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Johnson talks about a compassionate Tony Stewart
Jimmie Johnson talks about the compassionate side to Tony Stewart and wishes him a fun retirement season in 2016.
Smith and Johnson get together
Regan Smith and Billy Johnson get together during the Johnsonville Sausage 200 Presented by Menards at Road America.
Post-Race Reactions: Papis slaps Johnson
Following the Johnsonville Sausage 200 presented by Menards at Road America Max Papis has a few words with Billy Johnson .
Johnson looks to cure cold spell at the Brickyard
RELATED: Johnson through the years " See all the winners at the Brickyard SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson looked comfortable and calm taking questions from the media Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion's No. 48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet was fastest in the day's opening practice here and seventh quickest in final practice. The historically tough 2.5-mile track has been a positive outlet for Johnson . His success at Indianapolis – four wins – is undeniable, but it is also sporadic. And overdue. Johnson won three times at Indy in four years between 2006-2009 – a mark both unmatched and highly impressive. He added a fourth victory in 2012 and then nearly a fifth in 2013 when he finished runner-up. Only Jeff Gordon (five wins) has won more here. The flip side of the success is that three times Johnson has finished 36th or worse. He was 14th and 15th in his last two races at Indy. And his need to add another win here in Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is as much about turning his season around in pursuit of a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title as it is attaining Indianapolis-specific glory. "We love big events, that's one thing about Hendrick Motorsports,’" Johnson allowed, smiling. "We look at the 500 and the 400 and all big races as an opportunity; and are excited for it." Johnson was the first driver in 2016 to collect multiple trophies winning the second week of the season at Atlanta and then again three weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. But in the last 10 races, he's crashed out three times and had only a single top-10 finish – a third-place finish at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 . In fact, four of his finishes in this stretch have been 25th or worse. Before a 12th- place finish from the pole position at New Hampshire last week, Johnson uncharacteristically crashed out in back-to-back races with a 35th- place showing at Daytona and 32nd at Kentucky. He's currently eighth in the points standings, however, he is fourth on the Chase Grid because of his multiple wins. "I guess last week is kind of a good example of some of the difficulties we've had," Johnson said of New Hampshire. "We had competitive cars all running in the top 11 and in one corner we lose two of them. "It's been tough, but I think we have a good foundation to build from. We have respectable finishes in our cars, but nobody wants to be a decent finisher or a respectable finisher. We all want to dominate. And, we're working real hard on all fronts; from our engine shop, chassis shop, aero, teams, pit stops, and all of it." Contrary to what other teams may be experiencing, Johnson said it's not that his team isn't trying hard enough to return to form. It may be they are trying too hard. "And that's the problem," Johnson said. "I've been at 110 percent and you make too many mistakes there. And I think our team has, too. So, that's one thing we have recognized and we're going to really try to dial back and make sure that we run where we should. "If we have a fifth place car that week, let's be sure that we at least finish fifth. Maybe there's some opportunities to give us a chance to win, but stop making mistakes. And, I've got to do that, first and foremost." Johnson said he was even open to having the team’s "new driver" Jeff Gordon give feedback on the cars since Gordon – who retired last year – is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week at Indianapolis and next week at Pocono while Earnhardt continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. "We're months in, and I feel like all the drivers have expressed where we could be stronger and what we might need, but a fresh set of eyes and I guess it is kind of biased, but versus the four drivers in unbiased evaluation of the car and where we stack-up and how the engine feels compared to others," Johnson said of possibly getting Gordon's opinion. "And Jeff has had a unique opportunity to see the sport from a totally different angle; and certainly watching cars and I know he's formed some opinions watching other race cars and where the Toyotas might beat us. So, to be able to sit in the car and look for those opportunities and moments, I think will be helpful for us, for sure." The recent struggles are certainly an unfamiliar position for team owner Rick Hendrick, who was just selected for the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. He's grown much more accustomed to winning championships or at the very least challenging for titles. Recently his team has been challenging simply to finish a race. But righting the course is something everyone expects. And the trick is doing it sooner than later. "It seems like when it rains, it pours," Hendrick said. "I think at Daytona we wrecked three or four cars. And then we went to Kentucky and wrecked again. We were in good shape in New Hampshire, but wrecked again. I've been doing this long enough that you can't stay on top forever. You have to work hard to get back. And I think we've made a lot of improvements. "I think we'll see some, hopefully, this weekend. But, you never like having a curveball. This is kind of one of the toughest things you have to go through as one of your star drivers can't drive. And so, the encouraging news is that everybody just stepped up and is working harder. "We're determined to work in every area from the engine to the chassis and aero and everything. And the teams are excited. It's kind of our 'refuse to lose' belief. But we didn't need this, for sure. We didn't need the wrecks we've gone through. Our place looks like a salvage yard where all of the cars have been tore up. But that just makes us dig harder." And Johnson appears ready to lead the charge. "We're all highly inspired to get back on top of the mountain, that is where we feel we should be at Hendrick Motorsports," Johnson said. "We've just got to clean it up on all fronts. Hopefully we have it all together here and can win."
Next-generation Earnhardt hits track, more tweets
Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets You Might Have Missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. Nephew Wyatt's first day on the go kart. #NextGeneration #HereWeGoAgain pic.twitter.com/9BvRPGs3A2 — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 29, 2016 2. KPH "Mom, don't tell dad, but he tells me all the time he wants me to be a race car driver instead of a golfer. Don't tell him ok?" — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) July 22, 2016 3. Hey Matt, wanna stop in Iowa for a chill Thursday ride? 103 miles later.... @JimmieJohnson pic.twitter.com/UfVOWFW7Gq — Matt Kenseth (@mattkenseth) July 29, 2016 4. My watch has a hard time keeping up but the data is interesting. https://t.co/9UV7cNmgqK pic.twitter.com/NUWo06YEUS — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) July 24, 2016 5. I've raised a #KidRock "Only God knows why" fan. Parenting done right... HT- @KyleLarsonRacin family pic.twitter.com/ypuyN1ogdJ — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) July 24, 2016 6. Brexton baby, you are my doll! pic.twitter.com/3Gi5HFPSTq — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) July 26, 2016 7. Even the lady is ready for the Turtles Sept 16th... #imintrouble pic.twitter.com/5Y8IItd0l8 — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) July 25, 2016 8. Last night at home for a couple weeks. I love this place! #noplacelikehome pic.twitter.com/szbuctnCBh — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) July 28, 2016
Chase-clinching scenarios at Pocono and Iowa
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup doesn't begin until September, but several drivers could officially clinch a spot in the postseason field this weekend at Pocono Raceway. So far, the five drivers who have clinched Chase berths are Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Below are Chase-clinching scenarios for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono: Possible to Clinch: Kevin Harvick (1 win, 671 points, +434 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Kurt Busch (1 wins, 627 points, +390 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Joey Logano (1 Win, 606 points, +369 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Martin Truex Jr (1 win, 573 points, +336 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Denny Hamlin (1 win, 542 points, +305 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. All of the above drivers have already clinched a position in the top 30 in the drivers points standings, but need to clear the multiple wins hurdle. It's possible that no drivers will clinch a Chase berth this weekend if a driver wins his first race of the season or an already-clinched driver wins. XFINITY Series The XFINITY Series Chase doesn't begin until September as well, but several drivers are looking to close their playoff position up with a win. At present, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler are locked into the postseason. Below are the Chase-clinching scenarios for XFINITY drivers at Iowa this weekend. Possible to clinch: Ty Dillon (0 Wins, 558 Points, +460 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Justin Allgaier (0 Wins, 542 Points, +444 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brendan Gaughan (0 Wins, 535 Points, +437 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brandon Jones (0 Wins, 520 Points, +422 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brennan Poole (0 Wins, 519 Points, +421 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Darrell Wallace Jr. (0 Wins, 486 Points, +388 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Ryan Reed (0 Wins, 433 Points, +335 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Ryan Sieg (0 Wins, 420 Points, +322 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Blake Koch (0 Wins, 403 Points, +305 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Camping World Truck Series The Camping World Truck Series Chase doesn't begin until September, but several drivers are looking to firm up their playoff position up with a win. At present, only William Byron and Matt Crafton are locked into the postseason. Below are the Chase-clinching scenarios for Camping World Truck Series drivers at Pocono this weekend. Possible to clinch: Johnny Sauter (1 Win, 253 Points, +207 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win. Christopher Bell (1 Win, 245 Points, +199 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win. John Hunter Nemechek (1 Win, 232 Points, +186 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win.
Jeff Gordon set for longer sub stint in No. 88, if needed
RELATED: Weekend schedule for Pocono, Iowa LONG POND, Pa. -- Jeff Gordon maintains that he is looking at his stint in the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports "as a very temporary thing," but adds he's willing to remain in the role "as long as they need me." "I say that very loosely," Gordon quickly added Friday at Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, where he will line up 24th on the grid (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. is said to be making progress in his recovery from concussion-like symptoms that sidelined him following the July 9 race at Kentucky Speedway. Alex Bowman drove for the team the following weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway before Gordon took over last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "It was great last Friday to see him say 'hey I feel good today and made some progress,'" Gordon said of Earnhardt. "We want to just keep going with how he is feeling. The doctors are evaluating. I'm not speculating anything at this time. "I wouldn't be here in Pocono if I wasn't committed to be there for Hendrick Motorsports and this team in any way that they need me. I think there is a balance between trying to make this transition. First of all you want Dale to have the comfort of knowing that somebody is there for him. He doesn't have to worry about that aspect of it through this process. "… Then there is the side of who is the best person to be in the car to get the most points. And then there is the sponsorship side of it as well. So far from what Rick (Hendrick, team owner) is telling me that seems to be me. That is why I was at Indy and that is why I'm here." The series travels to Watkins Glen International next weekend, with an off-weekend before heading to Bristol, Tennessee. HMS officials have not indicated who would be in the car if Earnhardt Jr. is unable to return for next week’s event. Gordon, a four-time series champion who moved from the driver’s seat to the television booth after the 2015 season, finished 13th at Indy; Bowman was 26th at New Hampshire. There have been "a couple" of conversations between Gordon and Earnhardt Jr., Gordon said, noting that his former teammate "likes to FaceTime." "It seems like he is always on the treadmill every time I see him or talk to him," Gordon said. "He is just real interested in what we are up to and how it's going and things we are working on. I think also a lot of it is … evaluating where they are at as a team and some of the set-ups and whether I'm going to be making the same comments as he was making when he was in the car. "So far, I feel like it's been very similar. Definitely, any amount of information that I can get to help me prepare for every time I'm on the track is great information. I'm asking everybody questions just trying to get up to speed everywhere we go including Dale." RELATED: Latest updates on Dale Jr. Prior to competing at Indy, Gordon was able to reacquaint himself with the track through simulation programs; he also pulled information from teammate Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, which tested at the 2.5-mile track the previous week. That hasn't been the case this week. "Get fitted in the car, debrief with the team from Indianapolis and then preparation for Pocono," he said. "Didn't have test video from some of our teammates for here like we did last week at Indianapolis and I didn't have time to get in the driving simulator either. "The first few laps today were definitely again a steep learning curve. This is a very challenging race track so it's going to be a tough, challenging weekend, but I do like this track and (there is) a little bit to learn with this new package." Earnhardt's absence has resulted in a fall from 13th to 17th in the points standings. He will need to either a race win or be 15th or higher (based on the current list of winners and their respectively point standing) in points to potentially earn a position in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He would also need a waiver from NASCAR, something that would not be determined until he has officially been cleared to return to competition. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jimmie Johnson spins, wrecks early at Kentucky
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson spun and hit the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 31 of 267 in the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, one of multiple wrecks in the race. For Johnson it was the second time during the race weekend that the No. 48 Chevrolet SS found the wall at the 1.5-mile track. Johnson wrecked during practice on Friday and had to go to a backup car for Saturday's race. Johnson has two victories this season, but they came early at Atlanta and Auto Club Speedway. He has just one top-10 finish in the past eight Sprint Cup races. His best finish at Kentucky came in the series' inaugural race in 2011, when he finished third. After heading to the garage, Johnson returned to the race on Lap 75, 42 laps down from the leaders. He finished in 32nd place. Johnson wasn't the only driver to experience trouble, either. Joey Logano (Lap 53) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Lap 10) spent time in the garage after smacking the wall. Logano finished 39th and Stenhouse was 40th. "You're trying to slow down a lot and the brakes started going away and I don't know what happened after that, if a rotor blew up or what made the tire go down, but the right-front went flat and I was pretty much along for the ride after that," Logano said. Rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney ended up in the garage as well (Lap 87) after making contact, and the caution came out again on Lap 93 for a wreck on the backstretch involving the Nos. 7, 10, 34, 42, 44, 47, 95 and 98. Elliott finished in 31st place, and Blaney was 35th. Cautions also came out for wrecks involving the Nos. 83, 7, 10, 15, 47 and 38 cars. After his hard crash on Lap 170, AJ Allmendinger, driver of the JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet SS, emerged from the infield care center with a wrap on his left forearm/wrist. Allmendinger finished in 36th place.
Johnson , Harvick, others to test at Indianapolis
Four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson headlines a group of one dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers scheduled to take part in a two-day organizational test Tuesday and Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The legendary 2.5-mile track will host the Crown Royal presents the Wounded Warrior Coalition 400 at the Brickyard NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, July 24. Johnson , driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, captured Indy victories in 2006, '08, '09 and '12. Also among the 12 drivers testing are 2003 Brickyard champ Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet) and 2011 winner Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet). Rounding out the list of drivers participating are Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 44 Ford), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford), Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford), Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No. 42 Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota) and Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet). On-track activities are slated to run from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily. This week's test is the second of five organizational tests for Sprint Cup teams in 2016. Remaining tests are slated for Watkins Glen International (July 26-27), Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 23-24) and Homestead Miami Speedway (Oct. 18-19). Only one team from each organization is allowed to take part in each test. Goodyear conducted its tire test for the upcoming race on April 26-27 with three-time series champion Tony Stewart (SHR), Aric Almirola (RPM), Carl Edwards (JGR) and Chase Elliott (HMS) participating. Last season, NASCAR unveiled a high-drag package highlighted by a nine-inch spoiler for Indianapolis and the August race at Michigan International Speedway. The package was tabled for 2016, however, and replaced by aerodynamic changes that took much more downforce and side force off the cars. "Last year we had the big-time spoiler change … on the back and the high drag to try to draft around this place so that was a little different than having the three-inch spoiler … with much less downforce," Elliott said during the April test. "So it seems like you require a little more brake getting into the corner, seems like it takes a little more effort to get the car slowed down for the corner than what we did here the last race. "It's hard to say until you come back and have a bunch of cars on the race track at the same time. This place is so big and it is really temperature-sensitive.” According to track officials, fans will be allowed to watch this week's test free of charge from the south terrace grandstands, the Turn 2 viewing mounds (adjacent to the speedway’s museum) as well as the B Penthouse grandstands.
Johnson notches first pole award at Magic Mile
NASCAR.com’s Costner Merrifield talks to Jimmie Johnson after he earned his first Coors Light Pole Award of the 2016 season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.