CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Reigning NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was just a little bit anxious about voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame this week.
For the first time in NASCAR — and perhaps in any major U.S. sport — a current competitor was allowed to help select the five inductees for a Hall of Fame class. Johnson was part of a 54-member panel that picked Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Rex White, Joe Weatherly and Fred Lorenzen for induction into the hall next January.
"That was a huge honor and to be an amazing day to be a part of," Johnson said. "To sit in a room with so many people that care for our sport, know about our sport and discuss what took place in these eras of time."
Johnson and the Sprint Cup Series are at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend for NASCAR's longest race, the Coca Cola 600. Qualifying takes place Thursday with the race scheduled for Sunday night. Johnson, 38, did not take his Hall of Fame responsibilities lightly — even reading through the extensive briefing book on the 20 hall nominees twice.
"Those that know me know how much I despise reading," he said.
Johnson spoke up for his team owner Rick Hendrick and another longtime Sprint Cup owner Richard Childress, saying the two stood should-to-shoulder among those who've built the sport. Johnson said he voted for Hendrick, who has owned the driver's team since he began Sprint Cup racing in 2001. Johnson's won 66 races in 446 starts and six series championships, including this past season.