When Valvoline offered Hendrick Motorsports stars Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. a chance to step away from the NASCAR Sprint Cup briefly to design their own retro custom pickup trucks, both men sped into the challenge
The Valvoline Reinvention Project invited six time winner and defending Sprint Cup champion Johnson and teammate and 2014 Daytona 500 winner Earnhardt to design their own classic dream custom truck. Johnson chose a 1955 Chevrolet as his base, and Earnhardt opted for a 1974 Chevy (the year of his birth).
From there, Hendrick Motorsports mechanics, designers and engineers went to work with both NASCAR superstars to create their dream rides. New, modern V8 power plants were mounted into both along with improved handling and wider rubber. The results were two custom trucks tailor made for a drag race.
With the media looking on, Johnson and Earnhardt met at Charlotte Motor Speedway and brought both trucks to the track's Dragway. Video cameras were on hand, but they turned away at the finish line. This Valvoline Reinvention Project was about allowing two champion drivers a chance to create their dream trucks — not to determine which Hendrick racer runs the quarter mile the fastest. All official evidence leaves the drag race conclusion open ended.
However, since I was there, I'll tell what happened. Johnson's blue '55 got off the line fastest with smoother shifting from the more drag-experience "Six Time." But, Earnhardt's wider wheel base, better torque and lower weight (thanks to 1974's more modern materials) soon had the Orange pickup taking the lead.
If this had been less friendly competition, Earnhardt's '74 would have nosed past the quarter pole first.
That said, my personal aesthetics would've had me driving the '55 home in a perfect world — with a year's supply of Valvoline, of course.
Below you'll find more exclusive images of Johnson and Earnhardt's friendly wheeled combat and their special Valvoline and Hendrick built rides: