FORT WORTH, Texas ? Still obviously struggling with emotions, Jimmie Johnson expressed his sincere and deep gratitude to the thousands of people who have reached out to him and his family this week following the tragic death of his brother-in-law, 27-year old Jordan Janway in a skydiving accident in San Diego.
"I appreciate the opportunity to say thank you to everybody for your thoughts and prayers," the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion said, asking to address reporters himself before taking questions during his weekly news conference.
"This week has been a very difficult week for the Janway family (Jordan Janway was the younger brother of Johnson's wife, Chandra).
"It's been so tough for me to sit back and watch the people I love so much deal with so much pain. But, things are progressing and everybody is as good as you could hope. Last night, the family spent a lot of time telling stories about Jordan and smiling a little bit; smiling more than tears, and the healing process has definitely started."
Johnson said Friday that he hadn't decided yet how he might honor Janway on his No. 48 Lowe's "Spring is Calling" Chevrolet this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I haven't thought that far ahead for the car or helmet or anything; it's been such a wild and crazy week," he said. "So now that my mind is going to switch into race mode I'd certainly consider something there and take a look at it."
Come Sunday morning, however, he tweeted out a link to an Instagram shot of his helmet, with "Jordan Janway 1986-2014" inscribed on it.
Asked about his brother-in-law, who lived near Johnson's hometown in San Diego, Johnson smiled and proudly and lovingly spoke about the "free spirit."
"He was just a free spirit, a very adventurous guy," Johnson said. "Base-jumping and parachuting and wearing the squirrel suits like you see the guys flying along the cliff sides, that's what he did. He's in a lot of those videos shooting that footage. So, it was a tragic death for sure. But he was doing something he loved. He was very passionate about it. He was a very warm and caring young man, and he's definitely going to be missed."
"I just wanted to come in (to the Media Center) and make a brief comment before we got busy with racing," Johnson said. "And then, try to switch my mind into this racing reality and focus the next couple of days and go racing and try to win a race. The few times I did check into social media, there's just been a huge outpouring of support, and I'm very thankful."
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