In the world of NASCAR it’s usually pretty hard to keep a secret. Rumors and news fly as fast as a Sprint Cup car at Talladega. There’s even a website dedicated to NASCAR rumors and breaking news. Keeping the lid on any news is pretty tough; yet six time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who scored his 68th career victory at Dover Sunday was able to keep the lid on a big story for several months. And as it turns out he wasn’t really trying to hide anything.
During an interview taped with Fox that aired during Sunday, Johnson said that he had undergone hernia surgery during the off-season, right after the NASCAR awards banquet last December.
“Got home Sunday and then went in Monday morning following the banquet,” Johnson said later in his winner’s press conference. “Surprised nobody knew about this thing sooner. It wasn't a secret by any stretch of the imagination.”
Johnson also revealed that he had not one, but three hernias.
“I had bilateral hernias, one on each side, and then a third one in my belly button,” he said. “I was very lucky to go in and have all three fixed.”
“It wasn't a sports hernia,” he said. “It was something over time and getting older that something like 60 percent of men near the age of 40 have these and don't know, but I saw one mid-season, a little protrusion in my skin and went and had it checked out, and they're like, you've got a couple years to get it fixed, so I figured I'd get it fixed sooner rather than later and went in right after the banquet. “
“We felt like it was time to shut things down,” he said. “Let the team kind of recoup and then just got back after it after that.”
Johnson admitted his recovery wasn’t all that easy.
“First couple days sucked,” Johnson said. “There's no doubt about that. But then quickly it got back together and was training within 10 days.”
“It affected that first test date,” he added. “And then we had two other test dates scheduled at Nashville that made us comfortable to give us that Charlotte test so I could have the hernia surgery, and both of those were canceled due to weather. So three opportunities for us to go test were out the window, and I do feel like that hurt us some and had us behind a little bit, especially once we did get to Nashville and were there and the 4 (Harvick) car was there testing. We knew we had a gap to make up, and those guys were off to a quick start.”
Johnson’s recovery was obviously complete in February. The avid runner and tri-athlete competed in the Daytona Beach Half-Marathon prior to the Daytona 500. Now with two wins under his belt, any talk of recovery is mute as was any talk of his surgery prior to Sunday, at least from the NASCAR media corps.
“It wasn't supposed to be a secret,” Johnson said. “I'm surprised -- everybody at the track knew, all the competitors knew that I wasn't there because I was having a procedure done. Why it didn't make it to the media center is beyond me, and no big deal, I guess. “