Racing will be a welcome respite for Jimmie Johnson and his family after a difficult week following the death of Johnson’s brother-in-law in a skydiving accident.
Jordan Janway, a Muskogee native and the brother of Chandra Janway Johnson, died in the accident Monday in San Diego after a mid-air collision with another diver prevented Janway from opening his parachute.
Janway was an experienced skydiver and instructor, having completed more than 1,000 jumps.
“He was a free spirit,” Johnson said. “He was a very adventurous guy — base-jumping and parachuting and wearing the squirrel suits, like you see the guys flying along the cliff sides, that's what he did. He's in a lot of those videos shooting that footage.
“A tragic death, for sure. But he was doing something he loved. He was very passionate about it. He never met a stranger, very warm, caring young man and he’s definitely going to be missed.”
Johnson, who was fastest in the first Sprint Cup practice session Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, said it has been difficult to transition into racing mode.
“This week has been very difficult for the Janway family. It's been so tough for myself to sit back and watch the people I love so much deal with so much pain,” Johnson said.
“Things are progressing and everybody is as good as you can hope. Last night, the family spent a lot of time telling stories about Jordan, and smiling a little bit, smiling more than tears. The healing process has definitely started.”
KURT BUSCH’S CAR CATCHES FIRE IN PRACTICE
After what appeared to be a tire problem, Kurt Busch’s car slammed the wall and slid to a stop near Turn 4 with flames shooting from under the hood.
Busch was uninjured, but the team will have to switch to its backup car Saturday for the final round of practice and the qualifying session.
Busch won last week in Martinsville, Va., ending an 83-race winless drought for the former Sprint Cup champion.
EARNHARDT REMINISCES ABOUT HIS BASKETBALL DAYS
With the NCAA Final Four being held just a few miles away in Arlington, Texas, basketball was a hot topic at TMS on Friday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he’s pulling for Florida, since he had the Gators winning it all on his bracket.
On Thursday, Earnhardt posted to Twitter an old photo of himself as a junior-varsity basketball player with his team at Oak Ridge Military Academy in North Carolina.
“I scored two points that year,” Earnhardt said. “I sat on the bench a lot. Didn’t have any skill. I only played because you got to leave campus for road games. Being able to leave, even for a day at military school, was an amazing vacation, just to leave for a few hours.
“After the game, you go get pizza or whatever. You didn’t have those luxuries on campus. But I had fun.”
PENSKE HIGHLIGHTS TMS HALL OF FAME CLASS
Penske Racing owner Roger Penske has established himself as one of the most successful owners in all of motorsports, from open-wheel to stock car series.
And he was recognized Thursday night for his proficiency as the 16th member inducted into the Texas Motor Speedway Hall of Fame. Penske is the only owner with wins in both NASCAR and IndyCar at TMS.
Among the honorees Thursday was James Buescher, who received the Sportsmanship Award for his work during the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Moore tornado last May. Buescher’s brother lives near Moore. Buescher and his wife, Kris, visited Moore in June and spent a day helping with cleanup and recovery efforts.
Other TMS honorees included Bruton Smith Legend Award winner Dario Franchitti, TMS Racer of the Year Kyle Busch, and Maj. General Thomas Sadler Award winner Earnhardt for his work with the Texas chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.