A Lifetime in NASCAR features NASCAR historians Ben White and Aaron Burns taking a look at the current events of NASCAR through the lens of the past. What was silly season like in the golden age of NASCAR? How would NASCAR Reddit have reacted to NASCAR’s greatest moments of the 90’s? Join these historians as they tackle the NASCAR timeline from an all new perspective.
Here are some snippets from a recent episode:
AARON BURNS: One of the coolest things about NASCAR’s Media Tour happened in 2018. I was standing out in this expansive area for drivers where they relax – Ben, you were at that Media Tour weren’t you?
BEN WHITE: I was, yeah.
AB: In this area, if you remember those “This is SportsCenter” commercials where somebody’s wearing their uniform and they’re just doing stuff in an office atmosphere, well, I lived that. I was in the bathroom, washing my hands and there’s Chase Elliott in his NAPA fire suit, washing his hands beside me. It’s not terribly uncommon if you were at Media Tour and you had that access.
But I walk out and Jimmie Johnson and (Formula One champion) Fernando Alonso, (IMSA champion) Scott Pruett and (Formula One driver) Lando Norris are all talking. It was this meeting of the minds that was just incredible to watch. When Johnson and Alonso were talking, they were talking about trading cars. None of us knew this at the time, but Fernando Alonso used to play NASCAR video games and he’d always drive Jimmie Johnson’s car.
BW: Really? Wow.
AB: This meeting was what set off in late 2018, Jimmie Johnson and some of the Hendrick guys take the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to the Bahrain International Circuit. Fernando Alonso climbs behind the wheel of the Lowe’s Chevrolet and Jimmie Johnson gets behind the wheel of a papaya McLaren Formula One car. I always thought it was so cool that Jimmie had this passion for running an open-wheel car, but everyone thought, OK, he’d crossed that off his list.
So, about a year and a half ago, during qualifying for the second ROVAL™ race, Jimmie is standing there watching Josef Newgarden test his Indy car. They did a little exhibition with an Indy car running the ROVAL™ at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I was standing there in the pits, just me and Jimmie and Jimmie’s manager. I was like, “What would it take for you to try one of those things?” Jimmie says, “If it was a road course, yeah, I’d try it.”
I’m thinking, in what world is Jimmie Johnson going to race an Indy car? He might talk about it, so I was like, ‘Yeah, man,” but he’s not going to do it. But now, in 2021, Jimmie Johnson is an IndyCar Series driver for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ben, if you’d have placed that bet with me, you would have collected big bucks.
BW: I’m with you on that, because I didn’t see that one coming. A lot of times, I can, but I did not see that train coming down the tracks. I just didn’t think that was going to happen. It was kind of a bucket list thing for Jimmie. He and I have talked about that. He’s told me before, “I always thought I was going to go Indy car racing,” and the same (was true) for Jeff Gordon. Jeff Gordon was a big Rick Mears fan growing up.
BW: Jeff lived in Pittsboro, Indiana. Everybody in the Midwest – in Indiana especially – is all about going to the Indianapolis 500. As fate would have it, Jeff ended up going to NASCAR, and of course, the rest is history. It was kind of the same with Jimmie. He was into off-road racing and stock cars weren’t on his radar, but Chevrolet put Jimmie in a stock car and the rest is history there, too. I admire the fact that he can go and say, “These are the things I want to do in my life before I say ‘I’m done,’” and he’s still young enough to try his IndyCar hand. Hey, kudos to him for doing that. It’s interesting. I just did not see him doing it.
Speaking of Media Tour, it was so cool to be in the same room with all those guys, just kicking back, having a soft drink and talking about things. It was like, 450 wins sitting there. You pinch yourself a little bit.
AB: For all the Media Tours I’d done, the most incredible moment for me was Scott Pruett talking to Fernando Alonso, talking to Jimmie Johnson. That’s like LeBron James talking to Derek Jeter, talking to Tom Brady. That just doesn’t happen.