Off the Grid: Johnson talks guitar, 'Game of Thrones'

July 16, 2014, Holly Cain,

Six-time Sprint Cup Series champion lets into his off-track life

In this edition of "Off the Grid", caught up with six-time and reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

This series focuses on drivers away from the race track, their life "off the grid."

What are their other interests; most impactful life experiences? What makes them laugh? What do they value most in their friends and family?

The questions will be different each week, but the answers are always revealing, varied and, quite often, surprising.

Here's what Jimmie has to say:

"Even if I just finished a 600-mile race, I have to drive home."

-- Jimmie Johnson on who drives their street car, he or wife Chandra

In a nod to the recent FIFA World Cup in Brazil, would you be better as goalkeeper trying to save a penalty kick or would you prefer being the player taking the penalty kick to score?

Johnson: "I'd rather take the kick. I played a little soccer in school and I'm always out there running around.''

What is one thing you miss being able to do now that you could do before becoming a sports celebrity?

Johnson: "The first thing that comes to mind is going back to the local deserts where I grew up (in Southern California) and also trips to the Colorado River. I have so many awesome memories as a kid camping and riding and swimming. I'm so busy now I don't get a chance. Now that my oldest (daughter, Genevieve) is 4, I got her a four-wheeler and I have an idea in mind that we come back out West in a year or two. I can get a motorhome and take the four-wheelers out there in the desert and go riding with her."

On the other hand, what is the biggest perk of being a celebrity?

Johnson: "The first perk is I get to do what I love. That's always number one. And it doesn't hurt when you want a dinner reservation. That doesn't suck. (laughing)''

What is one movie guaranteed to always make you laugh out loud?

Johnson: "Chris Rock's "Never Scared." The stand-up he does is absolutely hilarious from start to finish."

What is your favorite book from childhood?
Johnson: "That's easy. I have it still and have been reading to Genevieve, 'The Giving Tree.' It's still got my name and date in it, the whole thing, my mom wrote when I was a kid."

What is your favorite candy bar?

Johnson: "That's tough. I like them frozen so really anything frozen is good. I just had some frozen Kit Kats yesterday that were awesome.''

What is the one place in the world you've never been to, but would like to visit?

Johnson: "There's some fascination with seeing China. I'd like to see Indonesia. I've been to Australia and it was awesome. I love to travel. Chani is interested to go to India and fascinated by that. We love seeing the different cultures and traveling."

Complete this sentence, "My musical ability consists of. …"

Johnson: "Hitting play on my iPod (laughing).

"Right before Evie was born I spent a winter trying to sort out acoustic guitar and it just wasn't coming easily. Many have told me I should start on electric and work my way to acoustic. I love it and badly want to but it just never gets high enough on the priority list."

What is your last random act of kindness?

Johnson: "On Twitter, someone reached out and asked for a Make a Wish for her dad. He has a condition and losing physical abilities pretty quickly, so I'm trying to help get him to the race track at Pocono.''

Which race car driver -- living or not -- would you most want to sit down and have a beer with?

Johnson: "For me, there's such a curiosity for Earnhardt. Here I am in the sport chasing marks he's set, but I didn't really know him. I still have ability to see Richard Petty or Jeff Gordon. I know them. I can go see them. With Dale, I have nothing really other than one time when he tried to scare me at the track. Not knowing him, that's a real void for me.''

What is your guilty pleasure TV show?

Johnson: "We don't watch a lot of TV, but we're current on "Homeland" and trying to get caught up on 'Game on Thrones.' "

You spend so much time behind the steering wheel on track, do you prefer to ride or drive in a street car?

Johnson: "I have to drive, I get motion sickness. Even if just finished 600-mile race, I have to drive home.''


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