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Jimmie 'the machine' Johnson warming up for the Daytona 500 with a run in Daytona's 24 Hours

  Jimmie Johnson is a beast for racing (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Rick Hendrick calls him "a machine."
   And Jimmie Johnson just may be.
   This weekend Jimmie Johnson isn't sitting around the house polishing last year's trophy, or sunning on a beach somewhere; he's at Daytona running in the 24 Hours.
   While most of his NASCAR rivals may be enjoying one of the final off-weekends before the Sprint Cup tour grind begins in earnest, Johnson is already at the wheel.
   Now Johnson isn't necessarily considered a brilliant sports car racer, but he's put his heart and soul into learning road racing, and it paid off last summer when he finally broke through on the NASCAR circuit at Sonoma.
   What all this shows is Johnson's intensity.
   "Jimmie was in here for lunch the other day, and I'm eating cookies and he's refusing to eat any carbs....and then he was going to go out and run 12 miles in 90 minutes....man, I haven't run 12 miles in my life," Hendrick said with a laugh.
   "Gosh, man.....but Jimmie told me 'I've got to get ready, and my trainer says I have to eat this way...'
   "You can tell that Mark Martin and Jimmie haven't rubbed off on me yet.
   "Jimmie is a guy who doesn't need any motivation. Who in the world would be eating like that and working out like that, just to be able to get another tenth out in the car?
   "But that's the kind of dedication he's got.
   "Until he loses that fire, I don't have to do a thing but give him good stuff. And Chad (Knaus, his crew chief) is the same way.
   "I don't think either one of those guys would survive without the other; because they're just so much alike."
   It's an interesting situation for Hendrick – Johnson and Knaus keep clicking off championships and wins, so Hendrick only has to focus on his other three teams, winless last season by the way.
   "All you've got to do is give Jimmie the stuff," Hendrick says in amazement. "The intensity level amazes me.
   "The thing I worry about is one day he walks in and says 'I don't want to run 38 races any more.'"

   "January has been extremely busy," Johnson says in understatement.
   And he insists that the off-season, despite two NASCAR tests at Daytona, and a 24 Hours test, wasn't as much excitement as he needs to keep going.
   At least the 24 Hours should be fun, or more fun than the NASCAR SpeedWeeks tension looming.
   "The race is such a challenge, mentally and physically," Johnson says of the 24. "The cars are a lot of fun.
    "And to see friends, guys I have respected and watched over the years race, and shoot the breeze with them, and then be out on the track with them wheel-to-wheel is a lot of fun as well."
   The 24 of course is a whole different mindset than a NASCAR race.
    "Luckily I'm not in the rhythm on the Cup side," Johnson says. "And I have done this enough over the years (he's run six 24s) to understand how chaotic the race is and what is important for me from a rest, hydration, nutrition standpoint."
    In fact Johnson has been using a special fitness and nutrition regime for this 24, including a lot of running, and an odd pasta diet.
    While the 24 Hours may seem to be an endurance race, Johnson points to speed as a big factor too: "It doesn't really matter where you start, but speed does make a difference.
    "And you can break gearboxes...get off the road and rip the nose off...get in traffic and crash the car. So ideally you want to have some speed you can call on when need be.
    "I don't know if we are there, but the car is much more competitive. If you can be within a half second to three-tenths, that is a good place to be...because traffic plays such a big game in your overall lap time.
    "I think we are back in the window of where we want to be."

Li'l E.

Interesting. I don't think I ever saw an article like this about Dale Jr.
Just sayin' is all...

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