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Johnson defends his crew chief

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Jimmie Johnson said it's "crazy" to suggest his reputation has been tarnished by crew chief Chad Knaus' instructions to mess up the rear bumper if he won at Talladega last week.

Knaus was recorded telling the five-time defending champion that if he won, he needed to "crack the back of the car," apparently to build an explanation in case the car did not pass post-race inspection. The website SBnation.com says it obtained the recording from a fan.

On the recording, Knaus is heard telling Johnson: "If we win this race, you have to crack the back of the car. Got it?"

"Really?" Johnson replies, sounding surprised. He said Friday Knaus had never made a similar request before.

"Yes," Knaus replies. "Got it? You don't have to have to hit it hard, you don't have to destroy it. But you've gotta do a donut and you've gotta hit the back end, or somebody's gotta hit you in the (back) or something. OK?"

Knaus said earlier in the week he made the request to protect Johnson in case 500 miles of driving on the superspeedway had knocked the body of the car out of alignment, possibly making it susceptible to failing inspection.

"At the end of the day, while Chad was trying to protect himself post-race, he made a foolish statement," Johnson said.

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