Johnson appeared on the 273rdÂ edition of the Dale Jr. Download podcast and admitted that the âeye-openingâ experience of testing a McLaren F1 car last NovemberÂ in a ride-swap with Fernando Alonso, had switched his post-NASCAR ideas from off-road racing back to road course racing in open-wheel or sportscars. Johnson has expressed an eagerness to try road courses in an IndyCar and his hero, Indy car legend Rick Mears, has said he believes Johnson can show well âif the fire is litâ.
Johnson, whose current NASCAR contract with Hendrick Motorsport ends at the close of next season, told Earnhardt: âPrior to driving that Formula 1 car, I felt like some more off-road racing, going back to my roots would be funâŠ Those vehicles have evolved so much, Iâd like to get back in one. They used to be automatic transmission but now theyâre manual transmissions, much more power to the tires, lighter vehicles. Really cool trucks.
âBut since I drove that Formula 1 carâŠ That experience is unlike any experience I could describe. That was so much fun.
âSo, I donât know â weâll see when I pull the plug [on NASCAR], but Iâd love to go do some kind of road racing series â [maybe] in an IndyCar, and certainly look at any type of sportscar racing. That was a really neat experience that Iâd like to do more of.â
Earnhardt asked former teammate Johnson how he rated himself as a roadcourse racer. Johnson, who has twice finished runner-up in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, admitted: âI donât feel like itâs my strong suit but âŠ when Iâve been in cars with more downforce and more braking ability, Iâve been much more competitive, like, when Iâve been in sportscars.
âI just think my driving style isnât ideal for a big heavy Cup car. And hopping in that Formula 1 car and having that chance to match Fernandoâs lap time as I did in Bahrain, was an eye-opening experience for me. Like maybe on a road course, those [types of car] fit my style a little bit more.â
Despite his talk of post-NASCAR endeavors, Johnson appeared to lay to rest any theories that his current struggles have anything to do with lack of motivation. Johnson is tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most championships in NASCAR Cup Series history (seven), has 83 wins (sixth on the all-time win list), and has scored multiple victories in NASCARâs most prestigious races â the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Brickyard 400.
However, the Hendrick star who turns 44 this month has not won since June 2017, and Earnhardt asked him where the motivation came from to keep trying to end the win drought when heâs achieved everything a NASCAR driver could dream of.
âReally, itâs just my internal fire to compete, who I am,â replied Johnson. âAnd this is also a similar place to where I was prior to all my success at Hendrick: I had to fight.
âI canât tell you how close I was to being unemployed through my journey as a young driver coming up. Thankfully Chevrolet had my back and was trying to support me, but the manufacturers and how expensive racing is, thereâs only so much they can do. I was very fortunate to have people believe in me and see my work ethic and my hunger and give me that next opportunity. And then also people mentored me, that had credibility and helped with that momentum that it takes for a driver to get somewhere.
âSo Iâve been here before and Iâve worked through it, so to me thereâs not this black hole â âOh, Iâm not going to figure it out.â Hell no, Iâve been here before. I know whatâs going on within my team, I know what Iâm capable of, Iâve been here before and the fire is there. I justâŠ Iâm not done yet. Thatâs really what itâs about.â
Nonetheless, Earnhardt asked, âHow much more do you want?â and Johnson replied: âI donât know. Thatâs a question thatâs been asked a lot and I think in the next four to six months, Iâm sure Mr. Hendrickâs going to be pushing on me for an answer!
âSo I know thatâs out there, but if Iâm forced to make a decision, Iâm choosing more years. Iâm not done yet. That fireâs way too intense.
âAnother interesting thing is, along the way Iâve been able to build friendships with Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, yourself, Jeff Gordon, Tony StewartâŠ and you guys may not have noticed but Iâve asked questions, just trying to gauge how I feel about the years that I have left, and what signs I need to have to step down. And itâs all led to, âDonât give up, donât stop, donât quit until you feel fully satisfiedâŠâ
âOne element that will weigh into it and be a very important part of it is what my kids and my wife think. Iâve been very selfish for a long time, going down my road in racing. I know where my wife stands but as my kids grow older and have more of an opinion on where they want Dad to be, thatâll factor in for sure.â