AW: We hear a lot about the training regimen of other athletes but rarely about race-car drivers. Is it important for you to work out and eat right?
JJ: Absolutely. It’s a very physical sport. The repetition of it, as well: We’re in cars three days a week, 38 out of 41 weeks of the year, often during the hottest months of the year. We can be out there for as long as five and a half hours. So physical fitness is a big part of my week. I have a weightlifting program that I do four days a week, and I run. I just finished a six-mile run, actually. I really enjoy cycling, but it takes a long time to get a good ride in. Running with Genevieve is my main form of cardio. In a short week, I do 15 miles; in a long week, 25.
AW: When you’re driving on the freeway, is it hard to resist the temptation to go really fast?
JJ: I think I get it out on the racetrack. I’m not a speed demon on the road. I don’t want a ticket, either.
AW: Are there any veteran drivers whom you have sought out for advice?
JJ: Especially while climbing the ladder, I would talk to anyone whose ear I could get and ask a question. I’d say Jeff Gordon in my Cup career has been the most helpful. As time has gone on, I’ve looked for other athletes, entertainers, other successful people. I have relationships with coaches [and] with businessmen who have experienced the world and have an interesting perspective to share.
AW: Why No. 48?
JJ: With NASCAR, when you start a new team, they provide you with a list of numbers that are available. In my career the numbers 4 and 8 have always been good for me. Of the available numbers, 48 was there. Also, we were brought up inside the No. 24 shop [which is teammate Gordon’s number], and our team was a spinoff of 24. So things just took that path.
AW: What is your relationship like with your two younger brothers, Jarit and Jessie? Are they involved in racing at all?
JJ: It’s good. It’s so tough being on the road all the time; I’d love to spend more time with the family and my brothers. They’re involved in more hobby racing than anything. Jarit has two children and runs a fabrication shop, so he doesn’t have time to do it as much anymore. Jessie does racing on weekends in California when he can.
AW: You’ve been honored at the White House more than once. What’s that been like?
JJ: That’s as good as it gets. I was fortunate to be there a few times as a result of the five championships. I got to meet George W. Bush, then I was able to go back and meet President Obama, which was interesting, as well. That’s the highest honor, to go to the White House.
AW: If you weren’t racing for a living, what do you think you’d be doing?
JJ: I’d be in trouble.