Kenny Mayne hurdles the pit wall to score a few minutes with Jimmie Johnson.
KM: This is being recorded, Jimmie.
WE ALL LOVE TROPHIES
KM: Do you ever show up at a track and think, Wow, we're not doing earth any favors?
JJ: No doubt. It's something our industry is looking into. Ideally, we can use racing as a test bed and make our everyday vehicles safer and more efficient.
KM: That's like the thinking of the space program. People would say, "Why did we go to the moon?" The answer was, "By doing that, we've developed x, y and z."
JJ: Definitely. When you look at the safety side and the sacrifices NASCAR drivers have made, it has resulted in safer street vehicles.
KM: Plus, haven't most guys stopped smoking while driving during competitions?
JJ: I believe so—especially since Winston dropped the sponsorship.
KM: You run in different series. Once you've reached the Sprint Cup, why race in others?
JJ: There's a financial part to it. You get paid to run another car, and you're already at the track, so it's nice to make the money. Plus, additional experience helps. But the most important thing is that we all love trophies and want to win more.
KM: How bad is the financial crisis messing with you?
JJ: My team hasn't felt the crunch, but I've heard about other teams who are having sponsors come to them and say, "We can't honor our contract." We're seeing the squeeze in souvenir sales, and track owners are noticing it in attendance.
KM: Do the teams who are hurting come to you and ask for money?
JJ: No, they're trying to make it. But that's the beauty of NASCAR: It's free enterprise. If a car owner can't make it, he has some used equipment to sell off.
KM: When's the last time you jumped out of your car and started swinging at people?
JJ: I haven't done that. I don't go down that path that often. I'll get plenty heated on the radio and bad-mouth people, but I haven't come out swinging yet.
KM: Does Jeff Gordon still own part of your car?
JJ: He does, but he made it clear when things started off that he was a teammate and not a car owner.
Did someone say 500 miles?
KM: Have you totally passed him by?
JJ: He's an awesome driver. This year hasn't been what he wanted, but the guy's a four-time champ. That's what we all call him: Four-Time. He's Jeff Gordon; he's damn good.
KM: If he grew a mustache, do you think he could look like a badass again?
JJ: He had a retro paint scheme three or four years back, and I was all over him. I'm like, "Dude, you've got to bring back the 'stache, please." But he didn't do it.
KM: Do you consider all drivers athletes? Or only some of them?
JJ: Some guys work harder at their fitness than others, but you can say the same about baseball players. What we do takes a unique skill set. People don't realize the car is always in a slide, which takes fighting. Then you have g-forces. Plus, 500 miles anywhere will wear your butt out.
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