Race Weekend Central

Don’t Be Mistaken — Jimmie Johnson Doesn’t Lack Character

Though Jimmie Johnson may not be rowdy like Kyle Busch, tenacious like Joey Logano or flexible like Carl Edwards‘ backflips, there is no shortage of character in the veteran’s skin.

Growing up in dirt racing country in southern California, the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion grew up a Davey Allison fan through the late 1980s and early ’90s – just because his brother was a Dale Earnhardt fan.

“Earnhardt, I had much more experience with him,” Johnson said. “My younger brother picked him as his favorite driver so, of course, I couldn’t like him. I went down the Davey Allison and Cale Yarborough route because there was no way I could agree with my younger brother.”

Unbeknownst to him, Johnson would be destined to give Earnhardt’s most premier statistic – seven championships – a run for its money. Johnson has publicly expressed his gratitude for Earnhardt’s legacy – even when he didn’t like him.

“Still, I couldn’t help but respect him and what he could do behind the wheel,” he said. “It was more in the black No. 3 I saw him race.”

Joining a club that has only seen two occupants in NASCAR history, Johnson has battled through those who may snicker at the thought of the 41-year-old joining Earnhardt and Richard Petty. Or maybe, they simply don’t appreciate a milestone when they see it.

Whatever the reason, Johnson hasn’t lost an ounce of drive, as he has spent more time studying Homestead history even after 15 years of experience.

“I’m more focused on winning the race, understanding the middle of the day what I need the car to do before the sun sets,” he said. “I’ve been so caught up in notes and video, talking setups, pulling through data – the seventh is there, I’ll be happy to talk about it. I just don’t know what else to add to it. I’m all in the race-winning mindset.”

Taking advantage of his unique upbringing, Johnson hasn’t forgotten his past as he approaches what could be his last shot at matching NASCAR history.

“Truthfully, the majority of my racing career, I was the B driver looking for my opportunity and [being] hopeful that I’d get it,” he concluded. “Studying under very talented champions, I never had anybody tell me I was great or were kissing my butt along the way. I always had to fight for it.”

About the author

Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.

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