February 04, 2010
Highlights from the morning session of Daytona 500 media day:
• Jimmie Johnson is still smarting from the November wreck at Texas Motor Speedway when Sam Hornish Jr. got into him on Lap 3. When asked whom he wouldn't want to learn from, Johnson replied, "Sam Hornish Jr. … He hits way too much stuff."
Apparently, Hornish hasn't apologized or even approached Johnson since the wreck, which put Johnson's championship plans on hold. When reminded that Hornish didn't necessarily cause the incident, that another driver got into the back of him, Johnson replied: "Either way, wouldn't you think that with what was on the line, you'd at least walk up to the guy and say, ‘Man, I hate it for you. It wasn't my fault, somebody hit me.'? But the guy just doesn't talk. He doesn't say anything."
• Danica Patrick will probably make a decision Monday on whether to enter next Saturday's Nationwide season opener. She said the decision will depend more on how comfortable she feels in Saturday's ARCA race than on where she actually finishes.
• Don't expect Brad Keselowski to tone down his aggressive driving style or to defer to the so-called elders of the sport.
"[The reason why] some of the established drivers don't like young drivers coming into the sport is because there's that upset in the balance of before that ride was not a ride that they had to worry about and now it is," Keselowski said.
• So far, drivers don't believe NASCAR's new edict to allow the competitors to police themselves will have any impact on the racing. Johnson and Matt Kenseth said that's pretty much the way it is already.
UPDATE: Highlights from the afternoon session:
• You know how Dale Earnhardt Jr. is really popular despite not winning a lot of races? Well, he's aware of it, too.
When asked if a driver has to win races in order to be the face of the sport, Junior replied, "Apparently not." That drew a chuckle.
"Somebody asked me how you get respect, and you get respect by the way you act," he said. "And they asked me if that was in or outside the car. I said that it was all the time, no matter where you're at. You don't get mulligans for being an [a-hole]. ... I try and earn respect when I go do stuff whether that's inside the car or not."
Earnhardt added that after he's done driving - he said he has another 15 years of racing in him - that he wouldn't mind taking a role inside NASCAR's front office working on the competition side.
• In case you didn't know, Jeff Gordon and wife Ingrid are expecting their second child. The due date is sometime in August.
• Joey Logano says making the Chase is a realistic expectation in his second Cup season.
• Sam Hornish Jr. provided the most candid interview of the day, speaking to a number of topics ranging from Danica Patrick to his own struggles transitioning to NASCAR's brand of racing. Two comments in particular stuck out. First, his response to Jimmie Johnson wondering why Hornish hasn't spoken to him since the wreck in Texas. Here is what Hornish, who was tapped from behind before getting into Johnson, said:
"I guess I am a little bit surprised. He's had ample opportunity to look back at the tape. I don't want anybody to be mad at me or not like me because of something that happened out on the racetrack. If you don't like me as a person, that's one thing. But if it's something that happens [on the track] - well, we're all racing hard. ... I saw what Jimmie said after the race and I knew that he hadn't had an opportunity to see what happened, so I just brushed it off."
When asked if he will seek out Johnson, Hornish said he would.
"I have a hard time talking to people who want to talk to me, being the shy person that I am. It's kind of hard to go talk to somebody who wants to beat me up. Next time I see him I'm going to talk to the guy, if he'll talk to me."
Regarding how Patrick will fare in NASCAR, Hornish was reminded that she takes care of her equipment in IRL and doesn't crash often. "Well, that's true," Hornish said, "but I didn't crash that much over there, either."
• How concerned is Tony Stewart the owner about the 10-percent cut in race winnings? Apparently, not very. When asked how that will impact his bottom line, Stewart's initial response was that he hadn't even heard of the cut, which NASCAR announced on Jan. 31.
• Denny Hamlin will wear a protective brace on his injured left knee when walking around, but probably not when he's in the race car because, he says, it's too bulky. He also won't cut back on his Nationwide schedule. He intends to compete in four Nationwide races, with the possibility of six more.
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