Horse play to blame for Johnson's injury

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

By Jenna Fryer

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE — Jimmie Johnson was “horsing around” on top of a moving golf cart when he fell off and broke his left wrist, his team told The Associated Press on Monday.

The version clarifies what happened during the celebrity tournament in Lecanto, Fla., one day after the initial account from Hendrick Motorsports implied that he had fallen out of the cart.

Although Hendrick officials gave no details of the accident, Johnson released a statement that said he was “in” the cart when he fell out.

“I was in a golf cart and the driver took a sharp turn,” Johnson said Sunday. “I wasn’t holding on tight enough, landed awkwardly on the ground and heard a little pop.”

That account differed from one in The Citrus County (Fla.) Chronicle, which had a reporter at the Black Diamond Ranch who witnessed Johnson horsing around during the Mike Hampton Pitching In Celebrity tournament.

The newspaper said Johnson was sprawled across the top of the cart Friday as it headed toward the 16th hole when his playing partner hit a berm, throwing Johnson several feet.

The Nextel Cup champion was unavailable for comment Monday, but a spokeswoman for the driver confirmed he was on top of the cart when The AP asked for clarification.

“Jimmie was horsing around and was on top of the golf cart when he fell off,” spokeswoman Kristine Curley said.

“He wasn’t trying to deceive anyone and is sorry if anyone believes he was being untruthful.”

The injury, which was to his non-shifting hand, will prevent him from driving for at least four weeks. He is expected to participate in preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway next month and should be fine for the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.

Johnson will not be able to compete in the Race of Champions Nations Cup at the Stade de France in Paris next weekend. Johnson, who teamed with Jeff Gordon and Colin Edwards to win the Nations Cup in 2002, said he will still travel to Paris on Wednesday as a consultant for Team USA.

He was scheduled to team with X-Games champion Travis Pastrana in Paris. A replacement for Johnson had not been announced Monday.

“It’s disappointing that I can’t compete … but I’ll definitely be in Paris to cheer them on and provide any support that I can,” he said.

Johnson wrapped up his first NASCAR championship last month and celebrated it Dec. 1 at the annual awards ceremony in New York City. It capped a whirlwind year for Johnson, who won the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway en route to the title.

It’s the second consecutive year that NASCAR’s reigning champion has been injured during the offseason, and Johnson is the second driver in less than a week to get hurt.

Tony Stewart broke his wrist and bruised his ribs last January when he flipped a car during a qualifying race for the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. Stewart’s arm was placed in a cast, but he was able to compete a month later when the season opened at Daytona.

On Thursday, Greg Biffle dislocated his right shoulder when he crashed while testing tires at the reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His car burst into flames during the wreck, and he was helped to safety by fellow driver Kyle Busch.