Jimmie Johnson is the face of fitness in NASCAR. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion recently let Gatorade and its 'Beat the Heat' program tag along with him for the race weekend at Watkins Glen International -- a race weekend in which Johnson is known for taking a mammoth bike ride of 65 miles the Saturday before the race under the hot August sun. "As I've kind of evolved in the sport and grew in the sport, I can see how I can do a better job as an individual to be as sharp in the car physically, mentally," Johnson said. "I've been through a few different variations of the type of training that I've done … if you want to be fast, you've got to suffer." NASCAR has evolved over the years; now, drivers and the crew members make fitness, nutrition and hydration a big part of their preparation and routine to gain an edge on their competition. Johnson specifically has started doing triathlons to help refine his car driving skills; endurance training both physically and mentally prepares him for the intensity of a race. Each race weekend, Johnson bikes and runs several miles between practice, qualifying and the race to keep in top shape for driving his car. The NASCAR community has developed a group of crew members and drivers who gather each race weekend for a long cycling ride, around 60 miles, to take in the surrounding area. RELATED : Junior breaks one of Jimmie's bikes
Regan Smith and Billy Johnson get together during the Johnsonville Sausage 200 Presented by Menards at Road America.
Following the Johnsonville Sausage 200 presented by Menards at Road America Max Papis has a few words with Billy Johnson .
Before the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM), the NASCAR Sprint Cup pilots came out during driver introductions to songs they chose. Check out the list below in the order they were introduced, starting with last-place qualifier Mike Bliss and ending with Coors Light Pole Award winner Denny Hamlin . 43rd place) Mike Bliss - "Hells Bells" by AC/DC 42nd place) Matt DiBenedetto - "I Love Rock 'n Roll" by Joan Jett 41st place) Timmy Hill - "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silento 40th place) Tony Stewart - "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple 39th place) Landon Cassill - "Smooth" by Santana 38th place) J.J. Yeley - "Devil in Disguise" by Elvis Presley 37th place) David Gilliland - Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue 36th place) Alex Bowman - "Bring Me The Horizon" by Throne 35th place) Michael Annett - "Bernie Lean" by Bernie Dance 34th place) Josh Wise - "Dixieland Delight" by Alabama 33rd place) Cole Whitt - "Armor For The Lord" by Blake Whiteley 32nd place) Danica Patrick - "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner 31st place) Aric Almirola - "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar 30th place Michael McDowell "Nothing I Can't Do" by Tedashii 29th place) Paul Menard - "Symphony of Destruction" by Megadeth 28th place Casey Mears "Fuel" by Metallica 27th place) Brett Moffitt - "Cowboy" by Kid Rock 26th place) Sam Hornish Jr . - "Touch of Grey" by Grateful Dead 25th place) AJ Allmendinger - "Tainted Love" by Marilyn Manson 24th place) Jeff Gordon - "E.I." by Nelly 23rd place) Martin Truex Jr . - "La Grange" by ZZ Top 22nd place) Trevor Bayne - "Back Where I Come From" by Kenny Chesney 21st place) Jamie McMurray - "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith 20th place) Dale Earnhardt Jr . - "Eminence Front" by The Who 19th place) Kasey Kahne - "Cherry Bomb" by John Mellencamp 18th place) Ryan Newman - "Good Ol' Boys" by Waylon Jennings 17th place) Greg Biffle - "Wild Side" by Motley Crue 16th place) Austin Dillon - "Move" by Ludacris 15th place) Ryan Blaney - "Even Flow" by Pearl Jam 14th place) Justin Allgaier - "Ready Set Roll" by Chase Rice 13th place) Matt Kenseth - "Stife" by Trivium 12th place) Kyle Larson - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" by Elton John 11th place) Kurt Busch - "Party Up (Up In Here)" by DMX 10th place) Jimmie Johnson - "Renegades" by X Ambassadors 9th place) Clint Bowyer - "Going Through the Big D" by Mark Chesnutt 8th place) Ricky Stenhouse Jr . - "The Stroke" by Billy Squier 7th place) Kevin Harvick - "Real Life" by Jake Owen 6th place) Brad Keselowski - "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg 5th place) Joey Logano - "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by Dropkick Murphys 4th place) David Ragan - "Only In America" by Brooks and Dunn 3rd place) Carl Edwards - "Juke Box Hero" by Foreigner 2nd place) Kyle Busch - DJ Barry 1st place) Denny Hamlin - "Heart Upon My Sleeve" by Avicii
RELATED: Full results from Bristol " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After the tumultuous week that was for Michael Waltrip Racing , the embattled team was neatly set up for a double ray of Saturday night sunshine in the sport's most prestigious nighttime event. The much-needed shot in the arm wound up being a split decision at Bristol Motor Speedway, owing to a doubly unfortunate late-race collision between the organization's two teammates. Clint Bowyer 's determined drive in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race wrapped up a fifth-place finish, the No. 15 Toyota team's fourth top-10 effort in the last five events and a solidifying boost to his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs footing. Teammate David Ragan -- poised to join his teammate in the front-running quintet -- exited early, catching the worst of the Lap 371 tangle that dented both MWR entries. RELATED: See what happened to Ragan "Damn, you hate to have two good cars and the last person you want to get into and have trouble with is your teammate," Bowyer said. "I've been sick to death about that. We had two top-five cars and MWR really needed that run." Michael Waltrip Racing announced Wednesday that it would cease its full schedule of Sprint Cup participation at season's end, granting Bowyer his release. But in the same announcement, team co-owner Rob Kauffman stressed that "MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season." RELATED: MWR won't field full-time entries in 2016 Both Bowyer and Ragan clearly took the "race hard" portion of the statement to heart, putting both cars into the top 10 of the starting lineup. Ragan moved as high as third in the running order, picking up six spots on a long green-flag run after the 500-lapper's midway point. That charge placed him right behind Bowyer, who stormed into the top five after a series of early gains. The high hopes went haywire, though, just four laps after a Lap 368 restart. Bowyer and Ragan bottled up on the low side of Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 Chevrolet, which forced the two MWR cars to make contact in a three-abreast clash at the exit of Turn 2. Ragan's No. 55 Toyota spun low, resulting in severe contact with the inside retaining wall. Bowyer righted himself and continued, but made contact with Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Ford at the end of the straightaway, looping the No. 15. From there, Bowyer was able to stay on the lead lap and methodically rally again, edging Keselowski for the last spot among the top five. "We desperately needed a solid run right there," Bowyer said. "I mean, obviously, you're hungry for a win with this organization giving everything it had. I drove my ass off. It just ... we just came up short. I’m really proud of all of these guys on the 5-hour Energy Toyota. They're digging, man. It's fun to be a part of this. It's fun to be a part of a group that can answer the call when you gotta dig down and reach down a little bit more to get in that Chase and be a part of that elite group. These guys are up for the challenge." The outcome was more disheartening for Ragan, who was closing in on his first top-five or top-10 since joining Michael Waltrip Racing as an interim driver in May. "It's uncalled for to get wrecked and to be involved in a wreck like that but all in all just one of those racing things," Ragan said. "… Anytime you're in that top five or with a chance to win, it's disappointing. This is one of my favorite races and we did the best we could." MWR's silver lining, though, came from Bowyer, who improved his grip on the 16th and final berth in the provisional Chase grid. His top-five allowed him to increase his margin from 23 to 35 points over nearest challenger Aric Almirola , Saturday night's 17th-place finisher. Though the No. 15 team is mindful of what it needs to become playoff-eligible in the remaining two regular-season races, crew chief Billy Scott said the crew hasn't let it alter their strategy or outlook. "We try to put that on the back burner," Scott said. "Until Richmond, it really doesn't matter. All you can do is look after yourself and get the best finish we can right now. When we get down to the last few at Richmond, it might matter with your strategy a little bit to keep an eye on where they are, but if we keep doing what we need to, it'll take care of itself."
Pair start building relationship, talk upcoming races after crew chief swap DARLINGTON, S.C. – Crew chief Billy Scott and driver Clint Bowyer wasted no time in starting to build their relationship as teammates, hitting Darlington Raceway for testing the same day Michael Waltrip Racing officials announced a crew chief swap for its’ two-team NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operation. Bowyer’s No. 15 team was one of four taking part in Tuesday’s Goodyear tire test at the historic 1.366-mile venue and was one of 12 participating in Wednesday’s open team test. Scott, previously the crew chief for the organization’s No. 55 Toyota, is now overseeing the Bowyer entry; Brian Pattie, who had served as Bowyer’s crew chief, is now with the No. 55 group and driver. The pit crews for the two teams remain unchanged, although Scott said there were some individuals in other positions that made the switch as well. Wednesday’s open team test provided teams the opportunity to prepare for the Bojangles’ Southern 500, scheduled for Sept. 6. “There are different aspects that have been kind of building up to it,” Scott said of the crew chief change. “The timing, even though it’s been short notice, coming to the test here with cars that were prepared differently (and) going to Michigan before the off week is short planning, but I think the timing is good that we do have the test here for the 15 and next week for the 55 (at Richmond) to give everybody a chance to work together. “The off week (which follows this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway ) will be a good chance to review that and make some tweaks.” Bowyer will be the fifth driver with whom Scott has worked this season as team co-owner Michael Waltrip , Brian Vickers , Brett Moffitt and David Ragan have spent time behind the wheel of the No. 55 entry. Vickers, the team’s primary driver, was sidelined after just two starts due to a recurrence of blood clots while Ragan has been in the car for the five Sprint Cup Series events. Bowyer and Pattie have worked side-by-side since 2012 at MWR, winning three times and qualifying for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2012-13. Currently 17 th in the points standings, Bowyer’s managed just three top 10s this season and has led only two laps. “Hopefully having that experience (with different drivers), learning somebody new and adapting on the fly will help us,” said Scott, who added that building a relationship with Bowyer will be no different than building one with any of his former drivers. “That’s always evolving even for guys that have been together for years; you can always improve on that,” he said. “But … we’ve been in meetings together for three-and-a-half years already and he’s a pretty easy-going guy so hopefully we should pick up pretty quick.” It won’t be necessarily a change in the direction of the team, but just a different approach perhaps. “The communication at … Michael Waltrip Racing has always been very fluent among all the teams whether it’s been two or three,” said Scott. “Everyone’s worked on the same goals … I think maybe just having a different perspective and just some small details might be enough to just switch it up, get that little spark.” Bowyer, taking a lunch time break from testing, said MWR has “to make our cars better … to give ( Billy ) a chance. “Communication can always be better and that’s what we’re working on with this change,” he said. “Something’s needed. It’s not like he is coming in, having to learn everything. We’re only a two-car team so they worked pretty tight anyway. My engineer, Dax (Gerringer) is a guy that I’ve work with really closely with since I’ve been at MWR. I’m just looking forward to gaining a new asset, a new voice. We’ve certainly got a lot of work to do.” Other drivers taking part in Wednesday’s test: Aric Almirola ( Richard Petty Motorsports ), Greg Biffle ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Kurt Busch ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Jimmie Johnson ( Hendrick Motorsports ), Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) and Jeb Burton ( BK Racing ). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Much like their fellow NASCAR drivers who are deservedly spending the season's final off-week relaxing on a beach or jet-setting to some exotic location, Landon Cassill and Josh Wise are using the rare downtime to travel and enjoy the scenic Austrian Alps. The difference, however, is that these two Sprint Cup drivers won't be sightseeing or taking leisurely day hikes. They will be experiencing one of the world's most beautiful regions while competing in the elite Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Zell am See-Kaprun outside Salzburg, Austria on Sunday. Their breathtaking views will be just that as they swim 1.2-miles in Lake Zell, bike 56 miles through the glacier-tipped Alps and then finish with a 13.1-mile run along the lakeshore and through the area's small villages in one of the world's most grueling and prestigious physical competitions. "When we looked at the schedule both of us had aspirations to qualify for the 70.3 or Kona (Ironman 140.6 in Hawaii)," explained Wise. "The Worlds happened to fall on our last off weekend and there was a qualifier on the next to last off weekend. "It looked like this is a once in a lifetime chance. It's a bucket list goal just to qualify, but to have opportunity to do Austria was super special and it just felt like it was meant to be." But not without a lot of work. Anyone who still dismisses the athletic ability of NASCAR drivers would have a losing argument when it comes to the training regimen of Cassill, 26, and Wise, 32, who have taken their dedication to fitness and competition to a new level. RELATED: Johnson : 'If you want to be fast, you've got to suffer' More often than not, these two drivers show up at the race track having already swam, biked or run for miles and hours before some of their competitors have even rolled out of bed. Their dedication and commitment means a 5 a.m. wake-up call even on race weekends and using a special "Swim Radar" app to find a public pool near the race track that's open early enough and will allow them to swim. They've done their laps everywhere from the small town YMCA to the pool at Ohio State University. They strategically place their long bike rides as well and that can be tricky -- both finding a safe route close to the track and "not getting lost," Wise joked. They did a 60-mile bike ride after qualifying at Indianapolis this summer and squeezed in a 20-miler between practices at Pocono. Last week at Bristol, the two swam a mile and a half and ran five miles before the night race. Cassill did his World Cup qualifier in Muncie, Ind. during NASCAR's Kentucky Speedway race weekend, flying to Muncie after the Friday night XFINITY race, competing in the 70.3-mile triathalon Saturday morning then returning to Kentucky Speedway for the Cup race that night. "That was a little test of endurance," Cassill said. "Saturday morning I got my qualifying slot and flew back and raced Saturday night (at Bristol). I felt pretty good." Both Cassill and Wise say that competitive spirit lift is an important motivation for both. Driving for small, lower-funded Sprint Cup Series teams, they are admittedly not contending for wins every week. Success in the triathalons not only is a huge fitness benefit to them both, but gives them a sense of accomplishment and success. "I think a big part of the inspiration to do this has to do with obviously with the benefit of what it does for us in the car, but for us, we drive for small teams and we don't have a chance to win every race in a car and when you're doing that for 38 weeks in a row, it can get taxing," said Cassill, the 2008 XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year who now drives the No. 40 Hillman-Smith Chevrolet in the Cup Series and the No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevy in the XFINITY Series. "This is something for us, we can control and it really just helps that confidence in the garage just to know what we're capable of with our bodies and pushing ourselves to the limit. To me, it's a confidence builder." Wise, who scored a career-best 10th at Talladega in May driving the No. 98 Ford, agreed. "It's an amazing competitive outlet," he said. "There's not a lot of things that you can do that you have so much control over. It goes back to the alarm clock. Are you going to get up and get the swim in and the running before you go to work? It's your choice. With the sport we're in, people don't realize all the external factors there are that you can't control." "When our cars aren't driving right or we're communicating with our crew in the midst of battling with someone, I feel the mental gain from the type of work we do off the track even beyond the physical. "I'm far beyond physically where I need to be, but mentally I can still continue to push myself, my body and my brain to dig deeper. When you can overcome every cell in your body shutting you down and you have to mentally force your legs to pick up and move in a run, there is a mental strength that comes from that. "I feel there's a real specificity to what we do that applies to our type of racing." The benefits go beyond just them personally. "My team has so much confidence in me that although they may not see me during the week, they don't have a doubt in their mind that I'm still working; that I’m trying to make myself the fittest race car driver, the best race car driver I can be, focused and prepared," Cassill said. "It's important because when teams are fighting for sponsorship, tough finishes the wheels can come off and you want to instill in your team that you're doing everything you can." Their pursuit is not only recognized by their team members but in the garage and bigger NASCAR community as well. While these two drivers don’t typically generate the same racing headlines as their good friend and frequent training partner, six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson , they do have his great respect -- especially with this weekend's Ironman in Austria. "My hat is off to Josh and Landon," Johnson said. "They've put in the hard work. I've watched them get very serious about it. They are both faster than me (smiling) and I'm so proud of them." All three drivers are confident that this kind of extreme cross training will be more prevalent on the starting grid in coming years. It's a visibly growing group of cyclists that join Johnson , Wise and Cassill on the bike rides during race weekend downtime or meet up at a nearby public pool for some laps. " Jimmie Johnson , in my opinion, sparked that fire by winning six championships and being the fittest driver the sport has ever seen," Cassill said. "We are in some ways just copycatting what he did. Eventually, a lot of the drivers that have the skill -- and have had the success in the past -- but aren't consistently getting the success now are going to start getting pressure from their owners and sponsors that will say they're sick of getting of their butts kicked from these fit drivers, you need to do something. "I think in the next five to 10 years you're going to see a lot more of our drivers getting fitter and fitter," Cassill continued. "I think our sport is going to go through similar transition that golf saw and I compare our sport to golf because it's a skill sport. It takes a certain skill and technique to swing a golf club and it takes a certain skill and technique to drive a race car. It doesn't necessarily take athleticism to drive a race car or hit a golf ball, but athleticism enhances that skill." This weekend Cassill and Wise will be representing their sport on a world platform and just qualifying for the world championship in the midst of a busy and demanding NASCAR season is already a huge accomplishment. "There are a lot of cyclists in the garage and people that know what's going on. I had a lot of people asking me about this weekend at the Bristol race and crew members wishing me good luck," Cassill said. "Obviously a lot of text messages from my team wishing me good luck." "I'd love to set a new PR (personal record), I feel like I try to do that at every race. But just another finish would be a win. This is a very challenging event and this is a world championship event so the competition is a lot tougher than I've competed against."
Six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson gave us a quick look into Saturday night's wedding reception for the union of his crew chief, Chad Knaus, and former Miss Sprint Cup Brooke Werner. "Such a fun night, congrats Mr. & Mrs. Knaus," Johnson tweeted . RELATED: SHR driver announces engagement Knaus and Werner weren't the only two NASCAR couples tying the knot during the Sprint Cup Series off-week. BK Racing driver Matt DiBenedetto married his longtime girlfriend Taylor and shared his excitement on Twitter. On behalf of NASCAR.com, congrats to the new happy couples and props on the killer dance moves, Knaus.
See the throwback look for the HMS No. 48 for Labor Day weekend RELATED: Buy tickets for Darlington " SHOP: No. 48 gear Jimmie Johnson is the latest to reveal a throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). The driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet will sport a Lowe's Home Improvement logo that was used throughout the 1940s and 50s, shortly after the company's founding in 1946 and during the time when Darlington Raceway opened (1950). RELATED: See another Darlington scheme Johnson has won at Darlington three times, with the most recent victory coming in 2012. He has 12 top-10 finishes in 16 starts at the track. Other drivers to carry the Lowe's colors include Brett Bodine and Mike Skinner before the logo found its home with Johnson's No. 48. MORE: Get your gear for Darlington https://t.co/td17FscWk0 — Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) August 15, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart have a puzzling day at Watkins Glen as Johnson has early troubles by missing the inner loop on Lap 5 and later on Lap 56 spins out. Stewart, also on Lap 56, has car troubles that take him out of the race.