At the conclusion of the 2020 NASCAR season, the Hall of Fame career of Jimmie Johnson in full-time competition will come to an end.
I first met Johnson while working for the American Speed Association in 1998 when, with the support of General Motors, he came to race with a team put together by the Herzog family.
GM was looking to ASA as a platform to develop young talent because the series based in Pendleton competed on short tracks, half-mile and larger tracks.
Johnson that year was teamed up with one of the best crew chiefs with ASA in Howie Lettow, who was known for developing young talent.
Since that time, I have watched Johnson’s career flourish over the years to include seven Cup Series championships and 83 victories.
At the time, my wife, Kelly, made the comment Johnson was going to be the next Jeff Gordon. Her eye for talent proved to be right on.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet with Johnson at several NASCAR events including his four wins at the Brickyard.
His demeanor has never changed. Johnson has been criticized as being bland. I always considered his public persona to be a sign of professionalism.
Johnson always greeted us with a welcoming smile and asked how we were doing.
I don’t think anyone in 1998 would have thought the California kid with a background of off-road truck racing would excel in a stock car.
Johnson won ASA rookie of the year honors in 1998 and in his second year of competition scored his first stock car victory at Memphis Motorsports Park.
That first year Johnson claimed the pole position for the Pay Less 400 at Anderson Speedway and led many laps but finished outside the top five.
I can recall there being plenty of emotion from Johnson on that day and many times since as he put together a stellar career with Hendrick Motorsports.
Next year Johnson will be seeking that eighth NASCAR championship to break a tie with legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhart Jr. and looking for a fifth win at the Brickyard.
No matter what the 2020 season holds in store for Johnson, I will always remember the memories.
OTHER RACING NEWS
Anderson Speedway has announced the 2020 schedule for sprint car racing on the high banked quarter-mile oval.
The Must See Racing Winged Sprints will be in action May 2 for a 50-lap event. Ohio driver Jimmy McCune won the event this year.
The 72nd running of the Pay Less Little 500 is set for May 23 with Kody Swanson looking for his third win in the past four years.
The Glen Niebel Classic is set for July 11 and will take place on the Saturday before the running of the Redbud 400 for super late models on July 13. Tyler Roahrig is the defending race winner.
The sprint cars will be in action on Aug. 3 and the Tony Elliott Classic, also won by Roahrig, is set for Oct. 5.
Except for the winged sprint race and the Little 500, all sprint car events are 125 laps.