Along with being one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history for all of his success on the race track, Jimmie Johnson was also a leader in the garage area – particularly in the latter years of his career.
For example, it was Johnson who led the way last season in standing with Bubba Wallace on the grid at Talladega Superspeedway after it appeared Wallace had been the victim of a hate crime (which later proved to not be the case). It was after Johnson said he was going to stand beside of Wallace in a show of solidarity and support that everyone else followed.
So, who will carry the leadership torch in Johnson’s absence?
If seniority and success mean anything, it will likely be Kevin Harvick. But others, including perhaps reigning series champion Chase Elliott, could step up as well.
With COVID-19 continuing to impact the United States for the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely any race tracks will operate at 100 percent capacity this year. However, it remains to be seen exactly how many fans will be permitted at which tracks and whether some tracks will once again be forced to ban attendance altogether.
In 2020, only four of the 36 NASCAR Cup Series races were run without capacity restrictions, with all four coming prior to the widespread arrival of COVID-19 on U.S. shores. As much as drivers prefer to race in front of grandstands that are full, they learned last season that it’s possible to put on a good show regardless of how many in-person spectators are watching them.
Expect more of the same this year.