DOVER, Del. — In a busy week between last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 and the Dover race weekend, Jimmie Johnson saw first-hand the devastation caused by tornadoes in Oklahoma, the native state of his wife Chani.
“I was certainly shocked and floored by what I saw,” Johnson said Friday at Dover. “Everyone says that television doesn’t do it justice, and we were able to go in person and see the damage and what a tornado can do.
“Man, it really got my attention…. I met a child that was in one of those schools, and I could still see on his face and in his eyes the fear that he had and he still looked like that today. It really hits you deep to meet the people, see the damage and some ways kind of imagine in your mind what they went through.”
Johnson did more than just visit. The Jimmie Johnson Foundation is providing funds for tornado relief, and Johnson primary sponsor, Lowe’s Home Improvement, has pledged $1 million to the cause.
“I grew up where the ground shook in Southern California (earthquakes) and was always petrified of tornados,” Johnson said. “And then where we live on the east coast, there might be one close by. But marrying Chani and being in the beltway for tornados, I’m scared every time we go home to visit.
“We had to leave Thursday and get out of there as fast as we could because one was coming, or storms were coming and there ended up being a couple. And it was odd, because I got on the plane to fly out and I’m leaving my family behind. They’re staying there with Chani’s parents this weekend. So I’m like ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m so torn because there’s something bad coming, but I’m leaving my girls behind.'”