6-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson talks Sochi Olympics

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Six-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is set to begin another title defense this Sunday at the Daytona 500.

But in the lead-up to the big race, he’s also been watching as much of the Sochi Olympics as he can when not inside his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

As a regular viewer, Johnson says he’s been captivated by what he calls “the speed stuff” in this year’s Winter Games.

“The downhill, snowboarding, bobsled, the guys on the skeleton – and the girls too – they’re crazy and they’re fun to watch,” Johnson told NASCAR on NBC reporter Marty Snider.

He also noted the similarities between what bobsledders like Steven Holcomb and Elana Meyers do and what he and his own peers do at Daytona.

MORE: Humphries/Moyse defend Olympic women’s bobsled title

“That’s probably the most similar discipline [to NASCAR],” Johnson said. “It’s propelled by them so they need to get off the start fine, but controlling the sled down the – I don’t know what they call it, the road, the track, whatever it is – it’s pretty nuts.

“They have the big banked turns like we do in NASCAR and they can touch the wall a little bit more than we can and redirect themselves, but it just looks like such a cool rush and there’s so many great stories that come from it.”

You can hear more of Johnson’s thoughts on the Olympics and on Sunday’s “Great American Race” in the video above.

And don’t forget to watch the debut episode of NASCAR AMERICA – this Monday at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t go quite as planned, but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”