Scott Fowler: Jimmie Johnson on NASCAR, tragedy, the Coke 600 and his 2 scariest moments as a racer

Scott Fowler, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jimmie Johnson is, without question, one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history. Three drivers rank at the very top of the all-time NASCAR Cup series champion standings, each with seven season titles apiece. They are Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Johnson.

Of those three legends, Johnson is the only one who won five titles consecutively, from 2006-2010. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte in January. Johnson is now 48 years old, the same number that he made famous driving for Hendrick Motorsports. He still competes in select events and plans to do so in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday, for Legacy Motor Club, which he co-owns.

This interview with Johnson, where he spoke about racing, family, overcoming tragedy and his two scariest moments as a racer, was conducted in Daytona Beach, Fla. It occurred before the recent announcement that Johnson plans to pull off an unusual double on Sunday. He will first be part of NBC’s announcing team for the Indy 500, then will fly directly to Charlotte in time to drive in the Coke 600. Johnson and his family — wife Chandra and their two daughters, Genevieve and Lydia — plan to return to live in Charlotte later this year, but are spending this school year overseas in London. Chandra is also an art connoisseur and founded SOCO Gallery, based in Charlotte.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. A longer version is available on the “Sports Legends of the Carolinas” podcast. The Johnson podcast episode is sponsored by Queen City Audio Video & Appliances.

— Scott Fowler: You already are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. You’re 48 years old. Having accomplished so much, what keeps you going?

— Jimmie Johnson: I love competing. I love being in the race car. I knew that in 2020 that my drive to be on the road 38 times a year to race full time in (NASCAR) Cup — that drive had left me ... And with two young children and other things that I wanted to accomplish, I wanted to make 2020 my last full time year in Cup. I really tried to not use the word ‘retirement.’ It quickly was labeled on me.


— SF: It was used a lot.

— JJ: It was. I went IndyCar racing on a limited schedule in ‘21 and also sports car racing, which are two forms of racing I’ve always been interested in, and as a kid I wanted to be an IndyCar driver ... And then the second year I did an IndyCar full-time schedule, and then the sports car program again. And that was a 23- or 24-race schedule. And the grind was there again.

So I knew I wanted to slow down a bit more and try to hit a 10-15 race schedule. I found a much better balance. Then in addition to my driving duties I have become a team owner in the sport as well.

So I have a hard time slowing down.


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