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NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus get taken to school

In a utility room at the Doral Academy Red Rock upper school in far, far northwest Las Vegas on Wednesday morning, photos of Jimmie Johnson were on the wall, and one or two of Chad Knaus, his longtime crew chief.

One showed Johnson celebrating in victory circle with a caption that read “THAT FEELING YOU GET WHEN THERE IS NO HOMEWORK.”

A little while later, the seven-time NASCAR champion strolled into the dancing auditorium, and Champion’s Week in Las Vegas was underway.

A big cheer went up for the 41-year-old Californian, who was accompanied by his crew chief from Illinois and Johnson’s daughters, Genevieve and Lydia, which seemed to startle 3-year-old Lydia. After driver, crew chief and precocious little daughter introductions, the school kids were allowed to ask questions.

One asked Johnson about being compared to LeBron James and Tom Brady, and Knaus about calculating fuel mileage.

Another approached the microphone, addressed Johnson as “Mr. Champion,” and asked why it took three long years to win championship No. 7 after he won No. 6.

She also called Knaus out for “unapproved edits” for which he had been fined and suspended, and wanted to know how difficult it was to build a car within NASCAR specifications.

Forget the picture of Johnson in the utility room. Homework had been assigned, and these kids had come prepared.

More insightful inquiries followed. One of the kids asked Johnson how long it takes to change hats for pictures after he wins a race, and Johnson said that was a great question.

“With today’s technology, you’d think they could just superimpose the logos on (one) hat,” he said.

Johnson brought ice cream, and there was another giant scream when it was served — and this time little Lydia Johnson did not appear the least bit startled.

Champion’s Week was underway.

In the utility room near the dance auditorium, Johnson and Knaus answered questions from local media about what it would mean for Johnson to win his eighth driver’s championship, surpassing Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, and for Knaus to acquire his eighth as crew chief, overtaking Dale Inman.

Johnson also said a plane would be landing at McCarran International Airport in a little while, and a bunch of crew members for the 48 team would come spilling out of the Jetway with a wild look in their collective eye, looking for a party. And then Champion’s Week probably would begin in earnest.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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