Q. Jimmie, Richard was saying earlier when he got to the track he realized how friendly it was and how much access everybody has. When you bring someone to the track for the first time, whether it be someone from outside the sport, family member, whatever it may be, what do you find that their perceptions are versus what they see in reality?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it's very similar, the access that fans have at a NASCAR event is second to none. What makes it more apparent to me is when a football friend or baseball friend comes to the track. Especially the baseball guys – the starting pitcher, you're not even allowed to talk to that guy prior to a game.
So just to see the interaction the driver has with the fans, how accessible the cars are, the crew members are, the fans around the work space, the hospitality events that take place prior to the race, the driver intros, every aspect of it is really an eye-opening experience for anyone that I bring out there.
We have something special in our sport, and I think that's what has separated us over the years and why our sports are so highly attended.
Q. We're talking about fans and being recognized. Obviously, you have a very familiar face to a lot of fans. But you also travel to Europe. There are times when you get away that you're really not recognized. Could you talk about that and what that's like for you? Here you have a very famous face, and then maybe get Richard's take on what you say.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Traveling around, I'd certainly do fly under the radar. We used to take a trip in July and work our way through a lot of different areas. I see F1 stickers or watch F1 broadcasts, a little rally, a little MotoGP. But in most areas, NASCAR is not around.
When I've competed in the Race of Champions event, they know that NASCAR drivers are coming, and London especially when we raced there, there was a huge gathering of fans. I mean, they're flying 48 flags and they had die cast cars for me to sign.
So I think there are different pockets where NASCAR has worked its way into. But we still have a lot of ground over there to make up within the motorsports community to showcase our races to.
RICHARD HAMMOND: I think that can only grow as everything I've said about the sport providing a fantastic spectacle. That's not to undermine the sincerity of the races. Every time I mingled with Jimmie and the other guys, all they want to do is race. They're athletes and machines themselves. That's what they do, that's what they're designed to do. But equally, there is a sense that permeates the sport that, yeah, we'll do this. We want to get out on the track and race, but to do that, we want to make it a spectacle and fantastic weekend.
To that end, to see Jimmie at the level you're doing it and have been just granted an award for most influential sports person, and yet standing there talking to people. You spoke in the previous question about people in your workspace. And, yeah, that's absolutely unheard of across Europe and something that the more we see it, the more people will think I want to get some of that, because I want to get that close to my idols and the sport that I follow.
Q. Jimmie, Richard's been behind the wheel of all sorts of different cars on Top Gear. Is there a car that you've seen on the show that you really want to get behind the wheel and take a couple of laps in?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: One of my favorite episodes, I don't think Rich was driving, but I think it was the Lotus F1. They have a rich man's play day where you can come to a track. They set up the rigs and put you in a car and let you go out and run and have the full F1 experience. That looked really cool and one episode I always think of.
How amazing that would be to go out and experience. I think it's a cool car and all, but to go out and have a proper test and have some time in an F1 car would be cool.
RICHARD HAMMOND: You'd be worthy of it. I did drive an F1 Renault a few years back. And after three laps of the circuit I had to bring it back in because the tires reheated. It's really hard. It stalled eight times trying to get it out of the pits. So, yeah, it's pretty focused.
Q: You've driven so many different types of cars as we were talking about. What was it like getting behind the wheel of a 3,000-lb car running 800 horsepower with little traction control?
RICHARD HAMMOND: It was like climbing inside a dragon and shutting the door. I love cars built for purpose. I love cars that need a driver to do it. But things like the Noble M600. But in the case of a NASCAR, it's so focused. It has a job to do. As long as you're up to it, it will do the job.
Having the faith and confidence to know that it will hold at those speeds when your brain is telling you, get out now, fella, because you've already crashed. It was mind-blowing.
So to have Jimmie and the rest of his racers do what they do, it's a different mindset. They go to a different place when they're out there for racing, and I salute them all for managing it.