Jimmie Johnson remembers how to do the Daytona media blitz

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Series Updates Sprint Cup Poll favorite: Jimmie Johnson was the winner of the media poll to predict this year’s champion. He’s off to a good start. But only five Daytona 500 winners have gone on to win the title (including himself in 2006). Proud homecoming: Phoenix native J.J. Yeley comes in off a 10th-place finish last week at Daytona, his first top-10 since June 2008. But he has never had a top-10 at Phoenix. Shorter list: Danica Patrick said it herself – she’s one of only 13 drivers to lead a lap at both the Daytona 500 and Indy 500. She’s actually in more exclusive company – one of only five drivers to have led five laps in each. Nationwide Rare entrant: Jimmie Johnson is entered in the Nationwide race at Phoenix this week. He’ll run the No. 5 Chevy for JR Motorsports. Best finish: Travis Pastrana recorded a career-best 10th-place finish last week. Series leader: Sam Hornish Jr. leads the driver points thanks to his runner-up finish last week to Tony Stewart, who is ineligible for points in the series. Camping World Truck Continuing streak: Johnny Sauter’s win last week kept his yearly streak going – a victory in every full-time year he has competed. See you later: The series is off until April 6 at Martinsville. IndyCar Season opener: The season begins March 24 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Coming to Austin: IndyCar’s development series is coming to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. It will have to races, March 1 and 2. NHRA Schedule: After its two opening dates, NHRA is off until March 14 at Gainsville, Fla. 115.8 Driver rating, best among active Sprint Cup drivers, for Jimmie Johnson at Phoenix International Racway. They said it “When you can win ugly like that it is so much fun,” said Schumacher. “It was lift, pedal, lift, pedal all the way down. I could hear Morgan beside me the whole time. As a driver, that kind of race is so much fun, and I enjoy winning like that more than a record run.” — NHRA Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher on his win over Morgan Lucas last week
More information Strong start Five-time champ Jimmie Johnson is atop the Sprint Cup standings after his Daytona 500 victory. How he fared in the race during his title run:

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They asked Jimmie Johnson if he knew where he was when he woke up Wednesday morning.

He smiled. He had to think about it.

Such is life for the Daytona 500 champion in the days after he (or she, maybe one day) becomes the Daytona 500 champion.

The days after crossing the finish line at the famed super speedway in Daytona Beach mean zipping from Florida to New York to Texas to California, then Las Vegas, to talk to all kinds of reporters and appear on all kinds of shows, all to relive the victory.

“Letterman is cool,” Johnson said. “He’s a racer. He owns an Indy race team. And seeing the famous building is neat.”

It’s three days of talking. And when that’s all over, it’s on to Phoenix, site of the next race, to get ready for the next race.

So he had to smile at the question.

But he knew soon enough.

Texas. Dallas. Where in a short while, he would be the guest of honor at a lunch just for him and a few hundred paying customers at the House of Blues.

Talking to reporters for 72 hours straight is not the worst thing in the world, probably. But promoting the victory and the sport is an obligation for the Daytona 500 winner. Has been for years.

Johnson did it seven years ago.

He doesn’t remember it being this ... interesting?

“It seems bigger,” he said. “It seems like more of a big deal.”

If Johnson seems relaxed and readily enjoying the afterglow of his Daytona 500 victory on Sunday, it should.

He is relaxed. He is enjoying it. Experience has taught him that is a good thing.

“We’re feel like we’re going to start the season at the top of the class, and we’re excited about that,” he said.

Last year, he started it at the bottom — running only a lap at the 500 before crashing. It left him almost a race’s worth of points behind in the driver’s standings.

And he made it up. He had the points lead with three races to go. He came to Texas Motor Speedway in November and won, adding to his lead. It took a couple of weeks of bad luck to deny him Sprint Cup championship No. 6.

So he has perspective.

Winning on Sunday was a big deal.

“It feels like you won a season championship, more than a race,” he said.

Losing would not have been a big deal. Unless he let it become a big deal.

“I have seen some teams and drivers win the 500, and you see four or five months later, they haven’t had such a great year,” he said. “There’s some type of hangover from the 500.

“Or it can be a springboard.”

Just remember where you are.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407 Twitter: @calexmendez

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