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Daytona 500 champ Johnson enjoying whirlwind week
To the victor go the toils, although that’s hardly the way the five-time Sprint Cup champion view things.
“I know what time zone I’m in,” Johnson said Wednesday during a stop in Dallas to promote the April race in Texas. “I’m a little confused on days. Not much sleep, but some of that is self-induced. But it’s been a very fun ride.”
There was double cause for celebration Wednesday night in Las Vegas after Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team announced a two-year extension with the only primary sponsor Johnson has ever had. The new contract runs through 2015, and the announcement happened to coincide with a major sales meeting.
“I’ll be in front of 5,000 store managers, and they treat me like Elvis,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “It’s a great relationship.”
The Daytona victory celebration started with an impromptu Harlem Shake video, followed by the early Monday morning ritual of turning in the winning car for display at the Daytona track. Then it was on to Connecticut for part of a day, and New York overnight for a full day of media engagements Tuesday.
Johnson and his publicity team landed in the Dallas area Tuesday night, and he was back at it Wednesday before hopping a plane to Vegas. He’ll be in Los Angeles on Thursday before finally getting back to the business of racing Friday. He’s running the Nationwide race Saturday and will be trying Sunday for a series-best 62nd victory since his rookie year in 2002.
After his first Daytona victory in 2006, Johnson remembers the following week as busy. Just not quite this busy.
“I think that NASCAR has worked very hard to get us in major markets, and people want to see us,” Johnson said. “They want to see the winner, want to talk to the winner. I think there’s more interest today than what I personally had and what our sport had in 2006.”
By the time he gets to Phoenix, Johnson will have a lot of catching up to do. He says Tuesday is normally “download” day, when he goes over the previous week and looks ahead to the next one with crew chief Chad Knaus and the rest of his team. Instead, he was chatting up David Letterman.
“So I feel a little removed and not really in the space to go racing in Phoenix,” he said. “But it’s for good reason, and Chad’s going to cut me some slack and I’ll have to catch up Friday when I get to the track.”
Knaus doesn’t really feel the need to cut his driver any slack.
Johnson’s first Daytona win sparked the first of five consecutive championship seasons through 2010. He had no way to compare a Daytona win and a series title then. Now that he can compare, he better understands the scope of a win the so-called Super Bowl of NASCAR.
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