Celebration, revenge ... but no golf cart surfing this year
Not only did Jimmie Johnson win his second Nextel Cup title, but he got revenge on his crew chief and plans on savoring the championship more this year. Come January, it's back to work on No. 3.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jimmie Johnson carried a vendetta all season. And after winning his second Nextel Cup title, he promptly took care of business.
To celebrate his first title last season, crew chief Chad Knaus and Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Hampton burst through his hotel-room door the morning after the finale and doused a sleeping Johnson with champagne. Johnson vowed to get even.
On Monday morning, he and wife Chandra had returned from a night of partying when they stopped by the front desk to change room keys. They wanted to ensure Knaus & Co. could not gain access to his room this time. At precisely that moment, the clerk stopped to take a phone call.
"The guy is on the phone saying, 'Yes, Mr. Knaus, we'll send a couple of cheeseburgers right up, room 3305,' " Johnson said. "Chani and I just looked at each other and said, 'This is totally unbelievable. We are totally getting him.' "
The Johnsons hustled back to their own room, where they promptly emptied the minibar of "anything that fizzed." Posing as room service, they knocked on the door and attacked as soon as Knaus opened it.
"We hammered him," Johnson said. "He couldn't believe it, he was so floored. We were chasing him around the room, soaking him with everything we had and (girlfriend) Bruna had to dive behind the door to take cover. It was awesome."
And all in good fun for a driver-crew chief combo that became the first team in almost 10 years to win consecutive Cup titles. The last team to do so was Jeff Gordon's in 1997 and 1998, and the No. 48 crew used a remarkable 10-race Chase to beat Gordon to the title this year.
Johnson's seventh-place finish Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway gave him his second championship by a 77-point margin over Gordon. The two Hendrick Motorsports teammates then partied early into Monday morning in South Beach before Johnson headed out for a full schedule of champion activities.
"I am tired, but I am in much better shape than I was last year," he said. "I paced myself [Sunday] night. The nightclub was just jammed and time flew by so fast. I didn't make it quite to sunrise because I had the presence of mind to know I still had to pack. I missed the sun, but I went to bed smiling."
Johnson's Q&A with AP auto racing writer Jenna Fryer:
Q: What was the best part of Sunday for you?
JJ: Crossing the finish line, that's what it's all about. You just want to make sure you make it all 400 miles. I really enjoyed the race, we had a good car and the whole vibe was really just a great experience.
Q: Which championship feels better, the first or the second?
JJ: Man, last year I was just so relieved and caught up in the emotions. This year, I kind of want to enjoy it. Going through it now, I am so much happier I think.
Q: What's on your schedule this week?
JJ: I had to go to Bristol (Connecticut) to stop by ESPN and I have a full round of New York media. We get back home to Charlotte tonight, I shoot a Gatorade commercial on Wednesday in Pittsburgh and on Thursday it's off to see the in-laws for Thanksgiving.
Q: Oh, a nice little getaway?
JJ: We're going to go to the Oklahoma-Oklahoma St. game on Saturday. That's really a highlight for Chani and I'm looking forward to it because I don't get to experience a lot of those types of things. But then we'll head back to New York City midday Sunday and get ready for the banquet.
Q: Looking forward to another champions week in New York?
JJ: I am. I really am. I can't wait to do all the fun things, and I know I'm not going to get a lot of sleep. But it's worth it.
Q: Two championships now. Do you feel any different?
JJ: I do feel different. I don't think I am, not outside at least. But inside my head, I just feel confident and comfortable as a Nextel Cup driver in our sport and I have a great outlook on my future in this series.
Q: Chad said within minutes of the race ending Sunday that he can't wait for next year's Daytona 500. Is that normal?
JJ: That's him, man. He's already been working on Daytona for a month. That's my guy. That's what he does.
Q: Any big plans for the offseason?
JJ: We'll be home for Christmas, maybe make some plans for New Year's, but we're not really sure yet. But as soon as January rolls around, I've got testing for the Daytona Rolex and then Cup testing. I'm going to get right back in the car pretty quickly.
Q: Will you be surfing on any golf carts this offseason?
JJ: No. Unfortunately, Hampton's golf tournament is the same week as the banquet, so I won't be able to get myself hurt this year.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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