Jimmie Johnson’s racing career began on two wheels, as he whipped BMX bikes and motorcycles across tracks in Southern California. After he became a superstar on four wheels, he returned to two wheels as an amateur triathlete. And now he has helped initiate a bicycling fad among NASCAR drivers. Seemingly every week, a handful of drivers tour the area around the track.
“Cycling provides the most fun and the most social experiences, and you can go places and talk to people and do things,” Johnson says. “It’s really a lot of fun for me. It’s something I do often.” Johnson broke down NASCAR’s cycling culture for Athlon Sports.
Why does cycling fit so well in the NASCAR schedule?
Because our tracks are located obviously in rural areas and most race tracks have world-class rides around, and there was a culture of cyclists, really through the Joe Gibbs team, that existed for years I didn’t know anything about. Then once I started bringing a bike to the track, trying to find rides, I found these crew guys that were doing it. They had all these great routes mapped out from the track back to their hotels — being able to kind of take those routes and twist them around, make them come back to the track so I don’t have to worry about getting picked up at a hotel. Now, from Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., Tony Stewart, multiple crew guys, you go down through the list, there’s a lot of guys riding bikes.
Who is most likely to change someone else’s flat?
I find myself changing flats for everybody, so I’m the guy changing flats.
Who is least likely to change a flat?
Dale just stood there and watched me change his flat once, so I’ll go with Dale.
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Who is most likely to stop for ice cream on the way?
We all look for ice cream stops on the way, so that’s one thing cyclists do. You find a destination. Oftentimes, it’s a coffee shop and you eat the worst stuff in there you can. There’s a mandatory ice cream stop in Loudon, New Hampshire, that we make. It’s real close to the track, so it’s a nice way to kind of end the ride.
Who is the most likely to share water if you run out?
Who is most likely to forget to bring water?
Lonnie Clouse. He (formerly worked) for MRO (Motor Racing Outreach). He literally left the bus lot a couple weeks ago and totally forgot his water bottle, so I’ll pin it on him.
Who wobbles when they’re riding?
Keith Rodden (Kasey Kahne’s crew chief at Hendrick).
Who is the fastest rider?
From a driver standpoint?
Matt and I — we’re very equal. But then when we look at some of the crew members that ride, again that Joe Gibbs group, the culture they have there with cycling and with fitness in general, there are some amazing, pro-level guys that are crew members over there. When we think we’re doing good, they blow our doors off.
Who is most likely to crash?
Landon Cassill. I’ve seen him crash twice.
Who won’t shut up when they’re riding?
I know Dale never talks. Nobody’s overly chatty, though.
Who became obsessed with cycling the fastest?
I’d say Dale. He’s teaching me stuff about the sport. We went to a fitting place that from aerodynamics, pressure points, power-related, put him on a full human body dyno to get the ergonomics set on his bike. He’s head over heels for it.
– By Matt Crossman