Posted on September 14, 2011 at 11:24 PM
TROPHY CLUB, Texas - It seemed like the perfect way for five-time Nascar Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson to start his run toward another championship.
"Well, it is," said Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage."It's been 25 years since I’ve been to a pep rally. This is a lot of fun."
The pep rally was courtesy of the 1,900 students of Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club.
"Blood's flowing, and it doesn't hurt," Johnson said, when he talked about getting ready for the Chase.
Johnson entered the gymnasium filled with screaming high school students.
"Wow," Johnson told the crowd. "What a welcome!"
And that was just the start. During a question and answer session, Johnson got a question from Sarah Rusinko.
"Hi I'm Sarah, and I was kind of wondering if you'd go to homecoming with me?" Rusinko asked. "It's here in a couple of weeks."
Once again the cheers were deafening.
"I hope my schedule is free, I’d love to go, but I doubt it is," Johnson replied.
In the previous five championships, Johnson averaged seven wins a season. This year, he took the checkered flag just once. That was in Talladega.
"At this point, I feel I have very little to lose," Johnson said. "I'm a realist. I know at some point, the run will stop. I'm going to do everything in my power to continue to win. Pressure is a weird thing. It'll show up and hit everyone at some point. I believe the guy with the most experience kind of has the upper hand."
Before Johnson left for Chicago to start the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, he raced the school's principal and its head football coach in chairs powered by fire extinguishers.
It turns out that principal Linda Parker beat the five-time NASCAR champion, who had trouble finishing.
"It was very special time for me!" said Parker. "I was just awed. I think I'm a race car fan forever now. I saw the flag go down; I took advantage of the situation. That's what we do.”
Then the students were given an added treat.
"Jimmie just gave each of you a ticket to the November 6th AAA Texas 500, so you want to come and see Jimmie race?" Gossage asked the crowd.
So if they want, they will all have access to Texas Motor Speedway on November 6th, when the chase comes back to town. Then we'll see just how close Johnson is to winning that 6th straight championship.