Rider: Jimmie Johnson
Now: Four-time NASCAR Champion
Then: Aspiring mini-motocrosser
"My grandparents owned a motorcycle shop, and my dad ran the service department. That's how Rick Johnson's father and my dad met. When Rick went Pro with Yamaha, he got me a 50 to ride, and then a 60. I was doing the Wednesday-night races at Speedway 117 down in Chula Vista, near the border of Mexico and San Diego, and having a blast.
"At age 4, 5 and 6, I went to Ponca City. I went to Loretta Lynn's in 1985, the year the hurricane came through. It was just a huge mudbath out there! On the 60, I was at the top of my age bracket and finished third. But when I moved up to the 80, I was at the bottom of the age bracket and didn't run very well. I went back again in '86 and didn't run all that well then either, so got off the bikes shortly after that. [MotoGP racer] Colin Edwards was at the top of the age bracket. I definitely remember Colin. When I saw him years later at the Race of Champ-ions in the Canary Islands, we were reminiscing about the old days.
"I wanted to be a motocross racer growing up. I still watch and love the sport, but I think I got discouraged when I changed age groups. I'd also been through a couple of injuries. My dad said, 'No problem, we'll put bikes on the shelf for a little while and see what happens.'
"After about a year off, I wanted to go back racing. By then my dad had started working on an off-road buggy. He had this vision to put me in something with a roll cage on dirt to keep me safe. He got me a ride in the Mickey Thompson series, and got my four-wheel career going.
"I still have my Suzuki JR50 that I learned how to ride on. I got it in 1979 for Christmas, and that's really all I have from that period of time."