Fresh off his second Daytona 500 title, 37-year-old Jimmie Johnson continues to add laurels to his five championships and 61 career Sprint Cup victories, putting himself into consideration as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time.
Johnson took a pit stop to chat with The Huffington Post to talk about his legacy, Danica Patrick's emergence in the sport and his interpretation of the viral "Harlem Shake" dance fad.
What does winning Daytona a second time mean for you and your legacy?
Excitement. And what it does for my career, my team, for the sponsors, everybody -- it's as big as it gets. It's almost championship-esque, if you will. The notoriety that comes with it, the viewership ratings that we saw. It was a big, big race, highly visible. It's great for NASCAR.
With so much single-file racing, what was the most important move you made during the 500?
I think, with probably 20 to go or something, I was on the bottom trying to get the lead, work my way up along the No. 2 car, Brad Keselowski, and the caution came out with 10 to go. The timing of that caution as I surged ahead on the next restart -- that move there really flipped the control for those final laps.
That's when you chose the outside?
I did. I chose the outside lane. You know, sometimes the inside lane works and others, the outside. The draft works by numbers. There were more drivers throughout the day -- throughout the week -- willing to commit to that outside lane, and I was just playing the numbers. I got the lane I knew the most cars would gravitate to, and it played out for me.
Was there a particular driver you were worried about after that?
The immediate threat was really the No. 16 of Greg Biffle. With the draft, and also the side draft that we use, I just felt like anybody further than second place would be stalled out -- while he's advancing -- by the other guys. Running side-by-side slows the cars down. When [Dale Earnhardt] Junior made the push, I didn't expect it from him, and then I didn't think he would roll up that far. And he didn't slow down once he got closer to me. Fortunately for him that our organization was able to clear the No. 16 and get the second, and we had a 1-2 finish for our company.
There was a substantial early crash, with three elite drivers who wound up not finishing the race. Did that alter your approach at all?
Yeah, I mean, the No. 29, the No. 14 and the No. 5 being involved in that -- those three cars showed a lot of strength in anything and everything we did down there, so that did have an impact on the race.
From a driver's perspective, why does winning the Daytona 500 still mean so much?
It's what comes with it. I mean, the race is so highly watched and attended because it's our Super Bowl, if you will. It is the biggest single event we have within our sport.
You've been with the Lowe's No. 48 since 2001. What does that mean to you?
It's great. A little unheard of in our sport to have a team, driver, sponsor and a crew chief together that long. I have 400 career starts on Sunday, and all 400 of those go with the same sponsor. It's unheard of.
Jeff Gordon basically handpicked you at the beginning of your career. With the pressure that came with that, how were you able to get past it?
I started racing at such a young age, and it's really all I wanted to do. I committed to it then and went all in. It was really a matter of being put together with the right people. People are everything. All those ingredients together made this team what it is. They make the difference.
Danica, you've said, didn't have an opportunity to make run late. Did you expect her to?
I expected someone. I really didn't see it from anyone except the No. 88. Usually, that last lap, there's 10 of 15 guys that have all kinds of speed looking for someone to pass. The way this car drafts, it was a little different. I have to say [Danica] did an amazing job all day long. There was a lot of pressure on the drivers on and off pit road, with those green flag stops ... With the draft, you'd spin out every single time, and you'd think a rookie would lose the draft and she didn't. I feel like the restrictor plate-style racing was a great fit for her, and she took to it like she's been doing it for years.
When you passed her with about 15 laps to go, did you feel like you were going to win the race?
I don't even recall passing her. The cars, after a while, who's in them doesn't register to us. It's just somebody between you and a trophy. I remember racing real hard inside of the No. 2 and just trying to find a way to get to that outside lane and get ahead. The caution belt gave me that opportunity.
This Gen6 car is pretty special, isn't it?
It is, really is back to the old thing that we had years ago where you win on Sunday, show on Monday. That car we found in a Chevrolet store across the country. I think this car looks really nice and it appealed to a lot of fans.
You suffered a broken wrist in 2006. Did you get to celebrate better this time around?
Yeah, that was after the championship. I don't know if you saw the video posting that we put up this morning. We were doing a team photoshoot at 9 or 10 at night, after the 500, turned into a "Harlem Shake" video shoot. It's pretty entertaining.