Jimmie Johnson on sunrise runs and inebriated fans

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In order to compete at the highest level of motorsports, a driver needs to be every bit a “well-oiled machine” as the literal well-oiled machine he or she drives.

Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has long recognized this, and so, he’ll often go out for runs at the track during race weekends.

Considering that we’re talking about one of the sport’s biggest stars, you think this would be problematic, with over-zealous fans attempting to ask him for autographs while he’s trying to train.

But as it turns out, it’s not.

“Most of them have got to catch me first and they’re usually not sober enough or in shape enough to do that,” Johnson said yesterday at Dover, where he hopes to win for the ninth time in his Sprint Cup career this weekend.

Sometimes, Johnson will choose to go for a sunrise run, perhaps to help with the matter of being recognized. But as he or anybody else that hangs out at a track knows, the first light of morning can reveal some hilarious (and cringe-inducing) sights.

“There’s a variety of tracks where an early morning run is more entertaining than it is a workout,” said Johnson, who noted Talladega Superspeedway’s “Talladega Blvd.” and Texas Motor Speedway among those places. “You see people halfway in their tents and still passed out in lawn chairs and all kinds of good things.”

However, he’s not above breaking a sweat in the afternoon, either. That, of course, leads to fans getting a glimpse of him but Johnson says they’re kind enough to give him his space.

“In the afternoons, I’ll run this afternoon, usually people see me coming, they think; and as they go by they’ll say, ‘Hey Jimmie, is that you?’,” he said. “And I’ll wave and give them a thumbs-up or something and keep on digging.

“Guys on bikes and golf carts can run you down. But they’re usually pretty good about it.”

Red Bull Air Race: Yoshi Muroya joins Sato as Japanese champs at Indy

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
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Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.

Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.

Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.

A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.

A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.

CHECKING OUT EACH OTHER’S RIDES

ASTLES BREAKS THOUGH AS WELL

Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool