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In the Hot Seat with Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson enjoys his latest racing chapter with his loyal fans. (Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

Jimmie Johnson enjoys his latest racing chapter with his daughters, his most loyal fans. (Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

For the likes of Tom Brady or Jimmie Johnson, there’s something about the thrills of competition that motivates these iconic athletes.

On paper, Brady and Johnson have accomplished incredible feats while possessing humility and grace. In the case of Johnson, the El Cajon, California native simply loves to race.

Achieving remarkable, Hall of Fame success in NASCAR, Johnson’s writing the latest chapter to his storied motorsports career primarily in the NTT INDYCAR Series. As the driver of the No. 48 Carvana Honda Dallara, he’s tapping into the fountain of youth while gaining confidence and knowledge of open wheel competition.

Moreover, Johnson is a tough customer as he showcased on the Streets of Long Beach, California. He acclimated nicely to high speed action at Texas Motor Speedway as well, starting 18th and placing sixth.

Johnson achieved another incredible milestone when he won Rookie of the Year honors for this year’s Indianapolis 500. No doubt, the second year INDYCAR racer can drop the hammer and showcase his prowess in the intensely competitive series.

While INDYCAR’s next race is not until the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, July 3, Johnson prepares for his latest IMSA race, the famed Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Johnson to get his thoughts on his INDYCAR efforts and his latest efforts in the famed Race of Champions. Without further ado, here’s “In the Hot Seat with Jimmie Johnson” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : In the midst of your second season in INDYCAR but your first full-time, it seems you’re gaining more confidence with your No. 48 Carvana Honda Dallara. What’s it been like for you to apply what you learned last year into this season and show strength at the ovals?

There's plentiful competitive fire with Jimmie Johnson. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

There’s plentiful competitive fire with Jimmie Johnson. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Jimmie Johnson : So just to back up, there is nothing that translates from the NASCAR Cup car to the INDYCAR from a vehicle standpoint. They couldn’t be more different. My knowledge of the tracks has come in every handy.

At Texas, pushing those speeds, it was just so opposite of anything I had done before. I was so proud of that effort! I hope we can back that up at Iowa and St. Louis.

Tiongson : You have an illustrious motorsports career which continues with your efforts in IMSA and INDYCAR. How much does it mean to you to add to your legacy and compete against the best in both series?

Certainly, Johnson has some great support at Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Pruett and Tony Kanaan.(Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

Certainly, Johnson has some great support at Chip Ganassi Racing with Scott Pruett and Tony Kanaan.(Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

Johnson : I’m really just doing what I have wanted to do and enjoying every second of it. The Indy 500 was a huge bucket list for me, and I think Le Mans would be on that list and I’m open to doing the double if there was an option (the 500 and 600).

Tiongson : This year, you’re working with a new crew chief, Mike Le Gallic. How has he helped you tap into your natural driving abilities and creature comforts to translate those into success on the track?

Johnson : Mike is great. He has a NASCAR background also in the early 2000’s so he speaks my language so to say. He was also Scott Dixon’s car last year and has so much experience in IndyCar. Just a great dude and I’m glad he is on my team.

Tiongson : While you’ve raced on the oval layout at Indianapolis in a stock car, how special was it for you to race in your first Indianapolis 500 and earn the Rookie of the Year honors for this prestigious race?

Johnson can take pride with his tremendous honor following the Indianapolis 500. (Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

Johnson can take pride with his tremendous honor following the Indianapolis 500. (Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

Johnson : It was amazing. I obviously wasn’t the highest finishing rookie, and have much respect for all my fellow rookies who performed at such a high level during the race and finished well.

I know was some chatter on social media about the vote, but when you look at the criteria, it’s much more than on track performance and I’m proud of what all we accomplished in Indy and helping to promote the race. I am happy that I was selected, it was such an honor for me and my No. 48 Carvana team.

Tiongson : You’ve embraced your workout efforts with cycling as you’ve shown on your social media channels. What drives you to keep at it with staying or getting in better shape, even when the temperature and humidity levels increase?

Johnson : I’m training in a different way now. I have been working with Pit Fit Indy on some specific exercise, and some hand eye coordination. Almost every lap in IndyCar is like running a 5k – explosive effort each lap. I usually have to try and catch my breath in the car.

Tiongson : While your on-track accomplishments are remarkable, you’ve been vocal and a champion for inclusion and diversity within motorsports. What spurred you to be a catalyst and ally for these efforts?

Johnson: I’m just being me. A guy from California following my dreams. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to.

Tiongson : Earlier in the year, you competed in the Race of Champions in perhaps your coldest, unique effort yet in this all-star, international event. What was it like to race in such wintry conditions, represent the U.S. and battle against the likes of Sebastian Vettel?

Johnson : That was such a cool experience, and it was fun to spend time with Colton Herta and Mick Schumacher. It was such a “guys” trip, but we just had an absolute blast. I enjoyed every second of it.

Tiongson : When you had the opportunity to test a McLaren F1 car in 2018 in the ride swap with two-time F1 champion, Fernando Alonso, how exciting was it to drive that car around a genuine F1 track and who do you suppose got the better of the experiences?

With the likes of Kanaan and Scott Dixon at Ganassi, Johnson is living and enjoying INDYCAR life. (Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

With the likes of Kanaan and Scott Dixon at Ganassi, Johnson is living and enjoying INDYCAR life. (Photo: CoForce | Chip Ganassi Racing)

Johnson : It really ignited my passion to drive an INDYCAR. That started the wheels in motion for what we are doing now. I am so happy we were able to do that and it was an experience I won’t ever forget.

Tiongson : Motorsports continues to this day and evolves not only with the technology and competitors, but the fanbase. Especially after the onset of the pandemic, how vital is it for the next wave of racing fans to be engaged with any racing series, regardless of the series they may watch fervently?

Johnson : Yes, fans are consuming racing in so many different ways. The INDYCAR app is really a great device to use to follow our racing. You can see throttle and breaking, how much Push to Pass we have left and it’s all in real time.

Also, fans are consuming things like our docuseries – Reinventing the Wheel. You can catch that on Carvana.com/Racing – and Carvana has done a great job in going behind the scenes, taking a closer look into all that goes into the on and off-track efforts to race.

Tiongson : While we all try to motivate ourselves in our fields of desire, your family remain your constant support system. How has it been like to share your experiences with your wife and daughters and build on these memories today that will likely be sentimental in the future?

Team Johnson is always around for "Seven-Time." (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Team Johnson is always around for “Seven-Time.” (Photo: Mike Moore | The Podium Finish)

Johnson : Team Johnson is taking it all in. It’s been such a great few years and we just love everything that we are doing right now.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Jimmie Johnson for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. Also, thanks to Amy Walsh Stock of Jimmie Johnson Racing, Inc. for making this interview possible. You can keep track of Jimmie Johnson on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, his official website and here on TPF!

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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