Talladega II: Jimmie Johnson - Friday media visit

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed the role this track will play in the Chase, Jeff Burton, how he races his teammates during the Chase, if he expects a wild race this ...

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed the role this track will play in the Chase, Jeff Burton, how he races his teammates during the Chase, if he expects a wild race this weekend, new drivers making their NASCAR debut in Talladega, the outcome of the Kansas City race, if he feels pressure racing in Charlotte, if he has any safety concerns racing here and how NASCAR has changed since he was a new driver in the sport.

ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT TALLADEGA AND THE ROLE THIS TRACK WILL PLAY IN THE CHASE FOR THE NEXTEL CUP CHAMPIONSHIP: "Well there's no telling how it's going to come out and I think that's what all the excitement is right now. From the driver's standpoint and the crew's, we just don't know what to expect. Typically we see some crazy things happen here, at the same time we've seen a lot of crazy stuff going on the last few weeks so we're prepared for anything and looking forward to it. It's a great track for us. This fall race really isn't all that kind to me. I don't finish it for a variety of reasons. I hope to change that this year and leave here with a decent finish. That's really what our goal is, to get out of here with a top 10."

ON JEFF BURTON AS A DRIVER AND A FRIEND AND WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT HIM: "I was a fan of his before I really got in the Busch Series and I just thought that he was a clean hard racer, which I respected and admired. Outside of the car, I don't know him off the track that well but the way he carries himself through the garage area he speaks from an honest point of view. Sometimes I agree with what he says, sometimes I don't, but at least he's honest and consistent and I think a very admired guy in the garage area. I know people respect him, they respect said what he said on the track, off (the track) and I think he's well liked and (well) received everywhere."

IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE IN THE WAY YOU RACE YOUR TEAMMATES DEPENDING ON IF THEY ARE IN THE CHASE OR NOT? "Well I think each team has maybe a different point of view on it and the way that you use a teammate that's not in the Chase can come in a variety of ways. I think of Penske and how they're using the 12 to try to find some new technology right now, kind of sacrificing the end of his season. I look at on track what you can do and really only Talladega and Daytona you can help each other on track. I know that the 25 car in general, they've been working on some new stuff and have been trying some new ideas. (They) tried them last week for us, nothing that we really hit on, but you try to do that and I think teams that are outside of the Chase are willing to take more of a chance and that's why you see it. They're trying to do whatever they can to finish up the season strong and someone like the 25 in our case.you know if we can hit on something and give Casey an advantage and go out and win a race and then also help develop something and help us along - that's really the reason we have four cars. They can be a little bit more risky now that they're not in the Chase and we're closing in on the end of the season."

DO YOU AGREE WITH DENNY HAMLIN'S ASSESSMENT OF TEST DAYS HERE THAT THIS COULD BE WAY WILDER THAN ANYTHING WE'VE EVER SEEN AT TALLADEGA? "Yeah, I was left with that impression as well. It seemed that the bigger hole that these cars punch you close up in that draft inside that hole and get to someone's bumper but you really couldn't pull out and pass someone and finish a pass so it meant more bump drafting and trying to set up a pass even if you're the guy looking for the opportunity you drag the brakes even harder yet to get a bigger shot from behind to push you and try to get by someone. Hopefully in a 43 car pack it's not that way but when you have all this energy to close and you can't go anywhere with it and can't execute a pass, in my opinion that's going to create the more intense racing than what we have. Before we could kind of make a single car pass, if you got a big push you could pull out and clear that guy. We saw Harvick at the Daytona 500 come from fourth or fifth row with a big run and make it all the way up to Mark Martin and racing back to the finish line. What we saw in the test, you couldn't even clear one car. You couldn't keep that momentum keep going and I think it's too early for us to know why. I personally think it has something to do with the wing and the way wing works with the air coming above and below it, something's going on there, but we're all kind of speculating right now and as you pointed out once we get on track we'll learn a lot more today when we have all the cars out there. But the test session was more hair raising than we hoped to be honest with you."

ON SOME NEW DRIVERS MAKING THEIR DEBUT AT TALLADEGA AND HIS ANXIETY LEVEL ABOUT THAT: "The anxiety is still there for me and I think until the race is over people are going to be skeptical and concerned and worried through all of it. There's nothing that's going to change it now and it's just really time to focus on what we need to do as a team to win the race and to run up front so I guess I'm trying to put it behind me and moving forward and in general I'm just nervous about being here at Talladega."

HAVING SOME DAYS TO DIGEST WHAT HAPPENED AT KANSAS AND HAVING SEEN THE REPLAYS, DO YOU HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE RULING AT THE OF THAT RACE? "No, I can't say I better understand the ruling and I haven't made an attempt to either. I haven't been in the truck yet. I just got here and came over so that's something that I will definitely do and try to better understand what goes on in that situation - what happens if you run out of gas on the backstretch and you don't make it back. Where is that cut off point and where do you start losing positions is my question that I hope to have answered. But I still feel the same way. It's nothing against Greg or Roush Racing or any of those guys but if you run out of gas you run out of gas and it was obvious that the car wasn't running and I think it was a bad call but it's behind us, we're moving forward and looking forward to this weekend. But my impression of last weekend hasn't changed."

DO YOU GO INTO THE RACE AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY WITH MORE PRESSURE OR IS IT MORE CALM BECAUSE OF YOUR STRONG PERFORMANCES THERE? "In general we're excited to go back. It's a track that regardless of the surface and kind of the design of the track we run well so I have a lot of excitement looking forward at that race. When we get there to the track and we're off a little bit, sometimes it creeps into our heads 'well it's not working out, something's changed' and we put a little bit more pressure on ourselves than if we're having a tough practice. But leading into it we're typically excited about it and I am this year. I think it's a good opportunity for us to possibility get a win and score some more points in the Chase."

TAKING THE POINTS PERSPECTIVE OUT OF THIS RACE, WHAT ARE YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR OWN PERSONAL SAFETY WHEN RACING? "I don't have any concerns there. I wish we didn't have any points on the line. I'd just go out there and hammer down, have fun, bump draft. The racing itself out there is a lot of fun but when you have this much to lose the racing isn't fun out there. It'd be nice if this race was in a different setting where it wasn't so much to lose here and then you could go out and have a blast. Our cars are safe. We've seen some massive impacts. Those tracks did a good job with soft walls. The Car of Tomorrow is safer. All of the things are going in the right direction. I don't have a fear for safety, just a fear of losing points."

WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL REACTION TO BEING OUT THERE FOR THREE HOURS IN THIS SITUATION WITH SUCH TIGHT PACKS AND THE POSSIBILITIES? "There's no doubt you leave here just mentally spent. You're focused on so much that's going on and trying to look through windshields of cars in front of you to see where momentum is going, see if there's going to be a problem that you can miss, so I do share that with Jeff (Gordon) that you leave here just drained and headaches and worn out from all of it. After last year's experience to make it all but the last half of the last lap, I really don't have a strategy and I don't have comfort anywhere running at the pack especially when you get in the closing laps, if you ride in the back you've got to then at some point drive your way up through the pack to try to score a good finish and last year running second coming down the back straightaway, I still ended up tore up so my guard is down. In a way it's down and I'll try to better explain. It's not that I'm really intense and worried about what's going to go on and where because I can't control it. I've been at the front, I' ve been at the back, I've been in middle, I've been in wrecks, I've started wrecks, I mean I've been a part of everything here that can take place and there ain't a darn thing I can do about it so I'm just going to line up and go and hopefully be able to stay relaxed all the way through these next couple days and then through the event and miss the problems that are out there because it doesn't matter where you're at, there's a high chance you're going to get tore up. It's kind of timing - right place, right time or wrong place, wrong time."

HAS THE GARAGE AND TRACK SITUATION CHANGED A LOT SINCE YOU TRAINED AND MOVED UP? "I think that today's world is better for young drivers that are trying to develop and come along. Even six years ago when I started in Cup there were less drivers paying to attention to short tracks, dirt tracks, off road racing, sprint cars, whatever it may be and with today's pool of drivers that have made it from different backgrounds and the way they're giving back and involved in other forms of racing and the car owners are now looking there, I think that as a young up and coming driver you have more opportunities in today's world than even when I started a few short six years ago so it's exciting to see these guys come along and have a shot to come in and run the big times. It doesn't matter if it's just here on our own soil we're now having guys like Juan Pablo (Montoya) and Jacques (Villeneuve) and Dario Franchitti, guys coming in from all walks of life that want to have a shot here in NASCAR so it's a good time to be in the sport."

BASED ON WHAT HAPPENED PREVIOUSLY, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU REALLY SHOULD BE RACING FOR YOUR FOURTH STRAIGHT TALLADEGA VICTORY? "I can't remember what went on in the spring here. When you said I finish second I was happy to hear that. I couldn't remember where I finished. I don't feel that way because I didn't even realize where I finished in the spring but it's a good track for us and I know we always bring great cars and I've been able to learn a lot through the draft. I've been taught good lessons. I've also made some mistakes and have learned lessons through that so I'm excited to come back and feel like when we come to Talladega I have a shot at winning and I think that I have that opportunity to."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Dario Franchitti , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin