Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nascar is our Nations number one Spectator Sport and has the Nation’s Most Influential Athlete listed in Forbes Magazine. For five of the last six years the sport of racing has been dominated by number 48 Jimmy Johnson, the only driver in the 64 year of Nascar history to win five straight championships. He raced recently in the Sprint All Star Race in Charlotte North Carolina and in the Coca Cola 600.
His strategy is that he loves to be in traffic, loves to watch where another driver displays weakness and then trying to find a way by him. I guess that is what millions of Americans are doing when they sit for hours watching cars being driven in one direction going around in circles. The real excitement is if an accident happens and then we wait to find out if it was a fatal accident or not; kind of crude and heartless. I guess I could get used to that when the pay day is a Million Dollars a race.
This Jimmy Johnson guy has achieved notoriety that greats like Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt haven’t achieved yet. At only 36 years old he is the sports most bankable star yet he claims that he never wanted to be a celebrity but simply be a racer. His pride and passion comes from driving a car. Most of his pride is stored in a warehouse near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
There is stored all his trophies, dune buggies, motorcycles and winning race cars; a type of museum. Now he even has his own video game that he designed which is set to go and play at the warehouse. He won at Minneapolis too. Not bad from a middle class kid from Southern California whose parents were also drivers. His Dad drove a truck and his Mom drove a school bus. As much as he shows off his successes it can easily be a fatal day and he knows it.
Born in 1975 in San Diego, racing was always on his mind. At age 4 he would wear goggles and race his bicycle down hills. His first cool toy was a dirt bike also now stored in the warehouse. Yes, at age 4 his Dad ran alongside him riding a motorized dirt bike. At age five they found competitions for him to participate in. He would do chores around the house to help pay for the entry fees for races. For 20 years he raced dirt bikes, off road trucks and street cars and always found something to race somewhere.
It apparently was a natural knack to be able to race cars. Finally, he moved east to Nascar country near the Charlotte Motor Speedway before he even had a car to drive or a sponsor. You can learn from him how to get the dream job you want. How to get into the company or hang with the industry insiders you need to know to get ahead in life. Resumes mean little or nothing. It is the contacts you have that mean everything to get ahead in this life unfortunately. What if you are shy but knowledgeable? Looser!
Jimmy started hanging out where the crews ate lunch. He met , got to know guys, passed out business cards, tried to go to shops and meet management, hunters, agents, team owners, anyone who knew anyone that he could be part of their conversation in the future. Yes, he admits he was trying to sell himself. He wasn’t sitting at home with a dream of being a racer he was out there being a racer.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that fans took notice. They didn’t notice him for a win but for a wreck. He came around turn one at Watkins Glen in New York at 160 mph when he lost his breaks and rode across the tracks heading for a wall airborne that he assumed was concrete. He knew that at that angle and speed he was traveling that he wouldn’t survive. The white wall was styro foam and cushioned the crash and he survived. The mangled hood of that car also hangs in his warehouse.
Henrick Motor Schools, the team he drives for now is like a busy car shop only his is shinny clean, fully staffed and the envy of the other teams. Jimmy has nearly 100 engineers and mechanics behind him keeping his cars ready for a top performance. On average he goes through 12 to 15 cars a year and that is if he doesn’t crash any. And being the great guy he is, he works with charity too.
Jimmy spends time with the “Make A Wish Foundation” riding with kids that want to meet him. The Jimmy Johnson Foundation he started gives millions of dollars to kids in need with a focus on better education and still works with a number of charities. He has a wife and child and who you think is a guy all about speed and sponsors is also about being home with family. H is becoming one of our national treasures that our kids can look up to.

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