season. We keep finding new technology to understand shocks and drivelines and aero balance and changes to the car and it's all done with software that we're designing and creating at the shop. And until we come to the track to validate it, it's tough to know how accurate it is. So that's a really important thing."

IS THIS A 'FLEX YOUR MUSCLE' WEEKEND?"I haven't thought about it in that way. I come in more with an open mind. Everybody has worked hard over the off-season and we don't know where we stack up. And in 2008 we thought we did everything right over the off-season and showed up and weren't all that strong. So because of that experience, I'm not walking in with a ton of confidence. After the first practice session I'll put my confidence where it needs to be there. But I'm coming in with an open mind hopeful to run well but also in the reality of things, we could not be close."

HOW IS IT THAT YOU DON'T HAVE CONFIDENCE?"After you've raced long enough, it changes so fast. The butt-kicking we put on these guys the last four years has made a lot of people mad. And a lot of people have been working hard. We saw a lot of teams showing speed at the end of the Chase and once one of these teams finds a direction, they can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. So a lot of that concern comes from respecting this garage area and my competitors and knowing what they're capable of."

LAST WEEKEND DALE JUNIOR FINISHED 2ND. HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DOES THAT GIVE YOU AND HOW MUCH DOES CONFIDENCE HELP FOR SOMEBODY LIKE HIM?"It helps him, for sure. It gives his fans something really exciting to talk about. But I think he would be the first to admit he wants to come and run top two at a track like this. So it's a step in the right direction and it helps and it's great for everyone but he's real focused on making sure he runs well on the downforce tracks."

AS A DRIVER, DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENCE EBB AND FLOW DURING SEASONS, OR DOES THAT EVER CHANGE?"You're only as good as the last time you're on the track. So much is dictated per session and per weekend and really in small increments. You can't have too broad of a view because things change so much in the sport. You can really only live off of the last time you were on the track."


WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO GET OUT OF THAT RELATIONSHIP? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THEM?"Their philosophy in reaching corporations and the opportunities it represents was just a different avenue and different way to go about it. I've had the individual representation where they're making the cold calls and knocking on doors and it just didn't seem to work all that well and their approach is much different. Some people like it and some people don't. It's more of a bundle package where they take meetings and then they present all of their athletes to sponsors. You can argue either way, good or bad, but it was different than what I had done in the past. They are so intertwined with so many companies through music and motion pictures and networks and all the different aspects to it, I just felt like I had more opportunities going with CAA than any of the others."

WOULD THE HBO SPECIAL NOT HAVE HAPPENED IF IT WEREN'T FOR THEM?"I think HBO was close to approaching a NASCAR team. So they would have gone to NASCAR and said we want to do this and there is no telling where it would have gone. Maybe it would have been a 24/7 on the sport itself and not on an individual driver. But I give CAA all the credit for landing the 24/7 deal."

ARE THEY PLANNING WELL BEYOND YOUR CAREER HERE? ARE THEY LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD?"My relationship with CAA doesn't involve that. I have a board of advisors that help me with my personal and business decisions and what my future looks like and what I'm involved with, but CAA is not involved in that aspect."

WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OVER THE WALL PIT CREW?"I'm really lucky to have had these guys for a long period of time. Some of them I've lived with before in other series where we've shared apartments and houses. Other guys are new. But either way, as they come on board there is a very strong relationship and friendship and we have a great time but expect a lot out of each other and have accomplished a lot together. It's hard to really pinpoint one thing. But there's just a respect that we all have for each other's positions. It doesn't matter if it's the non-glamorous job of being a tire guy or the guy being the race car driver, we're all in this thing together."

HOW MUCH GOES INTO PICKING THOSE GUYS AND HOW MANY CHANGES TO YOU HAVE IN A NORMAL SEASON?"That's not an area I spend much time in. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) is the head coach of that and he knows the flow and expertise he needs in each given area and what he needs out of each guy and I really put all my trust in him and let him make those calls."

DID YOU WATCH THE END OF THE DAYTONA 500?"No way. I was 30,000 feet up, heading home (laughs). Since I couldn't win on the race track, I wanted to be the first one to the airport and first one to my couch. So I went as fast as I could."

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AT LAS VEGAS? WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE GOOD?"With the paving job they did a couple of years ago, the track is a lot faster than it's been in the past. I'm not sure what the asphalt has done over the off-season and how much speed it's lost, but that track went from being a slippery track that you had to manage your time and manage your lap time around the track to a place that you have to manage. So It's a really fun race track to drive. I hope it's still that way where you have to attack and drive every lap like a qualifying lap."

WHAT CAN YOU LEARN ON THIS TRACK THAT WILL HELP YOU ON THE SHORT TRACKS?"Short track-wise, it won't really show us much, but for all the downforce 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks, this is our first time on the track this year in this environment so it will let us know if we've been working in the right areas so we can work on a plan for the upcoming races."

DID YOU WATCH TIGER WOODS? WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION?"It's hard to watch and understand. I saw so many follow-ups asking if he was sincere and did he mean what he said. It's hard to really gauge that. I don't think it's fair for anybody to gauge that. But I think he said some powerful things and I think he was really honest. That's a great starting point and I can only imagine how difficult it is in that entire situation. So I think he's off to a strong start."

-source: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya