Crossing over: Matching NASCAR drivers with other sports

December 22, 2013, RJ Kraft,

Analyzing which other sports would be good fits for some of NASCAR's finest

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series offering a fantasy look at NASCAR drivers and athletes from other sports crossing over into different sporting worlds. Click here to read the second part.

Donovan McNabb's controversial comments last month in which he said Jimmie Johnson was not an athlete really hit a nerve with a lot of folks.

The two have spoken since the comments were made, and Johnson hopes to get the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback to the track and possibly in a race car sometime this season.

So that got us thinking: Which NASCAR drivers would we like to see take on other sports, and what would be the best fit for them?

There have been several notable athletes such as Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders to cross over to play a second sport or play two sports at the same time. There are some pit crew members that have backgrounds in other sports like Aaron Walker, who was a fifth-round pick of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers in 2003. Walker served as a jackman for Penske Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide Series team and the No. 7 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team of Tommy Baldwin Racing this past season.

Jimmie Johnson: Cross country and track
The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion has a training regime that involves an early morning workout and some running. He also bikes and swims to stay physically fit and mentally sharp, so a triathlon could be a strong choice. Johnson typically works out twice a day and is considered one of the most physically fit drivers in NASCAR.

So naturally, it would be interesting to see what Johnson could do in the cross country and track arena. He is one of the most competitive drivers around and it would be fun to see what he could do against competitive runners. The 38-year-old always seems to be up for a challenge, and this certainly qualifies as one.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Professional bull rider
Several drivers such as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon are known to be big fans of bull riding. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the Sprint Cup Series' most popular driver, is also a fan of the sport. The 39-year-old has even had his name on an event in Charlotte during the 2007 Built Ford Tough Series presented by Wrangler, "The Dale Jr. PBR Clash." Earnhardt Jr. also has some friends in the sport that could offer some pointers. Having a popular athlete like Earnhardt Jr. on a bull would also be a shot of exposure to the sport. And besides, he can always practice on the mechanical bull at his bar, Whisky River.

Kevin Harvick: Mixed Martial Arts
The 38-year-old California native is good friends with Mixed Martial Arts star Johny Hendricks and has undergone training with him. In addition, Harvick also wrestled while attending high school in California. Kevin Harvick Inc. has rebranded itself from racing (running Nationwide and Truck Series teams) to professional athlete management. MMA fighter Donald Cerrone was one of the firm's first clients. Harvick knows plenty about the sport and has the background to have some success.

Denny Hamlin: Golf
The 2010 Sprint Cup Series runner-up enjoys a round of golf and sports a 12-handicap, according to his official website. He has participated in numerous Pro-Ams and can hold his own on the links. One of Hamlin's good friends is Bubba Watson, the 2012 champion of The Masters. Hamlin served as Watson's caddie for the Par 3 Contest that year on the day before the tournament got underway. One of Hamlin's occasional golfing partners in Basketball Hall of Famer and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. The 33-year-old Hamlin never really showed his frustration when he struggled at the track following his return from a back injury. That temperament can only help him from tee to green.

Kurt Busch: Boxing
The 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion has had his share of run-ins with other drivers over the years. So what better way for Busch to work out some of his aggression than in the boxing ring? The 35-year-old would also be a riot with his quick wit and response in a pre-fight press conference. And besides, Busch is already working on training a younger fighter, his girlfriend's son, Houston.

Carl Edwards: NFL
The 2011 Sprint Cup Series runner-up has the height to play in the NFL (he is listed at 6-1) and spends plenty of time working out and developing his body. The 34-year-old keeps himself in great shape with distance running as part of his training regime. At 185 pounds, he is no pushover, and he has some muscle on that frame that would give any opposing defensive back trouble. Plus, his backflip would make for a cool touchdown celebration.