It’s no secret that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and former cycling star Lance Armstrong are good friends. In addition to stories like this one, there’s a trail of tweets to prove it.
In 2017, meanwhile, it’s official that the celebrity pals will face off against each other in a four-hour mountain bike race at Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill, S.C.
The event – presented by Johnson and his wife, Chandra – is the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Fit Fest, scheduled for the morning of Monday, May 29 (that’s Memorial Day). Registration is open to the public, which means if you’re handy on a mountain bike and want to see how you measure up against Johnson and Armstrong, you’re welcome to sign up for the race, too. (There are also 5K, 8K and half marathon trail races; a Spartan Kids Race; and the option of doing the Fit Fest MTB Challenge as part of a duo.)
Former pro cyclists George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde – who appear in the above photo with Armstrong and Johnson – are also registered for the event. (Note: Armstrong, who is serving a lifetime ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, is eligible to compete in the race. Hincapie and Vande Velde also served six-month suspensions as a result of the 2012 USADA sweep that ensnared Armstrong; they’re both now retired.)
Johnson told me Friday that Fit Fest participants will get to rub shoulders with some NASCAR folks, too: Fellow driver Matt Kenseth and Alan Gustafson, crew chief for Chase Elliott, are planning to participate.
“I’m trying to talk Chase into it; he’s not bad on a mountain bike,” Johnson said. “Two to four hours is kind of scaring him, but I think I can talk him into it. Heck, he’s only 21.” Johnson also said he’s trying to convince drivers Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray to give the race a shot, since they both have mountain-biking experience.
As for Armstrong, Johnson said the two have been friends for “13-14 years.”
Johnson spent this past winter living with his wife Chandra and their two young daughters in Aspen, Colo., where Armstrong also owns a home. On March 15, they hooked up for a bike ride and lunch, then went into a recording studio so the cyclist could interview the driver on his weekly podcast, The_Forward_Podcast.
They talked about everything from how Johnson got his start in racing to the new NASCAR format changes to the champion’s two closest brushes with death behind the wheel. Oh, and they poked fun at Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Armstrong also ribbed Earnhardt – who has recently taken up cycling, too – in a NSFW Instagram post last month. It’s a little bit complicated to follow the joke, but basically: Earnhardt tweeted a photo of himself in cycling attire; Armstrong thought Earnhardt’s socks were too short; Armstrong texted Johnson to make fun of Earnhardt; Johnson screenshotted Armstrong’s text and sent it to Earnhardt; Earnhardt replied, “Tell Lance I’m a size 11 if he wants to send me any socks. He knows us rich f------ love free s---”; Armstrong screenshotted that, and it went viral.
Armstrong and Earnhardt have never met – the cyclist noted on his podcast that they’re just texting buddies, thanks to an intro by Johnson – but they might at the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Fit Fest on May 29.
“He’s pretty new to two wheels, and hasn’t been on a mountain bike yet,” Johnson said, when I asked him if Earnhardt might try to out-spin him and Armstrong. “But I’ve been talking to him about doing the trail run...”