Jimmie Johnson finally took time Sunday night at Homestead to dismiss what was a fairly outrageous, out-of-line claim by ex-Philadelphia Eagles NFL QB Donovan McNabb that Johnson wasn’t an athlete.
“Yes, I am an athlete, and so is every driver in one of these racecars. Even Tony Stewart,” he deadpanned after winning his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
McNabb made the claim on a FOX studio show prior to the weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale and immediately heard from the NASCAR nation on Twitter.
And Sunday night in Homestead provided a perfect response from Johnson and the two closest people around him in his NASCAR career, team boss Rick Hendrick and crew chief Chad Knaus.
Said Hendrick, “I heard McNabb say he wasn’t an athlete. I’d like to see McNabb come run the Boston Marathon with him or swim the lake out here. Guys like that don’t know what they’re talking about. He wouldn’t have been Athlete of the Year if people didn’t know what kind of unbelievable athlete he is.”
Added Knaus, “I owe a lot of my change in attitude to Jimmie because he’s opened my eyes. You have to realize, I’ve lived my whole life in these damn circles. Middle of the racetrack, that’s where I live. You see the circle, put me in the middle of it, that’s where I’ve been for 30 years of my life. Jimmie has made me realize there’s more to it than just that. He’s opened my eyes to a lot of things. I love him like a brother. He’s pretty special to me. He’s a cool dude.”
Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.
The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.
“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.
“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.
“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”
The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.
Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.
Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.
McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.