Jimmie Johnson goes back to high school

Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson breaks through a spirit banner during a
Texas football-style pep rally at Byron Nelson High School on
Wednesday in Trophy Club, Texas. Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson finally was able to experience the thrill of a high school pep rally. Johnson wasn’t the star of his high school football or basketball team. He chose water polo and swimming as his varsity athletics.

Bryon Nelson High School in Trophy Club, Texas, filled their gymnasium with more than 1,900 students for a NASCAR themed pep-rally. Chants of “Jimmie” “Johnson” and “Forty" "Eight” echoed through the gym as Texas Motor Speedway sent Jimmie Johnson off to compete for his sixth consecutive Sprint Cup championship this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Johnson was treated to an old-fashioned, Texas high school football pep rally complete with the band, cheerleaders, dance team, and the Byron Nelson High School Bobcat and Blue Man mascots. No rally is complete without Johnson busting through a student-made sprint banner that read “We Love Jimmie Johnson” and onto midcourt for his grand entrance.

The event was part of NASCAR’s Chase Across America program. This week NASCAR’s Top 12 are headed to markets hosting the Chase races to help raise awareness of the upcoming events.

Johnson addressed the students about his road to success, including determination, drive, and motivation it takes to reach the level of a champion. He also discussed safe driving with the students to include not texting and driving.

“The thing that led me through it all and led me to my career path was a passion and desire to follow my dreams,” Johnson said. “There is something in there that is leading you down a certain road for what your career is going to be and the type of person you are going to be in your life. Follow that. It’s easy to win, it’s easy to come out on top, but the moments I learned the most were the tough moments. In those moments, stop and look around a little bit and learn from it and I promise you’ll be proud of who you’ve become.”

Afterwards, Johnson did a Q&A session with the students that included an invite as a homecoming date. “Sure, but I’ll have to check my schedule first,” he said.

Johnson was presented with a No. 48 Bobcats football helmet and returned the favorite by presenting the principal with an autographed white racing helmet that featured the school’s logo on the side and the No. 48 on the back.

Johnson also had the opportunity to display his racing skills as he competed against Byron Nelson High School Principal Linda Parker and Polk in an office chair race. With fire extinguishers strapped tightly to the chairs to serve as the power boosts, the participants were sent hurdling across the court with Parker crossing the line first as Johnson was slowed by “Blue Man” hanging onto him for a ride.

Johnson also had the opportunity to meet with Peggy Nelson, widow of the legendary golfer and namesake of the school.

Johnson remains focused on capturing his sixth consecutive Sprint Cup championship and understands this may be his most difficult challenge yet. Johnson will start the Chase in the sixth position, far different from starting no worse than the top three in the previous five seasons. He is nine points behind co-leaders Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.

Despite entering the Chase with just one victory, Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team aren’t pressing the panic button. He remains focused on the final 10 races – including the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway – that will determine the champion.

“The first 26 is the regular season,” Johnson said. “What takes place in the final 10 really wins the championship. I hate that we missed some opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them in the regular season, but it’s in the past now and we just have to buckle down and get 10 good ones.”

The Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway is the seventh race in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Series.

- Info from Texas Motor Speedway
Jimmie Johnson goes back to high school Jimmie Johnson goes back to high school Reviewed by Kristin Weaver on Thursday, September 15, 2011 Rating: 5