Jimmie Johnson is one of the most accomplished professional athletes of his era.
The only race car driver in history to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, he is a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, sharing the all-time record with stock car racing icons Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
Now in his 16th full season with both crew chief Knaus and primary sponsor Lowe’s Home Improvement, Johnson finds himself seventh on NASCAR’s all-time wins list. He is the all-time winningest Cup driver at California Speedway (6 wins), Charlotte Motor Speedway (8 wins), Dover International Speedway (10 wins), Kansas Speedway (3 wins, tied with Gordon), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (4 wins) and Texas Motor Speedway (6 wins). Johnson is the only driver to have qualified for the championship-deciding playoffs every year since its inception in 2004, and has averaged more than five wins per season throughout his career.
Chilled caught up with the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports who talked to us about his love of crafting cocktails and shared his respect for the fast-paced job of a bartender.
Tell us a bit about the projects you are working on.
We are in the “off-season,” so I am heading to Colorado to ski and just enjoy the winter. My daughters are on skis now, and it’s a family affair to enjoy sledding and building snowmen. Our next race is NASCAR’s “Super Bowl” of racing: Feb. 26, 2017, the Daytona 500. My team will be busy over the next few months building cars, and I will be working on my physical fitness as well as enjoying some of the downtime and just relaxing as much as possible.
With your busy schedule, what do you like to do with your down time?
The life of a NASCAR driver doesn’t allow for much down time. We travel February through November, and then add in sponsor obligations, appearances, media, production days, and meetings … there is not much time left for much else. When I do have downtime my family comes first, so I spend as much time as I can with my two young daughters, Genevieve and Lydia and my wife, Chani. When they are in school or at work I train for upcoming events. Fitness is a huge part of my life so it’s usually running seven to ten miles before the sun comes up, drop the girls off at school and be the carpool lane dad and then meet up with a group of friends and log some miles on our bikes before picking them back up from school. When we are racing, I usually have team meetings, media and potential sponsor obligations during the week. Life is pretty damn busy.
When you go out to eat, where do you like to dine?
We have so many great opportunities to eat at amazing places across the country traveling the NASCAR circuit. I call Charlotte home, but my family spends a lot of time in NYC, Aspen and I’m from San Diego, so I’m a huge fan of Mexican cuisine.
When I’m in Charlotte, North Carolina: Customshop; when in New York City: Aria in the West Village; when in Aspen: The bar at Meat & Cheese; when in San Diego: Los Ponchos Taco Shop in El Cajon. Favorite spot on the NASCAR circuit: anywhere I can find In N Out Burger!
What types of dishes do you usually order?
I’m a huge fan of Mexican food. I usually eat healthy when I’m training, though… but the best part about training is you burn so many calories, you can eat pretty much whatever you want. I will never pass up ice cream.
Do you cook?
When I’m racing during the season, I stay in a bus at the tracks and nutrition is a huge focus. Usually I have a sandwich or wrap with chicken and brown rice. We grill a lot of salmon, pork or chicken. I follow an anti-inflammatory diet as well.
What types of drinks do you order when out?
I’ve been on a craft beer and bourbon kick lately. Local craft beers are always of interest to me when we travel. I have some friends who are really into it and they give me tips on what is good where. My hometown of San Diego has some great breweries, Ballast Point being one of the best. Drink local!
Do you prepare drinks at home?
Damn straight… that’s what the off season is for! My wife, Chani, and I love to explore craft cocktails and make a night of it. There is SO much out there as far as cocktails go. We are really into it.
Do you own a home bar?
Yes, it’s an old-fashioned wood bar I have in my warehouse/man cave. I bought it from an old hotel bar that was going to be demolished in Pennsylvania. It’s one of those vintage wood bars from the early 1900s, and when you sit there, it kind of takes you back in time.
What’s it stocked with?
It’s actually pretty well rounded. My wife and I like to dig through handcrafted cocktail books and explore. We go to the grocery store and find obscure ingredients., we can pretty much whip up anything for anyone.
What is your favorite cocktail?
I’m a big fan of the Kentucky Mule it’s perfect in the summer for a rare Sunday off.
Have you ever been a bartender?
I’ve stood in as a “celebrity bartender,” and I seriously sucked at it in the real environment. That’s hard work! I have mad respect for bartenders who can cut in in busy bars and clubs. However, I am very good at pouring shots. I like to keep things simple.