Watkins Glen: Johnson - Friday media visit

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed racing at The Glen, on-track incident at Pocono, proposed schedule changes, road racing and other topics. ON ADDED CONFIDENCE DO...

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed racing at The Glen, on-track incident at Pocono, proposed schedule changes, road racing and other topics.

ON ADDED CONFIDENCE DO YOU HAVE AFTER WINNING AT SONOMA: "It really does. We showed up today real excited and felt like we would have a lot of speed and get things sorted out. Jeff (Gordon) was up here for the tire test as well so we felt like that would be helpful for our company. Then all four cars, if you add six of the Stewart-Haas cars go out and we were all very, very far off and still are right now. It just speaks volumes as to how different this race track is than the race track in Sonoma. We have a lot of work to do. Spun out on lap two or three and think (Ryan) Newman spun out in the same spot I did, I saw on some video just now so we've got some work to do, but fortunately we have another practice session coming up and hopefully we can get to the bottom of it."

HOW DO EXPECT KURT BUSCH TO RESPOND TO WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK AT POCONO? "Kurt (Busch) and I talked on Monday and I left him a voicemail right after the race on Sunday. It was a racing incident and I hate that over the last year or two there have been a lot of those racing incidents and he has certainly been on the losing end of that situation and it is nothing intentional and nothing I have against him. He and I joked on the phone Monday that we have these magnets we can't get rid of. I'm just going to stay away from him as much as I can and my thought process was to actually work with him and not be a pain in the butt at Pocono because he caught me the lap before and passed me clean, then went on his way. He and the 33 (Clint Bowyer) were side-by-side going down Long Pond and I thought, 'man, I have a big draft, I can get inside of these guys and be a jerk here and create a situation and mess up the 2's progression.' The 2 just passed me so if I help him by the 33, I'll be inside the 33 for the tunnel turn and then maybe I can clear the 33 and go on our way. My move there was with the best of intentions and fortunately with the side drafting and hard racing going on between the 2 and the 33 and the timing of when I got to them and tried to nudge the 2 by, it did what it did. I feel terrible for it. Looking at the crash and what the 19 (Elliott Sadler) was caught up in, he got checked up and somebody hit the 19 from behind and put him in the wall. Man, I am so thankful that he is okay. I'm so thankful that Kurt's car didn't get into that same situation on the track over there. Luckily he was a couple hundred yards past that spot. With the past history, to answer your question, I hope that everything goes away. I have nothing against him and have not tried to run into him to create these problems, we just have and we have to stop doing that."

DO YOU THINK THERE IS A RIVALRY BREWING BETWEEN YOURSELF AND KURT BUSCH? "I think that in a good way, there is a rivalry. I remember at Bristol, he got out of the car after finishing second or I think we won and he said, 'anybody but the 48.' You look at the hard racing at Loudon, there is a good rivalry there and a lot of hard racing that we have been able to race against each other over the years, but I don't see it being anymore than that. After talking to Kurt (Busch), I believe he knows that I had the best of intentions to help him out last Sunday and unfortunately with circumstances, went wrong and he was crashed. I don't see it being anymore than just hard racing moving forward."

DO YOU THINK THERE ARE RIVALRIES AMONG DRIVERS IN THE GARAGE? "Oh yeah, there's rivalries on many levels from paybacks down to just good, competitive racing. Across the board, it's there. Being the champion over the last four years, I think it's easy to say that a lot of guys have a rivalry with us and want to beat us because we've set the mark. Here of late, it looks like there's some other teams that have found speed. The 16 (Greg Biffle) looks awfully quick and in my mind, I look at the fastest guy last week and say, 'that's the biggest rival, that's who we need to beat.' It spins around a lot of ways, but without a doubt you have drivers that get into it with one another and have paybacks as we saw with Brad (Keselowski) and Carl (Edwards) all the way down to just normal, competitive stuff."

HOW MUCH DO YOU FEEL THE CHASE SCHEDULE CHANGES ARE DIRECTED AT YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "Maybe I'm foolish, but I don't think it has anything to do with me. I think it has everything to do with NASCAR trying to create the best product that they can, trying to be in front of the right audiences, the right time of the year for certain race tracks so the stands are full, action-packed tracks for the Chase so our television numbers are up. I don't see it has anything to do with me. We're ready wherever those 10 races are -- we're ready to race."

ON THE NEW SAFETY FEATURES AT WATKINS GLEN: "I didn't hit anything too hard this morning or didn't hit anything too hard so I didn't try out any of it. I was here for that Grand-Am race and got a good look at it then and was impressed with what they had done. Watching some cars that have spun going through the inner loop and there wasn't a sand trap there. The cars get stopped in time because there is one, no sand trap and two, no grass so the car slows down and we don't have a caution to pull a car out of the sand and all that stuff. I think asphalt from wall to wall on road courses, wall to wall on ovals -- that's where you create problems and the grass looks nice and it's tough to asphalt in around a road course and all, but the less grass the better and I think that with adding some softer walls in a few spots will control the impact to vehicles. We had some tires off of turn 11 in the past that work well for a head-on impact, but with a glancing blow, they've rebounded vehicles into traffic, tipped cars over and stuff. A SAFER barrier won't do that as badly, I think they've made some great changes."

ON ATTENDING THE GRAND-AM RACE SATURDAY NIGHT: "I'll definitely go see the guys. Bob Stallings (Grand-Am team owner) was in our garage stall earlier today talking a little bit so I will definitely stop in and see those guys. If I can find a golf course in the area, I may choose to do that instead of standing out there on pit road. Definitely be around those cars. I really enjoy the Grand-Am Series and Bob Stallings Racing so I'll be around."

TWO NAMES KEEP COMING UP AS FAVORITES AT THIS TRACK--TONY STEWART AND MARCOS AMBROSE--ARE THE THEY TWO DRIVERS WITH THE BIGGEST TARGETS ON THEIR BACK THIS WEEKEND? "You can't count Tony [Stewart] out of a road course race. Last year's race here he started off fair, didn't have anything magical going on and then he came to life and stomped the field. You can't count either one of those guys out. When I look at the raw speed that the 16 has had so far, the 11 and the 18 look good to me as well. It's going to be an exciting front group. I don't think it's just going to be a run away. I think you'll see a good race."

THE HENDRICK CARS WEREN'T VERY FAST IN PRACTICE, BUT HOW MUCH DOES THAT REALLY WORRY YOU? CAN YOU FEEL IT IN THE CARS? THE FANS DON'T SEE THE LAP TRACKER, BUT YOU SAID YOUR TEAM WOULD LOOK INTO IT. WHAT ELSE CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT? "Oh yeah, we can all feel it in the cars. I spun out just trying to find my way around the track and get up to speed in the first practice session. We made huge changes to the car and help take some of the edginess out of it, but it still never corrected the car and gave it a lot of grip. All four of our cars are struggling. We thought with Jeff [Gordon] being here for the tire test that we would be in the ballpark, and we've been far from the ballpark. We've really had to make some big changes to get back in the game and be competitive. I feel like we made our cars better as practice went on, but unfortunately all the other teams were doing the same. We've closed the gap some from the start to the end of practice, but we still have a long way to go."

DOES IT WORRY YOU? "Yeah it does. You'd like to see if you go a change or two, and you see good progression with the car then you feel like you're getting on top of things. But from our standpoint and also talking to the 24, they've made huge changes and it's made a small impact on the performance of the car. That starts to worry you for sure."

YOU'RE HEADING BACK TO BRISTOL IN A FEW WEEKS, DO YOU HAVE A LITTLE MORE OPTIMISM THAN YOU'VE HAD IN YEARS PAST GIVEN WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SPRING? "We ran so well there in the spring, even last year, we had a great spring and fall race. That night race has always been one of my favorites. We look forward to being competitive and hopefully going back to victory lane there. It's a great race track; I've always loved watching races there. I'm glad to actually enjoy racing on that track now."

DO YOU COME TO WATKINS GLEN FEELING ANY DIFFERENT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR CHANCES HERE SINCE YOU WON AT SONOMA A FEW WEEKS AGO? "Yeah, I've been gaining a lot of confidence from what I've done in the Cup car to also the time that I've spent in the Grand-Am [GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing] car. It all helps and made me walk in the gates today feeling very good about things, but then within two or three miles of being on the race track, I knew we had a lot of work to do on the racecar and that confidence that I had is now gone. Now we're in a situation of trying to get the car right. Once the car comes back into form then I can start getting my confidence back and really push the limits of the vehicle, but right now from a handling standpoint we need to get to work."

GOING BACK TO MICHIGAN WITH A WIN THERE STILL ELUDING YOU. LAST TIME YOU FINISHED SIXTH; CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT RACE AS WELL AS WHAT YOU EXPECT THIS RACE? "The last race we were trying some things that didn't really work for us. In practice we saw some great speed, stayed the course with the new stuff we were trying and it just didn't pan out. Grant, it was our first weekend with that new package and we're smarter now. Last year, we led both race a lot of laps, ran out of fuel and all that kind of thing. I know that we have it in us to run well there. As long as it isn't a fuel mileage race, I think we'll have a shot. We'll go back and see. It's a fun race track; I really enjoy going to Michigan and driving on the course. Hopefully we get to victory lane."

-source: gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Clint Bowyer , Elliott Sadler , Bob Stallings