INDIANAPOLIS - Jimmie Johnson discussed his current feud with Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton addressed his disappointing season and this week's crew chief change and Denny Hamlin explained how to be competitive in the regular season while having enough left in the tank to start the Chase when the trio of drivers met the media Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
You seemed pretty upset at Montoya after New Hampshire. Are you still upset?
Definitely upset. What it really boils down to, I don't feel at least two of the three things that have happened are intentional, they were racing instances. But there's a point where you've got to respect the people you're racing around and also respect a driver that you may have had some run-ins with.
Juan and I have a friendship, we get along great. After three times of me getting turned around, hearing apologies, I'm tired of hearing apologies. I don't want the contact, I don't want to be raced that way. We can do it for different parts of the race, but towards the end of an event I find myself spun around. I've certainly had my fair share. It certainly can't happen again.
Is this something you have to settle on the track?
He and I have always talked about things in the past. I have not heard from him since New Hampshire. It's not like he drove in there and ran me over. There's a flow at Loudon and how you drive that put me in a bad position and got me turned around. I'm sure we'll talk about it. We always do. I was in my motorhome. At Darlington when he spun me out there, then I'm in my motorhome showering. He walked into my bus, into my shower, to apologize. Then he told me I'm naked. Of course I am, I'm in the shower. There's some times where you can understand. But after three times being turned around, hearing 'I'm sorry,' it can't happen.
“It’s coming to a head like whether we’re going to approve the debt ceiling or not. At some point he’s going to have to say, “I’m not coming back’’ and he’s not going to be able to wait until Homestead, we all know that. So, Carl’s a big boy, he has to make his own decisions. Eventually, he’s going to have to make a decision. It will be best for both companies or for everybody, so, one, we can plan for sponsorship and driver and teams and people. There’s a lot of people’s jobs on the line, if we’re going to be three teams or four teams. The sooner the better. I understand contract negotiations take a long time and there’s a lot to them but, truly, if you know or you’ve made a decision, then it’s time to give everybody an opportunity to make their decision on the back side of that.’’
Talk about Todd Berrier being replaced as crew chief and your season so far.
“Todd is a really smart guy and very talented and he’s been a part of RCR for a long time,” Burton said of his former crew chief. “The problem we’re in isn’t a one-person problem. Todd brings a tremendous amount to the table, a tremendous amount of good, but at the end of the day, the success just isn’t here.
“We just can’t continue on down the road we were on. It just wasn’t working. But it’s not singly Todd’s fault by any means. Certainly he had some blame in it and so do I and so does everybody on the team but by no means do I think this is 100 percent Todd Berrier’s fault.”
Is it hard to fight to get into the Chase and then go on to perform well in the Chase?
“It’s hard to do. I think we’ve seen it with a lot of guys that limp into the Chase. It’s tough for them to really be challengers in the Chase because you do put so much effort -- you change your car schedule around and things like that trying to bring all of your best stuff to the race track in the weeks leading into the Chase where you’re trying to solidify your spot. I know that’s at least how we did it in 2008, I think when we were kind of on the bubble. It makes it tough to contend when you have to put all of your effort in the races leading up to the Chase.
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