DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson has eyes on a possible IndyCar ride. Oh, and Formula One. Sports cars, mountain bikes, off-road racing, downhill skiing, just about any mode of transport that goes fast.
Just don’t expect the seven-time NASCAR champion to make his 2021 plans any time soon.
Like anyone headed into a retirement, as loose as that definition may be with the 44-year-old Johnson, he is taking his time deciding what he wants to do in the second half of his life.
But he sure has options.
“There hasn’t been any specific plans thrown at me, but I’ve had everything from sanctioning bodies to team owners far and wide” reach out, Johnson said Wednesday at Daytona 500 media day.
Johnson has long expressed a desire to test his mettle in other series. But each time he’s spotted puttering around other tracks — like this week’s visit to an IndyCar test in Texas — fans and pundits think they know how the Magic 8 ball will shake out.
“I don’t want to say an oval would be completely out of the question, the right oval would be important,” Johnson said.
The outlook is still cloudy where or when or for who he’d like to race.
“I don’t have anything planned,” Johnson said. “It’s just kind of hanging out, looking around, seeing what it’s like and seeing what develops as the year goes on.”
Johnson also said “when the time is right” he will give his input on who replaces him in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
Corey LaJoie presented Rick Hendrick with a handwritten letter stating his case to replace Johnson next year. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott said other drivers have yet to pitch Johnson about taking the seat.
“Those aren’t conversations I don’t think you have a whole lot with other drivers or friends much,” Elliott said.
There appears to be public peace between Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
Keselowski was furious at his teammate and accused Logano of throwing unnecessary blocks that triggered one of the two wrecks in the final nine laps of the Busch Clash.
“We shouldn’t be wrecking all these cars. You’d think these guys would be smarter than that. It’s the same thing over and over, somebody throws a stupid block that’s never going to work and wrecks half the field,” Keselowski said after the race.
Logano said he talked with Keselowski and the two former NASCAR champions smoothed over their differences.
“I had no clue. I was like, ‘Hey, what are you mad about?’ Let’s talk about it,’” Logano said. “I just explained my side of the story. You know how it is, you get out of the car, you’re frustrated, you’re mad. Your emotions are running high, you haven’t watched anything and they stick a microphone in your like this and tell you, ‘What happened out there?’”
Keselowski said Wednesday he wanted to keep his conversation with Logano private, and that “I’ve said what I wanted to say.”
Denny Hamlin has a helipad at his house and travels by helicopter for recreational purposes. He also estimated that using a private plane for NASCAR travel allowed him to save the equivalent of an extra full week at home.
But the death of Kobe Bryant and others last month in a helicopter crash and last year’s scare when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family escaped a plane in flames following a crash has given him pause.
“It certainly makes you think and second-guess your choices,” Hamlin said. “Kobe and those guys have been doing it for a very long time. I have a lot of faith in the people in the aviation department. Look at a lot of the crashes that have happened, a most of them have been human error or bad choices that have been made. We always try to hedge on the safe side when it comes to conditions and things like that. It’s so unfortunate, but these things happen.”
BUSCH AND THE WHITE HOUSE
NASCAR champion Kyle Busch said he has not yet been invited to the White House but “absolutely” would attend the celebration often extended to the reigning champ.
“It’s the White House, man. Just go,” Busch said. “Take in the celebration and have an opportunity to meet the president. I met the last one and wouldn’t mind meeting this one. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are. It’s just a matter of being able to go and have the celebration and the accolades of winning a championship.”
Busch won the 2015 title and was honored the next year at the White House by President Barack Obama. Joey Logano and his 2018 championship team were recognized last year at the White House by President Donald Trump.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a flight restriction for Sunday indicating that Trump is expected to attend the Daytona 500.
MAY THE (DOWN)FORCE BE WITH YOU
Best buds Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace spent Tuesday at the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Blaney is a noted “Star Wars” fanatic and has tattoos from movie scenes on his right leg. He even dressed up in a skimpy Princess Leia costume for Halloween.
Blaney looked like an awe-struck kid as he walked through the maze of attractions and had to educate a novice like Wallace on the intricacies of the movies. They got to pilot the Millennium Falcon — the ride passed inspection — and engaged in a lighthearted lightsaber duel.
“He was skeptical coming here at first, and then I think we got here and he saw all the detail that they put into it and you’ve got to appreciate that,” Blaney said. “He may not be the biggest fan of the movies but I think maybe he’s coming along a little bit. We’ll keep working on it.”
Blaney laughed as he alluded to the Falcon when he called his banged-up Ford from the Busch Clash “a hunk of junk.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made the most of his shot at winning the Daytona 500 pole.
One of his rewards is a Michael Jordan autographed bottle of Cincoro Tequila. Stenhouse had a group of friends that played golf at Jordan’s course and surprised him with the bottle.
Stenhouse missed the golf outing and as he made the media rounds had Fox’s hair and makeup department in fits trying to figure out how to style his frizzed-up mullet.
“I don’t know what do with that,” the hairdresser told him.
ACT OF KINDNESS
Clint Bowyer made a random family’s day at Disney World.
The 40-year-old driver found a wallet while visiting the theme park Tuesday. Instead of turning it in and letting Disney security handle it, Bowyer took to social media to see if he could help the family out faster.
“This is something people save years for,” he said. “It has his license in it, her license, both their credit cards. We were like, ‘Oh, my God. We’ve got to find this guy. He is super screwed.’ Literally, the power of social media. I think it was 10 minutes — I’ll give you 12 max — the guy was right in front of us. We found him.”
Bowyer said a similar situation happened to him over the winter. He left his wallet in an Uber at a sporting event, and two days later a man found him on social media.
“Forever, I will return that favor,” Bowyer said.