JJ and crew cut loose, have fun

February, 25, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The image of five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team has been vanilla in the minds of those who don't really know them.



That might change if people get to see the video of Johnson, on top of the No. 48 hauler parked on the front stretch of Daytona International Speedway, doing the Harlem Shake with his crew dancing below.

It happened at about 9:15 p.m. ET on Sunday, four hours after Johnson won his second Daytona 500.

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Jimmie Johnson
Special to ESPN.comJimmie Johnson performs the Harlem Shake atop his hauler at Daytona International Speedway as his crew plays along Sunday night.

The good news is Johnson didn't fall off the hauler and break his wrist, as he did while surfing the top of a golf cart after winning the 2006 championship, in which he won his first Daytona 500.

"No broken wrist! I survived," Johnson said with a laugh during Monday morning's championship breakfast.

Was anybody concerned?

"I have concerns about him all the time," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "I'm not going to lie, I did have some flashbacks to broken wrists on top of the golf cart and all that. We were keeping everybody in check pretty good."

This priceless moment was totally impromptu. Knaus wanted a picture of the 48 hauler parked on the front stretch of DIS with the track logo painted in the background.

"One of the pit crew guys jumped up and said, 'Let's do the Harlem Shake,' " Knaus said of the contemporary dance that has gone viral on YouTube. "I was, 'All right. Let's see if we can get this thing rolling.'

"We found a photographer from somewhere. He was on a motorcycle. He went back and got his tripod. It was funny."

And it defied the image of Johnson and the 48 team.

"People don't understand what this team is about," Knaus said. "We're serious racers. We want to come out, race to win. And when we have an opportunity, we have a good time. That's the way this team has always been and always will be.

"Jimmie is a guy that likes to have a lot of fun. I like to have a lot of fun. But when it's time to get to work, we work."

Johnson won the 500 in workmanlike fashion, being patient most of the day and then surging to the front with about 16 laps remaining.

Four hours later, he was gyrating his upper torso in a way you've never seen.

"One of the guys arranged it all, and he has some editing to do," Johnson said. "We'll see if it's worthy to put out there. Clearly there's some discussion about it, so I think we might be forced to put it out before long."

As Johnson and Knaus discussed the celebration, team owner Rick Hendrick interrupted.

"Why wasn't I invited?" he said.

There are shakes, and then there are shakes. NASCAR may not be ready for that one.

But Hendrick is glad to see Johnson and the team enjoy their success, something they haven't always done.

"They need to have more fun," Hendrick said. "It's a hard deal out here on the road all the time."

Hendrick also liked the video of four-time champion Jeff Gordon and his team doing the Harlem Shake before the season. Approximately 4 million people have viewed that.

Who knows how many will view Johnson's Shake. Maybe it'll change a few impressions about him, though.

"Jimmie is a funny guy," Hendrick said. "He's the life of the party if you get him … "

Hendrick paused, then continued: "But what you see with Jimmie is he's such a professional. When he walks into that gate he goes into that mode where he's totally in focus. He's not going to clown around in the garage area.

"He might do it later."

He did on Sunday night.

And it was anything but vanilla.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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