Jimmie Johnson can’t be bothered by talk of hexes

Jimmie Johnson doesn’t go in for superstitions or curses or

hexes.

The five-time defending NASCAR champion now enters black-cat

territory. He’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The magazine goes on sale Wednesday and it’s the second time

he’s on the cover – the other in 2008 after his third title. This

is only the 10th time the magazine has featured NASCAR nationally

on the front of the magazine. Bill Elliott was the first NASCAR

driver on the cover in 1985.

Johnson, going for a sixth consecutive title, said Tuesday he

was unaware of the so-called SI cover jinx.

”There’s nothing to worry about. If I lose the championship it

has nothing to do with being on the cover of a magazine,” he said

at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. ”It would mean we didn’t do our jobs,

or we had some bad luck and didn’t win a race. It’s no concern. I

didn’t realize there was a curse. I thought it was being on the

cover of a video game, that was the curse.”

Legend has it that bad luck follows athletes and teams featured

on the cover. Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews was widely

considered to be the first person affected by the jinx after his

1954 cover in the debut year of SI. He broke his hand afterward and

missed seven games.

More recent examples: Olympic gold medal hopeful Lindsey Vonn

injuring her leg the same week she was on the cover in 2010;

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler injuring his knee and the

Bears losing to Green Bay after Cutler was on the cover before

January’s NFC championship game. Last month, the Buffalo Bills were

featured regionally for the first time since 2003 and promptly lost

to Cincinnati.

Johnson has always believed he’s in charge of his fate and isn’t

superstitious beyond admittedly fixating on his car No. 48 when

setting alarms.

”I was (superstitious) early in my career and over time nothing

ever, ever really made a difference and I quickly aborted,” he

said. ”I just don’t think it changes the setup of the car or makes

anything work any better, you know?”

Johnson won Sunday at Kansas to move to third in the standings.

He trails leader Carl Edwards by four points with six races

remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Although he

took delight last weekend on Twitter over a fortune cookie he

opened at Kansas – the paper inside promised rewards for hard work

within the month – he insisted Tuesday he didn’t put much faith in

the words.

And he’s hesitant to look too far ahead in his bid to win

another title.

He was written off two weeks ago, after an 18th-place run at New

Hampshire dropped him to 10th in the standings. Although he was

only 29 points off the lead, many were quick to predict Johnson

couldn’t climb out of that hole and retain his title.

Then he finished second at Dover to move up five spots in the

standings. The win at Kansas raised him another two spots, putting

him right back in the hunt.

Johnson said he’s proof that nobody has any idea who will win

the title.

”I just hope people understand and use me as an example to not

jump too quickly on any driver moving forward,” Johnson said.

”There’s just a lot of racing left. There’s six races left, and

this championship is still wide open for anyone to get.”