CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson is getting ready for his last NASCAR Cup Series race as a full-time driver at Phoenix Raceway, which has brought out some touching emotions from his team members. Despite the feelings that come with the ending of an era, it’s business as usual for the No. 48 team.
The crew has been hard at work in prepping Johnson’s unique chrome Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and the team is focused on bringing the best race car possible to the track.
“Preparation isn’t really different on our side,” car chief Jesse Saunders said. “It’s still making sure that we check all the boxes and do all the details that it requires. It is different this week, for sure. More than anything, it is a little bit of a unique feeling to be preparing his last full-time Cup car. There’s a mix of emotions. It’s exciting to be a part of it, but it’s also sad because it is the last one.”
For the most part, the No. 48 team is buzzing with excitement. The crew wants to send Johnson out with a bang and help him win his final race, which would put him at an impressive 84 wins.
“Being Jimmie’s last race with us and this team and what he has meant to this sport, there are a lot of feelings and emotions,” rear-tire changer Calvin Teague said. “I just hope that we can have a good race and end on a good note for him.”
Johnson announced last year he was retiring from full-time racing to focus on being with his family and to embark on new endeavors. Production supervisor Ron Malec said it’s weird to acknowledge this will be the last time he prepares a car for Johnson, but he understands why the legendary driver wants to shift gears.
“I think he is very deserving to do whatever he feels he wants to do at this point,” Malec said. “I don’t think he is leaving anything on the table. Not many people have ever achieved what he has achieved in NASCAR, so I think it is a pretty great accomplishment and I think he is going out in the right way.”
Johnson has won at Phoenix Raceway four times and will try to bring home a fifth trophy on Sunday in his final race. All the action can be seen starting at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.