Repeat champions in all top sports need special fiber in their character. Achievers must have grit to lift their mental and physical gifts to the utmost levels.
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, and five-time NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock champion, Jeg Coughlin Jr., own tall crowns.
Perhaps they share common ground as well.
The mutual turf supporting hectic motorsports certainly includes adequate resources as well as human strengths. Somehow, a mix of intense team members often adds up to victories and championships. Other drivers and teams are continuously mystified by ultimate achievers who collect many championships. They chase them at high speed in many ways.
Another observation might be that champs like Johnson and Coughlin have no problem explaining their personal resolve and team commitment. They do that as if secrecy about ability is never an option.
In case fans doubt that statement, just let some recently gathered quotes from Johnson and Coughlin help explain.
The following comments were born from an inquiry with Johnson about his longevity with Lowe’s at Hendrick Motorsports and the orchestrated efforts of his team. The home improvement company has set a yearly record for singular sponsorship in NSCS.
Coughlin obviously has longevity with his family sponsor, JEGS High Performance parts. He and four brothers, with founder Jeg Sr., operate a successful international business—all while drag racing and more.
Questions asked of Johnson were asked of Coughlin as well. Grit seemed to bolster their words.
Johnson was quick to answer.
“I'm obviously very proud of the long-term relationship—Hendrick, Lowe's,” Johnson said. “Truthfully when I look back at the decisions I made, the way my life has gone independent of racing, it's been in the same respect.”
Johnson commented on his past and solid background.
“I've only driven for a few race teams,” he said. “Really the same team in off-road days, then as I moved on, I drove for a long period of time for the Herzogs, then the Hendricks. It's my style and it's worked out.”
Coughlin responded about common ground.
“Probably in both of our cases,” Coughlin said. “We are surrounded with great people that have championship loins in them.”
Johnson talked about his relationship with crew chief, Chad Knaus.
“We're certainly dedicated to our team, our sport, and we put in the time that's needed,” he said. “I guess maybe it's more about the time not necessarily needed, but what we feel is required or helps us feel satisfied and buttoned up.”
Coughlin concentrated on his team as well.
“Success is what we are all there for,” he said. “We need to make the right calls in the pits. We need to execute those well. That gives me, the driver, the confidence.”
Coughlin shared thoughts about his entrepreneurial father, Jeg Coughlin Sr., who founded JEGS High Performance parts—a worldwide mail order business.
“He's probably one of my biggest supporters and always has been, which is just phenomenal to have in my corner,” he said. “He's probably one of the more brilliant people I've ever worked with in my whole life, in a lot of different ways.”
Support from a successful father goes well with an intense motorsports environment.
"But in the racing world, he's just been phenomenal," he said. “It's great to have him in my corner for sure.”
Johnson continued to emphasize the importance of the input of a dedicated team.
"Everything that's put in that car is thought through," he said. “If there is something in question there are two or three options that are thought through as well and how we can get them on the car in a timely manner."
Johnson summed it up in two sentences.
"It's all thought out at many, many deep levels. So that's what I think has helped us stay on top for so many years."
Like Johnson, Coughlin continued to stress team contribution.
“We need to make the right calls in the pits and we need to execute those well while we're in the pits,” he said. “That gives me, the driver, the confidence to be able to get in the car and do what I love to do, and that's efficiently get it down the racetrack.”
Coughlin frequently sounded like Johnson.
“Collectively when you put that whole package together,” he said. “You know, we've been successful with it, and we certainly look to continue that.”
In the end, it seems big grit is all about solid, common ground. Talent also plays a big role, but many talented race car drivers never reach top levels to compete.
Solid sponsorship and top resources play a big role, but a mix of competent people with grit develops vital performance.
Grit may be augmented by ego, but it appears both Johnson and Coughlin rarely take credit for much. Perhaps grit is best achieved through humility too.
A stellar combination of 11 championships for Johnson and Coughlin in intensely competitive sanctions—NASCAR and NHRA—shows a robust significance provided by deep character. Perhaps even more than it does for deep pockets.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at RaceTake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.