I have to admit, that before last fall, I wasn’t much of a Nascar fan. But when Jimmie Johnson’s people called my people and asked me to come shoot Jimmie out in North Carolina, I jumped all over it. At the time, I didn’t know much about Jimmie but I love anything to do with cars or racing. Jimmie was a couple races away from becoming Nascar’s five time champion for five years in a row. No one else had ever accomplished this feat. Not Jeff Gordon (who happens to own Jimmie’s car). Not Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The car we shot with Jimmie was his 2011 car fresh off the show room floor. Everything is hush-hush in Nascar when it comes to the cars—in fact, we just got the OK today to be able to post the pictures of the car. To tell you the truth, it looked the same to me as the 2010 car. But everyone on set who had anything to do with Jimmie Johnson or Nascar could see right away “how the spoiler was different” and every other little nuance. And, by the way, these “stock” cars are anything but stock. There are so many modifications to these cars that they are not even symmetrical which drove me crazy when I tried to shoot it from the rear and couldn’t figure out for the longest time why I couldn’t get the car lined up straight in the camera. It was because they kick in the left side rear quarter panel and push out the right rear quarter panel and then chop it off the to reduce drag since they are always going left.
We shot Jimmie, his car and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, at Lowe’s headquarters just outside of Charlotte. Even though Nascar started in Daytona Beach, somehow all the teams have made Charlotte their home and the home of Nascar. So much so that the Nascar corporation itself had to finally give in and move itself to Charlotte from Daytona. Jimmie was a great guy to shoot and very down to earth. We made the shoot as painless and efficient for Jimmie that he appeared to have a good time and his publicist even disappeared after the first couple setups.