Texas Motor Speedway news 2008-03-20

* Jimmie Johnson Takes To The Ice For Shooting Lessons And Special Glove Exchange With NHL Superstar Mike Modano FORT WORTH, Texas (March 20, 2008) Two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson traded in his racing...

* Jimmie Johnson Takes To The Ice For Shooting Lessons And Special Glove Exchange With NHL Superstar Mike Modano

FORT WORTH, Texas (March 20, 2008) Two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson traded in his racing gloves for a pair of hockey ones Thursday as he participated in on-ice shooting drills with Dallas Stars center Mike Modano, the greatest American-born scorer in NHL history.

Johnson, in town for his NASCAR Winner's Circle appearance for Texas Motor Speedway, became a Dallas Star for the day complete with skates, jersey and full gear. Johnson visited Modano at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco, the NHL team's practice facility, for some shooting and passing lessons.

Prior to the on-ice drills, Johnson arrived in the locker room to find his own Stars nameplate and a personalized No.48 Dallas Stars jersey along with the rest of his hockey gear. After a brief skating warm-up on the ice, Modano and Johnson posed for the ceremonial face-off with Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, who was sporting an authentic referee's jersey, before the ultimate private lesson any hockey novice could dream of got underway.

Johnson, who was game for the on-ice activity despite not having put on skates since he was a kid, took a half-rink skate with Modano before some passing drills. Next up was shooting drills, where the "Shooter Tutor" covered the goal and left open just the upper and lower corners of the net as well as the "5 hole" in the middle.

The advice from Modano paid off immediately as Johnson netted a handful of goals from high in the slot. The two also did a breakaway drill where they passed back and forth before Modano dumped off to Johnson for the shot on goal. They closed out the lesson with Johnson getting an opportunity to see the true speed of a shot from an NHL sharpshooter. Johnson fed Modano with several passes in which he unleashed his shots on net.

"I was excited and nervous at the same time," Johnson said. "I had only put on skates once as a kid. I didn't know what to expect. It reminded me a little bit of snow skiing so that helped since I love to ski. You have to have really good balance on the skates and know how to distribute the weight.

"It's fun to see what goes on in other disciplines. To be out on the ice and suited up and skating was a lot of fun. There's a lot that goes into hockey. First, just trying to hit the puck and then trying to hit the puck in a certain direction is definitely challenging. It definitely gives me a new appreciation for what these guys do. It's a whole different world."

For Modano, Johnson's skills on the ice were impressive considering his lack of experience.

"I think Jimmie did really well considering this was only his second time on skates," Modano said. "He did good and moved around well and got the hang of shooting the puck. He wanted to stay upright the whole time while he was on the ice and he succeeded. He did a really good job today. I was impressed."

As the pair wrapped up the hockey lessons, Modano presented Johnson with a pair of autographed hockey gloves. In return, Johnson presented Modano with an autographed pair of his racing gloves and then gave Modano some driving lessons on the ice with a pair of remote- controlled No.48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo's as the duo staged a race on the ice.

"I have followed NASCAR a little bit, but now that I've met Jimmie I will definitely be following it more closely since I now have met someone who's in it," Modano said. "I was out at Texas Motor Speedway about 10 years ago and made some laps in the Legends cars. It was a lot of fun."

"Racing and hockey are both team sports," Johnson added. "I feel like hockey players are able to roughhouse each other more than we can and show their opinion more, but both are team sports. It was great to get the chance to meet Mike today. He's had an amazing career and it was nice to see that he's a great guy in person, too. He's a great ambassador for hockey and the Dallas Stars. I think I owe him a shot in a race car now after what he taught me today."

Johnson returns to Texas Motor Speedway April 3-6 for the Samsung 500 race weekend. Johnson is the most recent Sprint Cup Series winner at TMS, taking the victory last fall in the Dickies 500. Johnson's victory catapulted him into the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and eventually the 2007 championship title.

In nine Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Johnson has posted one victory, four top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

"We've been testing a lot recently to get our program turned around and we'll be ready for the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in a few weeks," Johnson said. "Our team has the confidence and experience to get things sorted out and we obviously ran well at Texas the last time we were there so I'm looking forward to returning."

-credit: tms

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson