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At the suggestion of NASCAR Vice President Mike Hilton, Johnson penned the first note in the little brown leather book in December 2011 after winning the 2010 title, passing it on to 2011 champion Tony Stewart. In his fifth championship at the time, Johnson, now a seven-time champion, wanted a mantle for the exclusive club’s most talented contender in NASCAR.
Since then, six other drivers have had the privilege of receiving the newspaper for a year – Brad Keselowski (2012), Kevin Harvick (2014), Kyle Busch (2015, 2019), Martin Truex Jr (2017), Joey Logano (2018) and Chase Elliott ( 2020).
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Larson’s classmate at Hendrick Motorsports, Elliot, is due to pass it on to driver number 5. But the contents of the book remain unreported.
“I feel like it’s the best kept secret in our sport,” Larson said during Champion’s Week in Nashville. “I’m really looking forward to receiving that and reading what other drivers have written in it. I’m just excited to see the things people are saying. I was talking to Brad Keselowski about it [Wednesday] He said he did not even remember what was written in it. It would be great to watch the stories and see what they have to say.”
Elliott indicated that he plans to present the magazine to Larson during the Hendrick Motorsports gala later in December and is still contemplating what words he will leave Larson to pursue through 2022.
“It’s a great honor to see that and to read what’s in it and to be able to pass that along,” Elliott said. “…I wish they had started it sooner. After being a hero and having the opportunity to read it, I wish it would come back even further. I think it would be incredible.”
“I can’t wait for the champion in 2050 or 2040 or something else to get that and read what some greats like Tony and Jimmy have written. It would be such an honor for people to have it. It gets more special every year.”
While the message Elliot will eventually compose remains unwritten, one thing is certain – we’ll never know.
“I haven’t decided exactly how I’d like to corner, but even if I did, I probably wouldn’t participate,” Elliott said. “That’s kind of the whole point of the book is that no one else knows it. Whatever I decide, I will make a personal decision and try to make it special.”
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Larson waits for his turn to set his eyes on the compositions of the heroes before him, leaving him full of anticipation for what he will see.
“I suppose, like I said, I haven’t seen him, but I suppose it’s just a lot of respect, I think, among all the drivers,” Larson said. “Even those who do not agree.”