Johnson Disputes Keselowski's Comment

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson disputes Brad Keselowski's notion that the way to beat Johnson for the title is to run him hard. (Photo: Getty Images)


AVONDALE, Ariz. - Jimmie Johnson bristled Friday at Brad Keselowski’s notion that the way to beat Johnson is by running him hard. 

“I guess we need to ask Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin ... Carl Edwards, a lot of those guys how we race,’’ Johnson said, listing those he’s defeated for championships. “We race hard. That’s not a weakness of ours by any stretch.’’

Keselowski said Thursday night that Matt Kenseth - who trails Johnson by seven points entering this weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway - needs to run Johnson hard all weekend, including practice.

“For (Johnson’s team), I wouldn’t want to have to race somebody that is going to race me hard because that is not their wheelhouse, and I think that was one of our strengths last year,’’ said Keselowski, who beat Johnson for last year’s crown. “If I was going to give Matt a piece of advice, I’d say use the (heck) out of him every time you can. Run (Johnson) hard because that’s his weakness.’’

Keselowski said he used that ploy to force Johnson to run too hard in last year’s race at Phoenix. Keselowski took the points lead from Johnson after that race.

“In the race, he drove the car too hard until it blew out a tire,’’ Keselowski said of Johnson. “You could look at it and say that was a tire failure or whatever. Those in the garage, who know how the cars work, know it was reaching too hard and the failure that was caused from that. That’s that group’s weakness.’’

Johnson was asked about that comment. 

“Last year here, they were better than us, for sure,’’ Johnson said of Keselowski. “We worked real hard to play catch-up through the course of the weekend. Sure, we had a tire failure, and, yes, we overworked the tire. We created an issue ourselves. 

“We were lacking some speed, (Keselowski’s team) had us covered the entire time here. That particular run that the tire blew, I look back on it and think, “Man, if I would have preserved my tire a little bit more and didn’t overwork my equipment ... we would have gone to Homestead with a much smaller deficit.’ That’s the lesson I take from last year’s race here.

“We love to race hard. That’s what we’re here to do. Racing is what I’m good at. I’m not the best at putting up the fastest lap, the best at qualifying, the best at topping the speed charts in practice, but look at the fastest cars on the racetrack. I’m good at racing. That’s my sweet spot.’’

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