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Erik Jones disqualified following Richmond, enters must-win situation September 22, September 22, September 16, Kevin Harvick closes regular season with Indianapolis victory September 9, Bubble drivers fighting for final playoff spots at September 6, One of the great conundrums of the sport is that crew chiefs want to build the fastest car, and drivers want a car they can control comfortably. Both can get close to their desires only if they communicate clearly with one another. But by , the lines of communication between Johnson and Knaus had frayed so severely that the trust required to work well together was broken.
And as important as trust is in most business collaborations, it is paramount when your workplace is flying around a track at mph. Hendrick intervened, and in the process, generated one of the best sports stories of all time. I guess from an outsider listening in, we were acting like kids, like brats, just fighting with each other over petty things.
Our desire to succeed was so great that anything that would normally have been a 1 on your frustration scale was a 10 on ours. Everything was an explosion, and we were virtually not talking. But we were using as few words as possible. Our sport is so people-based that energy and vibe, that dynamic, is very real for us. I see a huge pile of cookies, a gallon of milk, two Mickey Mouse plates, Mickey Mouse napkins. Chad, you sit here. Have some cookies.
Take a drink of that milk. Come on, you two act like kids.
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Hendrick made his point, Johnson says. After a few minutes—and smiles, as the point sank in—the kids began talking.
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It was just a brilliant icebreaker to kind of change the energy , to prove a point. Instead of yelling and screaming, it was just done in a very creative way. I did, too. Before that day, we had never discussed it. Not knowing that before, I took everything he said with a certain tone in his voice as an attack, and I attacked back. The three-week penalty could have been disastrous, but the time spent reconfiguring the team after the milk-and-cookies summit meant the team was capable of competing effectively without its crew chief.
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Funny how things work, but that meeting led to a massive change in how we operated. We were immediately tested when Chad was suspended. But once he came back, we had a chance to finally work together in a streamlined setup, and we strolled on to win our first championship. Yes, the greatest team in the history of stock-car racing was constructed not in a garage, nor on an oval track.
It blossomed over a table of Mickey Mouse plates, milk and chocolate chip cookies. That comes naturally to him.
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The team sees the kind of person he is, how hard he works and what he himself invests in their success. They know he appreciates what they do and cares about them as individuals because he shows it.
source url People respond to that. Being personable and humble provides Johnson with an additional edge on race days, too, Hendrick says. Johnson says his answer has changed over the years. Now I have to admit I do think about the number seven once in a while.
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But Johnson says age, marriage and parenthood have given him perspective as he pursues that record-tying championship. I want to do a full Ironman. I want to run the New York marathon, things like that. And what will he drive when he hands over the keys to his horsepower Chevy race car?