Loudon: Johnson, J Gordon visit with media

JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO Pre-Practice Visit With Media: ON THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED RULE "If you have an option at the end to take fuel, you've got to count on those extra three laps taking place. You can't go ...

JIMMIE JOHNSON , NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
Pre-Practice Visit With Media:

ON THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED RULE

"If you have an option at the end to take fuel, you've got to count on those extra three laps taking place. You can't go through the race and then end up running out of gas at the end. So I think all the crew chiefs will factor in that extra three laps. So I just expect everybody to shift that window back and being prepared for that. That's just the safe thing to do - especially if you're high in the points. You don't need to take any chances."

ON RETURNING TO NEW HAMPSHIRE THIS YEAR AFTER WINNING BOTH RACES HERE LAST YEAR

"We should be strong. There are some changes in the rules this year coming back like the tires. We'll have to sort that out and hopefully we'll have the advantage we had last year. But I've been looking forward to this on the schedule all year long."

ON BEING SOLID AND HAVING GREAT MOMENTUM RIGHT NOW

"I feel kind of like Lance Armstrong, where you're just kind of riding along waiting for that final cut and preparing ourselves and conserving energy and making sure I have a very good feel for what I have underneath me and really trying to perfect our race cars and everything that goes along with that. We're going to win races if we can. We can look at it in two ways: One, we can conserve or two, we can take some chances because it doesn't matter where we end up after race No. 26 as long as we're in the top 10. Regardless of it all, we're having a lot of fun. We're fast. We're competitive. We've won three races. So we're really having a good time."

HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO SCORE 10 TOP-FIVE FINISHES IN THE LAST 11 STARTS?

"It's a total team effort. We have great race cars, great engines, great bodies on the race cars. Chad has given me a car that I can drive week in and week out and have fun in. If you can be out there sliding it around and racing hard for position, you're going to win races and you're going to have a lot of top fives and we've been able to do that. It's been a lot of fun I have to admit. It's been an incredible year so far and probably the best year I've had in my career."

WHAT WAS THE CHANGE LAST YEAR THAT SUDDENLY LED YOU TO WINNING BOTH RACES AT NEW HAMPSHIRE?

"Obviously we made our race cars a little bit better. But most of it was that I finally figured out how to drive a big heavy stock car on a flat race track. If you look at our Phoenix performance and our Loudon performance - even at Richmond we've been able to step it up. I've had a lot of trouble on tracks were you need some patience and you need to drive the car within its means. When you get on a big track like Dover or Charlotte, I have no problem staying on the gas pedal and going fast. But on some of the more finesse tracks I've had trouble with. But at last year, we hit our stride here at the first Loudon race and I was able to carry it through the whole season and into this season as well. Hopefully I'll keep it up."

IS THE NEW GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED RULING GOOD FOR THE SPORT?

"I think it is. Everybody has opinions on rules changes they like or don't like. And I understand we are in this entertainment world. If I was going to spend my hard-earned money to see a race, I'd want to see it finish under green. I am pleased to see that NASCAR has ruled only one attempt at that so that we can better calculate our fuel mileage and so that we don't have a fiasco like we did with the truck race. I think it's a good change and a good compromise for the competition and I think everybody will like it."

WHEN YOU'RE NOT ON THE RACE TRACK AND HAVING TO DEAL WITH SPONSORS AND APPEARANCES, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU COME TO NEW ENGLAND?

"Actually, I can't say that I never have a chance to do anything, but I have a very good friend that lives nearby and we were able to go down to his property and shoot skeets and fish and do a lot of different things and relax on his property. We were able to relax and enjoy things a little bit."

DO YOU ENJOY LOBSTER WHILE YOU'RE HERE?

"Yeah. One time I had a lobster bake for all the crew guys. It's a must. We went through a lot of lobster. It was a good time."

JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
Comments Following First Morning Practice Session:

WILL YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED RULE?

"I don't know if you can really plan that much for that. If it happens, you've got to deal with it. If anything, you might just want to have a little extra fuel on board just in case. Other than that, I don't think there's really any strategy to it. You've just got to hope that you can hold onto the lead if you're in the lead. If not, you're going to try and pull a win out that maybe you weren't going to get before."

WILL THESE NEXT 8 RACES BE ABOUT GETTING MOMENTUM?

"Yeah, I would think that it's as much momentum as it is physiological right now. You really don't want to let down your guard and put yourself in a position where you don't think anybody has an edge over you. If you've got things going in your direction, you want to keep it going. We're not going to try to let up at all. Race wins are still real important to us."

ON DALE EARNHARDT JR'S ACCIDENT IN THE CORVETTE C5-R

"It was very scary. You look at the wreck and it's such a minor wreck and yet the fire was huge. It really makes you concerned about fires and what we can do to prevent them from happening. You try to learn from every situation - even if it's in another series. I'm sure Dale Jr. learned a lot from it. I'd like for us to get some information based on the fuel cell rupture and all that and how you would prevent it from happening over here."

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE ACCIDENT? WILL YOU MAKE ANY CHANGES IN YOUR SAFETY EQUIPMENT?

"I came from Open Wheel racing where you always wear all the underwear you possibly can underneath the fire-resistant underwear. I came from three-layer driving suits and underwear plus the headsock and everything. So for me, this is a pretty standard thing. Plus, working with DuPont, they make Nomex (protective apparel), and have trained us well on what works the best. I've even talked to the manufacturer of the uniforms as to which materials work the best. But it's fruitful to have the underwear underneath."

IS FIRE A DRIVER'S BIGGEST FEAR?

"The biggest fear is a failure on the race car and getting into a situation where there can be a fire like that. I've only experienced a couple of fires in my career. One was in a Midget where it was Methanol and I didn't even know it was on fire but it was a small fire and I was able to get out of it pretty quick. And then at North Wilkesboro in the Cup car in '93 in my rookie year, it went up in a ball of flame pretty quick but then it went out pretty quick as well. I've never been in a situation like that. That is pretty scary. It's got to be one of your biggest fears as a driver. These cars aren't really that easy to get out of in a hurry. And so when something like that is happening, you panic a little and when you're excited it takes a little bit longer to get out."

WHAT ABOUT PULLING THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER?

"You're going to want to get out of there first before that. I've never pulled it. I've never really been in a situation where I had to, but I would guess that unless I was trapped and couldn't get out of the car, I probably wouldn't pull that button. I'd probably try to get out of there first."

DO YOU KNOW OF ANY OTHER DRIVER WHO HAS PUSHED THAT BUTTON?

"I think Ryan Newman did when he caught on fire at Michigan. He was rolling pretty fast and couldn't get it to stop so he was sort of trapped in there at that time. But you'd have to talk to him about that."

IS FIRE A GOOD TOPIC FOR US TO STUDY MORE?

"Well we did look into it a lot more when we were having a bunch of fires there last year. NASCAR looked into it and so did the teams. We changed some things on our car based on that. And then we put an extra fire bottle in the trunk of the car. I looked at a little bit of video on Junior's car and it was so odd. He hit the wall in such a way where it just ripped the fuel cell and just dripped fuel everywhere. The fumes from it are really what ignited. It was a very strange situation that you probably won't see very often."

HAVE YOU SEEN THE CAR OF TOMORROW THAT NASCAR IS WORKING ON?

"No, I have not."

WILL A BIGGER COCKPIT HELP IN THAT SITUATION?

"It will for a bigger guy. It doesn't really affect me. I'm one of the shortest guys out here and I can get in and out of my car pretty good right now. But we are making these driver compartments narrower and smaller for safety reasons - more like a cocoon like the open wheel cars - and it's taking away a little bit as far as getting out of the car. You know, anything you can do to make that area bigger would certainly help, but it's going to help the bigger guys out more than guys like myself."

DO YOU THINK NASCAR NEEDS TO CHANGE THE RULES SO AN INJURED DRIVER DOESN'T HAVE TO START THE RACE?

"No, I think you should have to start the race to get the points. But let's have races we can throw away. I think 30th on back ought to be the same points. That way, you can get away with having some injuries or having a problem or whatever it may be and you'd have a couple of throw-away races if you need them. But I don't think they should give points to a guy if he doesn't start the race."

ON HIS RECENT POKER PLAYING EXPERIENCE

"I liked it. I'm new to it, believe it or not. But I got lucky and paid good attention to the pro there. Obviously, based on his comments, I've got a few other things I've got to learn as well. We play a lot on the airplane just going back and forth to the races. We started playing and then we started taking it a little more seriously. It's become so big on TV with this Texas Hold'Em that we all wanted to learn that style. So that's all we play now. I knew that I wasn't good enough to win the thing, but I felt like I knew enough to be on there. I went further than I thought I would. It was fun. It was a fun experience and I got to meet some great people. We made some great money for the Jeff Gordon Foundation and had some fun doing it."

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO RACE CAR DRIVERS AND RACING STRATEGY?

"There are a lot of similarities. There's a lot of bluffing that goes on in this garage area on pit strategy and what you've got and when you're going to show it and when you're not going to show it. I think poker is really an amazing game. It really makes you push the limits of your mind and your actions. I like to do things that are hand and eye coordination and brain-teaser types of things."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ryan Newman