News & Media

Time and place for hard racing, Johnson says

April 20, 2012, David Caraviello,

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Johnson says he's not against hard racing, but Newman's was unneccessary

One week later, Jimmie Johnson still isn't happy with the way Ryan Newman raced him in the waning laps at Texas Motor Speedway. But he also wants to make clear that he isn't opposed to hard racing -- as long as it comes in the right time and place.

"There's a flow on the track that I think needs to take place, and it's been lost a little bit the last few years here. "


"That's one thing I have to be very careful about, because I love to race hard. That's not what it's about," the five-time champion said Friday at Kansas Speedway. "There's a time and a place. Two laps down, going your second lap down, with 20 laps to go, is not the right time. That's my point. At the end of a race, racing for any position, that's what we're here to do. I am not against that. There's a flow on the track that I think needs to take place, and it's been lost a little bit the last few years here. But that just is what it is. Again, I want to be careful. We're here to race. That's what we're here to do. So I don't want to accuse someone of racing too hard. But in that situation at Texas, it just wasn't necessary."

Newman was a lap down and running the high lane through Turns 3 and 4 last Saturday night when Johnson -- the leader at the time -- came up behind him with 30 laps remaining. Right behind him was Greg Biffle, who stuck to the bottom of the race track and took the lead, partially because Johnson found himself squeezed between the two cars and dropped back a position. Biffle went on to win the race handily, but afterward Johnson made pointed comments about Newman's No. 39 car and how the lapped vehicle had cost him the lead.

Johnson said Friday that the two drivers had talked, and while he declined to divulge the details of the conversation, he said he appreciated Newman trying to clear the air. It seems clear, though, that the two still don't agree.

"Regardless of who it is, and I guess I think of the way I race, but with 20 to go, even if I'm going down a lap -- I'm getting the hell out of the way," Johnson said. "Two laps down, I'm sure as hell getting out of the way. And that's where my frustration came from."

These days, Johnson said there aren't any kind of unwritten rules on how to race other drivers. Those interactions are instead based more on familiarity, and knowing enough about the opponent in front or behind you to be able to predict how he's going to react.

"There was more of a general code 10 years ago, and now it's more of a personal relationship you have with guys," Johnson said. "I know if I'm five car lengths from Tony [Stewart] and I'm ready to run him down, I need to be ready for him to jump out of the gas. And I've almost run him over because he's so helpful early in the race. He's like, 'Hey, go for it.' I've almost run into the back of him because he just gives the spot up.

"When the roles are reversed, I give him that same respect back. I don't expect it from everybody. As long as guys are consistent, you know what you have, you do what you need to. But being aware of what's happening at the end of the race, I think, is key. Because who wants to be that guy that affects the outcome? I know that I don't. But I would imagine that nobody else wants to be that person."