LONG POND, Pa. -- Despite trouble last Sunday at Dover, Del., Jimmie Johnson remains vigilant in his pursuit of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Nextel Cup Series points race.
Johnson has had seven top-five finishes in his last 10 races to trail Earnhardt Jr. by 98 points heading into Sunday's Pocono 500 at the Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Johnson took time in between races to talk about what's happened so far this season and what he expects the rest of the year.
Question: You were very outspoken about the way the race was conducted at Dover last week. Looking back, do you still feel that way?
Johnson: Everybody was mad for their own reasons. I'm sure a lot of people felt they would be the one to win the race and all that went out the window with all the chaos that took place. I thought it was one of the oddest races we've had in a long time -- just based on the flow of the race and the way things would happen. What kind of provoked that whole incident was (Ryan) Newman spinning out coming to pit road. I'm shocked that with what happened there that a caution was brought out. And then that caution had all the confusion of who was on what lap. And then you put all but three cars down a lap and then other guys multiple laps down and have the leaders start at the tail end of the field, you have the recipe for a huge pile up and that's what was delivered.
Question: How long does it take anger like that to subside?
Johnson: One thing in our sport is if you carry it too far, you're going to have adverse effects from that. I have a lot of passion for what I do. I could have left there (Dover) with the point lead. I may have had a shot to win the race. The No. 9 (Kasey Kahne) was pretty tough, but we were hanging right there with those guys. There were a lot of things going through my head at that point. That's part of it. I'm glad I have that anger because it shows everyone how passionate I am for what I do. But you can't hang onto it. That was last week. Chad and I have a rule that at midnight on Sunday night you've got to start over. Monday is here and it's time to look on to the next week. It doesn't matter if it's a win or a crash like we had. You've got to be ready for the next week.
Question: NASCAR made a mistake at Charlotte that influenced the outcome of a truck race and it took 26 laps to figure out the running order at Dover. It also didn't throw the caution flag when Casey Mears was putting oil on the track. Has NASCAR lost some of its credibility to run stock car races?
Johnson: I haven't had anything directly happen to me that has made me lose confidence in what they're doing and how they're doing it. I haven't been caught up in that so I don't have any negative feelings toward that. It's taken a long time to figure stuff out. There has been some criticism. But if there is criticism, it makes them more cautious about making a decision. Then we have more caution laps as a result and then they get criticized for that. So they're kind of in a bad situation. I'm sure they're working on a system to get it sorted out. But there's a happy medium there. They need to devise a system and they need to do it with a speedy process. It just seemed really, really long on Sunday. In some cases, you didn't have cars that were a lap down. We all knew where we were. There wasn't anybody riding alongside one another to dispute his position on the track. Everybody was single file and ready to go racing and we still ran 10 additional laps under yellow-flag conditions. I don't know what was really going on. They've got criticism from a lot of directions and hopefully we'll have a system in place soon.
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