FORT WORTH, Texas – For Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner at Texas Motor Speedway, the proof of the words he offered up last Friday lay in Sunday’s action on the track.
Jimmie Johnson, the defending Cup champion who last year won his record-tying seventh NASCAR Premier Series title, won Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 just days after lecturing the media on the importance of letting drivers live their lives however they want away from the track.
Johnson was responding to some criticism he received on social media after posting a video of himself skiing just one day before arriving in Texas.
Asked if he ever worries about getting hurt while skiing down a mountain, Johnson replied:“Yeah, I think about it and I think I manage my risk. I know that my team owner (Rick Hendrick) is at least okay with me being out there.
“I look at the video I posted recently and I’m on a very low pitch, very wide-open, powder snow. I mean it’s the best conditions. … and nobody around. It was in this private area of the mountain. We were riding in this CAT to get out to it. I felt like I was managing my risk pretty damn well to go into that environment.”
Johnson’s contention, as with many athletes before him who like to dabble in other adrenaline-driven adventures while away from their real jobs, is that anyone can get hurt doing just about anything at any time in this world.
Plus, you can’t change who you are – and to stay mentally and physically sharp, sometimes you have to do the things that you believe help that process.
“You could get run over by a car cycling, running, you could step off the curb in front of a bus,” Johnson said. “Again, I feel like every driver is willing to take a certain risk for their fitness and to live their life. Me being on those skis, it’s more about living my life and doing something I enjoy.”
Once arriving in Texas, Johnson put in 100 miles riding a bike on Friday and Saturday. He even got his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., to put in 20 miles each of those days on a bike.
“Sure, there are a lot of drivers right now getting fit,” Johnson said. “A lot of guys are choosing to ride the bike, and somebody is going to fall and get hurt. It just happens.
“When it does, I hope that everybody in this (media) room and I hope our fans don’t overreact. We have to live our lives. We didn’t develop these out-of-control tendencies in a race car by sitting in a rubber room playing chess. We’ve got to live our lives. I say all that because at some point somebody will get hurt and I just don’t want there to be an overreaction.”
While someone somewhere is still likely to do exactly that when and if a driver gets hurt doing something out of the box away from the track, there is one thing you can’t argue with after Sunday.
Whatever Johnson is doing is working, as proven by his record seventh career win at Texas.