Phoenix: Jimmie Johnson Friday media visit




WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT JR DRIVING KYLE BUSCH'S CAR AT TMS AND GAINING 3 POINTS ON YOU? "That car was going to get back on the track either way. If Kyle was there, he was in it. They actually came to find me to get in the car, but I had already left because we were out of the race and black-flagged because we couldn't maintain the minimum speed, so that would have been a great story if I was the one who went out there and lost myself third position in points (laughs). But its just part of it and you just try to help out wherever you can."

WOULD YOU DO THAT FOR ANOTHER TEAM - SAY FOR DEI OR GIBBS OR SOMEBODY LIKE THAT? "If the situation comes up. The only time I've been faced with that was to help Tony Stewart out at Watkins Glen. But there was obviously a conflict with primary sponsors and that kept that from taking place. I was standing there in my Lowe's uniform and Mark Cronquist (JGR head engine builder) came up to me and said hey can you get in the car and I looked at him and said, 'Look at my uniform and then look at yours. Do you really think I can get in this car?' And he said oh, he was sorry and then ran off.' So in the six years I've been in this sport - even the two years in Busch - I've never been in a situation to relieve someone or be relieved.

"So it's just something that happens every once in a while and I think you scramble to get whoever you can in the car to help out."

ARE THE AERODYNAMICS GOING TO BE A FACTOR IN SATURDAY NIGHT'S RACE? "The car is bigger. It punches a bigger hole so there's more turbulent air behind the lead car all the way through the pack. That's something that we've all been expressing and had a concern about to start with. The old car is a smaller vehicle and punches a smaller hole. So it's going to be a learning experience. But I think we do have a good plan in place of bringing this car in and start it off on half-miles and bring it up to the miles. We're all learning more. This show might not be the show that we all want, but next time we race this on a mile track, it's going to be better. And that's what this year is all about is to try and make the car better each time we're on the track."

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE ABOUT PIR? "I think it's just the aero-balance of the car. We do have hard braking in Turn 1, which will be similar to Martinsville so I think lessons learned at Martinsville will carry over a little bit there. Turns 1 and 2 is a much tighter corner and it seems like less aero, almost, down there; and then you get into (Turns) 3 and it's so flat and aero is really, really important. So if we do see an issue, it might be in (Turns) 3 and 4 where you just can't get close enough to someone in front of you or run in behind him and get position. But it's really hard to speculate until we get out there. I think it'll be better than what we expect, but I still think it'll be better when we come back for the second or third time on these tracks."

DO YOU THINK NASCAR NEEDS TO DO MORE FOR THE YOUNGER DRIVERS TO HELP THEM ADJUST TO CUP FINANCIALLY AND REGARDING THE DEMANDS ON THEIR TIME? "Growing up in this sport, I can say at (age) 31, I'm still growing and learning. So I don't know where that point is to say hey, you're too young or you need this help from your team or your sponsors. I think the owners recognize that this is a big sport and there's a lot on the line and you have major corporate dollars involved and you need to make sure you bring somebody in who is able to deal with these things and who is trainable and has the right outlook on things.

"So I think you've gone through a lot of red tape to get here and this point and you've earned a spot to be here. Now that doesn't mean that you're not going to make mistakes and your emotions aren't going to get the best of you and it's going to be a tough road for you. It's tough, regardless of where you are in this sport. It's just a hard game to be in."

WITH THE NEW CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT, HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK ABOUT HAVING A 20-POINT LEAD ON EVERYBODY ELSE? "I didn't think about it until we won Martinsville. It doesn't change my mind on the track and the decisions I make out there. It's just kind of a novelty item when you go home to know it's (winning) going to be a bonus in the Chase. That's the way it is now. But when we get to the Chase, if we are fortunate enough to be in position to be in the lead, we'll love it then. But if you're 50 out, you're going to hate it."

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT THE SHOOTINGS AT VIRGINIA TECH AND HOW IS HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS DEALING WITH THAT TRAGEDY? "During the day Monday, I heard tidbits of what was going on at VT and thought of Marty Smith, a good friend who is a graduate from the school; and we have Darian Grubb and a lot of guys from Hendrick Motorsports have gone to VT.

And it's just hard to believe - not only at Virginia Tech, but just anywhere in our country that this can take place and how vulnerable this society is that somebody really is that possessed to do something wrong. It's really a scary thing. My reaction is similar to everyone else's -- that hasn't had a friend or known somebody involved. I've just been completely shocked. Our hearts are out for all the families involved. And then all the stuff that has come out since, you wonder what in the world was going on in that guy's mind. What was he thinking? Why was he like this? It's a tragedy. We're all asking the question, 'Why?'"

FROM A DRIVER'S PERSPECTIVE, IN KYLE BUSCH'S SITUATION LAST WEEK AT TMS, DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR CAR CAN'T RACE ANY MORE WHEN YOU DRIVE IT INTO THE GARAGE AFTER A CRASH? "Oh, yeah, most of the time you have a good idea. If you make light contact and do some aero damage - like the contact I had with Tony (Stewart) I felt was just aero damage. It didn't bend the steering. Some contacts you make and the steering is 180 degrees off, and you know you've done major suspension damage here and there is no way you can fix this."

SO YOU WOULD HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHETHER THE CAR CAN BE FIXED OR NOT? "Yeah, in order for Kyle to leave, I think he must have felt that the car was really destroyed and there was no way to fix the car and get it back out. The guys must have done a really good job fixing the car."

WOULD YOU PERSONALLY LIKE TO SEE A NASCAR TRACK IN THE SEATTLE AREA? "Absolutely. I think the more markets we can be in, the bigger our sport is going to be and the better it's going to be. We have fans all over the country and it's kind of dark right now in the northwest. There is some short track racing that goes on up there, but unfortunately we don't have a Cup track up there. Hopefully we can expand. In my opinion, I think the best thing for our sport is to have one race at every track and race at 38 different places instead of racing at 26 tracks total. But it's hard to be the promoter or track builder. It's a tough situation because there is no guarantee you're going to get the Nextel Cup date. Without a doubt, that is the major event you need to get to work through the expense and cost. There is a lot of revenue for the city with a Nextel Cup event and I think everybody is on board at that point. But it's really the chicken or the egg because if you build a facility and hope NASCAR comes and there's just no guarantee. We've seen tracks like Kentucky and Nashville Speedway that come up that are great venues but that for whatever reason doesn't fit what NASCAR sees from a marketing standpoint and it doesn't happen. So it's a very risky business environment and I'm glad I don't have a dog in that fight. Being a track owner would be a tough game."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports