An Interview with NASCAR great Jimmie Johnson

By Alex Skillin

In the midst of another Sprint Cup Chase, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson talks to about his new book 'On the Road,' which documents his bid in 2011 for an unprecedented sixth straight Sprint Cup, his current season, and how far his career has taken him. Concerning the new book you’ve recently come out with, 'On the Road,' where did the idea for the book originally come from and how did you get everything off the ground and running?

Jimmie Johnson:It’s been something my wife and I have wanted to do for a while. We’re both really into photography, we collect a lot of books, so it’s something we’ve always hoped to do, you know, document portions of time, of our lives, and my time on the racetrack. I viewed it as a passion project and last year we thought it would be a good time to get it done cause I was going for my sixth straight Sprint Cup. We talked to our family photographer about coming in and working with us so we felt very comfortable from the start and throughout the whole process. She was with us every day for ten weeks and took a bunch of photos.

TCC: I know you’ve self-published the book, take us through that process a little bit and why you decided to go the self-publishing route.

JJ:It really came down to the amount of time we had. We talked to a publisher about working with us, but we wanted to get it done within a specific time frame so we decided to go ahead and self-publish the book. Of course, my workload just went up dramatically, working on all kinds of different things and, of course, I was still racing.

TCC: Of all the photos and moments in the book, are there any that really stand out or resonate with you?

JJ:Yeah, there are a couple. There’s one of this big wreck I had at Charlotte in October, it pretty much ended my season at the time and the photos get pretty up close and detailed about that. There’s also a photo of my family and I watching the television when my good friend Dan Wheldon died last year in October and just seeing our reactions as we watched the replays of that crash, it’s a tribute to him really. You can see the faces of my wife and I and also my daughter’s reaction at the time. She was only one year old so, of course, she didn’t know what was going on, but she could just feel the emotional level in the room and that’s something that really sticks out in the photograph.

TCC: Moving on to your career a bit more, tell me how this season’s Sprint Cup Chase has compared to some of the others you’ve experienced in years past?

JJ:It’s been a little different, but I’d say overall it’s been a top three year as far as performance goes for us. We’ve led a lot of laps, won a few races, and really performed well from a points standpoint from race to race. We made a lot of changes after last season, you know, revamped the technical side of the car and that’s really made a difference for us in being able to perform consistently and get the most out of our car.

TCC: You’ve won five Sprint Cup Championships, and you’re right there in the running again this season, how do you stay grounded and motivated enough to continue to excel at the highest level?

JJ: I grew up racing and, at times it feels like work, but racing’s always been something I’ve loved. It’s the most fun I could ever have and it’s just such a cool occupation. It was always a passion and hobby of mine as a kid so it’s honestly very easy to come out and do my job every day. But, at the same time, I’ve always been committed, worked hard, and given 100% so, of course, that’s kept me at or near the top all these years.

TCC: You just touched on this a bit, but as a kid, could you ever have imagined how far racing would take you?

JJ:No, no way. Like I said, it was just a hobby of mine for so long, much like football, soccer, or basketball for someone else. Racing has been very much a family thing for me. My grandfather owned a motorcycle shop when I was a kid and I remember going in there when I was younger. I started off racing motorcycles when I was young and to just have something start off so simply, as such a family-oriented hobby, it’s been remarkable just to see where it has taken me.

TCC: You’re third all-time in Sprint Cup Championships, how does it feel to have your name mentioned in the same breath as drivers like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt?

JJ:It’s awesome. It still catches my breath. It’s honestly hard to believe that I’m up there with those two even when I do hear it. But, I’ve worked hard, I remember vividly the good times and the bad, and that’s kept me grounded. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to hearing my name mentioned alongside my idols and some of the drivers I grew up worshiping.

Jimmie loves talking to his fans on Twitter, so follow him @JimmieJohnson

Photo Courtesy of Jimmie Johnson Foundation

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