Isn't Life Strange?
Jimmie Johnson and the only primary sponsor he's ever had on the side of his NSCAR Nextel Cup car, Lowe's Home Improvement, is joining the (Bill) Riley - (Jim) Matthews Motorsports team for at least the 2007 (45th!) Rolex 24 At Daytona and the July 5 Brumos 250, also at Daytona International Speedway.
Now that's pretty wild.
Well, we'll have to undertake about a year's journey down memory lane when Riley Technologies Vice President and General Manager Ron McMahon one day was talking to John Bickford, suggesting that the latter's stepson - some guy by the name of Jeff Gordon - might want to hookup with the SunTrust team for a Rolex 24 Daytona Prototype run.
After everyone signed on the various dotted lines, joined hands, made like Charlie Brown and Snoopy and danced like heck the monkey wrench came out: Riley Motorsports and Wayne Taylor were splitting up.
To some now scratching their pea-picking heads the above's timing may seem askew, to wit: Riley and Taylor agree to disagree and announced their split in late May; Gordon joining SunTrust was announced June 28 at Daytona.
The key word in each is "announce." Suffice to say a whole bunch of things go on sometimes for bunches of time before anyone in the rest of the world hears about it. Otherwise, "leak" would apply only to a substance otherwise escaping confinement.
Riley was, to say the least, a tad disappointed that he'd not be working with the four-time Nextel Cup champ. Life being what it is, he accepted what was and got with the rest of his. Which evidently included scoring another Nextel Cup Champ.
Enter Jimmie Johnson and Lowe's, with most everyone believing the latter had entirely bolted the Rolex Series (and taking with it my considerable annual home purchase expenditures; like NASCAR fans, I support "my" series' sponsors which, unfortunately, are in line with funds not quite the equivalent of a DP program).
Now, Riley gets to run with a different Nextel Cup champ - one who sat out the 2006 race after previously teaming with Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Butch Leitzinger for second- and 28th-place finishes in the 2005 and 2004 Rolex 24s, respectively, and in the pursuit of which Johnson had such a good time he was highly bummed when he didn't run in 2006.
Rumor had Johnson and Nextel Cup champ Tony Stewart teaming in 2006 but that somebody in the home improvement retail business had a conniption and scuttled the project (I would've painted the car half and half -- one could only imagine the number of print pictures that would've showed up the world over).
Nevertheless, he's back and in joining with Riley-Matthews Johnson's co-drivers will be Belgian Marc Goossens, Texan Ryan Hunter-Reay and Matthews, who also holds an ownership interest in the team (and plays guitar whenever possible).
Notwithstanding the desires of Messrs. Taylor and Riley to avoid any hint of bad blood between them, the media with this deal has all but been given license to have a field day with Johnson being in one car and Gordon in the other.
The reader can figure out those angles, 'cause this writer ain't gonna go there.
I'm just looking forward to seeing a couple of darn fine drivers having some big-time fun, which usually yields some hard racing because in this case no one will be worried about playing safe for a championship's sake.
-- Written exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams