NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Supercross champ Ryan Dungey share a strong bond and a love of dirt bikes

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Wearing a Red Bull-branded fleece and a pair of red and white Target gloves, a racing superstar inconspicuously wandered the garage Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Ryan Dungey, a multitime champion in Supercross and motocross, was a guest of six-time Sprint Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson, watching practice and qualifying in NASCAR’s premier series.

Dungey and the Supercross series will return the favor Saturday night as a delegation of roughly 20 NASCAR drivers and their entourages were scheduled to attend the Monster Energy AMA Supercross event at the Georgia Dome, the ninth round in a 16-race schedule.

“I think (Supercross promoter) Feld (Entertainment) has their hands full with tickets and VIP stuff for NASCAR, but they’ve got a whole suite blocked off,” Dungey told NASCAR Talk. “It’s cool it falls on the same weekend so they can check out our sport, and we can check out theirs. It’s always conflicting.”

Johnson, whose racing career began on dirt bikes before moving to four wheels, still has been a Supercross attendee during the NASCAR season, flying to events at Daytona International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He raced motocross until he was 14 and still maintains many friendships in the sport with current riders such as Dungey, Chad Reed and Justin Brayton and managers Rick Johnson (who was instrumental in fostering Jimmie Johnson’s love of racing), Jeff Ward and Johnny O’Mara.

“I grew up on two wheels and just love that sport,” Jimmie Johnson told NASCAR Talk. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the line for the gate dropping, but there’s an old saying in motocross, ‘It’s not if you fall, it’s when.’ I got so busted up when I was little, I firmly believe in that saying.”

Johnson, 39, did keep a bike around the house for occasionally riding a decade ago until NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick spotted it.

“Mr. Hendrick stopped by my house and saw the bike in the garage and didn’t say anything on the way in, so I thought I got away with it,” Johnson said with a laugh. “On the way out, he asked whose bike it was. I said, ‘A friend’s.’ He looked at me with a very interesting expression, ‘Your friend parks his bike in your garage? Get rid of it.’ ”

Johnson hoped to bring his 4-year-old daughter, Genevieve, who has begun watching Saturday night Supercross with her dad, to the Georgia Dome.

“Pretty much the whole (NASCAR) garage is going,” he said.

That includes Ganassi drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, who shares a sponsor (Target) with Dungey, 25. The pair spent some of Friday hanging out at Atlanta with Dungey’s wife, Lindsay, and his father, Troy.

Dungey’s friendship with Johnson began a few years ago after realizing the Hendrick Motorsports driver was following him on Twitter.

“The first time I talked to him was through Twitter,” said Dungey, who also is a fitness nut. “I was like, dude, man, I couldn’t believe he followed me, actually. We were able to share our contact (information), and we’ve just been checking in with one another since. We don’t get to see each other much, but I really look up to the guy and what he’s done with his career and how driven he still is to this day.

“With all of his down time, he’s into cycling, triathlons, swimming, and with his foundation. I just really appreciate the driver he is and the athlete he is. It’s inspiring for me.”

Dungey, who leads the 450 class points standings with his KTM factory team and finished second at Atlanta last week, has tested a Late Model at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway but has no plans to race cars.

“I’m just trying it out,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere. Motocross is my thing. That’s what I’m sticking to. It’s cool I got to experience it and see their world for a day a little bit. But I’m not ready at the speeds they’re going.

“You can’t lose focus on your sport. I’ve got to remember what a great position I’ve been put in with motocross. To be able to come here and see this, it adds to that motivation and inspiration of what I do to be better and better.”


COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.

NASCAR Friday schedule at Circuit of the Americas


NASCAR’s new Cup Series aerodynamic package for short tracks and road courses will be tested in competition on a road circuit for the first time this weekend as the tour stops at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

All three major national series will be in action at the 3.41-mile, 20-turn track this weekend. The schedule begins Friday with practice for all three series and qualifying for Xfinity and Trucks.

MORE: Drivers say North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will be challenging

The Friday practice was added for Cup teams because of the new competition package, providing 50 minutes of on-track time for adjustments. Teams also will be racing with a new tire compound this weekend.

Chase Elliott (2021) and Ross Chastain (2022) are winners from the previous Cup races at COTA. Elliott won the inaugural event in a race shortened by rain, and Chastain won after a last-lap battle with AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman. The victory was Chastain’s first in the series.

A look at Friday’s schedule:

Circuit of the Americas (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning. Mostly sunny later. High of 87 with an 80% chance of rain.

Friday, March 24

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 11:30 a.m. .- 6:30 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 1:30 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Cup practice (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 8 p.m. on FS1)
  • 4:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck practice (No live broadcast)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Truck qualifying (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 9 p.m. on FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 7 – 8 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)