Bubble-wrap suit not bad idea for injury-prone JJ

February, 5, 2009

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Drivers beware. Jimmie Johnson is not flipping you off.

The three-time defending Sprint Cup champion cut tendons in the middle finger on his left hand during the Rolex 24 last month, and it still hasn't healed to the point that he can bend it without some discomfort.

He has a couple of devices he'll experiment with during Friday's practice for the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway that hopefully will make it easier to grip the wheel.

His other option is to keep the finger straight.

"I flip people off even when I'm happy, just saying hello in the car," Johnson said during Thursday's media day event outside the track.

Johnson cut the finger trying to punch a hole in his fire suit for a cooling tube. It was his second accident in the past three offseasons. He broke his wrist before the 2007 season when he fell off the roof of a golf cart while frolicking during a charity event.

In essence, the guy can drive three-wide at 200 mph without a hiccup, but take him from behind the wheel and he's a bit of a klutz. He has broken more bones than he can count, some from his early years racing motorcycles and some from silly things … such as falling off a golf cart.

"I have a younger brother that has never broken a bone or been injured," Johnson said. "And growing up he was on the ground more than I was. I just fall over and bust something. I'm just injury-prone in general."

The most bizarre injury happened when Johnson was a kid trying to jump a ramp on his bicycle. The plywood broke and "I ate it pretty bad and had the pedal stuck in the top of my head."

Yes, the top of his head.

"My friend went to pull the bike off and I went, 'Ouch!'" Johnson recalled. "I got a few stitches in that one."

The recent injury required about five stitches. Johnson wore a brace on it for a while that was so uncomfortable he had trouble sleeping. He has been driving his Corvette the past week to get used to driving with a stick shift.

"The toughest part I have is the real sharp turns," Johnson said. "So in and out of the garage area is going to be the toughest part."

So if you happen to be walking through the garage as he stretches the tendon, don't take offense.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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