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.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.