Friday Notebook: Jimmie Johnson: We did not rat out the Penske cars
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Forget that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage is a self-policing society.
Forget that the transporter of reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski was parked next to that of five-time champ Jimmie Johnson last week at Texas or that their garage stalls were in close proximity.
Johnson said emphatically that no one on his No. 48 team blew the whistle on Keselowski's team last week, when infractions involving rear end housings subsequently led to huge penalties for both of Penske Racing's Cup cars -- the No. 2 of Keselowski and the No. 22 of Joey Logano.
Crew chiefs Paul Wolfe (No. 2) and Todd Gordon (No. 22) were fined $100,000 each and suspended for six Cup points races as well at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in May. NASCAR also suspended the car chiefs and race engineers of both teams, along with Penske team manager Travis Geisler, for six weeks.
The punishments are stayed pending the hearing of Penske's appeal, but if they are upheld, the loss of personnel will test severely the depth of the Penske organization.
Where the actual detection of the violations is concerned, Johnson said in no uncertain terms that the No. 48 team had nothing to do with it, despite speculation to the contrary earlier in the week.
"No, the Hendrick group and the No. 48 team did not rat out the Penske cars," Johnson said Friday morning before Cup practice at Kansas Speedway. "There are two decisions teams are faced with in the garage area. Everybody has people watching. We've been very impressed with the No. 2 car's staff and their ability to have somebody just stand and watch other teams."
Johnson says that, while someone from the 48 team may try to discern what other teams are doing, it's not their style to play garage tattletale.
"This environment does take place in the garage area. Yeah, there are eyes open, but when a team sees something, they have two options. One, they go home and try to adapt it to their car and understand it and see if they can make it work, or they go in the (NASCAR) truck and say something. We don't say something. We're a company built on performance. We're a company that tries to understand the rule book as close as we can to the law.
"Sure, we have had our issues with it, but that's racing -- it's been that way since day one of racing. We go in there and we try to be as smart as we can and conform to the rules and put the best race car on the track. With all that being said, no, sure there was a lot of activity around the Penske cars during the test day, just like all the other cars. Everybody is watching, everybody is looking, but in no way shape or form did anybody from the No. 48 car walk into that truck and say anything."
HONORING BOSTON VICTIMS
The numbers on Michael Waltrip Racing's three NASCAR Sprint Cup cars will have a specific, distinctive look this weekend. They will present themselves as bib numbers from a marathon.
Team owner Michael Waltrip has competed in the Boston Marathon, and he and his drivers are honoring the victims of Monday's bombing at the historic race with the special number schemes.
"I'm very proud to be running the bib numbers on our race cars this weekend," MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. said Friday morning after a tree-planting ceremony at Legends Toyota near Kansas Speedway. "Obviously, the whole deal, when we heard about it, it hit Michael really close to home, because he's run in the marathon before. He understands what it's like to put all the work in, the effort in to be a part of that event.
"It was obviously a huge honor for all those people to be a part of, and then, getting ready to cross the finish line and realize their goal and be proud of something, somebody had to take that away from them and hurt a bunch of people. It's sick. We're very proud to have those numbers on the race cars this weekend. We're all thinking about all the folks from Boston that were affected -- everybody that ran in it, everybody that watched and was around the area, everybody that was affected by it. Hopefully, we can do a little bit to help them out and let them know we're thinking of them."
The death of Massachusetts Institute of Technology security officer Sean Collier, 26, slain during a confrontation with Boston Marathon bombing suspects, hit close to home at Hendrick Motorsports.
Andrew Collier, younger brother of the MIT shooting victim, is a machinist in the Hendrick engine department.
"(We're) trying to gather all that's going on, but a very sad time," said Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson. "My thoughts and prayers are with the Collier family. I certainly know that it's the same thing for all of Hendrick Motorsports.
"We're one big family, and it's sad and unfortunate to see a fellow teammate and his family going through such a tough time."
With Earth Day coming Monday, NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer got an early start on some earth moving during a tree-planting celebration Friday morning at Legends Toyota near Kansas Speedway.
The tree planting was part of a month-long initiative in NASCAR's "Race to Green" and the NASCAR Green Clean Air Tree Planting Program Delivered by UPS. In an effort to reduce the sport's carbon footprint, NASCAR is encouraging its fans, teams, tracks and partners to pledge trees to the cause.
Toyota, for instance, will donate a tree for each lap led by a Toyota driver and 1,000 for each Toyota win. With Kyle Busch winning at Texas last Saturday in a Joe Gibbs Racing Camry, Toyota already is on the hook for more than 1,100 trees this month.
On Friday, Truex and Bowyer spread soil around the base of the saplings before other participants covered the soil with mulch made from recycled tires.
Asked to recall the last time he had planted a tree, Truex quipped, "I used to plant trees -- now I have a landscaper."
"That's real nice," retorted Bowyer. "When I was a kid, we used to plant trees a lot. The neatest thing about this… we take care of each other, and we do so much with this sport in charitable work, but a lot of times, the ground itself is overlooked.
"This is a neat opportunity to take care of both."