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Jimmie Johnson drives the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series. (Carvana photo)

‘Reinventing The Wheel’

When Jimmie Johnson was in the midst of his legendary NASCAR Cup Series career, the seven-time series champion made winning look easy.

He scored 83 Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports during a career that began in 2002 and ended in 2020.

Rather than fade off into the sunset, Johnson started a new career in a completely different form of racing. Johnson drove the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series this past season. Carvana and Shutterstock Studios followed Johnson’s journey with an eight-part docuseries titled “Reinventing the Wheel.”

It provided global viewers an all-access, behind-the-scenes look at Johnson as he navigated his second IndyCar season.

It featured the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Johnson’s new career and became a labor of love for both Johnson and Carvana.

“Ernie Garcia, founder of Carvana, just loves the story of me crossing over from NASCAR to IndyCar,” Johnson told SPEED SPORT. “The weekends are so well covered, they wanted to help tell the story of what happens during the week. What happens between races. Different aspects of the team. What I’m dealing with in life. What my challenges are.”

Johnson, along with his Chip Ganassi Racing crew members, his wife, Chandra, and his two young daughters, Genevieve Marie, and Lydia Norriss, were followed by the film crew at Shutterstock. Being in the spotlight as one of only three drivers to win seven NASCAR Cup Series championships prepared Johnson for being shadowed in the docuseries.

“I’ve gotten used to it,” he said. “When I go back to doing ‘24/7’ on HBO a few years ago, that was the icebreaker, not only for myself and my family, but the teams are becoming more familiar with film crews around all the time being a fly on the wall. We ultimately don’t have editing rights. It’s their edit. They spent some time with me in July in Colorado. We haven’t held anything back. It’s really up to their discretion and how they want to cut and edit.”

Daniel Bradley led the crew in charge of “Reinventing the Wheel” as director and executive Producer. He is a graduate of the famed S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

“That’s what making a documentary is all about,” Bradley said. “You have to figure out when to hide in the background and when to bother him and have a conversation. We are mainly around on race weekends and that is a pretty hectic time for him. You don’t want to be in his face all the time.

“But it has been fun, too, to show the characters around him because I think they are a good representation of who he is, too. It’s all people that really care about him and they all really like each other so it has been fun to show.”

In addition to earning the trust of Johnson and his family, the crew had to gain the trust of his crew members.

“It’s walking that fine line and making sure we are always out of the way,” Bradley said. “What we are doing isn’t as important as what they are doing. They actually have somebody’s life in their hands. We have to make sure we remember that.

“It also comes with experience. We’ve been in operating rooms and riots, so you know where to stand and where not to and when to push buttons and when not to. There are a lot of times they are talking about proprietary knowledge and making sure even before the cut gets to them, that stuff is gone. That is how you lose trust and people get upset.”

The series featured eight episodes. Early segments featured Johnson’s broken hand he sustained in a crash before the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April and a disappointing 28th-place finish in the Indianapolis 500.

“I get to review the episode the week before it launches, but I’ve been so impressed, I haven’t asked for any changes,” Johnson said. “It looks and feels really, really good. A great storyline. The people that are doing it are top-notch.

“It’s a deeper dive into it all. The docuseries does a really good job showing the struggles and why things happen as they do. I have nothing to hide. Everything is so well documented these days anyhow, the docuseries and a deeper look at why and what went on is useful for everyone. I haven’t had any issues with it.”

Johnson built a legion of fans during his long career in NASCAR.

But what will those fans learn about the seven-time champion that they didn’t know before?

“I don’t think they are going to learn a ton about me,” Johnson said. “I’m still me. You can see my perspective on this journey that I have. My family’s involvement, my family’s support. My kids are still growing so this is a great snapshot of who they are evolving into.

“But most of all, just how different IndyCar is. The episodes really do show the difference between NASCAR and IndyCar. If you are an avid NASCAR fan and don’t know much about IndyCar, I think you will learn a lot by watching it.”

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