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Jimmie Johnson expressed regret over causing Sunday's big crash at Pocono – a wreck that could have seriously injured Elliott Sadler – but refuted Kurt Busch's claim that Johnson "drove straight through" the No. 2 car.
Johnson said Busch was "already wobbling" when the failed bump-draft occurred and added, "I certainly feel bad" about the incident.
"I am glad the 19 (of Sadler) is OK," Johnson said. "I understand he took a heck of a hit. Last thing I wanted to do was cause a wreck or crash the 2 or anything like that. I feel bad about that but we were all just racing real hard down the back."
Told of Busch's comments, however, Johnson said Busch has never shied away from making him look bad.
"Kurt isn't very fond of me; he never has been," Johnson said. "I think when he has a chance to take a shot at me, he will probably do so. But (the wreck was) certainly nothing intentional and if he would like to talk about it, I'm more than willing to talk about."
Johnson said he planned to communicate with Busch about the incident.
"I will definitely talk to him," he said. "I mean, if I am right or wrong, I have nothing to hide, so I will gladly talk to him."
Elliott Sadler emerged sore but otherwise unscathed after a horrible crash at Pocono Raceway during Sunday's NASCAR race.
Sadler's car crashed headfirst into an inside wall that had dirt behind it and was unprotected by the SAFER Barriers (the so-called "soft walls") that are standard for most every area of every track.
The impact was so tremendous, Sadler's entire engine actually came out of his car. Sadler winced in pain as he climbed from the wreckage of his vehicle, then immediately lay down on the pavement as safety workers arrived.
"I'm OK," he said after being released from the infield care center. "I'm a little sore. The breath definitely got knocked out of me. It was probably the hardest hit I've ever had in a race car, but I've got to thank all my guys back at home that put these things together. ... I'm still in one piece, so it did its job."
Sadler said he wasn't sure what happened in the wreck, which was started when Jimmie Johnson got into the back of Kurt Busch ahead of him.
Replays were inconclusive, except for the final impact.
"Somebody just ran into the back of us and turned us inside through the wet grass into the guardrail, so I was along for the ride," Sadler said. "It was a very hard hit. I'm a little sore through my chest and my stomach, but that's from where the seatbelts did their job and grabbed me and kept me in the car, so I'm thankful for that."
Several drivers have criticized Pocono for not doing more to implement safety enhancements at a track that has seen multiple scary crashes over the years.
Driver Greg Biffle said recently that "the track hasn't responded" to those concerns.
"It is clear we have come close to hurting people there in the past," he said. "...It is a matter of time (before someone gets hurt or worse). That is all there is to it.
"That grass, at 200 mph, you can't control your car if you end up there. There have been several spectacular crashes there and they are pretty scary wrecks. ... That is a bad spot on the racetrack right there. They would be better off putting an inside wall there like they have at Indy. They you can't go off into the grass."
The Associated Press reported that safety improvements are already in the plans for next season, but they nearly didn't come soon enough for Sadler.
Welcome to the SB Nation chat, a fine-free zone.
Discuss whatever you want (well, at least in relatively good taste) and spend your time chatting with us as you watch the Pocono NASCAR race today.
Since the race has an average time of nearly four hours, that leaves plenty of time for chatting. Hopefully, the race will give us plenty to talk about.
Make sure you click the "auto-refresh" button to see the latest comments from other fans and SB Nation's Jeff Gluck.
Before we get started, here are the results of our Twitter poll where we asked which driver would win today:
It's a situation each of us hopes we never experience: Someone is on the phone with alarming news, and the details aren't all available yet.
Greg Biffle went through that sort of whirlwind of emotion on Tuesday night, when he learned Roush Fenway Racing team owner Jack Roush crashed his plane – but initially believed Biffle's brother was involved in a crash instead of Roush.
Jeff Biffle had wrapped up a visit to Charlotte and was on a commercial flight back to Portland, Ore., at 6 p.m. that evening. Greg Biffle caught up on some e-mail in his home office and left his cell phone behind as he joined his wife, Nicole, to watch TV in another room.
When the Roush incident occurred, whoever was trying to reach Greg with the news found there was no answer, so the person called Nicole's phone.
"She was talking to whoever and was bright-eyed and I thought that she said, 'Jeff's plane crashed,'" Biffle said. "I couldn't believe what she just said, and then she said, ‘Yeah, it's confirmed. It was his airplane.' That was the second thing she said, so I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh.'"
We can only imagine what Biffle was feeling at that moment. Or maybe we don't want to.
The shock over what he was hearing about his brother's plane then changed when he heard his wife say, "Yeah, it's his tail number – November6JR."
That tail number, Biffle knew, belonged to his longtime team owner Roush. But any sense of relief that his brother wasn't involved was replaced by more worry over Roush.
"I was just as devastated," Biffle said. "Come to find out it wasn't my brother, it was Jack. And this all takes place in about 15 seconds."
Biffle said the first reports were that Roush had "crashed on arrival," which he said is much worse than "crashing on landing" since if a plane goes down prior to reaching the airport, "you've got big problems."
"That was the initial report that we got, and then news started coming in – that he was OK and been taken to the hospital," Biffle said. "I was pacing back and forth and just couldn't hardly stand it."
The driver called teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards to see if they had heard the news or had more information. Kenseth hadn't heard, and Edwards knew a bit more than Biffle had after speaking with someone at the airport.
Biffle said everyone in the organization is grateful that Roush will eventually be back to normal, given that it could have been worse.
The latest report from the team is Roush remains in "serious but stable condition" and has been moved to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota following facial surgery on Tuesday night.
"We're thankful that he's kind of out of the woods now," Biffle said. "We know that he's got some surgeries to probably go through and it's gonna be a little bit of a road to recovery, but we know he's gonna be alright and back at it."
On Friday at Pocono, Denny Hamlin spoke at length about the fine he received from NASCAR. Here's a transcript of his comments:
What can you say about the fine you received?
"I understand why, I know why they did it. Whether you agree with it or not, it happened. They're in control. I've always been raised to speak my mind and be maybe too over-opinionated at times. Like I've told those guys, I hope to be here in 15, 20 years and if that's the case, I'd like to have a healthy sport going on to have a long career.
"We're all in it together and I understand that. I definitely understand it. I don't really know what it was. It's more than likely the Twitter comments more than anything that kind of got me in trouble with them. I guess the Chicago weekend talking about some of the Nationwide stuff. Most of those conversations were all direct messages to one person (Editor's note: Hamlin later revised his comments to say he meant "replies"). It wasn't really sent out to the public, to all the followers. I understand it, but whether you agree with it or not, we all have to work together to make this all better."
How will this change the way you communicate your thoughts on the sport?
"I think there's a better way to do it. Up until two weeks ago, I didn't have Mike Helton's phone number or Steve O'Donnell's phone number – nobody's phone number. How was I going to voice my opinion if I didn't know how to get in touch with them? I'm sure I could have, but on the other hand, Jim Hunter said, ‘Hey, voice your opinion through the media and it will get to us, it's always worked.'
"But they said don't do that. It's kind of contradictory, but I understand there is a better way to do it now. Still, it's tough for me because I do feel like I want to make things better and I never really criticize anyone, I just want to voice my opinion and where I think we should go with the sport."
How does this fine compare to what other sports do?
"It seems like we are trying to model ourselves somewhat over those (other sports), but it's such a unique sport. This isn't head-to-head competition like it is in other sports. A lot of it has to do with luck and all that stuff comes in to play. That's why we have the 36-week schedule and not a 10 or five. It takes a long time to determine who the real champion is during the course of the year.
"Even though we at times model ourselves after other sports, I think we have a unique enough sport that we have stood on our own for a long time and I think we could in the future as well. Everyone, that entire France family, has done a good job of getting us to this point right now."
Was this fine similar to what other sports do?
"It is, it's no different. That's the thing, NASCAR is probably the last one to really fine people based off of what they say, whether it shows a negative outlook. You can't really say, ‘Where's this coming from?' because it is in other sports. I think a lot of times that's kind of how we've gotten some of the changes that we've wanted in years past.
"I'm different in the aspect that I came from the Late Model series and watching races to the Cup Series in one year –faster than most of those guys that have been here for 20 years. I was just a race fan on the other side of the fence five years ago, six years ago. I feel like I have a pretty good heartbeat of what the fans like to see and what they don't like to see and things like that.
"I like to tell NASCAR those things, but it never seems like before a month ago, we never got together to figure out what that is. Now I really do believe that they have listened with the whole Talladega thing last year. They really are working to make it better. I was probably just jumping the gun a little bit. A lot of team people had (meetings) with NASCAR a month before us and I thought we weren't going to have our chance to voice our opinion and that's where I got frustrated and vented through Twitter."
Why was this fine handled in a secretive nature?
"That I don't know. Without getting in word for word, what I asked was, 'What's the point of fining me if you're not going to tell anyone?' They said, ‘Hopefully it will keep anyone from bad mouthing us.' Well no one knows. Maybe young guys coming up, if you say, ‘Hey, you fined Denny Hamlin for an X-amount of dollars for saying this,' I think you'll have people in the future saying they need to stay away from those comments.
"I think in the future, all this coming out is a positive thing, it really is. It's going to turn into a good thing. Even though they might not have wanted everyone to know, now that they do I think it happened for a reason and it's going to make our sport better."
What are you not allowed to say?
"I don't know. They did give me a pretty good log book of all the negative things I've had to say over the last couple of months. They were just for sure. Anybody that follows me on Twitter, probably half of them follow me for the quotes here and there."
How much was the fine?
"I can't say that. There's been illegal parts in the garage that have not gotten hit as bad as I did."
Are we going to lose the outspoken Denny Hamlin?
"It's tough to say. I don't want to lose any more money but I just want to be myself. That's all I can say and that's what I've told them over and over. I said, ‘What if I don't agree with something? What do you want me to say? Do you want me to lie and tell something I don't really truly believe in? Because I've never been brought up to do that.'
"And they said, 'No, but there's different ways to do it.' We got to talking about that. In the end I did see that. I think you will still see it, but it'll be a more toned-down fashion."
Do you think NASCAR should have kept the fines secret or announced them?
"In just my opinion and I'm not bashing anyone, but I think I would have for sure said, ‘This person is getting penalized.' To keep it from happening again. If nobody knows, nobody is going to learn from the mistakes of others. That's one thing that this sport is all about is learning from someone else's mistake. For sure, in my opinion it should have been let out, but this garage is a very small family and it will get around anyway. I think that people were going to find out one way or another."
Was the fine a surprise to you?
"That's the thing that I noticed is that other people before me, not to name names – Tony Stewart – have said way worse stuff than I have. Way worse. Direct hits at somebody and got away with it. But the difference is that this year they said in January, ‘Listen, it's really taking its toll on people's outlook of the sport when you say something like that and it shows numbers of when they hear something negative, their interest level drops.'
"So they said, ‘We're going to be more aggressive when you say something that's negative.' Of course that's been six months and my memory is really short so I was just gladly awoken last week."
Do all of the drivers have to say everything is great now?
"I just think you have to do it in a different way. I think you can be opinionated and they want you to be opinionated, it's just that you can't question whether it's a fixed sport or not because the bottom line is that it's not fixed, there's too much out here for chance for it to be fixed."
How do you feel about NASCAR looking at your Twitter feeds?
"When I started this whole Twitter thing a long time ago, I always said that I was never going to sell out and was always going to say what I wanted to say on it and this, that and the other. The more followers you get and the more people up in that tower that start following you and what you're saying, it goes out to a lot of people and a lot of race fans. That (group) of maybe 35,000 or so that follow me, 30,000 of them are true race fans that watch the sport week in and week out. They are the heartbeat of our sport and I guess they don't need me influencing them and saying that we need to work on a lot of things."
Is it important for the fans to believe there is a place where you can be yourself?
"I think that's one of the places that you can be, but this is a place, I'm in a position where I'm always, no matter what I say, on or off the record, it's always on the record. You just gotta continue to be a role model for the sport and be positive because honestly it does affect everyone out there."
Was your fine a big enough deterrent that you will really think about what you're going to say now?
"It was big enough that for sure, if I'm in the heat of the moment I will for sure pull the reins back because it costs a lot of money to be a race car driver whether people know it or not. We do get paid well, but it's an expensive sport to be a part of and everyone knows that. It's not about that.
"I'm happy, my money is going to charity, to be honest with you. That's money that's going to the NASCAR Foundation and it's going to go to several different children's charities that I support through my foundation. So one way or another it was going to go there anyway. I'm not too upset about that. It is a wakeup call to me that we all have to be in this together."
Let's be honest: Pretty much every driver who gets interviewed today at Pocono is going to get asked about officials secretly fining drivers for speaking out against NASCAR.
We'll compile their reactions here and update them throughout the day as more drivers weigh in with their thoughts.
Q: Ryan Newman said today he was fined by NASCAR. As his team owner, did you know about that or was this something that was given directly to Ryan? Do you think they were right in doing this?
Honestly, I don't know what's right and what's wrong on this topic. What everyone has to remember is that NASCAR's done a good job of building this sport over 60 years, and between everyone in this room and in the garage we have all done our part to try to break this sport down over the last four, five years. We're all to blame. As drivers, we're just as much to blame as anybody else.
At the same time, I'm going to blame you guys and you guys have to take some of the responsibility for it. When you finally tell someone that the racing is bad enough, long enough, you're going to convince people that it really is. The result of that is not having as many people in the grandstand because of that.
We all have to take the blame for it, and with that in my opinion, that is what put NASCAR in the position they're in right now. We all have to take the responsibility for it. The facts show that the racing is better than it's ever been. It's more competitive than it has ever been. Everybody has gotten so spoiled over the last 10-15 years that we've all lost sight of what we've really got here.
Everybody sitting here and listening to this right now makes a living off this sport, myself included, and we're all shooting ourselves in the foot because we're convincing some of these people that this stuff is bad. It may not always be perfect, every scenario may not always be perfect but every time we write something bad about it, or talk about it from our standpoint, all we do is break this sport down and it doesn't deserve that.
We're all making a pretty good living, and we're lucky to have our jobs doing what we do. In my opinion, I think what NASCAR is doing is very appropriate.
I didn't know (about the fine). I'm sorry I didn't answer the question. I did not know. I think it was just between them and Ryan.
JIMMIE JOHNSON Q: Discuss the secret fines for comments detrimental to the sport. I look at this being a private matter and think that it's actually a good thing. The fact that they went to the drivers that they didn't like what they were saying and penalized them and fined them and talked to them about the comments they made and how it could hurt our sport was good. I don't think that it's good to have everything out in the press because all we continue to do is focus on negative things time and time again and the circus builds around it and it goes on and on and on. I think that they had a great attempt to handle this behind closed doors and some things should be kept from the media. There are things that should take place between NASCAR and the teams and NASCAR and the drivers that isn't public knowledge. We have so many other good things to talk about in our sport. Why is this even an issue? At the end of the day, NASCAR was doing everything they could to not have drivers slam their sport because we've all seen the comments that drivers make instantly and immediately impact the fans and how they're involved in our sport. So NASCAR is just trying to help us not hurt ourselves. We're all walking around with loaded guns shooting ourselves in the foot from time to time. They're just trying to take that gun away. Q: What were you trying to say? Tony Stewart was just in here blaming the media for the small crowds. At the end of the day, it's not a bad idea for NASCAR to pull some guys aside and say, 'Hey, look – shut up, OK? And (due to) the fact that you're being an idiot and saying things that are hurtful to the sport, we're going to penalize you.' I don't see that as being a problem because now, we've uncovered something that has this whole negative impression that's going to hit and has been out there amongst our fans that there's something secretive going on. That's bad! That leaves people with a bad impression of the sport and that's really what I was getting at. I think that whoever the drivers were, it would be great if they just didn't say anything and really listened to what was being told to them and the actions that were there, and moved on. It was supposed to be quiet for a reason, and now it's turned into something negative. And it's bad for not only those drivers, but for NASCAR and the sport and now the fans will have this question mark in their head (about) what's going on.
Q: Discuss the secret fines for comments detrimental to the sport.
I look at this being a private matter and think that it's actually a good thing. The fact that they went to the drivers that they didn't like what they were saying and penalized them and fined them and talked to them about the comments they made and how it could hurt our sport was good.
I don't think that it's good to have everything out in the press because all we continue to do is focus on negative things time and time again and the circus builds around it and it goes on and on and on. I think that they had a great attempt to handle this behind closed doors and some things should be kept from the media. There are things that should take place between NASCAR and the teams and NASCAR and the drivers that isn't public knowledge.
We have so many other good things to talk about in our sport. Why is this even an issue? At the end of the day, NASCAR was doing everything they could to not have drivers slam their sport because we've all seen the comments that drivers make instantly and immediately impact the fans and how they're involved in our sport. So NASCAR is just trying to help us not hurt ourselves. We're all walking around with loaded guns shooting ourselves in the foot from time to time. They're just trying to take that gun away.
Q: What were you trying to say? Tony Stewart was just in here blaming the media for the small crowds.
At the end of the day, it's not a bad idea for NASCAR to pull some guys aside and say, 'Hey, look – shut up, OK? And (due to) the fact that you're being an idiot and saying things that are hurtful to the sport, we're going to penalize you.' I don't see that as being a problem because now, we've uncovered something that has this whole negative impression that's going to hit and has been out there amongst our fans that there's something secretive going on. That's bad! That leaves people with a bad impression of the sport and that's really what I was getting at.
I think that whoever the drivers were, it would be great if they just didn't say anything and really listened to what was being told to them and the actions that were there, and moved on. It was supposed to be quiet for a reason, and now it's turned into something negative. And it's bad for not only those drivers, but for NASCAR and the sport and now the fans will have this question mark in their head (about) what's going on.
Q: What are your thoughts with NASCAR's 'Have at it, boys' and trying to open things up and then giving fines for drivers making comments?
I think if you got up here and said ESPN sucked, you'd get fired. In the end, it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that the sport is going in the right direction. 'Have at it, boys' on the racetrack is different than off the racetrack and having open reign on whatever you want to say about the sport, because the last I checked most of us wouldn't be near as lucky having the jobs that we have if we didn't have this sport.
So it's partially the responsibility of all of us to make sure that it goes in the right direction. So if you've got something to say, it's very easy to pick up the phone or walk over to the trailer and go express your feelings to somebody. And it's just not the right place to do it through this room (media center).
Q: Do you think that by secretly fining drivers, it almost makes NASCAR look worse than if they had just come out with it and said, 'This is why the drivers are being fined' instead of trying to hide it?
Well, I think when you're hiding something you keep it to yourself. But there are a lot of people that are involved in decisions like that and lots of people know. Honestly, I don't think it's anybody's business. I don't think it's your business or anybody in this room's business. I think it's better to keep it between the teams because it's simpler.
Q: We don't know what the secret penalties are or what you're supposed to say, so why should we believe what any driver or NASCAR official says?
Good point. Don't care.
Q: Why do you think NASCAR has fined the drivers?
You can't trash the sport. How long is it going to be here and why would you want to trash the sport? If you're going to trash it, that's kind of dumb.
Q: What do you think about NASCAR not announcing the fining of drivers for comments?
That's not my fight, I really don't care.
Q: Do you think NASCAR should be open about what can and cannot be said?
You can pretty much say whatever you want whenever you want, but when it comes down to the integrity of the sport and stuff, that's their soft spot. If you ever thought you were going to touch something that you shouldn't, that's where it's at. You can talk to them all you want in the NASCAR hauler, but when you do it on TV in front of all the fans and all the followers of this sport it doesn't do anything but hurt it. For me, I mentioned it earlier, it's not in my budget so I'm not going to say anything.
Q: When you are getting out of the car and you are heated and you have something to say, is $50,000 going to be a real deterrent to you?
Yes, it is for me. That's a lot of money, man. Good God, 50 grand, that's a lot of money. It certainly would make me think.
Q: Isn't it a problem that you don't know what they got fined for so you don't know where the line is?
I think NASCAR made it clear to us this winter where the line was going to be drawn and I think I understand where that line is. There is nothing that I have ever said in the 16 years I've been doing this that I feel like would have subjected me to a fine. So, when Brian (France) was making it clear to the group that I was with of what would be fined, I was thinking about, 'OK, how does that affect me?' and I just didn't think I would be affected by it to be quite honest. So, I hadn't put any more thought into it because of that.
Q: Some fans were more upset it was secret than that there were fines. Do you think that hurts NASCAR and they should come out and tell what is going on?
It is an interesting dilemma. When it's 'Boys, have at it' but not in this case, I think the fans want to know what is going on. Hey, I don't know. Again, I don't have a problem with NASCAR telling us 'Why air out thing in the public that you can come in the trailer or you can go to Daytona or go to Concord and have a conversation about it and be productive and make something happen?' Versus just getting on the television and ranting about something that is a complicated issue but the case you are presenting makes it sound like it is real simple and NASCAR is just out to get you.
There have been some incidents over the years that people handled themselves in a way that isn't productive. It is not to say that you shouldn't tell the fans the truth, but you should be working behind the scenes on the ugly trying to make it pretty rather than just complaining about it. It's a fine line.
Q: Well, what can't you talk about? ... Why should we believe anything NASCAR says or anything the drivers say if we know that there is some secret penalty out there?
Well, that's a valid point. And I hear your point and I understand what you're saying. The only thing I can tell you is that, and I can only speak for myself; when I feel compelled to have a conversation about something, I'm going to have the conversation. And I think I can do that in a way that we can talk about an issue and it's productive. I'm not in fear of being penalized for what I say because I think I can say it in a way that will be understood and I think I can say it in a way that could create a productive conversation.
I think having the ability to have a conversation and talk about an issue, that's a good thing. But the way you do it determines if it's productive or destructive. So if you feel like you have to talk about something, there's a reason for that. Some of it's just emotion; sometimes we all say things we kind of wish we hadn't said. But a lot of times...in that situation you're trying to express yourself for a reason. So, don't hide it. Don't ignore it, but do it in a way that can be productive. Do it in a way that you think can move the sport in a positive direction. And if you do that, I think there's almost nothing you (can't) talk about.
Q: Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin were fined for comments they made. Will that change how you comment on NASCAR?
Yes and no. I think you always have to try to think about the big picture and think about your sponsors and think about your team, think about the sport, think about the fans. You always try to take that stuff into consideration when you say stuff, but yet there's a line there where you need to be yourself and say what you want when you're mad, and I don't think they're trying to stop that.
So I honestly don't know what those two would have said or what they got fined for, so I don't really know. If I knew what they said and what they got fined for that would help me a little bit. In other sports they do that. In the NFL, if you criticize officiating, I know that folks have been fined, so you've got to protect the sport, too.
NASCAR is back at Pocono for the second time in less than two months, which might not be the greatest news ever for fans getting ready to watch 500 miles of triangular racing from home.
But at least the last Pocono race was dramatic and interesting, notable for the clash between Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick and the multicar wreck triggered by AJ Allmendinger.
What will this weekend bring?
First of all, every driver will be asked their reaction to NASCAR's secret fines for speaking out.
And second, expect to see a race that is strung out for the majority of three-plus hours but with a chance for some more excitement in the final laps.
After all, that's about as much as anyone could ask from Pocono.
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