May 31, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT
In order to compete at the highest level of motorsports, a driver needs to be every bit a “well-oiled machine” as the literal well-oiled machine he or she drives.
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has long recognized this, and so, he’ll often go out for runs at the track during race weekends.
Considering that we’re talking about one of the sport’s biggest stars, you think this would be problematic, with over-zealous fans attempting to ask him for autographs while he’s trying to train.
But as it turns out, it’s not.
“Most of them have got to catch me first and they’re usually not sober enough or in shape enough to do that,” Johnson said yesterday at Dover, where he hopes to win for the ninth time in his Sprint Cup career this weekend.
Sometimes, Johnson will choose to go for a sunrise run, perhaps to help with the matter of being recognized. But as he or anybody else that hangs out at a track knows, the first light of morning can reveal some hilarious (and cringe-inducing) sights.
“There’s a variety of tracks where an early morning run is more entertaining than it is a workout,” said Johnson, who noted Talladega Superspeedway’s “Talladega Blvd.” and Texas Motor Speedway among those places. “You see people halfway in their tents and still passed out in lawn chairs and all kinds of good things.”
However, he’s not above breaking a sweat in the afternoon, either. That, of course, leads to fans getting a glimpse of him but Johnson says they’re kind enough to give him his space.
“In the afternoons, I’ll run this afternoon, usually people see me coming, they think; and as they go by they’ll say, ‘Hey Jimmie, is that you?’,” he said. “And I’ll wave and give them a thumbs-up or something and keep on digging.
“Guys on bikes and golf carts can run you down. But they’re usually pretty good about it.”