AW: Is there any camaraderie with the other drivers, or is it all competition 24/7?
JJ: There are different guys I’ve developed friendships with over the years. We’ve even had run-ins, but you have to be a man and talk it out. There are guys I get along with better than others. Competition is a weird thing.
AW: You and your wife, Chandra, welcomed your first child, Genevieve Marie, into the world last July. How has that changed your life?
JJ: Having Genevieve has been the most amazing experience. Friends and family said that you just have to experience it to understand. Now I do. Having her has made me a better person and a better man. I’m a lot more patient. I experience emotions that I never thought I’d have.
AW: What if someday Genevieve wants to become the next Danica Patrick? Will you be wary about it or enthusiastic?
JJ: Enthusiastic! I love my sport. I would like to be a help to her. If she chose motorsports as a career path, at least I would know what to do. If she wanted to be a ballerina, that would be a problem. I don’t know how to do that.
AW: You and Chandra started the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2006 and as a result have helped a lot of charities and people in need. Has it exceeded your expectations?
JJ: It has. We recognize how much more still needs to be done in just the three areas we’re supporting — the area around San Diego where I grew up; around Muskogee, Okla., where my wife grew up; and where we live in Charlotte. We’re doing what we can, and we’re really thankful for all the folks in racing and all the fans who have helped and contributed. It has been amazing.
AW: Your schedule is incredibly tight, and free time must be precious. So what do you like to do with it when you do have some?
JJ: Right now it’s really been just spending time with the family. Genevieve is just at a great age. We go for bike rides, or I take her along with me in the jogger when I go for runs. I love spending time with her. We go to music class when we’re home. It’s fun to watch her at such a young age experience sounds of guitars and tambourines.
Now You Know:
Since entering the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2002, Johnson has never finished outside the top five in the final standings and has finished outside the top two only twice.
JJ: I love to vacation at the beach and re-create those Corona commercials, if possible. That’s my speed and pace, and a good artist to listen to while doing that is Jack Johnson. If I’m looking to relax, that’s the scene I try to create.
AW: You’re the only driver in NASCAR history to win five consecutive Sprint Cup championships. How do you fight complacency and keep the competitive fire burning?
JJ: So far, it’s been easy. At some point, I’m sure it becomes more difficult. But this is who I am, and this is what I do. For my teammates, it’s the same for them. They’re what make the difference, and I’m so appreciative to have them. Most people don’t realize what a team sport NASCAR is. At Hendrick Motorsports, we have 550 people working together on a team. None of them will ever allow any of us to become complacent.