In the festive days leading into Christmas, Hannukah and the holiday season, one gift idea for both Nascar and IndyCar fans is a photo book celebrating the career of seven-time Nascar Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson.
It’s a coffee-table book filled with tremendous photography entitled “One More Lap: Jimmie Johnson and the #48”
The hardcover book is published by Rizzoli and sells on $48 – an appropriate number that has been on Johnson’s cars in both Nascar Cup and the NTT IndyCar Series.
“Funny how that works,” Johnson quipped to me at an October book signing at Books-A-Million in Concord, North Carolina. “What a coincidence.”
The book went on sale on September 27, the day after Johnson announced he was stepping away from full-time racing in IndyCar to pursue a “Bucket List” of races in 2023. Since that time, Johnson has become an ownership partner at Petty GMS Racing, joining fellow seven-time Nascar Cup Series champion Richard Petty and primary owner Maurice J. Gallagher.
Johnson was introduced as the ownership partner of the Nascar Cup Series team at Phoenix Raceway on November 4. By then, Johnson’s book was entering its third printing.
According to Rizzoli, “One More Lap is a photo-biography of legendary race car driver Jimmie Johnson, starting with his childhood years racing motorcycles and buggies and trucks and onto his Nascar years where he achieved unparalleled fame and now on to his newest endeavor, IndyCar racing.”
The book has epic photos from the top sports and lifestyle photographers of the races – from the finish line, the victory lap, fans in the stands and celebrations in the pits. There are also behind-the-scenes photos of race prep and family photos, coupled with stories and remembrances from a legendary career that has more races to run.
Most importantly to Johnson, it’s a chance to show his fans and supporters a photo album of his life and racing career.
I had a chance to spend time with Johnson at Books-A-Million at Concord Mills in Concord, North Carolina on October 7 before a book signing along with another reporter for an exclusive interview. The line of fans wanting to meet Johnson was already snaking outside of the bookstore and down the hall one hour before the book signing was about to begin.
Some of those fans were in town for that weekend’s Nascar BankofAmerica Roval 400 at nearby Charlotte, Motor Speedway including a father and son that had flown in from Scottsdale, Arizona to get a hood from one of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolets at Hendrick Motorsports signed by the man himself.
A mother and daughter from nearby Mooresville, North Carolina – Amy and Amelia Checca – came to purchase the book and have Johnson sign Amy Checca’s arm for a permanent tattoo.
“When I was on bedrest after I had my daughter, it was Jimmie’s rookie year,” said Amy Checca, who owns a North Carolina pre-school. “My father told me if I started following a driver, I would get back into NASCAR. I started following Jimmie. It’s been a great 21 years so far. I always said if I ever met him, I was going him to sign my arm to get a tattoo with the number of flags of the number of championships that he had.
“I’ll go to a tattoo artist, and he will tattoo right over it.”
Her daughter also got a chance to meet their racing hero.
“All of my life I had heard she was going to get it at some point,” Amelia said. “This was the perfect opportunity for that to happen.
“The book looks amazing. It’s a very sleek design. It looks really good.”
The book is produced by Condé Nast Corporate Photography Director Ivan Shaw. It is 272 pages and features 175 photographs from nine celebrated photographers.
Nascar team owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, wrote the forward of the book.
It is currently the No. 1 best seller in the “Celebrity Photography” category at Amazon.com.
“This is a ‘Passion project,’ a ‘Labor of Love,’” Johnson told me as he pre-signed books in the back of the store.
Johnson has been photographed as much as any athlete in sports. He was an instant star when he joined Hendrick Motorsports in the Nascar Cup Series in 2002. His wife, Chandra, is an artist who owns art galleries.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of photography,” Johnson explained. “Chani and a collaboration of her world in mind led me to this. Ivan Shaw, who produced the book, was staying at our house for a book signing at Chani’s gallery with another artist of hers. I shared with Ivan that I had all these images and he asked me, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ I said I didn’t have a clue.
“Over coffee one morning before he was on his way to a book signing, he wanted to see the images know more about it. Ivan has had a successful career as a photo director. He was at Vogue for a long time and is now over all of Conde Nast’s photo editing. He has had many side projects making books for various people along the way. We collaborated on his. He put in all the hard work behind the scenes. We put the book together and brought Rizzoli on board and we ended up with this team of people working on the book and editing hundreds of thousands of photos.
“The early photos, I was more involved with. There were a few I knew I wanted in there. The other photos I left up to them. I had so many photos to choose from. It was daunting to me to think about digging into all the files and thinking about them all.”
Johnson had a huge collection of photos to choose from. During the editing process, when it became a painstaking process of whittling down the number of photos that could fit into the book, the publisher made a surprising decision.
“They liked the photos so well; they added more pages to the book so that really helped,” Johnson said.
In addition to releasing the book, Johnson was also the subject of an eight-part docuseries commissioned by his IndyCar sponsor, Carvana, entitled, “Reinventing the Wheel.”
The two projects have served as both a personal home movie of Johnson’s season in IndyCar and the book is a lifetime photo album.
“This project, the docuseries and videographers being at the track over the years, I have always archived what is going on and at some point, I thought it was worthwhile to do it,” he said. “But I just wanted to do this for myself.
“We have tons of art books at home. I love documentation and docuseries and from a videographer’s standpoint and a picture standpoint, I’m a fan of it and that is what I consumed. Now, I’m at a point in my life where we can share them.”
Many of the early photos pre-date the digital age of photography. They truly are “Kodak Moments” from the film age that had to be digitized and transferred.
“There are some gaps and I feel like the world of social media coming on and telling stories, that helped me collect some content in the later years and I was in that head space thinking it through,” Johnson explained. “I’ve always loved photos since I was a kid. I remember buying a box camera when I was a kid and taking photos with my dad.
“The trailer photo, I don’t know how it was legal. It was our van that we rode in, there was another trailer and then a trailer with all the toys on it. Even in California now, there is no way you can tow two trailers.
“It was a Scooby Doo van but that was San Diego in the 1970s. That was it.”
There were also moments that were important for Johnson to be included in the book. One of those was a two-page photo that featured a yellow and orange No. 81 Chevy driven by Blaise Alexander with Johnson’s No. 92 red, white, and blue Chevy alongside. The two were battling for position in a Nascar Xfinity Series race at Richmond in 2000.
Alexander was one of Johnson’s closest friends and was killed in a racing crash during an ARCA Menards Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 4, 2001. To this day, Johnson has carried a decal on his No. 48 car honoring his friend Alexander.
“As they edited the book, they pointed to the photograph and were like, ‘We just felt like it was a good photo, it’s you in the old car, and the colors popped, and we loved the symmetry of it,’” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘Well, here’s why this photo is important to me.’ Obviously, with it being Blaise [Alexander] and Blaise is nowhere else in the book, the photo ended up staying as a result.
“I told them the Blaise story and why that was important.”
Most of the photos in the book are from motorsports photographers, but there are some that were shot by non-motorsports photographers for their artistic and creative abilities.
At one point in his career, a group of five photographers chose an “up-and-coming” photographer to shoot a race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.
His body of work was interesting because he looked at these linear lines and was much less about action on the track and more about everything around the racers and the crewmembers.
“He shot stuff in the pits that we overlooked, and nobody takes a photo of,” Johnson explained. “All the landscape stuff, he shot. That is what was so fun, all the photographers, something different came through in all these photographers.
“The other thing are photos from California Speedway with Peggy Sirota. The very first commercial Lowe’s did, Peggy was the director for the commercial. To work with her my first year and my final year was pretty cool.”
Already had two printings with 15,000 books printed and sold on the first printing.
Johnson has always been well aware, and quite appreciative, of his large and supportive fan base. Many of those fans followed him over to the NTT IndyCar Series after he retired from full-time Nascar Cup Series racing following the 2020 season.
“When I went to the IndyCar Series, I was blown away by the fans that showed up,” Johnson said. “This book is another great example of that. Sneaking off to do side projects is not the case, but it’s great. It speaks to the success we’ve had; the brand we created. That success and the brand we created is the reason behind all these opportunities to going IndyCar racing.
“Carvana’s interest in telling the story, and The American Legion, fans followed and wanted to be a part of it. Here we are with a book that is already on a third run, that’s crazy.”
A lot has changed since Johnson was a young rookie driver from El Cajon, California as a Nascar Cup Series rookie in 2002, including his autograph.
“It has changed quite a bit,” Johnson said. “I used to do every letter. I don’t even remember how I used to do that. The J’s have even changed.
“I arrived here in North Carolina and went to Ron Hornaday’s house. I figured out where I was sleeping, went to the card store, got a box of business cards made, and got a P.O. Box.
“It was official. I was here.”
And now, Johnson is back – back in Nascar that is, as a stakeholder in a Chevrolet Cup Series team that also includes the famed Richard Petty.
Johnson intends to compete in five or so Nascar Cup Series races in 2023. Beyond that, any bucket list items remain to be seen. He has already scrapped a return to the IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona in January after he was offered a ride in an Acura.
As a Chevrolet Nascar team owner, if he intends to run in the 107th Indianapolis 500, it will have to be with a Chevrolet team. So far, Johnson does not have a ride at the Indy 500.
After two years in IndyCar, Johnson is switching gears once again in his career, proving that at 47, it’s never too late to reinvent himself.
“The balance I’m trying to strike is filling that bucket of being a competitor, having those experiences in race cars, also balancing life from supporting my wife and kids and what is important to them and being around to have deeper relationships with my parents and siblings and friends,” Johnson said. “I’ve been on this hamster wheel since I was 19 and I have no regrets, but I realize that life can be deeper in other ways and richer in other ways.
“That is the balance I’m trying to find.”
Johnson has experienced the greatest highs in racing, from 84 Cup Series victories to a record-tying seven Nascar Cup Series Championships. He also struggled to adapt to the much-different Indy car but showed tangible improvement from his first race at Barber Motorsports Park in April 2021 to his final race at WeatherTech Raceway at Monterey, California in 2022.
The highlight was a fifth-place finish at Iowa Speedway in the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 on July 24 on the short oval.
“I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” Johnson admits. “It’s all part of the journey. I don’t think anyone would feel sympathetic for me if it had been different. I’ve had this incredible career, been able to experience so much and work with so many great people.
“Each mistake made has only made me better and learn from this.”