Commentary

Jimmie Johnson on perfection

The NASCAR driver explains how he defines the word in racing and in life

Updated: December 1, 2010, 11:38 AM ET
By Jimmie Johnson | ESPN The Magazine

Jimmie Johnson
Peter Hapak for ESPN The Magazine"Some days we don't have the equipment, we don't have the race or we don't have good fortune, and we still rebound through it. That's perfection to me."

The thought of perfection is scary. I'm very careful to avoid thinking I'm cooler than I am. That's a dangerous road to go down. It's easy to do, too. I really try to store my successes away in the confidence bank and lean on that confidence in times of need. I've watched people have success and get so arrogant and cocky about it. Those people may climb the ladder fast, but they sure fall back down that ladder real quick. I don't want to be that guy.

It's hard to get seven pit crew members, the crew chief, the engineers and myself all doing our jobs perfectly week in, week out. Much of what we do is mental. I feel very fortunate that my past doesn't come through my mind often -- the good and the bad. I don't know why, but living in the present is an attribute that's really helped me and my team. We don't overthink things. Some days we don't have the equipment, we don't have the race or we don't have good fortune, and we still rebound through it. That's perfection to me.

It's tough to admit it in the moment, but I know when I'm getting ready to screw up. I can sense it. Sometimes I'm just not smart enough to stop it, and I go out there and tear up a car. Other times I'm conscious of it and back it down to a level where I keep the car on the road and give my guys a chance to work on the car and make it better for me. That's been a big reason we've made history.

I have a great deal of respect for anyone who's linked together multiple championships. After living it, and knowing how damn difficult it is, it's opened my mind up to the runs the Chicago Bulls were on, the Lakers, the Canadiens back in the '50s. I look at Lance Armstrong with his seven Tour de France wins, the success that someone like Tiger Woods has had year after year in his sport. That is not easy to do. It rarely happens.

--As told to Marty Smith

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