Story By: AMY STOCK / HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS – CONCORD, NC – On Tuesday, Jimmie Johnson unveiled the sleek ride he will drive for his final race as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver at Phoenix Raceway.
The seven-time Cup Series champion will pilot a unique chrome No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for Sunday’s race.
“I think the car is going to pop and look really good,” Johnson said of his one-of-a-kind scheme.
The chrome background reflects the metallic hues from his seven NASCAR Cup Series trophies and allows the purple Ally colors to pop. The No. 48’s traditional yellow also stands out against the chrome.
Johnson’s final race will start at 3 p.m. on NBC this Sunday.
Johnson Says Team Owner Rick Hendrick ‘Changed My Life’
Jimmie Johnson is known as one of the greatest NASCAR Cup Series drivers of all time, but 20 years ago he was looking to make it into the highest level of racing.
Rick Hendrick had his eye on Johnson before selecting him to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson tells the story of Hendrick’s son, Ricky Hendrick, and Jeff Gordon talking to the Hall of Fame car owner about him. The conversations eventually led to Johnson signing with the organization in 2001 and making his full-season debut in 2002.
According to Johnson, Hendrick taking a chance on him changed his life on many levels.
“I think I will struggle putting it into words,” Johnson said. “But when I sat down with Rick and understood his process in choosing me to drive the new car that was coming to Hendrick Motorsports, I didn’t realize all that went into it and how he knew about me for so long.
“Once I had face time with Rick, he knew a lot about me. He seemed very comfortable with me and that only helped me become more comfortable earlier in our relationship. He has changed my life. There is no way around it. He has helped me be a better person, better man, better father, better member of our town and city.”
According to Johnson, he almost blew the chance to make a good impression on the Hendrick Motorsports team owner. Ricky Hendrick and Johnson had run a NASCAR Xfinity Series race and Ricky offered Johnson a ride home. However, Johnson saw the hood up on Ricky’s car and assumed his ride was gone.
“I get out of the race car and (I was walking) back to my transporter,” Johnson said. “Ricky is standing in front of me frantically encouraging me to hurry and change because his parents are still waiting for me. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Why didn’t you guys leave?’ He said, ‘Well, we said we would give you a ride home.’
“So I went and changed and I walked onto their airplane, really concerned and nervous about the welcome I was going to receive. They were, of course, extremely gracious and kind. Then Rick proceeded to serve me a hamburger and fly me home.”
Johnson said the relationship with the Hendrick family became deeper after Ricky and nine others were tragically lost in an airplane accident in October 2004. Johnson went on to earn an emotional win in Atlanta the following week.
“Rick and Linda both have really been there on a personal level,” Johnson said. “To reflect back on Ricky and all the others that were on the aircraft that were close to the Hendrick family, it just makes things deeper and more meaningful in a different way than I would have ever expected to have a relationship with my boss and my boss’ wife.
“So it really is family.”