Race fans and officials were subject to a strange sight after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond. Sprint Cup driver, and multiple series Champion, Jimmy Johnson exited his car and was quickly attended to as he lay on the ground in the pit area.
The driver was forced to the ground only inches from his car suffering from what appeared to be exhaustion following the Federated Auto Parts 400. In fact the driver was suffering from, and later treated for, dehydration.
The strange part of the scene was that anyone that is a fan of Jimmy Johnson knows that he is possibly one of the most physically fit drivers in the sport of NASCAR racing. He’s known for his marathons and physical activities. Carl Edwards is also a driver known for his fitness so when camera’s picked up on Johnson laying by his car in some type of distress it became clear that something had gone wrong.
The problem has now been identified as an issue with a new cooling system installed in Johnson’s helmet. The system not only keeps a driver comfortable but also helps drivers stay safe from possible problems with dehydration. Johnson said the recently installed cooling system ran into a problem during the Richmond race.
"The team found an issue with the cooling system for my helmet," Johnson said in a Chicagoland pre-race team release.
"Basically, it was blowing warm air. It's nice to have a good idea as to what went wrong and why I got so hot in the race car. It's a newer system that we've implemented, so we're just going back to our old faithful system that's worked for years and years. We should have the problem rectified."
After the Race
Johnson remained on the ground in the pit area where he was attended to by members of his team and then track medical workers. When he began to feel a bit better the driver was moved to the infield care center for evaluation. Johnson said he felt “OK” besides some cramping in his legs as he exited the car. He was talking to his crew members but became dizzy. From there the driver described the process of realizing that something was wrong.
"I sat in the car and was talking to my guys about the run and having a good race," Johnson said Saturday night after being released from the Richmond care center.
"I started to cramp a little bit in my legs, so I figured I would just get out of the car and as I climbed out … the cramping got far worse. Then standing outside the car I got kind of dizzy so I wanted to sit down. Once I sat down the cramping got worse."
Johnson was in the care center for approximately 90 minutes following the race. The driver and team have no plans to use the new cooling system for the last races of the season at this point. Johnson said they would rely on the older system for now.