Johnson talks about Phoenix accident

Johnson hits the Phoenix wall Friday
Johnson hits the Phoenix wall Friday

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S PRO SERVICES, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway to discuss yesterday’s qualifying incident. Full Transcript:

HOW DO YOU FEEL?
“I feel good, just very thankful that I drive in an era with such safe driver compartments, softer walls, HANS device all those things. Years ago that would have probably been a concussion at a minimum and to feel as good as I do and no sore spots or aches or pains is really good. It’s a good time for the drivers of today."

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED?
“Yeah, as I came into Turn 1 just working my way through the center of the corner and jumped in the gas and as I jumped in the gas, I guess I pull on the wheel when I do that. As I pulled on the wheel it just came off in my hands. So, I was just sitting there with no steering and holding the steering wheel staring at the blue wall and I was along for the ride at that point."

DID YOU TRY TO BRAKE OR WHAT DID YOU DO?
“I got to the brakes briefly. I remember looking down at the steering shaft and seeing it spinning and I knew there was no way I could get the wheel back on. It was all happening so quick. The interesting thing is I made it all the way down pit lane, got out on the track, made a lap and a half around the race track and then it came off where it did. So, just proves to me that it can happen anytime, anywhere. I would assume it would have happened leaving pit road pretty soon. But we’ve just got to make sure we get these wheels locked on. I’m going to make some small changes in my routines in getting in the car. We have lines in the steering shaft to make sure that your steering wheel is straight; I’m going to have an additional line to make sure that the steering wheel is on far enough and hopefully it is locked at that point. To be honest Jeff Gordon gave me that suggestion last night when I was talking with him. I’m going to put that into effect right away."

WAS THIS AN ERROR ON YOUR PART OR WAS THIS A PART FAILURE?
“No, this one is one me. Last night with the chaos and the guys trying to get the back-up car out, they didn’t have a chance to look at things closely. This morning coming in they have and this one is one me."

ARE YOU SURPRISED STUFF LIKE THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN MORE OFTEN? IS THAT SOMETHING YOU KIND OF TAKE FOR GRANTED?
“I’ve always believed that my belts, my HANS, my helmet being buckled and my steering wheel are my responsibility. Members on the team say ‘hey this one is on me’ that is not the case it’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure he is safe. Those three or four connection points are my life line. This is on me. I am completely shocked that is happened to me. Out of racing on four wheels my entire life I’ve always had a wheel that has come on and off, I’ve never had this happen. I’ve seen it happen to others and I’ve thought ‘how in the world does that happen’, well it just happened to me. It’s just a freak thing."

IS THAT ONE OF THE MOST FRIGHTENING MOMENTS YOU’VE EVER HAD IN A RACE CAR BEING OUT OF CONTROL LIKE THAT?
“Yeah, I was just talking with Brendan Gaughan and that sensation is… the last time I had it was at Watkins Glen with no brakes. There are only very few moments in my racing career I have had that moment where you are just totally helpless and along for the ride. It’s not a fun position to be in."

YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE STEERING COLUMN SPINNING AND THE STEERING WHEEL IS IN YOUR HAND WHAT IS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND?
“Hold on. Maybe a four letter word or two crossed my mind as well. When I saw the blue and the angle that I was at and the speed I was at, I knew it was going to be a big impact. I was just so thankful when I came off the wall that feet, legs, arms, wrists, head was all fine and nothing was hurting. Again, just thankful for the world that I drive in today with all the safety improvements."

WHY COULDN’T YOU SAY IMMEDIATELY WHAT HAPPENED?

“I didn’t want to falsely blame something or someone or whatever the situation may be. Honestly, it’s such a delicate topic I just wanted to be able to talk to my crew guys and look through everything first before it became national news. Even last night it was very difficult to find out what the cause was because of the tight time frame trying to get the back-up car out. This morning the picture is crystal clear what happened. I just didn’t get the wheel locked on."

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