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Pre-Race Interview With Jimmie Johnson at Pocono

WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND?

“I think the way we ran here last year especially with the repave, our cars had a lot of speed in them.  I’m excited to come back and see what we have. We’re setting up in the summer stretch right now and I think that this weekend will kind of play into what we have at the Brickyard 400 here before long.  All in all, I’m excited to be here.  I think our car has been fast, I think we’ve been good on pit road and I enjoy the summer months.  That is right around the corner and looking forward to hot, slick race tracks.  Although, it’s not hot and slick right now, we need boats, but at some point we’ll get there.”

 

DID YOU TALK TO NASCAR ABOUT THE RESTART AT DOVER AND WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON IT NOW?

“I did a little bit after the race and then sat and digested things this week and I’m going to go and speak to them now that we have a lot of time this morning since it’s raining and just walk through it some more.  It’s an interesting thing that took place in my opinion.  I feel that in NASCAR and auto racing there are very few moments where maybe a penalty could be drawn or a foul could be drawn like we would see in the NBA Finals or something right now there is flopping that goes on.  I really believe that in the restart zone to the start-finish line that Juan (Pablo Montoya) just didn’t go and in my opinion, I think he played it right.  I think he was smart in letting me get out ahead of him and let them make the call on me to keep me from having the lead and winning the race.  It’s interesting, I really don’t have anything against Juan for doing it, as racers we need to work any and every angle we can to win a race.  That’s what we do, we race.  I put a little more weight into officiating in exactly how the rule reads and the way the rule is intended to be enforced.  I think we can look at enforcing it differently.  I think everybody looking at it afterwards can see that Juan just didn’t go.  What happens then when you get out of that restart zone?  What happens from there to the start-finish line?  I think with the data we have and the technology we have today, we have the tools to maybe make a better decision and make a better decision at that point in time.  It’s difficult after the race, people look at stuff and that didn’t work out.  The race had been taken away from us, the championship bonus points are gone and it’s very difficult at that point to do the right thing, but in today’s world of technology, I hope that we can figure out one, exactly how does that rule read.  I kind of get it, but from the restart zone to the start-finish line, if I guy breaks or has trouble NASCAR has the ability to make the call and say that they had trouble and it’s fine to go.  Someone flops, what then?  You think about the restart zone at Indy, you have a couple hundred yards from the end of that zone to the start-finish line and if I’m the leader and on the outside, I could let five or six cars go by and then get to the start-finish line and trap them all down and put them in position to be penalized.  Essentially, Juan found a loophole.  He found a loophole in the officiating and worked it to his advantage so sure I’m mad I didn’t win the race, and I’m not mad at him, but I think we need to look at how we officiate and how we can regulate that and keep that from happening.  Dover, it’s a very short distance from the zone to the start-finish line.  At other tracks, it’s a huge distance.  Here, it’s pretty big.  I would have to imagine it’s a couple hundred yards as well.  You could pin four or five people into that position if they take the bait, which I took the bait clearly.”

 

NASCAR SAID IT WAS A ‘NO BRAINER,’ BUT NOT FOR YOU?

“Not for me, not for the 15 (Clint Bowyer), not for the 99 (Carl Edwards), not for the 18 (Kyle Busch), I mean all these guys have talked to me and I just saw Clint and he was like, ‘Dude, I was on the brakes, like I stomped on the brakes to stop because I knew you were in trouble.’  I said I knew I was too, I was just hoping that they would see the rest of you check up.  It is what it is, I can’t change it and can’t do anything about it, but moving forward I think we can prevent that situation from happening again.”

 

WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF GETTING RID OF THE RESTART ZONE?

“In the end, it depends on what NASCAR wants to have happen there.  The way I have understood the rule is they want all the lanes to come up to speed together and if possible be side-by-side going into turn one.  That’s been the goal and the way I’ve interpreted things myself.  If they want to let the leader have an advantage then I’m fine with whatever, I just need to better understand the rule.  I’ve played into trying to do the right thing and trying to maintain pace car speed when the pace car pulls off.  Obviously, some guys really choke up the field at that point, which the way they say the rule works you’re not supposed to do that, but as you get somebody backing up or getting out of the line beside the leader then the leader has the advantage and could take advantage of that.  I’m cool with whatever it is, I just want it to be crystal clear what we can and cannot do and I guess I find myself trying to do the right thing more often and I feel like at Phoenix this year I got taken advantage of on that last restart and then clearly what happened at Dover.  Whatever it is, I’m fine and if we want the leader to have full advantage then take limitations away and let’s really give them the opportunity to take that restart and if not, then let’s enforce it properly the other way.”

 

IS TONY STEWART RELEVANT AGAIN?

“With the Chase, anything is possible.  That’s the beauty of the changes NASCAR made a few years ago in the Chase and I know the 14 (Tony Stewart) hasn’t been off to the start that they wanted to have, but if you make the Chase you have a chance to win the championship and I’ve never counted that 14 team out.  Happy that he’s back, mad and all.”

 

IF THERE ARE NO CHANGES TO THE RULE, WOULD YOU BE MORE LIKELY TO TRY WHAT JUAN PABLO MONTOYA DID IN THE SAME SITUATION?

“For sure.  It’s something that I’ve thought about in the past, but I’ve always been concerned that if I didn’t beat, I feel like my best chance is to beat the car next to be the second place car, whether he is inside or out, to beat him to turn one to have clean air and not give someone the ability to side draft me.  I guess I didn’t think it through far enough and if somebody would take the bait as I did.  The reason it was easier for me to take the bait was lining up on the inside, unless you’re door-to-door, when you get door-to-door and wheel-to-wheel, you lose site of the leader and it’s very difficult to stay with him at that point.  Being on the outside gives the leader that opportunity to put the second place guy in a blind spot.  It worked perfectly.  It really was well executed and taken care of, but in the end what it clear to me is regardless of the reason and if you cause a pile up and if it takes a lap, I tried the entire front stretch to give it back and I’m half throttle past the start-finish line trying to give it back, but he didn’t take it.  What is crystal clear to me is you just stand on the brakes and stop and give it back at all costs otherwise, even if I fell to fifth, it would have been a heck of a lot better than 17th.

 

WOULD IT HAVE BEEN AN OPTION FOR NASCAR TO THROW A CAUTION AND LINE THE FIELD BACK UP?

“First thought, no, it probably wouldn’t be something to do, but our crowd and the way people try to work things, we could have five or six of those yellows.  That’s just a whole other can of worms to open up.  I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that, but I would imagine we would create maybe a bigger mess doing that.  I think with the technology we have today, we could make maybe not an instant call, but within a lap or so could have good evidence to help make a better decision.”

 

WOULD BREAKING AND NOT KEEPING REASONABLE SPEED PUT IT BACK IN NASCAR’S HANDS AGAIN TO MAKE THE CALL?

“The leader is supposed to maintain pace car speed once the pace car pulls off into the zone and then go when he wants.  That’s been in question.  Guys take a different pace from when the pace car pulls off into the zone and it hasn’t been really enforced.  I guess there’s more leeway there than there the way it’s been called so far.  The way the calls have gone rather than beating the leader to the start-finish line.  At the end of the day, the way the calls go dictate how we respond.  We just play those odds.”

 

IS POCONO A TRACK WHERE YOU CAN WIN AGAIN OR IS IT JUST ABOUT THE POINTS? 

“Points really are everything.  Our first goal is to make the Chase and then championship points or bonus points going into the Chase from a race-winner are top of mind as well.  It’s both.  I feel like last year we had really the dominant car, especially in the fall race and had a soft tire going into turn one and had a big mess on the last restart.  The track has been good to us.  I think we’ve had far more speed than our results show and it’s such a weird race from a pit strategy call that memory is telling me that we’ve been burned a few times on having a great car and guys took some chances with strategy that ended up ahead of us.  At the end of the day, I think we’ll be a factor to win the race.”

 

WHY ARE YOU HAPPY WITH CHEVROLET AS YOUR MANUFACTURER?

“We all face our challenges.  I think the Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars have had some great speed, probably the fastest cars on all types of tracks.  The reliability has been a little bit of an issue.  I feel like we’ve had a lot of speed and maybe lacked a little to some of the Gibbs cars on the mile-and-a-half tracks, but we’ve had the reliability so there is always a challenge that a team is faced with and the manufacturer.  We’re all developing a new product this year and I’ve been with Chevy my whole life and I know how hard they work to get stuff right and very proud of their work again and my cars have been great.  We always want to be faster, but we’ve got a few months before we really need to count on that peak speed.”

 

DO YOU THINK THE RESTART FOR YOU WAS A MISTAKE?

“After the start-finish line, yes.  After the start-finish line looking back I should have been like the 15 (Clint Bowyer) and been all over the brake pedal.  You can see in the video that he is all over the brakes trying not to beat the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) to the finish line.  I think the way I understand it is you have the front stretch to kind of give it back and once I was in turn one, he pulled in behind me and I knew my bed was made.  I was hoping that they were going to say he had an issue and notice that he wasn’t up to speed the whole front straightaway and the call would come my way and it didn’t.  My mistake was expecting the call to come my way and I can’t count on that.  Especially come Chase time if I lose a shot at winning a race and I end up fifth, that’s a heck of a lot better than finishing 17th from hoping the call would go my way.”

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Posted by on June 8, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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