MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 20, 2011) – Jimmie Johnson has got a lot on his mind these days, like how to get back in position to capture his sixth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with only five races left in the season.
But Thursday morning he blocked all of that out and went back to the classroom with about 40 fifth graders at Rich Acres Elementary School to learn about the unique Trout in the Classroom program that several schools in the Martinsville area host. Later he and the students traveled to the banks of the Smith River to release the trout into the wild.
“Today was a very good learning experience for me. It was also a lot of fun to be with the students and go to the school and stand in the stream and release the trout,” said Johnson.
Rich Acres Elementary School is only about three miles from Martinsville Speedway, where Johnson has won six NASCAR Sprint Cup races. His trip Thursday was part of an effort to help promote the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville on October 30. And while it was officially a day of work for the five-time champion, he had a lot of fun.
He spent time in the classroom with youngsters in the Trout in the Classroom program learning how they had raised the trout they eventually released from eggs to release size, about two inches in length. From organizers of the program, he learned how important the curriculum was for the community, students and the school.
And once the group had travelled to Smith River, Johnson pulled on a pair of borrowed boots and waded out into the chilly water with the youngsters to help release about 50 trout.
“I had a great time with the trout release program today and learning about it,” said Johnson. “I think it’s very important for school systems to find a way to engage the students and find things that interest them and have those things a part of the classroom. I’m a huge fan of what I’ve seen today.”
Johnson, who is eighth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup points, did find time to talk about racing, too. He admits his success at Martinsville Speedway could help him drive his way back into Chase contention. And he divulged at least part of the secret to his Martinsville success.
“I had a decent race my first time here, but the next race I was lapped by Tony Stewart early,” recalled Johnson. “After he lapped me, I started following him and something clicked: how he drove the track, how he used the brakes, how he was getting the car into position in the center of the turn, how he was using the throttle up off the corner.
“It all clicked and I followed him. I stayed on his bumper and followed him from then on and got my lap back. I’ve run well from that point on and found out how to win here. I have to give credit to Tony indirectly for showing me the way around the track after he lapped me.”
Johnson will be able to put that knowledge to work on October 28 when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars and the Camping World Truck Series trucks take to the track for a full day of practice.
Farm Bureau Pole Day and the Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race is set for Oct. 29 and the TUMS Fast Relief 500 is on October 30.
Good seats remain for all events and may be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX or by visiting www.martinsvillespeedway.com.