Whenever Mike Helton has a press conference it's a big deal. So naturally, the main topic of Friday's press conferences at Auto Club Speedway was NASCAR chief appellate officer John Middlebrook's decision to reduce the penalties against Jimmie Johnson on Tuesday.
Here's what some of the drivers at Auto Club had to say about the decision to overturn the points penalty for Johnson and suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec, including Johnson's reaction to the appeal.
"The points back, that's huge," Johnson said. "We've had a great couple races here and been able to climb up in the points and get near the top 10,. Getting 25 points back puts us right there, I guess, a point out (of tenth place) and we all know how important points are."
"The disruption, if we were to lose Chad and Ron, would have been huge for our team, for any team. Although we have a lot of depth and felt that we'd survive, you don't want to go to the racetrack without your crew chief and car chief."
Kevin Harvick compared the results of the decision to the OJ Simpson verdict. And well, if there was ever a time to make an OJ Simpson verdict reference, this might have been it given the proximity of Fontana to where the trial took place.
"I think (the appeals process) is fine," Harvick said. "It's a platform for everybody to state your case, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose just like in the court of law. It's really no different than that. It's no different than watching a case like OJ, and watching OJ go free. Watching that case, there's no way you thought that was going to happen. Then you see the verdict, and then it happens. It's very similar to that. Sometimes you think something is cut and dry, and you think this is going to be the verdict, and the next thing you know it's not. You move on and you go to the next one. But there is a platform for the teams to present their cases to a board, and obviously to the last step they took this time to present it again. I've been involved in it before from the team ownership side, and you prepare no different than you would going to a court case. It's literally the exact same process."
"Honestly I didn't even know about it on Tuesday. They had to call me and tell me because I have learned over the years to not pay attention to anybody but ourselves. I wasn't surprised, because nothing in this sport surprises me anymore."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, supported the process.
"I thought it was interesting," Junior said. "As an individual in the sport it makes me feel good that NASCAR has such a good appeal process that both sides have the ability to get a fair shake. It's nice to know that, that is out there and that it is working as designed."
Somewhat surprisingly, Brad Keselowski didn't have a take on the matter.
"As far as how the whole process works, I don't really know and haven't put a lot of effort into understanding it," Keselowski said. "I'm sure there are a lot of different opinions and I'm never short of an opinion. With this particular one, I just don't find it interesting and don't have an opinion on it. I didn't join the sport to be a race car drive and argue court cases. I want to go fast, turn left and win races. Things of that nature haven't really excited me.
"I just don't think that it's very interesting. I think the focus should be on what's going on at the race track. Teammates cutting each other's tires down, that to me is interesting. I don't follow court cases in racing."
- Jimmie Johnson