Daytona 500 - Practice

6-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson talks Sochi Olympics

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Six-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is set to begin another title defense this Sunday at the Daytona 500.

But in the lead-up to the big race, he’s also been watching as much of the Sochi Olympics as he can when not inside his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

As a regular viewer, Johnson says he’s been captivated by what he calls “the speed stuff” in this year’s Winter Games.

“The downhill, snowboarding, bobsled, the guys on the skeleton – and the girls too – they’re crazy and they’re fun to watch,” Johnson told NASCAR on NBC reporter Marty Snider.

He also noted the similarities between what bobsledders like Steven Holcomb and Elana Meyers do and what he and his own peers do at Daytona.

MORE: Humphries/Moyse defend Olympic women’s bobsled title

“That’s probably the most similar discipline [to NASCAR],” Johnson said. “It’s propelled by them so they need to get off the start fine, but controlling the sled down the – I don’t know what they call it, the road, the track, whatever it is – it’s pretty nuts.

“They have the big banked turns like we do in NASCAR and they can touch the wall a little bit more than we can and redirect themselves, but it just looks like such a cool rush and there’s so many great stories that come from it.”

You can hear more of Johnson’s thoughts on the Olympics and on Sunday’s “Great American Race” in the video above.

And don’t forget to watch the debut episode of NASCAR AMERICA – this Monday at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Ashton Eaton named male IAAF Athlete of the Year

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American decathlete Ashton Eaton was named the 2015 male Athlete of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the world governing body for track and field. Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, the reigning world champion in the 1500m, was named the female IAAF Athlete of the Year.

Eaton is the first decathlete and just the eighth American man to win the title. Tyson Gay in 2007 was the last American man to be named.

The honor came due to Eaton’s world-record-setting performance at the world championships held in Beijing this past August. There he beat the previous record, his own from the 2012 Olympic Trials, by nine points. He also set a world record for running the fastest 400m portion of the decathlon in 45.00 seconds.

In the IAAF press release, Eaton said, “Athletes spend the most vigorous years of human life, arguably called the ‘best years’, working to hone their abilities. So, when an athlete competes, what people are witnessing is the manifestation of what a human being is capable of when they choose to direct all of their time and effort towards something.

“I’m grateful and thankful to the IAAF for excellent competitions, the canvases that allow us to display our work.”

He also acknowledged sprinter Usain Bolt and triple jumper Christian Taylor, who were also up for the title: “While I’m honored that I am considered the ‘artist’ of the year, I did not beat Usain and Christian; my work simply differed in design. They are some of the most talented and beautiful performers of all time. I’m flattered to be among them.”

Dibaba has been unbeaten in the 1500m over five races in 2015. Along with winning gold and setting a world record in the 1500 at the Beijing World Championships, Diababa won a bronze medal in the 5000m event.

She gratefully accepted the award, saying, “After being a finalist and narrowly missing out on this award one year ago, I am very proud to be recognized by the fans and experts of our sport.

“I had a great season and truly enjoyed competing around the world, from Monaco where I managed to establish a world record, to Beijing where I finally captured my first world outdoor title.”

Dibaba was recently featured in a family-themed promotional video for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

MORE: Seb Coe splits from Nike as IAAF president


Olympians celebrate Thanksgiving

Meryl Davis
Team USA/ Twitter
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Nov. 26 – or Thanksgiving to the rest of us – is oftentimes a typical training day for many Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. Here’s a look at how some of them spent the day training, competing, celebrating, and being thankful.

Workout football and food😁👍!!! Happy thanksgiving everyone!!!

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on

Happy Thanksgiving from our cold cuts Turkey to yours! #family #happyhappyheart

A photo posted by @cammileadams on

Happy Thanksgiving from the SwimMAC Parade crew!

A photo posted by Tyler Clary (@tylerclary) on


MORE: NBC’s Thanksgiving Rio promo