CHEVROLET NCS AT PHOENIX: Petty GMS Press Conference Transcript

MAURY GALLAGHER, RICHARD PETTY, MIKE BEAM AND JIMMIE JOHNSON, met with the media to announce that Petty GMS and Seven-Time NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson, have entered into an ownership agreement. Press Conference Transcript:


THE MODERATOR: When Mike called me earlier this week to see if I was going to Phoenix on Friday, said yes, didn’t tell him if I wasn’t, I would have changed my flight no matter what it would have cost when he told me what it was, because in my opinion today will go down as one of the announcements that helps evolve and celebrate and move forward the foundation of our sport just like some of them we’ve had in the last number of months.


For a very special announcement this morning, we’re joined today by team owner of Petty GMS, Maury Gallagher; team president, Mike Beam; a couple of guys that need no introduction, chairman of Petty GMS and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and inaugural NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Richard Petty; and another seven-time NASCAR champion and a very familiar face who we haven’t seen nearly as frequently as we’d like to over the past year, Jimmie Johnson.


Also in the room with us, we’re joined by Petty GMS’s director of competition and engineering Joey Cohen, and the 2023 driver lineup, Cup Series drivers Erik Jones and Noah Gragson and GMS Racing’s Truck Series driver, Grant Enfinger.


With that, I’ll turn it over to Maury Gallagher who has some news to share.


MAURY GALLAGHER: Thank you, Winston. Yes, I think Winston has set the stage. Just very excited today to announce that seven-time Cup champion, Mr. Jimmie Johnson, is going to be joining Petty GMS as an owner and competitor, and we’ll have more Jimmie can talk about that, but pinching myself sitting up here with this kind of talent and this kind of record, and I can honestly say that while we didn’t anticipate having this kind of talent up here, it was never not a goal.


We want to be at the top. When I chatted with Richard last year as we put our team together and the like, his goal was to be up front, to be a winner. Mike and I joined forces back in 2015, and since that time Mike is overseeing 41 truck wins, two championships and many ARCA wins and championships, as well. That’s the culture of this program, and we want to do it at the highest level in racing motorsports.


On a personal note, if you would have told me when I started in racing in 2010 I’d be sitting here today, that would have been a bridge too far probably, but I couldn’t be more excited personally to be here, to be involved with these two gentlemen. Jimmie is going to be obviously a great name and a help with a lot of our awareness and marketing, but obviously on the competition side, working with our drivers, Erik and Noah, Grant, all those things will be positives. I think you’re going to hear from him. He’s going to be as excited to be back and doing this stuff as he moves on in his career and the like.


But from a Petty GMS, where we’re going, this is a phenomenal step for us. Richard obviously was the first bridge, now this one. Very, very excited about that.


I’m sure you’ll hear good stuff out of these guys, but we look forward to ’23 season. Our driver contingency is as good as anybody in the business, Mike and the competition side have shown good stuff as you saw with the Darlington situation. It’s very exciting times for us.


WINSTON KELLEY: Jimmie, I remember you telling me the night before you announced that you were stepping away from full-time competition and stepping away from Hendrick Motorsports that you weren’t done, you just didn’t know exactly what that path might be. You’ve been true to your word. You’ve kept very active. I’m sure I join a lot of people in the garage that look forward to having you back. How does it feel to be coming back on such a regular basis in NASCAR? How does this day and evolution feel to you?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Honestly, it feels incredible. I must say, I did not see this in my future. This is something, an opportunity that’s developed that makes sense for so many ways, so many reasons and an opportunity I’m honored to be a part of and very excited to be a part of.


With all that being said, this wasn’t what — last time I was really at a NASCAR race was here in 2020, other than the double at the Brickyard INDYCAR race.


When I left here, I really had no idea what was in store for me. I knew I wanted to try INDYCAR, and an amazing experience there, and stepping away from full-time INDYCAR, I wanted to create, get an eight- to ten-race schedule, just really fun races, and certainly coming back to NASCAR.


As this conversation started, it’s one that I really had to pay close attention to, an offer, an opportunity that’s just a life-changing opportunity for me and one that I had to take. So I’m very excited about this.


WINSTON KELLEY: Richard, you and I have talked a lot, as we have with everybody in this room. You were there at NASCAR’s first Cup Series race. The family business, Petty Enterprises and the evolution, it became Richard Petty Motorsports and now Petty GMS Racing. Talk about the addition. What do you feel about the addition of Jimmie Johnson and what that adds to this race team, how things continue to build and evolve?


RICHARD PETTY: Me and Maury talk about all the time about what can we do to improve our situation, make our business bigger, win more races, and he called me one day and said, I’ve been talking to Jimmie Johnson. I said, you’ve got to be kidding. Jimmie Johnson wants to be involved with this or we’re going to be involved with him?


From that standpoint, I just sort of went off the edge and said, this has got to be one of the biggest things that has happened to the Petty crowd and GMS from that standpoint. We joined cahoots last year, got a pretty good start this year, but with Jimmie adding on, with his popularity and the people he knows that we don’t know, it had to be a heck of a deal.


From my standpoint, it’s a big, big step, not just for one year, but I’m looking farther down the road. If Jimmie comes in, does his deal, I’m 85 years old, so I’m not going to be here for another 15 or 20 years, and then Jimmie can kind of take over.


That had to be a plus-plus.


WINSTON KELLEY: Mike, when you look back over your 40-plus, maybe 50-plus year career, you’ve been with a lot of great drivers, a lot of incredible owners, be it Richard, Bill Elliott, Junior Johnson, all of them. What does this mean? You’ve helped build GMS from the ground up. What does this mean for the future when you look at Petty GMS racing?


MIKE BEAM: Well, definitely the future looks bright for us. When this all started, and Maury, we’ve talked about this for a couple years, one, okay, what’s our future, so once we went with the Cup program, and he acquired the charters, and especially it’s pretty special for me, of course, for Richard and Kyle and the Petty family because that’s where I really started Cup racing.  Like I said to Richard last week, it’s our future, and Jimmie is our future.


It’s exciting for us because felt like he’s going to bring a totally different mindset to us on certain things, so I’m excited about that. We couldn’t do this with the partners we have, without Erik and the GM folks, so we’re very blessed. It’s just a special day for us.


Petty GMS has been in business for 11 months, so it’s pretty crazy what’s happened in 11 months.


I was telling Maury last night, we were leaving the restaurant talking, I said, I’m about talked out, I’m about negotiated out, I’m about done here for a while. Hopefully — I know it ain’t the last one, but still, excited for our future, and it’s going to be — like I said this when we announced Noah, we’re trying to fast-track this, and that’s what we’re doing.


WINSTON KELLEY: Jimmie, the first part of the announcement obviously is you becoming co-owner. There might be another little bit to it that you want to share with the group.


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yes, definitely excited to share more. With that being said, we still have a lot to work through and decisions to make, but I do want to run a limited schedule next year in the NASCAR Cup Series, and we can confirm today that we will kick that off at the Daytona 500.


More to come. We do know that race, but again, there’s still a lot to be sorted out, and we hope to have more exciting announcements down the road.


WINSTON KELLEY: I know the fans will appreciate that, as well.


Maury, you’re going to have a big off-season. What are your thoughts leading in to 2023?


MAURY GALLAGHER: Well, this is always a hill to climb in professional sports. The guy at the top only has one way to go is down, but we’ve got a way to go up, and from where I sit, I’m in the cheap seats watching when you turn these guys loose and the product they put out there.


I was very excited when Mike and we were able to acquire and work with Richard and the team and the charters, as he said, but ’23 with Noah and Erik, Grant is going to be back, we’ve got championship-capable people both in the garage and in the cars.


I’m not going to sit here and predict championships next year, but they’re in our future as far as I’m concerned.


WINSTON KELLEY: Jimmie, you didn’t use the word retirement a couple of years ago, but you did retire from full-time racing about a month ago. Here we are a month later announcing that you’re a team owner. How did you get here? What was that process?


I saw you about a month ago, and you wouldn’t have told me if I would have asked. How did you get here?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Needless to say, things escalated quickly. I really did feel like I would run some Cup races and was pursuing a few different options. I still have a great relationship with Chip Ganassi and the team, and I am interested in some INDYCAR races, interested in sports car racing.


When this opportunity came along and it really came through the offices of Alan Miller, he’s been my longtime kind of agent, if you will — I know he hates that term, but not only does his office look after my interests but also Erik Jones, and Michael Bill has kind of been the point person in recent years. As Michael learned about my desires to continue to drive and to try to find a different way to be involved in the sport, he said, man, you really need to talk to Maury. I feel like there’s an opportunity here that really makes sense on both sides. That was the catalyst and start of it.


Literally here in the last month, a lot has happened.


WINSTON KELLEY: I think a lot of people in any business evolve from the student to literally in your case the master and the mentor as you did at Hendrick Motorsports. When you think about the mentorship opportunity that you have with guys like Noah and Erik, what comes to mind there?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Just an opportunity that I have to give back. I felt like through my career, I had many that believed in me and gave me that chance and did offer advice, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have someone like Jeff Gordon mentoring me, and many before Jeff.


Through the years, especially once I kind of hit my peak in Cup, many young drivers would talk to me, as I mentioned, the connection with Erik through Alan Miller’s office, we’ve had a relationship. I’ve known Noah. I’ve always been a resource. I’ve always felt like people helped me get to this point by giving and that I should give back.


Now in the ultimate scheme of things, I will have that opportunity, be a challenge to do so, and really excited to share when I can and how I can.


I don’t think I have all the answers, and I still have so much to learn, especially with this new role. I know one aspect of the sport, but there are many more for me to learn, and I plan to sit back, listen, take notes from these two pros and offer help where I can.


WINSTON KELLEY: I think I would be remiss, Richard, you are the king, so you get the final words before we open it up. Any other comments and thoughts you have?


RICHARD PETTY: No, I just look at the deal with — we’ve got Erik and Noah coming along, they’re getting their experience in the Cup deal. We’ve got Jimmie to come and give them some history, help them out from some of the different racetracks and all of this. To me it’s a good combination. You’ve got a couple younger guys and an older guy — not old, an older guy that can kind of mentor.


From that standpoint they can help each other. So now we’ve got a real pro that can say you’re doing this wrong or you’re doing that, and then on the other hand the young guys can say when you’re not being in this car you’ve got to do this.


The combination of all three of them working together, from my standpoint, couldn’t be better for our team.


WINSTON KELLEY: If you look at the results this year, certainly the trajectory is on the right. We’ll take some questions.


Q. Just curious, we talked to Justin Marks earlier this week and he says he talks to you quite a bit. I’m wondering if you picked his brain because he’s like that next generation of ownership coming in that is setting new trends in the sport. I’m just kind of wondering if you see kind of help taking GMS in that direction?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I would say that Justin and I have been friends for a long time, and our conversations have always been ongoing. I think he and I both bounce ideas off of each other, and I just love his perspective on the sport and change and the vision he has for his company. It’s been inspiring.


Now that this is official and as I try to learn how I can help and where I can help, I look forward to more specific conversations with him and others on that front.


I’ve always really enjoyed my conversations with Justin, and certainly what he’s done in the sport.


Q. First off, as you said, you haven’t been to a NASCAR race since 2020. Did you have to pick up a Hot Pass today?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: I was planning to, and we had a pre-meeting at 8:00 in that time zone, so somebody grabbed it for me. I planned to go. I wanted to have that experience to get some pictures of it, but I missed that opportunity.


Q. Being away from NASCAR you said one of your things when you went to INDYCAR, doing even IMSA races, was you had to forget NASCAR habits. But I’m sure you didn’t forget NASCAR. Was there always kind of like an underlying inkling that if I can go back one day, I’d want to go back and run races again?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, that’s always been in the back of my mind. As I got into INDYCAR, I feared doing so just because the worlds were so different and wanted to stay focused on the INDYCAR program.


If I did continue in INDYCAR in ’23, I had planned to try to come back at some level in NASCAR and run some races. I’ve been open and honest with Mr. Hendrick and Jeff Gordon about trying to come back.


Justin Marks and I have spoken about his Project 91 car. Prior to this opportunity really developing, there were some very casual conversations out there, maybe a pathway to come back and run, and then once the INDYCAR season concluded, this really kicked into gear, and now I have a pathway to do so.


Q. Did you miss us, Jimmie?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Absolutely. I’ve been watching from afar. Although I haven’t been here and been too involved, I have been watching. Been plenty going on.


Q. NASCAR has grown a lot in the time since you left. There’s a lot going on. What’s the mojo you’re feeling about it? And then long-term, do you see yourself full-time in NASCAR, running the team, being like a Mr. Hendrick, et cetera, et cetera, young owner coming in? What’s your vision, and what’s really important to you with all of this?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: You mean full-time as an owner or driver?


Q. Yeah.


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Wanted to make sure it’s not a driver. That’s not the plan. Channie is probably watching so please don’t start that rumor.


Gosh, now I forgot what your first part of the question was.


Q. What your vision is for you down the road as you look at your future. And then also, have you seen NASCAR, what has happened to NASCAR over the time since you left?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it’s a big question. Obviously NASCAR is experiencing a lot of growth which is kind of hard to say because it’s always been such a big sport. But I think it’s certainly changing and growing. The ownership opportunity has changed quite a bit and is very interesting to myself and others that are trying to get in the game. So it certainly has a part of my interest and why I’m so thrilled to be involved.


Long time, I just don’t know what that looks like. We’re literally weeks into this taking place, and I know that I have so much to learn on the ownership side.


I do feel that what I’ve done the last two years in racing in INDYCAR and fundraising for INDYCAR, that I have more experience in the space, and I do think that I have something I can offer there to the company.


Then directly to competition side, being able to work with Noah and Erik, to be in the car, to be in the shop. There are other aspects there that is kind of low-hanging fruit that makes sense.


I did spend a little bit of time with GM throughout my career, so there’s a chance that might be helpful, too. So there are a lot of layers to it that I don’t understand quite now, but I am taking this very seriously, and this is a chance of a lifetime that I’m very excited about.


Q. Between you all you have 14 championships. You hear Maury talking about you’re looking for another one at some point in the future. What is the long-term goal for Jimmie Johnson? When you left here and went to INDYCAR, we didn’t think we’d obviously see you back at some point doing — especially not this. So these conversations that you’ve had with Justin, with Jeff Gordon and Mr. Hendrick, did anybody say, Don’t do this at any point? Are you crazy? What’s your end game?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: We’re all crazy. Everybody in racing is crazy. If you sign up to join this circus, I think you’re a bit crazy.


I don’t know if I have a well-thought-out answer other than this has been home. This is family. This is the industry that I know. Being able to get to know Maury over — granted it hasn’t been a very long courting or dating relationship, whatever you want to call it, the history that he has with Michael Bill and his character, the way he conducts himself, carries himself, takes cares of business, I think we have a lot of similarities that we’ve discovered in who and what we’re about.


I just feel like you combine that with Richard, his legacy, his history, we just have something really special here that still needs to be developed.


So I don’t have a great answer for you long-term, and I think it’s going to be evolving and ever-changing, but the sky’s the limit.


Q. Question for Mike and Jimmie. Mike, you did mention how you’ve been a Cup team for 11 months. I remember I told Maury this this week, that I remember when I first met him, he just was Richard Childress’ guest at a luncheon in Las Vegas for the son who raced who was interested in sponsorship. Now you’ve got this team that he is fast tracking. He wants to win. He’s gone after Noah. He’s brought in Jimmie Johnson. What is that like? He’s admitted that Trackhouse is the standard and you guys have to get to that. What is that like to work for an organization that is just shooting for the moon and so quickly?


MIKE BEAM: I think overwhelming. I think that’s a perfect word for the way we do it. Like it never stays the same. We’re always striving to get better.


It’s a great challenge. Some days I question it. It’s great. But it is great. I think, like I said, we’re very blessed. Maury —


Q. What do you question? How rapid it’s growing?


MIKE BEAM: No, we have to get on this path here. I’m going to be honest with you. If we don’t win and do well, I don’t know why we’re going to do it. Me and him have that conversation all the time. It’s all about winning.


I know people say that, but you know, what is that saying — everybody is going to say, All I want to do is win, but are you going to work hard enough or make the financial commitment to do it.


Maury has done that. And so because I want to bring up, like, 14 championships between Richard and Jimmie, then we’ve got Dale that goes with us, so now he adds eight.


You always have to bring that culture. When we started Petty GMS, we talk about the culture, and Erik and Dave has done really well, right, and thank Ty and even Jeremy and the 42 group for really getting us going.


It’s exciting, but like I said, I hope less negotiating is going to be done here in a week or so because it’s been a lot.


But the thing about him, it’s always changing, so it’s fun because, Lord, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. We are going to have three trucks and three Cup cars. I mean, yeah. We need to have an ARCA car again and a dirt car. We’ve got a late model, yeah. (Laughter.)


Q. Jimmie, how much time do you got to spend cheering this guy up?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: There’s a path forward and an aggressive path forward to success, and that’s what I’m so excited about.


Q. Four weeks ago, four NASCAR team owners or representatives came to the media and they said the model is broken and something has got to change. Your buddy Jeff Gordon was one of those that said, This has got to change. I’m curious why you would hear those things and then say, Sure, take my money, I want in.


JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it’s a great question.


When I look at opportunities I had when I was driving for Rick, he has a structure with Jeff Gordon, and there were some conversations years ago that I entertained, and it didn’t make sense.


Now, I still think there is work to be done, and both sides have their case, but I do think that it’s improving yearly, and it does make more and more sense to be an owner.


I believe in the product. I believe in the sport. I believe in NASCAR. This is where I want to be. It’s worth that risk.


WINSTON KELLEY: Talking about the winning culture before we go to Nate, when I mentioned there are 283 wins between the two of them, I was quickly reminded 284 because there is a Petty GMS win there, as well.


Q. Jimmie, you said that you were looking at a schedule of eight to ten races in INDYCAR at one point for next year. I know it’s not solid yet, but can you tell us what you think you’ll be racing beyond NASCAR, if anything? Are you still interested in doing INDYCAR, still interested in doing the Indy 500? Does having a team ownership with a Chevy team preclude running for Ganassi or Honda teams at Indy?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, still interested in the sports car, INDYCAR. I’ve got an awesome opportunity to race an off-road truck if I want. Alex Bowman has offered me a Chili Bowl ride. The invites keep coming in.


I have been solely focused on this and don’t know the impact of this commitment and relationship and how that plays out. But once the dust settles from here, I’ll get deeper into those other conversations and try to build out the best race schedule I can have that does fit with the new commitment and obligation that I have here. That’s something that will certainly play into all that.


Q. So manufacturer conflicts you’re not sure on yet?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Haven’t crossed that bridge yet.


Q. You said at Laguna Seca you were interested in Wilkesboro. Wilkesboro would be conflicting with Indy 500 qualifying.


JIMMIE JOHNSON: I noticed that on the schedule. Just again, haven’t arrived at that conversation yet.


Q. Jenna mentioned the team ownership side and putting up your money. Can you give us any insight? Do you have partners buying into this with you? Are you putting up money? I know that you’re probably not going to disclose financial details, but did you front some cash to get involved here?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I don’t think we’re eager to share structure and details, but it’s me. There is no one else on my side. It’s me.


Q. Just to follow up, Maury, are you still the majority owner of the team?




Q. I assume you don’t have a charter for your Daytona 500 car, so are you prepared to race your way into the Daytona 500, and how do you view that challenge?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I’m definitely aware of the situation and would assume that would be the case. Let’s go racing. Do everything that I can to get in that Daytona 500.


MAURY GALLAGHER: I will put a plug in. This year we were in Talladega, the front row of the last two starts. So Mr. Beam here to my left, you go back and look at the GMS super track record, we’re as good as anybody in the business. I’m breaking my arm patting us on the back, but…


He’ll have an advantage, we believe, in quality of car that he’s going to be in.


Q. Jimmie, I guess this is a really basic question, but why become an owner as opposed to just doing some races? I’m sure that wouldn’t have been an issue for you to say we’ll field a car for Jimmie Johnson, but why become an owner in addition to doing that?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I of course started my — how can I say it? My 2023 plans started very traditional, the fact of trying to drive for people. Then when the idea was presented to me by Michael Bill, knowing where Maury’s commitment is, and he’s only been in the Cup business for 11 months, they’ve won a race, the pathway forward, and really learning and understanding about where he wants to take the company, it just started to feel right, and it’s really a gut feel.


I think that gut feel supersedes any logical thought of what other stories I’ve heard about being a team owner and jokes that I’ve heard Mr. Hendrick make over the years. It got to a point where this was a gut feel that I wanted to be a part of it, and I want to do this.


Q. Jimmie, what intrigues you about being an owner, and what do you think you can bring to the team from that perspective?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don’t know where my strengths will play out at this point in time, but again, the last two years in the INDYCAR space and how my office has managed our partners, our relationship, the relationship I’ve had with Chip, Chip’s willingness to show me more of how a car owner acts, leads, decisions they make. I’ve had a better understanding of it all.


I’ve been intrigued by it. I’ve been interested in it. I’ve gained some experience in it. I think I’m in an environment here where I can learn from two of the best and grow.


Again, there’s some low-hanging fruit with the competition side and participating in events, driving in cars, helping build culture in the shop, working with our young drivers. So that stuff is kind of a standard, but the bigger picture is an opportunity to learn, and I’ve enjoyed the experience I’ve had over the last two seasons.


Q. You mentioned Justin Marks, but I’m wondering if you’ve talked to Brad Keselowski or Denny Hamlin two other drivers who have stepped into the ownership ranks and gotten their feedback on the process?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I’ve talked to a lot of people through the last — really the communication hasn’t stopped. I’ve always spoken to Michael Jordan a couple times a year. That still has happened. Sorry?


Q. (No microphone.)


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, advice, yeah. So I guess what I’m getting at is conversations, I’ve maintained my relationships throughout the industry, if it’s at NASCAR or other team owners, Mr. Hendrick, Jeff Gordon. And maybe they could sense my questions were a little more pointed as they happened more recently, but I’m always trying to keep my hand on the pulse and understand what’s going on.


In recent weeks I’ve asked a few more questions, so I’ll be curious to check back in with those folks now to see if any red flags went up in their minds.


Q. Jimmie, not that you need another thing on your plate, but is the possibility of running Le Mans still on the table, or is that going to be off the table?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, it’s still on the table. I’ve made sure that my calendar is nice and open in June, and hopefully it can stay that way.


Q. For Mike, one of the things that was evident after Tony Stewart joined with Gene Haas and Brad Keselowski joined with Jack Roush was not only was there what those individuals brought to the teams but the willingness of other people in the industry to want to join with that organization now because they’re now a part of it. Do you see, whether it be sponsors or just personnel, a bigger sort of impact in being able to attract top talent throughout the NASCAR industry?


MIKE BEAM: I mean, it’s a great question. We discuss that all the time just from the standpoint of what we’re going to do to get to the next level.


I keep saying we’re fast-tracking it. You know, with Jimmie we’ve had some great conversations, and talking to Richard last week, like what are we going to do to get to the next level, and talking to the GM folks.


So when Tony went to Gene, it made a huge difference, right? It did. And Brad being with Jack and Roush Fenway, it definitely made a difference.


Jimmie, the night he come up here to the shop and met with me and Joey Cohen, and people needs to — you don’t need to understand, but it’s like, 11 months into this deal, and like I told Jimmie, I said, you’re going to be — there’s going to be a huge task here because you take Joey Cohen, you take Chad Norris, you take Dave Ellison, you take myself, and it’s just us four making the decisions on this Cup stuff. It’s not like it’s a big committee, right?


So it’s like he’s getting in on the ground floor, and Maury and I, we’ve said this all along. Jimmie has got — I know he works hard because I get text messages from him at 6:00 in the morning. I get that.


It’s going to be exciting to see because there’s a lot of work to do here. For us to get to where we need to be, we’re a couple years where we feel like we need to be on certain things with relationships. Like I said, it’s only been a week with him. You don’t need to talk.


MAURY GALLAGHER: Just to follow on to that, one of the things I think that was a seller for Jimmie was I’ve built a lot of businesses over my time, and there’s nothing more exciting in a business world than to start with an idea, look around the corner, and see it work.


As I tell people that are involved in that, these are the good ol’ days. Building something is tremendous. It’s a lot of fun, and if you’ve never done it before, it’s an exceptional thing.


I think Jimmie picked up on that side because this is going to be a building effort. We’re at that young age, four people that are really running shows compared to the big boys in the sport, Hendrick and Gibbs and things like that. Those are very well, big, established companies.


I think that was a big piece of the attraction. I’m putting words in Jimmie’s mouth, but I know it’s been exciting for me.


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Putting no words. That’s the absolute truth. Certainly hopeful that being involved does attract the sponsors, personnel, some of that low-hanging fruit that we think we recognize immediately.


And, frankly, why we were so eager to try to announce here and not wait until we had more answers. We need to get going. It’s November.


Q. (No microphone.)


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Still in the works. We don’t have anything there yet. I think Rick wants to just give me the 48.


WINSTON KELLEY: Don’t start any Channie rumors, but you’re okay with that rumor?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, give me the 48.


Q. (No microphone.)


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we’ll figure it out. I’ll go drive a sprint car a little bit.


Q. Jimmie, you’ve said your wife was watching; what was your reaction when you told her all of this?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: She’s awesome. She is my biggest supporter and believes in me more than anyone. Just when I think I’ve thrown her a curve ball, she continues to support me like no one else. She’s absolutely on board.


I think my youngest daughter, Lydia, is probably the most excited because she’s overheard some phone calls, and she keeps asking me when she can go to school and let people know. Monday she can go to school and let people know.  I’m sure she’s told everybody already, though (laughing).


Q. Do you have any idea like what type of races? Do you want to do a short track, intermediate? Is there anything specific that you want to do when it comes to the races next year? Chicago Street Course, is that one, as well?


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think we have a few ways to look at it. Obviously partners in areas that they want to race in is one thing to look at.


I have a list of races that I’m super interested in and would love to do. Then there’s also the competition point, standpoint of what’s best for the team, are there test sessions. It would be really nice if I could test a car and then go to that race because so much has changed, how can we collect for data and information for our group to help the 42 and the 43.


Q. Winston, since you’re standing there, does this impact his Hall-of-Fame eligibility timeline?


WINSTON KELLEY: Those have been done on a case-by-case basis. The intent of the eligibility rule is that somebody not compete significantly or full-time in the area that they, a competitor, have worked in, be it a driver, crew chief, et cetera, so NASCAR, the Hall of Fame, with input from the nominating committee would look at whatever that situation is at the time and make a determination. We’ve got a couple of examples that we’ve worked through, but there’s not a hard-and-fast.


The answer is we don’t know until the scenario plays out.


I don’t know how many races he’s going to run, either, so for whatever that’s worth.


Q. Probably less than the 31 that Matt Kenseth ran —


JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can confirm that.


WINSTON KELLEY: Yeah, but Matt had a full year off and then raced and another full year off, so that 31 did push his eligibility back, so that’s accurate. With Jeff Gordon I believe it was eight that did not, and looking at the circumstances of how they came in, to help in very challenging situations was also a factor that the committee felt like was important. But great points.


RICHARD PETTY: Getting back to your question of what races he’s going to run. He’s going to look at where’s the biggest purses.


WINSTON KELLEY: There’s one final thing.


MAURY GALLAGHER: Jimmie, would you come out here with me? I tried to get Richard to do this, but he wasn’t interested since he already has a wardrobe, but these are team owner shoes. I’ve been using — it turns out I guess New Balance is now the look, but I wanted Jimmie to have his official team owner shoes. Congratulations.


JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you, pal.


MAURY GALLAGHER: We’ll see if he’ll wear them.