Jimmie Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports crew may have found the reason the NASCAR champion collapsed after getting out of his Chevy Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. After the checkered flag fell on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Federated Auto Parts 400 Saturday night the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field was set. As reporters scrambled to get post race reactions from the drivers on pit road, six time champion Johnson could be seen climbing from his car; he slumped to the ground and lay prone for a moment before being helped up by crewmembers.
Johnson however wasn’t able to stand without help. Crewmen called for medical personnel and Johnson was helped to a waiting golf cart. There he could be seen laying on one side. He was rushed to the infield care center. With temperatures in the 90s at Richmond the heat, the initial reports were that Johnson was suffering dehydration and was cramping.
Tuesday Chevrolet released a weekly preview. Johnson, who is seeded fourth in this year’s Chase, is quoted as saying that the team found a problem with his equipment.
“This afternoon just before I left for New York for my media obligations for NASCAR, the team found an issue with the cooling system for my helmet.” Johnson said. “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.”
Johnson added that the cooling system was a new one. The team will revert to the older one moving forward.
“We should have the problem rectified,” Johnson said. “I’m always looking at different ways to adjust my routine and nutrition going into a race and coming out of a race. I really felt like everything was in line (at Richmond) and still do after reviewing everything. Now after finding the helmet cooling issue, I’m confident in my plan going into races. We found the issue. “
As for how he’s feeling now, Johnson said he’s had no issues beyond Saturday night. He missed the media events after the race including the photos of the 16 driver Chase field.
“I attended the triathlon that my foundation (the Jimmie Johnson Foundation) put on Sunday morning (in Davidson, North Carolina) and then headed down to Charleston (South Carolina) for a buddy’s wedding,” Johnson said. “But I’m doing much better and feeling good. I’m excited to get started with the Chase and head to New York to do all the appearances that I have up there and make my way to Chicagoland for more appearances and media on Thursday. It’s an exciting time for our sport and an exciting time for the Lowe’s team. I’m hoping to get started this weekend in Chicago with a win.”
The first race in the Chase, which is under a new 16-driver elimination format this year, will take the green flag at Chicagoland Speedway Sunday (2 p.m. ET on ESPN).