Johnson's team opens door to cameras

Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team have conquered all challenges put in their path, winning stock car racing's Holy Grail of races -- the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 -- as well as the Sprint Cup championship.

But in the planning meetings, there were never cameras filming their every move. Now Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus need to get around that obstacle if they are to take another Daytona 500 next month as "24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona" begins its run on HBO Tuesday.

When approached with the idea to take part in the four-part series, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports was asked for their opinions. And while there are some negatives -- like the intrusion of cameras and the hoopla that the media brings -- there were also too many positives.

"This is something we've really never allowed with our race team before, an all-access look into how we operate," Johnson said. "We've had some people that have followed us around on a limited basis, but no one has ever had the access like HBO will have."

The award-winning series, which is best known for profiling professional boxers ahead of marquee bouts, will film over 1,000 hours to create four 30-minute episodes detailing Hendrick Motorsports' preparation for the Great American Race, the 2010 Sprint Cup season, and the personal lives of Johnson and Knaus.

But the pit boss is quick to point out that this show is about more than Jimmie and Chad.

"I think it's going to be neat and very good for the sponsors," Knaus said. "It'll be very, very good for Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie, myself to get our images out there. So it's all positives from that aspect. It's also going to be good for the team and the guys to realize what it's like to be in front of the cameras, and it's going to teach them a little bit."

The opportunity to get crew members in the spotlight goes along with Knaus' philosophy that NASCAR is a team sport.

"If it was up to me, at some point in time it wouldn't be 'Jimmie Johnson won the race.' It'd be 'The No. 48 team won the race,' and people would realize (that it's a team sport) more from that aspect," Knaus said. "Very rarely do you hear 'Tom Brady won the football game,' or 'Brett Favre won the football game.' Instead it's the Patriots or Vikings won the football game. That would be what we ultimately want to achieve in the long run.

"Ever since I've been in the sport, I've been trying to put the awareness out there that this is way more than a driver's sport. We have to have aggressive people that want to work on these cars, change tires, be crew chiefs, be mechanics, be engineers -- that's what keeps our team strong. So I think putting it out there and making it so people can actually see what these people do and how they are a vital part of what we do week in and week out helps us keep the awareness out there and people want to come and be a part of it. Anytime that you can show that this is a team sport as opposed to a driver's sport you are going to be better off."