Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 3/21/12

Just ask Jimmie Johnson and he will tell you that he loves his native California weather. No brown leaves and grey sky for him. The El Cajon, Calif., native grew up racing in the deserts of California, where the sunshine was plentiful. While racing was a family affair, there were other activities the Johnson family enjoyed, including family camping trips to the river. Johnson once tested jet skis as a summer job and knows how to use a surf board.

While NASCAR racing wasn’t prevalent in the area, the old Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway was a popular destination, and Johnson and his father Gary once attended the races with the younger Johnson looking through the fence, longing to get a driver’s autograph. Little did he know he would be on the other side of that fence years later.

The route to NASCAR’s premiere Sprint Cup Series wasn’t immediate for Johnson, however. He would start on motorcycles at age 5, eventually giving up that sport to concentrate on off-road and stadium racing with backing from Chevrolet, where he would race with his heroes – motocross champion Rick Johnson (no relation) and Ivan “Ironman” Stewart.

While there’s no definitive correlation that Johnson’s off-road racing helps him at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., the venue for Sunday’s Auto Club 400, there is no denying he excels at the 2-mile paved oval. He has the highest driver rating and has the most wins (five) among active drivers. He is also the only driver with an average start in the top-10 (9.1). Even more impressive, Johnson has an average finish of 5.1 in 17 races there.

While racing was the young Californian’s dream, his dominance at his hometown track is a definite reality.

Jimmie Johnson interview:

Talk about going racing in Fontana this weekend.

“I’ve been really successful at Auto Club Speedway. It’s my home track. We got our first Sprint Cup career win there in ’02, so it’s a special track to me. I definitely always see some friends and family while we are out there. I remember last year, we were very close to victory lane, about three-quarters of a mile away from the trophy, but Kevin Harvick found a way around the outside. So, I know we’ll go there and be very competitive this time.”

Headed to Fontana, I guess they could call you “five-time” there. What is your most memorable of those five victories at Fontana?

“For sure, my first win. That was everything to me and my career. I knew driving Jeff’s (Gordon) equipment that, if I didn’t win after he came off a championship season and basically handed me his cars, I was going to be in trouble. So to win in my 13th start and 10th race of that season, that is my most memorable win, period.”

How special is it to be running the Jimmie Johnson Foundation car?

“To be able to do this is very special to (wife) Chani and me. We couldn’t do it without the support of Lowe’s, though. They are the ones who allow this to happen, and we really appreciate it. I’m proud of what we have been able to do to help the communities where Chani and I grew up and now live, and this is just a cool way to bring attention those causes. By letting us have the foundation logos on the car, it lets us get the word out about the things the foundation is involved in.”

 

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio shows all across the world. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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