In the world of NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is racing royalty. As the son of the legendary ‘Intimidator’, he seemed destined for greatness; during his time on the track, he lived up to the hype. Even the biggest names in motorsports, however, can need some help sometimes. For Junior, that’s where Jimmie Johnson came to the rescue.
Early in their respective racing careers, Jimmy Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were celebrating after a race, and things got a bit out of hand. Thankfully, Johnson’s NASCAR skills allowed him to serve as an impromptu ambulance driver and avert a potential crisis.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had an impressive NASCAR career
Junior attended Andy Hillenburg driving school and, after graduation, cut his teeth on the stock car circuit. He broke into the Busch Series in 1996 and made his Winston Cup Series debut two years later.
In 2000, Earnhardt Jr. officially announced his arrival; he scored his first two career wins, finished in the top-five on three occasions, and cracked $2 million in earnings. From there, his star would only continue to rise.
While there were plenty of bumps along the way, including a concussion-shortened 2016 campaign, Earnhardt Jr. still found plenty of success on the professional circuit. In addition to monopolizing the NMPA Most Popular Driver award, Junior won 26 NASCAR Cup Series races and 24 Xfinity Series events; he’s also built up an impressive fortune and branched out into a variety of businesses.
Jimmie Johnson has done pretty well for himself, too
Based on his last name, Dale Earnhardt Jr. always had a leg up on the competition, at least from a popularity perspective. Jimmie Johnson, however, has been the man to beat for almost two decades.
After starting out in the American Speed Association and the Busch Series, Johnson made his full-time NASCAR debut in 2002. He claimed three victories in what was then known as the Winston Cup Series; that, however, was only the start.
In both 2003 and 2004, Johnson finished in second place when it came to the end-of-seasons points total. Those near-misses didn’t dent the driver’s confidence, though. He went on to claim five straight Cup Series titles between 2005 and 2010; Johnson also claimed the top spot in 2013 and 2016.
While results have tailed off a bit in recent years—Johnson hasn’t won a Cup Series race since 2017—that shouldn’t detract from his overall resume. Racking up 83 victories and seven championships is nothing to sneeze at, even if his glory days have come and gone.
Jimmie Johnson once used his driving skills to assist Dale Earnhardt Jr. after an injury
Jimmie Johnson’s driving skills didn’t only serve him well on the race track. Dale Earnhardt Jr. can tell you all about that firsthand.
“The one story that sticks out to me is way early on in our friendship,” Earnhardt told Michelle R. Martinelli of USA Today. “We were at Ricky Hendrick’s house, and I think Jimmy had won the race that day. So that evening, Ricky insisted that I come over and hang out, and they were all going to have a party.”
Once there, the men filled the hot tub with detergent; before long, soap bubbles were filling the swimming pool, too. While that may seem like the recipe for some harmless fun, it caused a problem for Junior.
“I jumped into the swimming pool, and I hit my head on the bottom because I couldn’t see the bottom because of the suds in it,” he explained. “And I’d slit my forehead open. It’s about two o’clock in the morning, and I got this inch-and-a-half split my forehead. And I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
Johnson, however, was prepared to come to the rescue.
“Jimmie says, ‘Don’t worry, Hendrick has a doctor, and we’re going to call him and we’re going to be at his office,” Earnhardt Jr. continued.
So I get in the car as a passenger, and he’s the driver. And he drove me about a 15-minute trip over this office in the middle of the night and sat in the room while the guy sewed my forehead up, talking to me and just laughing and joking.” He also went on to say that episode speaks volumes about Johnson’s character; even in the midst of a celebration, he was ready to step up and do the right thing.
As any NASCAR fan can tell you, Jimmie Johnson knows a thing or two about driving. Those skills, it seems, also make him a pretty good ambulance driver.
Stats courtesy of Racing-Reference