Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, continues to chase history entering the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Johnson’s six titles, including his 2013 championship, set the standard among his active peers, but his quest isn’t complete. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS needs one more title to catch NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty.
Johnson has accomplished a storied racing career in a relatively short time. His 70 Cup victories rank eighth on the all-time list, and he’s reached Victory Lane at 19 of the Cup circuit’s 23 active tracks. The six-time Cup champion is the winningest driver at five of those tracks – Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.
The Early Years
While Johnson’s success has come in a relatively short amount of time, it took hard work, dedication and help from a variety of people to get there.
With the support of his family, Johnson’s racing career started on 50cc motorcycles at age 5. His father, Gary, worked for a tire company, and his mother, Cathy, drove a school bus. With Jimmie and younger brothers Jarit and Jessie in tow, the family spent most of its weekends camping and doing what it loved – racing. During race weekends, it wasn’t unusual to see Johnson’s dad preparing the tracks for racing and his mom running the concession stand.
Johnson was successful on motorcycles at an early age. By the time he was 8, he won the 60cc class championship despite blowing out his knee with several races remaining in the season.
From motorcycles, Johnson graduated to the Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG) Stadium Racing Series, where he won more awards. A 1993 meeting arranged by his mentor, supercross champion Rick Johnson (no relation), proved fortuitous for the eager driver.
While racing at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Rick Johnson introduced his young protégé to the executive director of GM Racing, Herb Fishel. The protégé lived up to his billing, impressing Fishel with his driving ability and business acumen. Fishel kept his eye on Johnson that year. He later walked into an off-road racing team meeting and threw a picture of Johnson on the table informing the team that Johnson was the man they needed to drive their car.
Johnson seized the opportunity, spending the next few years driving buggies and trucks in off-road stadium and desert races. Johnson also improved his ability to connect with fans and potential sponsors by reporting for ESPN in the Short Course Off-Road Drivers Association Series (SODA).
In 1995, the work paid off in another way as Johnson met his future car owners Stan and Randy Herzog while working in the series. The following year, Johnson began driving the brothers’ off-road truck. After two years, Johnson was ready for the next opportunity and crafted a proposal, taking it to his friend Fishel. An impressed Fishel gave the owners and their ambitious driver a shot. In 1998, Johnson climbed behind the wheel of an American Speed Association (ASA) car for his first taste of pavement racing, and he never looked back.
His ASA victories paved the way for his move to NASCAR – initially in the now-XFINITY Series – where his winning ways continued, ultimately in the form of his five consecutive Sprint Cup championships.
Sprint Cup Series Career
Johnson won his first Cup race in 2002, his rookie season, and since then, he has kept his name in the NASCAR Sprint Cup conversation. From 2002-2005, Johnson averaged a 3.5-place result in the championship standings on a combined 45 victories. In 2006, he finally broke through to win his first Cup championship and the sixth for Hendrick Motorsports.
Johnson won his first three championships in dominant fashion. In 2006, he clinched his first title by finishing 56 points ahead of runner-up Matt Kenseth. He followed that with a 77-point win over teammate Gordon in 2007, and Johnson’s third championship happened in 2008 when he outscored Carl Edwards by 69 points.
In 2009, Johnson recorded his third title on the strength of seven wins, 16 top-five finishes, 24 top-10s and four pole positions. He matched NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and became the first racecar driver to be named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in the organization’s history.
Johnson’s fourth title closed out a strong season in which Hendrick Motorsports finished one-two-three in the championship standings. His fifth championship was one for the record books as Johnson became the first driver in the 10-year history of the Chase to overcome a points deficit in the season-finale. He was only the third driver since 1975 to do so in any format as he went on to beat Denny Hamlin by 39 points.
Johnson, the only driver to win five Cup titles in a row, also became the youngest to accomplish that feat. He needed 327 races to achieve the honor, while Petty needed 655 and Earnhardt required 390.
While recording personal milestones, Johnson has contributed several to Hendrick Motorsports’ coffers. He recorded the organization’s 150th and 200th Cup victories at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, respectively.
The 2011 and 2012 seasons were periods of transition for the No. 48 team, and Johnson worked with Knaus to find the right combination while competing for the championship. Johnson, who averaged a 4.5-place finish in the final standings those years, came the closest to recording a “six-pack” in 2012. He was in contention up until the season-finale at Homestead, when a part failure ended his quest.
The 2013 Sprint Cup season was a banner year for Johnson, who kicked off his campaign by winning the Daytona 500. The victory marked the first for the Generation-6 Chevrolet SS race car and ignited a season in which Johnson scored six wins and paced the leaderboard for 28 of 36 weeks, including the final five en route to his sixth Cup championship. Along the way, Johnson recorded victories from the pole position at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Pocono Raceway. He became just the fifth driver all-time to sweep Daytona’s Cup events, when he went to Victory Lane at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in July. On November 19, 2013, Johnson became the first professional athlete to co-host ESPN‘s flagship news show, SportsCenter.
Early in 2014, Johnson scored another first for NASCAR— and perhaps any major U.S. sport — a current competitor was allowed to help select the five inductees for a Hall of Fame class. The 2014 season proved to be a challenging year for Johnson. His first win of the season came in May from the pole position at the 600-mile race in Charlotte, which was his seventh victory and 17th top-10 finish in 26 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Johnson is now the all-time series points wins leader at Charlotte Motor Speedway, breaking a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. It was Johnson’s fourth win in the grueling 600-mile event and only Darrell Waltrip (five) has more wins in the 600. With that win, Johnson has won at least one race in 13 consecutive seasons, which is tied for the ninth longest streak all-time with NASCAR Hall of Famers Lee Petty and Cale Yarborough.
He followed up the Charlotte win the very next weekend by dominating Dover for the ninth time in his career. Two weeks later Johnson finally won at Michigan. This was his first victory and 10th top-10 finish in 25 races at Michigan International Speedway. Johnson now remains winless at only four tracks on the current schedule: Kentucky Speedway, Watkins Glen International, Chicagoland Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Johnson rounded out 2014 with a track-record fourth victory at Texas Motor Speedway in November.
Johnson had previously been in a tie with Carl Edwards for the all-time wins lead at Texas.
The 2014 season marked the first time in his Sprint Cup career that he finished outside of the top 10 in points. Johnson finished 11th with four wins, one pole, 11 top-five finishes and 20-top 10s.
Johnson ranks eighth on the all-time series wins list with 70. He also appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Live with Kelly and Michael, Queen Latifah Show, The Today Show on NBC, Tour De France and NBC’s 2014 Sochi Olympic coverage and presented at the American Country Countdown Awards.
The Jimmie Johnson Foundation
Johnson’s impact isn’t limited to the racetrack. Johnson and his wife, Chandra, launched the Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2006. The Foundation is dedicated to helping children, families and communities in need. To date, more than $7.7 million has been contributed to various organizations.
The Foundation focuses on funding K-12 public education, primarily through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation/Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grant program. Champions Grants have been awarded to 84 school projects located in California, Oklahoma and North Carolina, where the Johnsons grew up and currently reside. Grant projects include science and technology, health and fitness programs, trade-based programs, school improvements, language and literary programs and the arts.
In partnership with Samsung and Lowe’s, the foundation also runs the Team Up For Technology program, a $48,000 technology makeover open to K-12 public schools nationwide.
In addition, 5 charities that support K-12 public education are selected each year to be featured on Johnson’s Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope. Each of the Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope charities receive a grant of $25,000, a Blue Bunny ice cream party and national exposure on the helmet worn for a select Sprint Cup race.
Past foundation partnerships include working with San Diego Habitat for Humanity to construct four homes on Foundation Lane in El Cajon, California, Johnson’s hometown, and building Jimmie Johnson’s Victory Lanes, a four-lane bowling center for campers at Pattie and Kyle Petty’s Victory Junction in Randleman, North Carolina. In addition, in partnership with teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and team owner Rick Hendrick, Chandra and Jimmie Johnson pledged their support to build the Toddler Playroom at the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.
The Foundation continues to work with the Hendrick Marrow Program, Make-A-Wish and Project L.I.F.T. The Foundation raises funds through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Annual Golf Tournament, held in San Diego and the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Wellness Challenge, a series of events held in the Charlotte area.
Personally, Johnson and his wife, Chandra, delved for the first time into the world of book publishing. In 2012, they self-published, “On The Road,” a candid, photographic look at Johnson’s life during the 10 weeks of the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Demand for “On The Road” proved strong, and a second edition was ordered. Johnson also entered into an exclusive partnership with leading book retailer Amazon to offer an electronic version of “On The Road” for its Kindle Fire.
Date of BirthSep 17, 1975
HometownEl Cajon, Calif.
Current ResidenceCharlotte, N.C.
ChildrenDaughter Genevieve Marie
02/14/2015 No. 48 Team Next Race Paint Scheme