Champions perspective

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 22: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet, celebrates with team owner, Rick Hendrick, after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 22, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – MAY 22: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet, celebrates with team owner, Rick Hendrick, after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 22, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C.—For six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, voting for members of the sixth NASCAR Hall of Fame class was both eye-opening and gratifying.

For the first time this year, the reigning champion of the Sprint Cup Series was included in the voting panel that selects the five new inductees. Once he experienced the five-hour session in which the merits of the 20 nominees were discussed and debated, Johnson was eager to share the experience.

“That was a huge honor and an amazing day to be a part of,” Johnson said. “To sit in a room with so many people that care for our sport and know about our sport and then discuss what took place in eras of time when I certainly wasn’t around…  it was a very awesome and unique experience and something I think that is a huge honor and in years to come.

“It’s only going to help drivers in the garage area understand the history of our sport and grow closer and more attached to the people that built this sport. And in a big way, I wish that the garage area could sit in on that discussion and see the respect that the peers and the people on the voting panel have for our industry and for the people involved.

“It wasn’t an easy process to work down to five. All 20 on that list were very deserving to be in the Hall of Fame.”

Drivers Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Fred Lorenzen, Rex White and Joe Weatherly were elected to the Hall. Predictably, Johnson voted for his boss, team owner Rick Hendrick.

“I spoke to (Hendrick) on the drive up today, just catching up with him, and I’m not sure he feels he should be in there yet,” Johnson said. “He’s a competitor out there, and he appreciates the phone calls he received yesterday and the concern from others, but I don’t think he feels like it’s time to be in there yet, although I voted for him.

“I just am so impressed with his stats and what he has done, but I still think there are many more to come.”

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