Talking Seiko And Racing With Seven-Time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson
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Cars & motorsport

Talking Seiko And Racing With Seven-Time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson

During the #CouturaTour, we sat down with the legendary driver to discuss his storied career and relationship with Seiko.

By Josh Shanks
Managing Editor US

Before the final NASCAR race of 2018, I had the opportunity to speak with seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. After winning 83 races in the top American motorsport series, you’d think that Johnson would be content to sit back and reminisce on an extraordinary career. However, it was quite the opposite. During our call, Johnson was bursting with the energy and passion of a man many decades his junior (Johnson is 43).
 

Jimmie Johnson and Richard Rawlings
Seiko Coutura SSC697

Weeks before our sit down, Johnson was in New York for a special event at Macy’s Herald Square flagship. The Hendrick’s Motorsports driver was on-hand along with Gas Monkey Garage to launch the special edition Seiko Coutura SSC697, a new solar-powered chronograph designed personally by Johnson. It was on this occasion that we chatted about the intricacies of timekeeping as it pertains to the racetrack.
 

Jimmie Johnson and the Coutura-Inspired Camaro

As driver of the #48 Chevrolet Camaro most weekends, it’s only fitting that Johnson and Gas Monkey's Richard Rawlings would unveil a car to pair the new Seiko Coutura. Thus, was born the Coutura-inspired Camaro. On display alongside Seiko's latest creation.
 

Jimmie Johnson, Seiko's Munehisa Shibasaki, and Richard Rawlings
Jimmie Johnson and Richard Rawlings

Interview with Jimmie Johnson

I had been waiting on this call for a few days now, and as the minutes ticked down, I have to admit, the anticipation got the best of me. After all, this wasn’t any ordinary interview, I was speaking with a legend in the world of motorsport, and a driver that I’ve seen every Sunday on my television for well over a decade. Growing up in Indiana, a NASCAR driver like Johnson is more popular than Paul McCartney in some circles.
 

 

My phone rang. "Hey Josh, it's Jimmie Johnson." He explained that he just finished picking up his daughter up from school and had a few moments to chat. I attempted to make the best of the situation while restraining my inner fanboy.

 

Josh Shanks: It’s a pleasure and honor to chat with you just before the final NASCAR race of 2018. You've obviously had quite an illustrious career in this series (NASCAR), how has 2018 compared to previous years?

Jimmie Johnson: We’ve struggled in 2018, it been a lean year for us in terms of wins and performance. But next year we’ll have a whole new set of regulations which should help.
 

Seiko Coutura SSC697

JS: How did your ambassadorship with Seiko start?

JJ: I was introduced to the company in 2015, and we've had a relationship ever since. Seiko is a great company to be attached to, and there's been some great exposure for both of us. Overall, I'm happy with the success of our collaboration and sales have been great.
 

A Seiko fan at the Macy's Herald Square event

JS: Today, we’re meeting because of the Seiko Coutura collection and your Jimmie Johnson limited edition. Could you tell us more?

JJ: Yes! Coutura has performed quite well! My fans like the watches and Seiko has done an excellent job of placing the product and my face in a lot of great spaces. Honestly, I'm still surprised at how successful sales have been.
 

Seiko Ambassador Jimmie Johnson

JS: For the Couture-inspired Camaro designed by Gas Monkey Garage, could you describe for us how this collaboration came to be?

JJ: We worked with Seiko and Richard Rawlings of Gas Monkey to redesign a Chevrolet Camaro. We patterned the design off the Coutura Jimmie Johnson watch, and I think it came out really well. To be at Macy’s was great, I actually met my wife in New York City, and we keep an apartment here, so It’s a special place that we enjoy coming back to.
 

Coutura-Inspired Camaro

JS: Have you always been a “watch guy"? If so, what was your first nice watch?

JJ: I haven’t always been the biggest jewelry guy. But I’ve always liked a nice watch. Many of us drivers wear watches, but of course, we have to take them off before we climb into the cockpit.
 

Seiko Coutura SSC697

JS: It’s interesting that you say that, I was interviewing a fellow racer, Lewis Hamilton last week, and he mentioned that watches are tough to wear in the cockpit.

JJ: Yea with fire suits and all the safety equipment, it’s difficult to bring anything additional into the car.
 

JS: Back to racing, after the conclusion of this weekend's title deciding race in Miami, you're off to London to train with McLaren in anticipation of the ride swap with Fernando Alonso. This swap has been getting a LOT of buzz, who do you think will have a faster time in Bahrain?

JJ: First, I'm looking forward to it, we packed and shipped one of our NASCAR (vehicles) in a container along with all the tires and equipment Fernando will need for a good drive. Second, I’m excited to get to McLaren’s facilities and train to drive in their car. It’s going to be covered and later broadcast on TV.

(Editors note, the ride swap occurred November 26 in Bahrain, Johnson drive a McLaren 2012 spec car, his lap times were only two-hundredths of a second off from Alonso's)
 

Jimmie Johnson driving a McLaren F1 car

JS: So, you’re swapping cars, any thought about swapping watches?

JJ: Well there’s been talk of us swapping racing helmets and shoes, but I didn’t think about watches.

JS: Well you should! Alonso wears a pretty nice watch (Richard Mille)

JJ: Maybe I’ll ask him!
 

Jimmie Johnson aboard Fernando Alonso's McLaren F1 car

JS: Do you have any good watch stories from the NASCAR pit lane?

JJ: There’s a good story with Richard Childress (car owner). A few years back there was a dust-up between Childress and another driver on the track. Childress (in his sixties) wanted to take matters into his own hands. He didn’t want to mess up his nice new watch, so the story goes, he took his watch off and handed it to someone and said, “hold my watch” and then went after the driver. He got his hands on him pretty good. So the running joke is "hold my watch" which I get a good laugh out of.
 

A "new look" 48 is heading to NASCAR in 2019

JS: Can you give us a hint about what can we expect from the 48 team next year?

JJ: Team 48 will look much different next year. We have a new sponsor coming onboard with Allied Bank. I’ll have a new crew chief (Kevin Meendering). There will be a whole new look and feel for the 48 team next year, and I'm really excited about it.
 

JS: Racing and timekeeping are intrinsically linked, over the years, how has your relationship with “time” evolved?

JJ: For me, I live by fractions of a second every day. It’s what shapes success in our sport. So, hundredths of a second mean the world to us, tenths of a second mean the world to us. So time is always on my mind. And translating that into my personal life. Being a father, my children are now eight and five. Time has just flown by, it seems like yesterday they were infants. I'm very aware of time and that clock that's ticking along as life goes by.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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