Jimmie Johnson, NASA team up in online chat about dynamics of racing

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With six Sprint Cup championships already, some might describe Jimmie Johnson’s ability and talent as out of this world.

Wednesday morning, Johnson appeared on a live online chat with grade and middle school students that was hosted by a group that knows a lot about out of this world experiences, namely, NASA.

Using Skype, Johnson spent about 25 minutes talking with students as part of a program called “The Force of Drag: Bad for Cars, Good for Mars.”

Among topics students asked Johnson about were drag and drafting as they relate to race cars.

“Drag is good in the turns,” Johnson said. “Ideally, you’d like to remove all on the straightaway and pile it on in the turns.”

One student from Endeavor School of Exploration in Victorville, Calif., Johnson’s home state, asked him what has been his favorite ride in all his years of racing.

“For me, I grew up racing on two wheels and motocross and jumping and being in the dirt. I don’t know if it’s just been so long since I’ve been in one of those vehicles, that I have a desire to go back, but they really are the most fun I think you can have.

“On the NASCAR circuit, I get to race on these amazing tracks that are so famous. … I guess if you forced me to pick one, I’d go back to my roots and say one of my off-road trucks that I used to bounce around on the desert with.”

Johnson even gave the students that tuned in a little homework, with a math worksheet on his web site, JimmieJohnson.com, that calculates how a stock car can race while it tilts to the left.

Among other highlights:

* When asked what it would be like to race a Sprint Cup car without a rear spoiler, Johnson quipped, “You’d have a caution every other lap, I would say.”

* When asked about NASCAR’s brief attempt to replace the rear spoiler on the old Car of Tomorrow with a wing, Johnson noted: “The wing worked well. I felt the end plates that were on the wing, you could slide the car easier. It made it a little more forgiving when you lost traction in the back of the car. I just don’t think it fit the styling of our cars and the tradition of our sport, so we moved on.”

* On how he grew up a racer: “The favorite part for me, I fell in love with competing in racing at a very young age. It’s something I did with my family. Instead of growing up in a baseball or football home, I grew up in a racing home. There were so many great memories, experiences, time spent with my parents. To have all that turn into my profession, I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet. I would encourage everybody to pursue their passions and dreams and I’m living proof that it could turn into something concerning a career and something far greater.”

Lastly, Johnson spent considerable time talking about why he’s such a fan and participant of exercising and how students could learn a few things from his lead.

“It’s great therapy for me. I have a very stressful job …. it’s just a great release for me,” Johnson said. “For me, it’s kind of two-fold. One, the physical aspect inside the race car – we race 39 times in 42 weeks.

“Hydration and nutrition is a huge part of my daily and weekly routine. I’m in the car Friday through Sunday, depleting myself, and I spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday trying to get my hydration and energy levels back up.

“The training allows me to learn more about those elements, obviously makes me stronger, and in an impact or crash, I feel like I’m having a more solid muscular figure is beneficial in those instances and it helps your body.

“To add-on to that, it’s just great therapy for me. I have a very stressful job. To put my running shoes on and go out and run for an hour or ride my bike, it gives me an opportunity to kind of decompress and get my head around things like topics in racing or whatever it might be. It’s just a great release for me.”

Click here to watch a replay of Johnson’s online chat.

Also, click here to check out NASCAR’s Rockets2Racecars web site.

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