Senior staff writer
Is there a European race car driver who is more of a fan of American racing than two-time Formula One champion and 2017 Indianapolis 500 darling Fernando Alonso?
Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is sure there isn’t.
Alonso proved it to the American racing star during the NASCAR Media Tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He made it a point to meet Johnson, who was humbled by the experience.
“I’ve been a huge Alonso fan for a lot of years,” Johnson said. “Just mentioned to him that the way he came and ran Indy, I mean, certainly did an amazing job in the car, but outside the car … he brought a lot to the table when he raced here.”
Alonso stopped at the Charlotte Convention Center with his teammates who raced in the Rolex 24-hour road course race at Daytona International Speedway.
“I first became a fan through the NASCAR video games,” said Alonzo of Johnson. “I would always choose his car (No. 48) because I liked it. That was the first time I became a fan and obviously with the success he’s had over the years in motor racing, he’s become a legend in our sport. I have massive respect for him.”
Johnson was taken aback by Alonso’s desire to meet him.
“I’m honored I found out that one of his major stipulations of coming here (Charlotte) was to have a chance to meet me; that means the world to me,” Johnson said. “It was an honor to meet him.”
Alonso expressed a desire to compete in the Cup race on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Jarrett offered that it will be challenging for drivers as there are few places to pass and a couple of blind corners.
He gave a heartfelt presentation during the induction of the late famed engine builder Robert Yates into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Yates, who was 74 when he died in October, wrote his induction letter, which Jarrett read to the audience and members of Yates’ family.
Jarrett won the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and ’99 and was the Cup champion in ’99. The team is credited with the winner’s tradition of kissing the bricks.
The outspoken 2015 Cup champion contended that veterans are being overlooked in favor of young chargers like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Bubba Pollard, William Byron and Busch’s teammates, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez.
“We (veterans) have paid our dues,” Busch said. “All you’re doing is advertising all these younger drivers for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver. I think it’s stupid.”
While making his remarks about the newer drivers, Busch apparently forgot the he was part of Gillette’s Young Guns commercials and a subject of an A&E network special during his first few years in Cup.
Other drivers took quick notice of Busch’s comments.
Two-time Brickyard 400 winner Kevin Harvick said Busch was “whining for attention.” Second-generation driver Ryan Blaney explained that “he (Busch) doesn’t like doing a lot of stuff; that’s why they don’t ask him.”
The younger drivers also utilize social media to connect with fans.
Busch also expressed his displeasure of sharing information with teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing or seeing team data fed into a NASCAR data bank.
He did praise ex-teammate Matt Kenseth, who could not land a ride this season, for helping him reach the final three races in The Chase for three straight years.