December 8, 2019
The decorated race car driver makes some turns—on the slopes.
Jimmie Johnson is fast, like whizzing-by-at-200-mph fast. The seven-time NASCAR champion is one of the winningest drivers in the league, with his 83 career wins currently tied for the sixth most wins of all time. He’s a quick endurance athlete too, running the Boston Marathon in 2019 and placing in the top 15 of a half Ironman. But, right now, he has his eyes on a different prize: the Ajax Cup (teamavsc.org/ajax-cup).
His team has placed second for the past two years in the celebrity ski racing event held Dec. 30 to raise money for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Johnson and his wife, Chandra, and children, Genevieve and Lydia, live in Charlotte, N.C., and spend parts of their summers and winters in Aspen in their West End home. “Living here the one full year we did, my kids were in AVSC and that’s why they are the skiers they are today,” he says. “The program benefits all children in the valley, not just Aspen, and that’s also important to me.”
Switching gears between speedway and slopes isn’t seamless. “There are similarities racing, and the nerves that go with it, and also, to a degree, the lines: Trying to find your way around the gates is a lot like finding your way around the turns on a racecourse,” says Johnson. “But that’s where it ends, being on skis is way different than sitting in a race car.”
To prepare for the ski season, Johnson does more leg work and lifts weights in the winter. The Ajax Cup is held at the base of Ajax on the Little Nell run, set up for optimal spectacting. But, in general, you can find him and his family at Aspen Highlands. “If you time the rope right, the Highland Bowl [is my favorite run]. When that powder is deep up there, there’s nothing like it,” he says.
Though Johnson supports AVSC through the event, his primary philanthropic endeavor is the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, which has distributed more than $5.6 million thus far for its Champion Grants Program, which supports K-12 public education in the areas where the family grew up and now lives—El Cajon, Calif., where he was raised; Muskogee, Okla., where his wife is from; and Charlotte, where they now call home. He’s also granted more than 48 wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Children’s charities are his priority, and he’s helping them—quickly.
Photography by: G. LHeureux/Courtesy of Jimmie Johnson