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Jimmie Johnson plans to party, he just has to be smart about it

Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson spent a lot of time Wednesday shepherding his daughters, Genevieve Marie, left, and Lydia Norriss, around Las Vegas. Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- Jimmie Johnson's wife didn't accompany him for the initial days of his Las Vegas championship celebration week. Chani is living up to a prior commitment to work the booth for her gallery at the Art Basel convention in Miami.

But Johnson didn't go to Las Vegas alone. He brought along his two daughters: Lydia, age 3, and Genevieve, 6. It was the first time he could truly celebrate with his kids, considering his last championship came in 2013.

Before anyone gets the impression that Johnson's championship celebration -- his record-tying seventh -- will become more mature and less raucous than those of his past, Johnson shot down any idea of that possibility.

He will be the doting dad and professionally handle his championship duties during the day, but he expects to wake up Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning with a head-pounding headache. The kids nor the media will have anything to do with it.

"The plans are not to be more mellow," Johnson said Wednesday about his celebration plans in Las Vegas. "You don't know when these are going to happen. Obviously it's such a special won with seven.

"As long as we don't have a golf cart around or anything, it should be a good time."

Shortly after delivering that quip, Johnson (who once fell off the top of a golf cart while riding on the roof) spoke to a group of attendees at the SportsBusiness Journal's Motorsports Marketing Forum, talking about his seventh championship and his brand.

He plans to make sure the seventh title celebration is one he remembers; he has tied Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the number of titles. Each year, Johnson makes sure that the Wednesday night gathering with his crew is a special one.

"I make sure to catch the crew guys when they get in that first night -- that is when all the fun stories come from," the 41-year-old Johnson said. "We'll jump into some fun [Wednesday night] with them.

"Outside of that, it's just managing no sleep. I'm getting older and I don't recover so quickly."

Johnson knows all the duties during the championship week. He knows his priorities, and it's not speaking to a bunch of people in coats and ties or doing various media interviews. He's gracious, as always, and honest and reflective and relaxed while trying to enjoy the moment.

"I insisted on having the kids come with me (before my wife came Wednesday night) -- I just wanted more opportunities to savor it and have fun," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to enjoy these days here because they go by so quickly and they're framed in by some early mornings and a lot of stuff.

"I'm trying to savor it. ... The girls are so excited to wear their pretty dresses. They wore some nice outfits today [for photos] and they were just dancing around excited about it."

The girls won't stay for the entire ceremony Friday night.

"Hopefully their behavior is good enough they can come on stage briefly," Johnson said. "They will be bribed with ice cream and candy to make it, of course."

Johnson will be joined on stage by his team owner Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus. While it will be nearly two weeks after earning the championship, Johnson admits he and Knaus haven't really gone over their race-winning, title-clinching performance in the season finale Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"We haven't discussed the end of '16 or 2017 [plans] at all," Johnson said. "I have a couple of weeks before we head [on vacation], so I guess once we get back from here [we'll do it].

"I know it's all still taking place. When I was at the shop for the victory bell (to ring it this week), everybody's wide-open running in all directions getting stuff done."

But Johnson has shown some focus on starting the quest for an eighth title. He ran eight miles last Friday and posted the comment "And so it begins" on the map of his run on the fitness app he uses.

Wouldn't it be easier for him to just run 8-minute miles instead of a pace of 7:24 and make that his way of focusing on an eighth title?

"My cruising pace has gotten down to 7:10, 7:15 [a mile]," Johnson said proudly. "I'm so excited about that."

As far as his training goes, Johnson had encouraged some friends to do a half-marathon Dec. 10 in North Carolina, but he doesn't think he has trained enough in the week since the championship.

Apparently, running 13.1 miles for fun is not an option when there is a bib and a timing chip involved.

"I'm too competitive," Johnson said. "I probably can. I don't know. We'll see. In my head, I'm not going. But the buddies I talked into training, they're like, 'Dude, you talked us into going. You're going to come with us.' "

Will they be able to dare Johnson into doing something against his grain, to run a race he's not totally prepared to run? It sounds like Johnson could be coaxed into it.

Johnson doesn't typically need coaxing to go out on a limb. When he won his first Cup title in 2006, he climbed a light pole at the intersection of 48th Street and 1st Avenue in New York City -- much to the chagrin of his representatives, who were worried he might get in trouble.

Looking to do the same last week in the city at the much busier corner of 48th and 7th, Johnson came up short -- he instead just took a selfie while standing at the corner.

Johnson insists he's not mellowing with age.

"There was nowhere to climb," Johnson said. "There was a bunch of construction going on. I think I tried and I couldn't get the selfie angle. ... It just didn't work out. There just was nothing to hang on to.

"I'm still willing to do a lot of dumb things, for sure. I haven't been able to grow up yet."