CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jimmie Johnson pulled out his phone on Tuesday to show that his alarm always is set on 6:48 a.m. He usually sets the microwave for a minute and 48 seconds, and he has been known to share what his fortune cookie says.
I once saw the five-time defending Sprint Cup champion go back to a candy basket at a restaurant in Daytona Beach half a dozen times until he got one close to the blue color of his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.
But Johnson insists he's not superstitious, particularly about being on the upcoming cover of Sports Illustrated.
"There's a curse?" Johnson asked a group of reporters Tuesday during an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Well, yeah. It's kind of famous as far as curses go.
It began in 1954 with Atlanta Braves third baseman Eddie Matthews. Shortly after he appeared on the cover in the magazine's inaugural year, Mathews broke his hand and missed seven games.
The list goes on and on. In 1958, race driver Pat O'Conner was killed on the first lap of the Indianapolis 500 four days after appearing on the cover. In 1956, Indy 500 winner Bob Sweikert was killed in a Sprint Car crash three weeks after his cover shot.
More recently, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler appeared on the Jan. 19, 2011 cover and promptly injured his knee in a loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Not everyone falls victim to this curse, mind you. Michael Jordan appeared on the cover 49 times and did pretty well for himself with six NBA titles and countless MVP awards.
"It didn't seem to bother me in '06 or '07, or whenever we were on it," Johnson said.
Actually, it was November 2008. By then Johnson had won his third straight title.
This appearance, though, comes in the heat of a playoff run, which Johnson is handling just fine with consecutive second- and first-place finishes to move within four points of leader Carl Edwards.
"There is nothing to worry about," said Johnson, destined to be one of the Hall's most prestigious members. "If I lose the championship it has nothing to do with being on the cover of a magazine. It means we didn't do our jobs or had some bad luck.
"I think talk about a curse thing is a bunch of B.S."