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Dale Jr, Kyle Busch resent one key way Jimmie Johnson changed NASCAR

"Jimmie ruined it for a lot of us"

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch both agree that Jimmie Johnson ‘ruined it’ from a lifestyle standpoint in the NASCAR Cup Series while also dominating them on the track.

Johnson won seven championships over a 10-year stretch, including five in a row from 2006-10, and is one of the greatest drivers in the history of the discipline with 83 wins across 691 starts and counting in a part-time role these days.

He was also known throughout the garage for his fitness regimen, and alongside fellow workout freak and championship contender Carl Edwards, led team owners to believe that was a factor in their success.

In hindsight, it created a bit of resentment from drivers who were tasked with matching Johnson in the gym and on the track. Earnhardt started the conversation this week on this Dale Jr Download podcast but the sentiment was endorsed by Busch on the Pat McAfee Show too.

“This is not advice,” Earnhardt said. “This is bad advice. But this is what I did. I felt like I didn’t run as good or race as good if I didn’t blow off some steam on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.

“When I started racing for Hendrick, you know, I tried to clean it up a little bit. They were some of the people in the building saying, ‘Jimmie (Johnson) is in great shape. Look at what he does. You should be doing these things.’ And I’m like, ‘Jimmie is Jimmie.'”

But he tried.

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“I’m going to work on it,” he said. “I’ll do better. I’m going to lose some weight, I’m going to work out. I’m going do these new things to try and be in better physical shape and better mental shape. I would abstain from drinking or something for a couple of weeks and the results didn’t change for me.

“And then I’d go party with my buddies or something or have friends over on a Tuesday night and we’d damn kick ass on the race weekend. I was like, ‘Maybe I’m just one of the old guard, man.’ I need to drink and smoke cigarettes and go kick ass.”

Busch echoed those sentiments.

“Jimmie ruined it for a lot of us,” Busch said. “Dale isn’t the only one that had the Jimmie Johnson factor that came upon him. I got yelled at from a crew chief. I was getting a little chunky, a little heavy and all that. He was like ‘You need to work out, you need to eat better, you need to sleep a little more.’ I was like ‘Okay, sure, Great. Whatever.’

“I spent six months in the gym and working out, slimmed down and lost some pounds and whatnot. The results didn’t change. Nothing happened. It’s all about the horse you are riding. It’s all about the car you got.”

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To that point, Johnson had crew chief Chad Knaus, and maybe that was the difference between him and Carl Edwards over the years too.

“There’s another driver out there who said ‘You can’t drive a slow car fast,” Busch said. “That’s the truth to the matter, and Jimmie was always in a fast car. He also had everything right and was going the right way about it.”

Busch cited racing legend Dick Trickle, who was a bit of an outlaw, even by the standards of the 80s and 90s.

“He would show up to the race track with a Coors Light in one hand and a cigarette in another,” Busch said. “They wouldn’t let him in the car with the Coors Light but they let him in the car with cigarettes.

“…While the race was happening, he would reach over there, grab a cigarette, light it up and he would be smoking under yellow. That was NASCAR.”

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