After winning another championship, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson is racing into cartoons. He has voiced a character on the new Disney Channel cartoon Mickey and the Roadster Racers. I caught up with Johnson to talk about the cartoon, winning his record-tying seventh championship, and what the future holds.
Did you have a favorite cartoon growing up?
I always loved Tom and Jerry as a kid, but I was also very fond of Roadrunner cartoons. I would say the Roadrunner was my favorite.
Describe your character on Mickey and the Roadster Racers.
My character is a racecar driver. Throughout the different episodes, my character goes on lots of challenges and adventures with Mickey and Minnie. To have my voice in with those superstars is pretty incredible.
You have done voices for cartoons before. What is that experience like?
Doing the voice with the enunciation is always interesting. You find these cartoons can pull so much more out of you and your voice. I have always been afraid of really high tones or reactions that will end up on social media and haunt me for the rest of my life, but so far that hasn’t happened.
What is the hardest part of voicing a cartoon character?
Not much about it is hard. It’s a pretty simple process. I guess getting to the place where you can get the most out of your reactions is important. I don’t want to come off too high or too low on a line or anything like that.
What do you hope will be the biggest thing kids take from this cartoon?
I love anything that teaches my kids about travel and life lessons. These cartoons are a very nice place for kids to let their imagination go and be kids.
Have your children watched the cartoons you’ve done?
Yes. For the first one I did, my oldest daughter, who is now six, was two. She couldn’t understand that it was really me talking through the TV. I had a fun time trying to explain it was Daddy’s voice. It was really cool.
Does she understand how it works now?
She totally gets it now.
Turning to your racing…you always want to feel like you are in the mix every season, but at what point last year did you think winning another championship was a realistic possibility?
There were multiple points throughout the season, but in the final race, not until final 10 laps. We had a decent day on the track, but not good enough to win the race or anything. Then the big crash came, and it all kind of happened suddenly.
It’s very different having the winner-take-all in the final race format. You almost have to feel like you win four races instead of one to get to that final race. Working through elimination rounds felt like playoffs in other sports.
What did it mean to you personally to tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most all-time championships?
I’m not one who is focused on stats. I take such great pride in being associated with those legends, but at the same time I still feel like there is more to be accomplished.
We are less than four weeks away from this season’s opening race, the Daytona 500. What is something you feel like you and your crew chief, Chad Knaus, will work to improve on next season?
We do sit the entire team down before the season and ask them to make improvements on what the team could do better or differently. We know plenty of things need to be accomplished during the season with the inner workings of the team. Maintaining that environment of working together is vital.
You can watch episodes of Mickey and the Roadsters on Friday, February 3, at 9:00 a.m. ET and Saturday, February 4, at 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. ET on the Disney Channel.
Photographs by (from top): Courtesy Disney Junior; Jerry Markland/Getty Images