Jimmie Johnson is competing in two races over the next few days, and only one of them involves him being behind the wheel of a stock car.
On Sunday afternoon, he’ll drive the No. 48 car in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, where he won two months ago. Then about 48 hours later, Johnson will plunge into a lake in Waxhaw as he takes on some of the Charlotte area’s top triathletes in the Cane Creek Sprint Triathlon.
The latter race – the third event in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Wellness Challenge – will mark the defending Sprint Cup champion’s first triathlon since winning the 35-39 age group at the Over The Mountain Triathlon in Kings Mountain in May.
On one hand, Johnson said he isn’t stressing much about Tuesday night’s race.
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The distances at Cane Creek (a 500-yard swim, 13-mile bike and 5-kilometer run) total less than half that at Over The Mountain. He also hasn’t spent as much time on the bike this summer as he’d have liked. Plus, he said, “It’s really about raising awareness for the Foundation,” which is focused this year on supporting K-12 public education.
But at the same time, based on how he talks about his last triathlon, chances are good that he won’t hold back once he gets going in this one.
“At Over The Mountain, I came out of the water in the top 3 (in his age group),” said Johnson, 38. “On the bike, I slipped back to sixth, and on the run, I caught the leader. First I followed him for a bit to see how his legs were; when I went by him, the adrenaline rush I got was the same as the adrenaline rush in a race car. It was amazing. I guess racing for a win’s racing for a win – it doesn’t matter what the discipline is.”
His foundation’s Wellness Challenge, which is designed to promote fitness in the greater Charlotte area, also has included last month’s Lake Norman Excursion bike ride/5K and April’s Jimmie Johnson Foundation 5K. The final event in the series is the Lake Davidson Triathlon set for Sept. 7.
At his spring 5K, Johnson finished 13th out of more than 400 runners in a time of 19 minutes 6 seconds. Among the only people who beat him: Josh Wise, driver of the No. 98 car in the Sprint Cup Series, friend and training partner of Johnson’s, and finisher last November of Ironman Cozumel – a triathlon in Mexico comprising a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run.
That’s a challenge Johnson is eager to tackle himself one day.
“An Ironman is definitely on my wish list,” Johnson said. “I’m just struggling to manage it all from the time perspective, with the demands of the racing life and then with our second child, she’s almost a year old now.
“I think things will free up a little bit more for me in the next year or so as our youngest gets a little older, but I definitely have the desire. I feel like a full (Ironman) may work during the offseason, if I can time it right,” he said, before adding with a laugh: “And convince my wife it’s what I need to do with my free time.”