Tag:Jimmie Johnson
Posted on: January 2, 2012 1:47 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 3:46 pm

2011 Team Review/Preview: Hendrick Motorsports

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Jimmie Johnson's run for a sixth straight Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011 came up short for Hendrick)


For the first time since the 2005 season Hendrick Motorsports did not celebrate a Sprint Cup championship. 

Jimmie Johnson’s amazing run of five straight titles came to an end last season putting a period on one of the most incredible accomplishments in sports. 

"Just thinking about it, like wow, it really is over," Johnson said. "I'm disappointed that it is over but very proud of what this team has done. What we have done over the last, really, 10 years, the last five obviously stand out, but what we have done as a group over the 10-year run so far has been truly amazing." 

Johnson did make the Chase as did his Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. but none of the trio was really able to mount a run at the title. 

Johnson’s regular season included 17 top five finishes including a victories at Talladega and Kansas. But once the playoffs began, Johnson could not muster the championship magic that brought him titles from 2006 through 2010. 

“We had a lot of things that happened with the wreck in Charlotte and Talladega,” team owner Rick Hendrick said analyzing Johnson’s Chase performance. “We played our cards wrong at Talladega, our whole organization did, to have cars as good as we had and end up where we did. But that’s racing. I think when you’ve tasted the success they have, and now you’ve been beat, you’ve got to go to work, and you’ve got to come back stronger.”

Jeff Gordon came back to perform stronger in 2011 than he has in recent years and scored three victories with new crew chief Alan Gustafson. 

It marked the first time Gordon had put together a multiple win season since 2007. 

Gordon’s victory in the second race of the season at Phoenix kicked off the solid season that also included wins at Pocono as well as an historic effort at Atlanta when the four-time series champion registered his eighty fifth career victory.

The win put Gordon alone in third-place on the all-time series victory list and he was overwhelmed by the presentation from NASCAR president Mike Helton in victory lane.

"Everybody knows when Mike Helton speaks he has a way with words," Gordon said. "So to be up there, get presented that beautiful plaque that they put together with all the victories, just looking back on all the people that have contributed to it from Hendrick Motorsports, different crew chiefs and crew members and guys in the engine shop. I mean, it’s a team effort." 

But despite carrying tremendous momentum into the Chase, Gordon stumbled and in the end was eighth in the final point standings. 

"It's just disappointing because I feel like Alan is a guy that deserves a championship and deserves to be up there battling for one,” Gordon said. “He proved it with Mark (Martin) and I thought we were going to prove it this year with the way we were running leading into the Chase so it's disappointing, but I'm hoping that next year now having a year under our belt and we get along well. I've got just a ton of respect and belief in him and I feel the same thing is in return that puts us in position to have a great year next year." 

Like Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. enjoyed a comeback season that saw the sport’s perennial most popular driver make the Chase for the first time in three seasons. 

While Earnhardt wasn’t able to end his now three year winless drought, he was as competitive as he’s ever been during his tenure at Hendrick and finished the campaign seventh in the standings. 

Earnhardt gave much of the credit for his turnaround to the relationship shared with new crew chief Steve Letarte, who took the reigns of the No. 88 team last season. 

"We just have a lot in common and our personalities make it where it seems like it's easy for us to have a conversation," Earnhardt said. "I've been spending a ton of time around the hauler all day long during each day on Friday and Saturday and when you're sitting there you just never know when that idea or that thought is going to come into your head or come into [Letarte's] head about what might really be able to help the car.

"And if you just sit around long enough, eventually it's going to pop up and I want to be there for that conversation; I don't want him texting me on the phone while I'm in the bus going, 'Hey, I think I know what we can do.' I want to be there so that I can understand and talk about it. I think that's helping us." 

Unfortunately the lone Hendrick driver to not make the Chase last season was veteran Mark Martin, who ended his tenure with the organization in 2011.

Martin and crew chief Lance McGrew struggled to find the right balance most of the season. Martin, who will join Michael Waltrip Racing next season, finished the year with only a pair of top 5 finishes.



Martin’s departure makes way for Kasey Kahne to take the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet. After a one year stint at Red Bull Racing, which included a November victory at Phoenix, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis bring their considerable chemistry to the Hendrick organization.

"I'll be so excited and happy to get back in a race car, it's crazy," Kahne said. "Joining Hendrick is exciting. It feels good. They've given me such a good opportunity, I need to take full advantage of it and perform. It may take a little bit of time to figure everything out, but I think we can get off to a pretty quick start."

Kahne figures to be a formidable foe for all of his Hendrick teammates including Johnson, who is using the end of his championship streak as motivation in 2012.

“We have a lot to learn from this year and [crew chief] Chad [Knaus] and I have already been in meetings throughout this last week setting up wish lists of what we think we can do better, how we can do a better job at it,” Johnson said. “We are moving forward on next year and figuring out how we can dissect weak spots, if it is on track, you know pit calls have changed dramatically this year, what can I do differently as a driver, all those different components, we are addressing and working on them now.”

Gordon also plans on taking what was accomplished in 2011 as a foundation to build for a better new season.

"It's easy for us to be hanging our heads and think about the disappointments, but I'm also reminded and encouraged of how great of a year this has been for us," Gordon said. "With the three wins -- we did have incredible momentum coming into the Chase so I think as a competitor and as a race team, we certainly are very focused on what we did wrong and what we're going to do to make it better next year."

And season number two of the Earnhardt-Letarte combination also comes with high hopes from the duo.

“We learned a lot last year and had some success,” said Letarte. “We didn’t finish the job by winning races or the championship but I’m very convinced this race team can accomplish those goals in 2012.”


Only by Hendrick’s high standards could 2011 be considered a down season for the organization. That will happen when you take home five straight titles. But the entire four-car stable should all be considered championship contenders heading into the new season and the entire quartet could very well be in the Chase. All eyes will be on newcomer Kahne as he finally gets an opportunity to run with a stable and solid team, something that was missing during his tenures at Richard Petty Motorsports and Red Bull. Johnson is determined to snap back to championship form while Gordon and Earnhardt bring positive momentum and confidence into 2012. Overall this powerhouse team will be a major factor in the coming season.


For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed 

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Posted on: December 6, 2011 10:10 am

VIDEO: Jimmie Johnson on The Colbert Report

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

In case you missed it, Jimmie Johnson paid a visit to Comedy Central's The Colbert Report last night. Why? Well, ostensibly it was to promote his new video game for the Wii, though that was a very small part of their conversation which touched on doping -- which appeared to catch Johnson off guard a bit -- and restroom breaks (so to speak).

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:03 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 3:51 pm

Idle Thoughts: Respect in short supply

By Pete Pistone

  Joey Logano Drives
(When the sparks fly on track, fan interest goes up, as it did last Sunday in Martinsville)

Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway was a smashing success (pun intended) with fans. 

By far feedback from the last short track race of the season has been positive with many calling it the best race of the season. 

However not everyone shares that view, including the man who went to victory lane Sunday.

Tony Stewart may have crossed the finish line first and stayed ahead of the fray that included eighteen caution flags for 108 laps, but he wasn’t very impressed with the way most of his fellow competitors conducted themselves. 

It’s not hard racing or even an aggressive nature that bothers Stewart but the intentional paybacks and retaliation that ran wild at Martinsville. 

“NASCAR is going to have to at some point make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not baby-sit and not protect these guys,” Stewart said. “Let them get their butt kicked. That's what used to happen in the old days. You didn't have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots like that.” 

Before the word hypocrite gets tossed Stewart’s way, the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion is well aware of his early reputation as a barroom brawler on the race track. 

However Stewart says he understood fairly quickly that using your front bumper repeatedly in order to succeed carried a price. 

“I used to be as guilty of it and bad as anybody about taking a cheap shot at guys early,” Stewart said.  “But you realize that it's not about the two guys driving the cars out there as much as it's there's a bunch of guys that go back to the shop. 

“There's a car owner that spends a lot of money. There's a bunch of crew guys that spend a lot of hours and put a lot of heart and soul into what we have as a product each week with these racecars. I think at times we all forget about that.” 

This discussion has been magnified in recent years with the introduction of the “Boys Have at It” era in NASCAR racing. But while the sanctioning body intentions may have been to take a more hands off policy in officiating, Stewart is still unclear of exactly what the mandate meant and its ramifications. 

“I'm still trying to figure out what 'have at it' meant,” Stewart said. “I don't know that any of us really knows what's different now than before they said that.” 

Stewart thinks there has to be a line and one that is enforced by NASCAR or the sport is in danger of turning itself into a glorified demolition derby. 

“NASCAR has to stay involved. You can't just make it a free-for-all obviously,” Stewart said after Sunday’s wreck-marred race. “But when you got guys, Jamie McMurray's car was destroyed, he waited for his opportunity to take out a guy he had a problem with. Whether it was justified or not, he took that opportunity. We got to get away from doing that and let guys settle it in the garage area with guys that have the problem. 

“Don't take it out on everybody that works on these things. If him trying to take that other guy out would have taken a third party out that had nothing to do with it, it shows how big a problem you got, and that didn't happen. I'm not picking on Jamie. There were a lot of instances today where guys were going back and retaliating against each other. There's 43 guys out here. You catch an innocent guy in somebody else's problem...”

Stewart wasn’t alone in his assessment of Sunday’s behavior. Denny Hamlin, who was gunning for a fifth career Martinsville, win was in the mix until he was shoved out of the way in the last laps dash to the checkered flag. 

Hamlin understood the nature of short track racing leads to contact more often than not but in his view there’s a limit to how things should be handled. 

“There’s a point and it’s almost like it’s out of control,” Hamlin said. “Eventually, someone’s going to get hurt in this whole thing because we keep sending guys in the corner and in the wall. These are deadly machines. Everyone who gets run into then pound the guy that runs into him. Eventually, there’s nothing good that’s going to happen from everyone to keep retaliating like this.” 

Then there’s Jimmie Johnson’s take on the situation, which might be seen as sour grapes by some from the guy who wound up finishing second behind Stewart. 

Johnson had a sizeable lead that was wiped out on the day’s last caution that was triggered by a multi-car incident involving Brian Vickers, who was involved in perhaps a half dozen altercations. 

The turn of events definitely impacted Johnson’s run to victory lane but the five-time champion provided a wider view of how he believes retaliation is conducted. 

"When you're on the race track and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that,” said Johnson. “Each man's decision how they want to handle it. I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end."

But even with some of the sport’s heaviest hitters like Stewart and Johnson – who carry seven Cup titles between then – sharing their distaste for the style of driving currently on display, it probably won’t change anytime soon.

There’s no arguing NASCAR’s popularity spikes when drama and controversy are in the mix.

The tightest Chase in the format’s history and a competitive season that has seen 18 different winners including six first timers might not be enough to generate the kind of interest NASCAR needs.

Hot tempers, high emotions, scores settled and wrecks – preferably lots of them – is what the majority of fans want. That has come through loud and clear after Sunday’s race in Martinsville.

And it’s come at the expense of respect and sportsmanship - may they rest in peace. 

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm

Johnson, Gordon, Edwards post Martinsville

Posted by Pete Pistone

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's just a gift to finish ninth and to have the day we had. Did Tony have to come in and pit? On the replay, he cut a tire, had to pit, came back through the field. All right, he took two the next time.           

That was our strategy, we did the same thing we did last week, cruise around the back, wait for everything to work out.           

JEFF GORDON: That strategy worked out okay for you.           

CARL EDWARDS: We did not deserve to finish ninth. Proud of my guys for sticking with it. Bob did a good job of keeping me calm. Now we go to Texas. I'm excited about Texas.           

KERRY THARP: Our third-place finisher in today's race is Jeff Gordon. Jeff, you got caught up in something early on, then your car as the race went on, you led laps, persevered throughout the afternoon. Talk about that.            

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you know, got caught up in that incident early on there. Junior hit the curb and spun. I chose to get out of the way of the guys behind me, so they didn't get into me. Unfortunately I got into Junior.          

I wasn't too worried about the damage to the car speed-wise, it was just the right front brake duct was tore up pretty good. Obviously cooling the brakes is pretty important here. We went to the back. We didn't necessarily drive up to the front. We just got out of sync with guys and then we found ourselves going from 40th up to 20th, then we drove up there.           

We had a really strong racecar. Denny I thought was a little bit better than us on the long runs. Then those last couple runs, I don't know, we made some adjustments and it just didn't work out for us. We got real lose off so we didn't have much for him at the end. So third is not bad.    

KERRY THARP: Also joining us our race runner-up, Jimmie Johnson. You shaved some points off that deficit coming out of this race here today with certainly a second-place finish. Talk about your run out there this afternoon.           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, great performance for the racecar all day long. We tried to take care of our tires, our brakes, and just be smart. It seemed like there were really four cars that had the pace throughout the whole race. Between the 24, the 11, the 18 and us, we kind of rotated around positions.           

Then Chad, to make fun of my cheerleading comment before, Chad made a call that was going to give us the win for the race. He second guessed himself. I'm sure a lot of you heard him cussing himself on the radio. But it ended up being a good thing. Three or four laps later he stopped cussing himself and said we had a chance to win this thing, and we did.          

At the end, all the cautions were not what we needed. Saw Tony in Victory Lane. He said he found something on the outside lane. Drooling at the opportunity to start out there and certainly made it work.           

At the end it was frustrating to see the same few cars over and over with the caution. That was something we certainly didn't want to see.          

KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Jimmie, Carl or Jeff.            

Q. Carl, is this a bigger miracle than Kansas City?           

CARL EDWARDS: It's unreal. We were so bad probably 200 laps to go, I was thinking, Okay, the Cardinals didn't give up the other night. That's a little motivation. Missouri Tigers didn't give up the other night. That's motivation. I became all right with the fact we were going to finish 20th or 25th. I was already thinking about Texas, everything we were going to do.           

My guys stuck with it and we got very, very fortunate. Just glad we could move on.            

Q. Jimmie, it seems like the 83 was involved in half the cautions out there. I know you were a little disappointed the way that happened at the end. How do you feel when a guy who is not in the Chase is playing such a key role in the way things shook down today?           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I mean, I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen.           

After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on. You're having a bad day. You need to stop crashing for whatever reason.           

When you're on the racetrack and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that. Each man's decision how they want to handle it.           

I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end. Tony Stewart is sitting in Victory Lane smiling and he's real happy it turned out that way.           

Q. Jeff and Jimmie, in regards to Tony having to hold off Denny Hamlin while you were bunched up, looking back at it, how key is that for him to run that hard at that juncture of the race to stay on the lead lap and be able to have the benefit of working his way back to the front and winning it?           

JEFF GORDON: It was pretty early, wasn't it? It wasn't right there at the end. So, I mean, you saw how many guys got their lap back today. I don't think that was that big of a deal. I thought a guy in that position up in the points, he's going to have to fight really hard to stay on the lead lap.           

No offense, but as bad as his stuff was today, he still fought pretty hard to stay up. I think that's what Tony did. He did what he had to do. But, I mean, if he had gone down a lap, he would have gotten it back pretty easily.           

It was more impressive to me about what the 14 did, when they had the problem with the 29, I'm still trying to figure out where he came from. I was up there battling with Jimmie. We came in, didn't have a great pit stop, and he came out in front of us. They say he took four tires. I'm questioning whether they took four. Maybe took two.           

But he was fast. Doesn't matter. He was ahead of us and he was fast. Especially on the outside, I mean, Jimmie unfortunately got to see it, but I saw it earlier, too, when he drove by the 29 on the outside with two tires. So he definitely had a good car that could really rotate the middle even on the outside.           

CARL EDWARDS: I think credit needs to be given to his crew chief. I raced around Tony for the first 100, 150 laps. I thought his car was as slow as mine was. They did a good job of turning the balance of that car around overall. It looked like he was struggling a lot.            

Q. Carl, can you explain in essence what went wrong and what went right for you today. Also, in Victory Lane after the race, Tony said about you, being close to the points, He better be worried, that's all I've got to say, he's not going to have an easy three weeks.           

CARL EDWARDS: He's wound up. He won the race. We'll see what happens at Texas. I mean, I feel like we're going to go there and we're going to have as good a shot to win as anyone.           

This track has been really, really tough for me. I think this is one of those days where everything went wrong and everything went right as well. Unfortunately the timing of those things worked out so we finished ninth.           

I think Tony and those guys, they've won three Chase races. When I sat in here on Friday, I told you guys I thought he was one of the guys that could win this race and be a guy that you'd have to beat for the championship. I think he's proven that. He's proving it right now.           

But, yeah, we'll have fun. We'll go race hard. They're going to have to race us, too. I'm excited about the next three races.            

Q. Carl, what was going through your mind when the black flag came out, then it was rescinded?           

CARL EDWARDS: I'd forgotten about that. My spotter Jason, NASCAR was telling him for me to pass the 31. Jason was yelling at me, We've got to pass the 31. I drove around the outside of Burton right as the green was coming out. I have to give credit to Burton. He probably had no clue what was going on. He thought about turning me around in turn one. I'm grateful he didn't do that.           

Whether or not there was a communication error, what was going on, I appreciate NASCAR looking at it and realizing they told me to do what they were black flagging me for. Not very often they rescind the black flag like that.            

Q. Jeff and Jimmie, at the end of the race with two laps to go, there's a restart, what are you thinking being on the same team, points race? Are you both gunning for the win or trying not to ruin the other one's chances, but you're still going to try for the win? Are you communicating?         

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think at the end of these races, you're not going to blatantly drive over the top of a teammate, but you're going to go race and race as you always do.           

When I saw the 24 lined up behind me, I knew he had taken tires earlier. Knew how fast his car was in the short run. When I restarted, I was actually a little more concerned with the 24 than I was the 14. I was hopeful to clear the 14 off of two, Jeff and Tony would be racing side-by-side, I could get distance on those two.           

Certainly didn't work out that way.           

When I was inside of Tony, I went down in the corner and thought that eight tires would be a lot better than four. I changed my mind. With where he is in the points, what's going on, the fact we raced throughout the day today, he never touched me, I had a hard time doing that.           

JEFF GORDON: I think it would have been great (laughter).           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Jeff probably would have won the race if I would have done it.           

I couldn't bring myself to that. He got by. I tried to be smart. That's typically how I race guys. I don't run over people to get positions.            

Q. Jimmie, you've had these championship runs before and had things happen like with Carl today. Do you feel like what happened today may be something that will contend for a championship now?           

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, at the start of the year I said I thought the 99 would be the guy to focus on. I think there's a lot of things through the history of Bob and Carl together that show their strength. They were separated at one point and came back. We didn't hear things about these two trying to kill each other in the process, even though the toughest time, when they were trying to turn Roush around a couple years back.           

I definitely know what he's capable of, feel that he's a threat.           

Tony is going to be tough from here on out. Highly motivated. Going to be on some good tracks, he's been fast on those mile-and-a-half's. I think it's going to be a great run all the way to the end.            

Q. It seemed like all year long we've heard guys talk about people with lack of respect amongst the drivers. Seemed like today you heard that a lot from a lot of drivers. Why do you think that is? Just the end of the year, short-track racing?           

JEFF GORDON: It's just Martinsville, isn't it? I think it's a combination of late in the year and Martinsville, and sometimes just the way the race goes. If you get early cautions here at Martinsville, that usually contributes itself to more cautions. Those are more guys, somebody's upset, tempers are flaring, incidents happen. It escalates from there.           

Seems to me that's what happened. We couldn't get into a rhythm with the race, couldn't get it going. Seemed like guys were ticked off at one another, driving over their heads, whatever it may be. We saw that for a big majority of the race.           

Obviously the 83 had that throughout the whole race. But I think it was just one of those crazy days. I don't know. You can't always explain it. Usually Martinsville does contribute towards that.            

Q. Carl, lug nut issue on a pit stop. Get the lucky dog at least twice, maybe more. You're sitting here with a ninth-place finish at what's probably the toughest track for you in this quest. Is this basically like victory?           

CARL EDWARDS: Yes, it is. If we could come just out of here in the top 10, that's like a win. Very happy with the result. Not happy with the performance. We struggled. We struggled in a bunch of different ways today. We've got to work on this. We've got to figure out exactly what causes us to struggle here. Looks like a couple of our teammates figured it out. We have some homework to do before we come back next time         

Q. Jeff just made the comment, This is Martinsville. We only have three tracks on the schedule that are less than a mile in length. Would you like to go to more short tracks or is a day like today enough to make you think we have enough of them on the schedule?           

JEFF GORDON: Who would like to answer that?          

I mean, I'll admit that when we went through this big building process of all these mile-and-a-half's, nobody considered building something more like a Bristol or a Richmond or something like that. I think that we need one or two more tracks like that on the circuit.          

So, yeah, Martinsville is a little extreme. This place is tough on brakes, tempers flare. It's a narrow place to race on. It can be tough. But it's very entertaining. So you got to like that.          

I mean, if I had my choice, we have two races here. It would be nice to have something a little unique and different but still in that short-track fashion.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 7:32 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:17 pm

Speed Read: Martinsville

By Pete Pistone


TUMS Fast Relief 500

High emotions, hard feelings, tight racing, damaged race cars and a new chapter in the championship saga.

Yep, Sunday’s return trip to Martinsville Speedway had all that and a whole lot more.

After spending the previous weekend looking for partners and following team orders in Talladega, Sprint Cup drivers were left to decide things on their own in the second visit of the year to the shortest track on the schedule.

As is usually the case after the checkered flag waves at Martinsville there were more unhappy campers than those celebrating their day in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Tony Stewart made the happy list with his come back victory number three of the Chase, which put the man who declared himself out of the title picture back in August squarely into the championship contenders category.

And after falling two laps back Carl Edwards also came out of Martinsville with a giant smile, somehow working his way back into the top ten and hanging on to his Chase lead with only three races to go.

But the title race thinned out some when other Chasers were not as fortunate as Stewart or Edwards.

Matt Kenseth went from nearly leaving Virginia with the championship lead to barely hanging on to his view of the top after tumbling from second to fifth in the standings. Kenseth was a victim of at least two examples of the extremely rough driving that went on Sunday getting tangled first with Kyle Busch and then not once but twice with Brian Vickers.

“It’s disappointing,” said Kenseth who trails Edwards by 36 points.  “I obviously did a poor job today.  We were really bad on used tires if we had a restart like we were in practice and we kept getting the outside every time and that’s such a disadvantage on the outside, unless you have a real fast car, which we really didn’t.  It was a struggle all day.  Obviously, I didn’t make good decisions and we ended up in a bad spot.” 

Kyle Busch’s twenty-seventh place finish and Brad Keselowski’s seventeenth place effort may have also wiped the duo from the championship race. 

But the biggest name of all coming up short on Sunday was none other than five time champ Jimmie Johnson, who came within two laps of winning the race and maybe somehow starting a miracle run to the top of the standings yet again. 

Johnson looked comfortably ahead until the day’s eighteenth caution, caused by one of many incidents involving Brian Vickers, bunched up the field and gave Stewart his shot to pass on the next restart for the win. 

His runner-up effort left Johnson a full race behind Edwards at 43 points and for all intents and purposes ending his title reign, leaving the driver of the No. 48 wondering what might have been without the consequences Vickers’ intervention.

"I mean, I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen," Johnson said. "After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on – you're having a bad day.”

There was a lot of that going around on Sunday.



Carl Edwards

His come back in Kansas to start the month was just a warm-up to the magnificent rebound Edwards pulled off on Sunday. After starting from the pole thanks to qualifying being rained out and his position in the point standings, Edwards dropped like a rock and fell a lap down. But he fought back and stayed in it until the bitter end for a ninth place finish good enough to maintain the Chase lead.

Jimmie Johnson

He didn’t win the 200<sup>th</sup> race for Hendrick Motorsports as he so dearly wanted to coming into the weekend but Johnson turned in a nice effort in the wake of last week’s Talladega controversy. It’s now all but certain Johnson’s Sprint Cup title reign is over but I wouldn’t bet against the 48 being in the mix for wins over the final three races of the schedule. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sunday’s performance may have been the most spirited by Earnhardt in several years. He felt he had a car capable of winning from the drop of the green flag and was not shy about showing some aggression on the race track. Earnhardt apologized a couple of times along the way when the 88 made hard contact with another car or two but he stayed positive to the end on his way to a seventh place run.



Matt Kenseth

Looked like he would inherit the point lead late in the race when Kenseth was running inside the Top 5 and teammate Edwards was struggling. That was until he got into a scrap with Brian Vickers that damaged The No. 17 Ford severely enough to bring him to pit road where Kenseth fell several laps off the pace. And then Vickers added insult to injury by rear-ending Kenseth in a pile drive when he returned to the track.

Brad Keselowski

Was on a torrid pace toward the front of the field and had his sights set on a Top 5 finish until Keselowski was punted in the closing laps and spun out. He sat trying to bring out a caution that never flew and was saddled with a 17<sup>th</sup> place finish that may very well have ended his Cinderella title hopes.

Kyle Busch

Was also on pace to come out of Martinsville with a stellar finish and climb closer to the top of the point standings before getting caught in a multi-car crash. Busch came to pit road for repairs but lost a wheel when lug nuts were not properly tightened and free fell to a 27<sup>th</sup> place finish.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

 "I think if we raced at more short-tracks, I'd be considered a dirty driver. Hell, I can take it as well as I can dish it out." – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"I want to thank Goodyear for bringing the #$%iest tires in the world for ruining racing...." – Kevin Harvick

"All right, I'm losing patience. Come on.” – Denny Hamlin

"We know we’re not having the best day. We'll get every point here.'' – Carl Edwards

"I felt like he took a cheap shot on me.'' – Jamie McMurray on Brian Vickers



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 a four. The final short track race of the season lived up to everyone’s expectations and provided a for the most part entertaining afternoon as well as a potent kick to the championship picture. The 18 cautions bogged down things at times and some drivers’ behavior bordered on the weekly short track hobby stock variety rather than the elite level of the sport. But you cannot argue with the flat out hard racing that punctuated most of the afternoon or the thrilling finish that pulled Stewart right back into the title race with only three races to go.



The Chase dwindles down to the final trio of races and Sunday’s return trip to Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500. Last year’s fall race at TMS was one for the ages with the Hendrick teams swapping pit crews in mid-race, Kyle Busch flipping not one but two birds to a NASCAR official on pit road and Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton getting into a scuffle on the backstretch after their tangle on the track. The championship picture has gotten pretty fuzzy following Martinsville and I’d expect more weirdness next week in the Lone Star State.

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Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:36 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 5:28 pm

Johnson denies any Talladega wrongdoing

By Pete Pistone

Jimmie Johnson met the media Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway and immediately addressed the Talladega controversy involving crew chief Chad Knaus' directions to damage the No. 48 Chevrolet in a post victory celebration.

Johnson denied there was anything illegal about his ride and that the team is innocent of any wongdoing:


Yeah, looking back on things, Chad ( Knaus, crew chief) explained himself very well this week, and has been more than available to talk though the situation. Everyone is very well aware at the statements he made. The other thing to remember is that car passed inspection multiple times throughout the course of the weekend. At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post-race, he made a foolish statement. That is truly it. At the end of the day, that car passed inspection multiple times at an impound race and was pushed out onto the grid. It was certainly something that we did not want to take place. You can tell from my reaction it was something I had never heard in the car from him before, and it is what it is. The car passed tech at the race track multiple times and people have to build faith in that; Chad and I certainly respect NASCAR and their inspection process and unfortunately it happened for really no reason at all and now we have to put it behind us.”

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION AT THAT MOMENT? “At the moment, I was kind of surprised. As he talked to me he made a reference to covering his bases and I’m like, I am not thinking about that, I am going racing like I always do, so that was that.”


No, you can tell by my reaction in the race car that was something I had not heard before.”

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Posted on: October 28, 2011 12:54 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 1:09 pm

NASCAR targets Johnson's car for inspections

By Pete Pistone

NASCAR officials met with Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway in the aftermath of last Sunday's Talladega controversy where the crew chief instructed his driver to damage the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet if he won the Good Sam Club 500.

As punishment, the Hendrick Motorsports entry will likely be taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina after all of the final four races this season for inspection.

NASCAR released this statement in response to the incident:

"We had the opportunity to visit with Chad and Jimmie this morning in Martinsville. As the sport's governing body we were doing our due diligence to look into this and gain some insight into the comments Chad made before the race at Talladega. We have a responsibility to the rest of the garage area to ensure that everyone is competing on a level playing field with the inspection processes we have in place. The 48 organization knows that from this occurrence that their car is likely to be a regular customer at the R&D Center for post race inspection the balance of this season."

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Posted on: October 26, 2011 4:48 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 5:04 pm

Report: Knaus told Johnson to damage car

By Pete Pistone

It's not often you hear a crew chief instruct a driver to damage a race car but that's exactly what Chad Knaus did to Jimmie Johnson last Sunday at Talladega.

According to a report by SB Nation, Knaus told Johnson prior to Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 to damage the Lowe's Chevrolet in a post race victory celebration had the team won.

The article goes on to describe the conversation (here's an audio clip) between the crew chief and driver:

"If we win this race, you have to crack the back of the car," Knaus could be heard telling Johnson on the recording. "Got it?"

"Really?" Johnson replied, sounding surprised.

"Yes," Knaus said. "Got it? You don't have to have to hit it hard, you don't have to destroy it. But you've gotta do a donut and you've gotta hit the back end, or somebody's gotta hit you in the ass-end or something. OK?"

After Johnson responds with apparent silence (he can't be heard saying anything else), Knaus added, "You'll be alright. Can't take any chances."  

Johnson's car did pass inspection three times over the weekend including opening day, pre qualifying and pre race.

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