Jimmie Johnson wanting to rekindle previous NASCAR glory in Daytona 500

As retirements go, Jimmie Johnson’s hiatus from NASCAR might finest be in comparison with the relationship rationalization, “We were on a break.”

True, within the two years after Johnson stated goodbye to full-time racing on the stock-car circuit, he cheated on the game that made him well-known by operating Indy and IMSA automobiles. He ran within the Indianapolis 500 and completed no higher than nineteenth in two tries. This yr, he even plans to drive within the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

But now, Johnson has doubled down on his return to NASCAR, not solely operating a part-time schedule but additionally being part-owner of a group began by the legendary Richard Petty. Johnson’s first begin is Sunday within the Daytona 500.

“It’s what I know and what I love,” Johnson stated. “I really wanted to experience other cars and other tracks before that door closed to me. … The grind of having 19 years in Cup racing took its toll and I just wanted to drive other cars and try other things.

“Some thought it was crazy … or maybe foolish or wild that I would try and do IndyCar. But that was for me. That’s what the last two years have been and really what I intended for this year was to just fill that fun bucket and experience bucket.”

Because he was categorized as a “non-chartered” automotive he needed to qualify to make the sphere. He did that Wednesday night time when he posted the twenty third quickest time in single-car qualifying, the quickest among the many six non-chartered automobiles. His beginning spot Sunday will likely be decided after the primary of Thursday’s twin 150-mile races that decide spots 3-40. Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson are on the entrance row, having posted the 2 quickest occasions Wednesday.

Johnson seemingly would have a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of the modern-day NASCAR circuit. It’s actually one thing his followers imagine as they had been vital when NASCAR entered a Rose Parade float and had automotive depictions of Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Jeff Gordon however not Johnson. Earnhardt, Petty and Johnson have every received a file seven season NASCAR titles. Johnson had an unprecedented 5 straight championships from 2006 to 2010.

Read also  Neymar confirms PSG sporting director conflict, upset by leak

Success has adopted Johnson his complete profession, starting in 2002 when he received the pole place in his first Daytona 500. He received his first Cup Series race that yr in his thirteenth begin at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, the closest monitor to the place he grew up in El Cajon.

“In my 19 years, a lot of crazy things happened,” Johnson stated. “I could have never predicted any of it. I still look back and can’t believe we had five [championships] in a row. In the moment it happened so quick and we’re so focused on the next thing that some of it feels like it didn’t happen. I look back on it and shake my head.”

Jimmie Johnson, middle, celebrates his 2006 Daytona 500 win with group proprietor Rick Hendrick, left, and crew chief Darian Grubb.

(Terry Renna / Associated Press)

His return could be tougher than anticipated from such an icon. The purpose is Johnson, 47, has by no means competitively pushed the Next Gen automotive, which was launched final yr by NASCAR.

“He’s probably asked me more questions [than I’ve asked him], which is a little weird,” stated Erik Jones, 26, who together with rookie Noah Gragson, 24, are Johnson’s teammates and staff at Legacy Motor Club. “I’ve known Jimmie for a lot of years and never really had the chance to work with him like this. It’s been fun to see how his mind works on some of this stuff. For at least a minute, it is odd.

“We were at Phoenix testing and he was asking me some questions. He was asking me some questions the other day about coming [to Daytona]. It’s weird I didn’t think Jimmie would ever be asking me anything along the way in my career.”

Johnson has stated he’ll race between 5 and 10 races this yr. In addition to Daytona, he has solely introduced one different occasion, the primary avenue race in Chicago on July 2. He just isn’t anticipated to drive at Fontana on Feb. 26 within the final race earlier than the monitor is reconfigured from two miles to a half-mile.

Read also  Chris 'The Bear' Fallica's March Madness developments, storylines, historic breakdown

In the meantime, he’ll be devoting the time he’s not racing into being an proprietor.

“I’m still defining that role,” Johnson stated. “I’ve never been to the track as an owner. … I would say the amount of time required being an owner I completely took for granted all my years as a driver. It’s a lot of work especially with a multicar team. And a lot of work inside the walls of the building, the marketing, public relations, sales and, of course, competition. Every office and hallway I go in there are questions that have to be answered.”

Legacy Motor Club is the rebranded model of Petty GMS, having been purchased by Maury Gallagher and Johnson. Petty retains a small curiosity and is often out there to be photographed.

Jimmie Johnson autographs NASCAR memorabilia during Daytona 500 media day on Wednesday.

Jimmie Johnson autographs NASCAR memorabilia throughout Daytona 500 media day on Wednesday.

(John Raoux / Associated Press)

“I do know myself and the selfish world I live in. And I would rather win. But if one of the others wins, I suspect it will be like watching one of your children do well. So, I’ll still be very happy.”

— Jimmie Johnson, on somewhat seeing himself win than his teammates

“I’ve been restructuring our workforce to bring in people I know,” Johnson stated. “That part has been difficult because in any merger of a company there is a turnover in people. It’s tough to be involved in that because it’s affecting other people’s lives.”

One transfer that Johnson has engineered was to assist herald, for NASCAR, a somewhat uncommon sponsor for Jones’ automotive: Guns N‘ Roses.

Even though Johnson is one of the team bosses, he candidly admitted he would be more excited to see himself win than one of his new teammates.

“I do know myself and the selfish world I live in,” Johnson said. “And I would rather win. But if one of the others wins, I suspect it will be like watching one of your children do well. So, I’ll nonetheless be very pleased.”

Read also  Florida State rallies from 25 all the way down to stun No. 13 Miami

Johnson’s two kids are being reared in Charlotte, N.C., a far cry from the smaller tight-knit metropolis of El Cajon. It was there that he began his love affair with motor sports activities, racing bikes when he was 4.

“My grandparents owned a motorcycle shop in El Cajon,” Johnson stated. “That was my entry point for racing. The El Cajon I remember is the one where I had a lot of opportunities to ride my motor bike. So thankful I grew up in that area at that point in time.

“I feel like in my generation, the El Cajon area was just a hotbed for the motocross industry. At lot of champions were from there, Broc Glover, Rick Johnson and many more. Those were my heroes. Those were the guys you looked up to.”

Johnson is much less related to El Cajon and the San Diego space than he was. He not has an auto dealership within the space and has moved his charity occasion to Charlotte.

“[Going back to the San Diego area] has slowed down quite a bit,” Johnson stated. “Life can be really busy with a 12- and 9-year-old. But we are still very active giving back to the school area in which I grew up.”

The Jimmie Johnson Foundation has awarded greater than $13 million since 2006, principally to public colleges in San Diego County, Muskogee, Okla., and North Carolina.

Fans anticipating to see him within the No. 48 automotive will likely be upset. He raced beneath that quantity for 686 begins with Hendrick Motorsports. But after Johnson retired from NASCAR two years in the past, the quantity went to Hendrick teammate Bowman, who’s on the ballot.

Jimmie Johnson, right, and Travis Pastrana talk before Daytona 500 qualifying on Wednesday night.

Jimmie Johnson, proper, and Travis Pastrana discuss earlier than Daytona 500 qualifying on Wednesday night time.

(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

“Someone brought up that I haven’t been on [pit road] on a different stop sign even though I left for two years,” Johnson stated, who additionally drove a No. 48 automotive in IndyAutomotive and IMSA. “I’m going to have to remind my spotter to remind me [where to stop.]”

Johnson will likely be driving the No. 84 — get it, 48 backward. Also, in what seemingly just isn’t a coincidence, it’s also the variety of lifetime wins he can have with another victory.

Could it come at Daytona?

“If I survive and get through the first two stages [of racing], there’s really a shot that I have to win this race.”

He could have misplaced his quantity however not his confidence.