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Jimmie Johnson is widely known in the sports world as one of NASCAR's greatest drivers, however his philanthropy work in the last couple of years has gained as much notoriety as his racecar driving. Johnson is at it again, supporting another worthy cause.
The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion (tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most all-time) and now IndyCar Series driver will unveil a new livery Sunday in the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.
Carvana Racing, which is the primary sponsor for Johnson in 16 of the 17 IndyCar Series races this season, has partnered with the American Legion to create the livery design on the racecar. The unique livery design is called "Bold and Brave," inspired by the United States Armed Forces service ribbons, which are used to recognize the service and sacrifice of our nation’s military service branches.
The American Legion is the nation's largest wartime veterans service organization that provides assistance and guidance for veterans, military personnel, their families and communities.
"With the weekend being the Fourth of July weekend and having the American Legion featured on the car, it's so fitting," said Johnson in a recent phone interview. "We obviously have a fantastic relationship with the American Legion, as they're one of the team sponsors. To have two partners collaborate together, to continue to raise awareness for the American Legion and the great things it does on the Fourth of July weekend fits well and makes a lot of sense."
This is a part of Carvana's "Driven to Give Back" campaign where they plan to collaborate with three charity organizations to co-design charity liveries that will be featured on Johnson's No. 48 Dallara-Honda cars this season.
The American Legion livery will be the second design Johnson has showcased this year, along with already partnering with the TechForce Foundation at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April and the Athena Racing livery that will be revealed in September at Portland International Raceway.
As his racing career has progressed, Johnson has been more engaged in the creative side of paint schemes on his cars.
"I have been more involved since the end of my NASCAR career, with Ally being the new sponsor and coming in," said Johnson, who is in his second IndyCar year with Chip Ganassi Racing. "They were interested in my opinion of the car, so I've had a hand in the design of it. As we worked into the IndyCar program, a new sponsor came into the sport and they were interested in my input. With last year's schemes, I had a lot of involvement and they do still ask for my approval and suggestions as new liveries come along.
"This one I wasn't too involved in," he said. "Brendan Droppo of Brendan Droppo Design has been involved with cars that I have raced dating back to my NASCAR days. When I transitioned to IndyCar, we started to work on liveries. We leaned on Brendan. He's been in the loop and has been very helpful with a few different liveries that we've had on the IndyCar. He's responsible for how amazing this one looks."
Johnson's personal connection with the American Legion cause stems from his family history of military service, where his brother-in-law and both grandfathers served. Carvana is making charitable donations on behalf of fans who sign up at carvana.com/driven and enter their email. For every email received, Carvana will donate $1 to the American Legion.
"We're hopefully driving a lot of interest and eyes where hopefully Carvana will have to write a huge check to these charities," said Johnson.
Apart from racing, supporting a wide variety of causes has always been a passion for Johnson and something he's made a priority, whether through his Jimmie Johnson Foundation, which launched in 2006, or other programs he's heavily invested in.
"I think myself personally, I've always wanted to give back," said Johnson. "My wife [Chandra] and I started a foundation 15-16 years ago that focused on many causes but primarily children's causes. And of late, we've focused on public education K-12 for the last five or 10 years. I'm very fortunate to be surrounded by sponsors, partners and teams that I've driven for that all have causes they want to support as well, so at the end of the day I end up supporting many causes.
"Some that are specific to the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, and others that are specific to a team or sponsor. I'm very proud of the platform I have in motorsport to raise awareness and the fans certainly do support and help the charities that need the funds."
Now in year two in IndyCar after making the transition from driving stock cars for over 20 years in NASCAR to now open-wheeled cars in IndyCar, Johnson says that he still has not gotten fully acclimated to the contrasting form of racing.
"No, I wish that I was," admitted Johnson, who is racing full-time this season compared to part-time last year. "I honestly felt like it took me five years to really understand and call NASCAR home. I would assume it's going to be a similar amount of time in IndyCar to reach that same point. I do feel like I have much more confidence this year than I did last year. But it's really about being connected to the car and extracting everything out of the car. It just takes time to find those little nuances."
Johnson heads into Mid-Ohio in 24th place with 85 points in the IndyCar Series points standings at midseason and describes the stern test that the race course will lay out.
"It's pretty narrow and pretty fast in IndyCar," he said, where Johnson finished 22nd in last year's race. "Many of the corners are blind. The race track is nestled into the countryside. There are these rolling hills and corners that are placed in interesting areas where you can't quite see them. So there is a rhythm and some trust you start to build as you make laps around the track and gauge where the corners are located."
Johnson is still seeking his first win and podium in his IndyCar career but a career-best sixth place finish at the XPEL 375 in Texas earlier in the season shows signs that Johnson is capable of turning it around.
"I was really surprised how fun the Mid-Ohio track was to drive," said Johnson. "It looked really interesting on television but my first time there was last season and I really look forward to the experience of driving the track again."
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: IndyCar driver Jimmie Johnson talks new racecar livery ahead of Mid-Ohio