At the 2014 NASCAR media tour in Charlotte, Jimmie Johnson was fresh off his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship and inadvertently at the center of a controversy when former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb said Johnson “wasn’t an athlete.”
Johnson has the same goal for 2015 as a year ago – win multiple races and capture his record-tying seventh Cup championship.
But unlike last year, he isn’t the overall story heading into the season. He wasn’t even the biggest story on his own team Thursday — something crew chief Chad Knaus had fun with during a 2015 Media Tour.
Johnson discussed entering another year of stability with Knaus, primary sponsor Lowe’s, and a No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crew that remains intact.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Johnson said of the championship. “The championship seems so far away. We had a shot last year, and it came and went. It hasn’t been on my mind.
“The way we finished up the ’14 season isn’t something we’re happy with. We need to be better.
“This week is about Jeff Gordon and the introduction of Chase (Elliott) to the 24. But it’s weird to see someone you’ve idolized be retiring … ”
It was at that moment Gordon, among those most responsible for Johnson’s Cup success having discovered him more than a dozen years ago, morphed from teammate/driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet into Hendrick Motorsports media day court jester.
“I didn’t take that the way everyone else did!” he deadpanned, to much laughter.
“Yeah it’s a weird experience,” Johnson said. “We are seeing him start the process of the last year.”
Johnson poked fun at himeslf, too, noting a rare mistake he made in a recent triathlon.
“I added a couple miles… I missed a turn,” he said.
“You think you’d approach an intersection with eight cops there, and at least one would say you went the wrong way. I went straight on through. Then nobody was there. So I turned around.
“To everyone’s surprise, I did miss a left hand turn.”