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Jimmie Johnson opens up on off-season hernia surgery

Jun 2, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

Jimmy Johnson AP

Insisting that folks in the Sprint Cup garage already knew about it, Jimmie Johnson admitted surprise that news of his off-season hernia surgery failed to reach the media until this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

“Everybody at the track knew, all the competitors knew that I wasn’t there because I was having a procedure done,” Johnson said after his second win of the year on Sunday. “Why it didn’t make it to the media center is beyond me, and no big deal, I guess.”

Johnson disclosed that the surgery took place after last December’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards in Las Vegas, where he was honored for winning his sixth career Cup championship.

According to him, he had one bilateral hernia on each side and a third one in his belly button.

“It was something over time and getting older that something like 60 percent of men near the age of 40 have these and don’t know,” he explained. “But I saw one mid-season – a little protrusion in my skin – and went and had it checked out, and they’re like, ‘You’ve got a couple years to get it fixed.’ So I figured I’d get it fixed sooner rather than later and went in right after the banquet.”

Per Johnson, the procedure led to the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team missing one off-season test, while inclement weather scratched two more such tests.

He believes all of those factors combined to put his team behind on performance in the early races of 2014.

“First couple days sucked, there’s no doubt about that,” he said of his recovery. “But then quickly it got back together and was training within 10 days. It affected that first test date. And then we had two other test dates scheduled at Nashville that made us comfortable to give us that Charlotte test so I could have the hernia surgery, and both of those were canceled due to weather.

“So three opportunities for us to go test were out the window, and I do feel like that hurt us some and had us behind a little bit, especially once we did get to Nashville and were there and the 4 car [Kevin Harvick/Stewart-Haas Racing] was there testing. We knew we had a gap to make up, and those guys were off to a quick start.”

When asked Johnson’s surgery and its effects going into this season, his crew chief, Chad Knaus, said their battle for the 2013 Cup title with Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing was the main factor behind the 48′s initial lack of success this year.

“[The championship] was purely my focus last year and all I was concerned about,” Knaus said. “I didn’t care about anything that we were doing to prepare for 2014. It was the furthest thing in my mind for the last three months of last year.”

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