News & Media


From the Notebook: NASCAR Hall makes an impression on Johnson

May 26, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

A strong finish at Charlotte will be key for Kenseth; Germain pares ownership

Five-time defending Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson doesn't much care to discuss his place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame -- as inevitable as his induction will ultimately be, when the time is right -- but he can certainly appreciate the Charlotte, N.C., facility that celebrated its second class of inductees earlier this week.

Johnson didn't mince words when he said his success -- including five championships between 2006 and 2010, 54 points race wins and 25 pole positions -- has created a greater appreciation for NASCAR history. The most recent induction ceremony had a serious impact on the driver.

"I thought it was great," Johnson said. "Proud of all of them, all 10 that are in, or really anyone that has a chance to be in that Hall. They've earned the right to be there.

"You know, my position with history in general is growing more as I get older, not only for our sport but just generally speaking. With the success I've had in this sport, very fortunate to be high on the win list and championship list and things like that, it's becoming much more of a point of interest for me.

"What's gone on, who these guys are, what has happened, I have so much respect for what they did in their day and the way they built the sport to what it is now, and I certainly have a responsibility along with the other guys in this era to promote the sport and handle it in the right way and continue it on and hand it to the next generation.

"I enjoy hearing the stories, I enjoy meeting these personalities. Seeing those faces that were inducted [on Monday] were all -- they're in the garage area from time to time and you hear the stories and talk to them. It's cool to see them get their day and be inducted into the Hall of Fame."

For Johnson -- whose family ties have been strong, from the time his competition career began as a single-digit youth on two wheels to the current day where he's celebrated in Victory Lane with his wife Chandra and daughter Genevieve -- it's really no surprise which Hall inductee created the most affinity for him.

It was Alabama Gang patriarch Bobby Allison, whose signature event, for Johnson, was the 1988 Daytona 500 victory Allison gained by holding off his son, coming NASCAR star Davey Allison. Their joyful and playful celebration in Daytona's Victory Lane is a hallmark moment in the "World Center of Racing's" history.

"For me, when I was growing up, my dad and I spent a lot of time watching racing together and traveling to races, watching on television," Johnson said. "I sat on the couch with my dad and watched the Daytona 500 where Bobby and Davey ran 1 and 2. That moment I still remember very well as a kid and how cool that was, and looking at my dad, thinking, 'how awesome would that be right now if you were racing your dad for this win, one of the biggest races in NASCAR, period? That was cool for me to see."

And like many have before him, Johnson marveled at the resilience of the Allison family. Bobby's own driving career ended with a vicious accident at Pocono Raceway in 1988 and he then had to suffer through the loss of his race-driving sons -- his youngest, Clifford, after a crash during a Busch Series practice session at Michigan in 1992 and Davey, after a helicopter accident at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993.

"I watched some of the biographies that took place on SPEED and really brought back the pain and different things the family had been through, Bobby and Judy [Allison]," Johnson said. "Happy to see Bobby get that moment, and for a lot of reasons, it was real special for me to watch Bobby's induction."

Charlotte a key point for Kenseth

Matt Kenseth still remembers his first career win after taking the checkers in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600, and with a strong win Sunday at Charlotte, Kenseth will solidify his position as a 2011 championship contender.

" I think a lot of times we excel in the longer races, maybe more so than the shorter ones, so I look forward to that."

--MATT KENSETH

"I remember almost everything about that race, to be honest with you -- that's one which will hopefully never fall out of my head," Kenseth said. "I think Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. won the All-Star Race the week before and he dominated the whole 600 and kind of got behind at the end with a set of tires or a change they made and it kind of opened the door... for Bobby Labonte and me to race for the win.

"I was able to run Bobby down with, I don't know how many laps to go, but there weren't a lot to go. We had a really good battle and I was able to pass him for the win. There was a rain delay in that race, it was really long and it was just a really cool race to be able to win, especially for your first one."

Even though Kenseth has four consecutive top-10 finishes at Charlotte he said re-paving the track before the 2006 season has changed his focus there.

"I feel like since they've paved it we've actually struggled a little bit at times," Kenseth said. "There have been times we've run really well and then there have been times where we struggled, but the 600 is probably my favorite event of the season. It's obviously the longest race of the year and a lot of things go on, but I look forward to that. I think a lot of times we excel in the longer races, maybe more so than the shorter ones, so I look forward to that."

Germain's pare ownership to single brother

Germain Racing, the triumvirate of brothers who won a pair of Truck Series championships in the space of five years between 2006 and 2010 with Todd Bodine before branching into all three of NASCAR's national series, this week confirmed a consolidation of ownership.

A team statement said the change came about "as part of an ongoing Germain family estate plan. Steve Germain and Rick Germain have effectively transferred their ownership interests in Germain Racing to their brother, Bob Germain Jr., [who] will continue his active role in the management of Germain Racing, LLC."

"Being able to share the wins and championships we've earned to date with my brothers has been very special," Bob Germain said. "Steve and Rick's support of the team over the last seven years has helped us build a very strong foundation at Germain Racing. I am looking forward to the continued growth and success of this race team."

Bob Germain is currently the listed owner of the team's No. 13 Sprint Cup car driven by Casey Mears, the No. 15 Nationwide Series car of Rick Ware Racing (that Germain Racing fielded in 2010) and the No. 9 truck driven by Max Papis. Steve Germain is currently the listed owner of Bodine's No. 30 truck and Rick Germain is the listed owner of Justin Lofton's No. 77 truck. Through a point swap executed before the 2011 season, Ware is the listed owner of Brendan Gaughan's No. 62 Germain Racing truck.

* Owner Standings: Cup | Nationwide | Truck Driver Standings: Cup | Nationwide | Truck

Stenhouse Jr.'s hot seat

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made the latest exclamation point to the rejuvenation of his career with his inaugural Nationwide Series victory last weekend at Iowa -- a venue where he crashed three times a year ago, which in part led to his benching by his team owner. -- He'll be back on the hot seat as he makes his Sprint Cup debut during qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 Thursday at Charlotte.

Wood Brothers Racing, which began the year with a victory in the Daytona 500 by Stenhouse's Roush Fenway teammate Trevor Bayne, has fallen out of the top 35 in the Sprint Cup owners' standings, so Stenhouse will have to beat five other go-or-go-home cars during time trials.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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