What Is the Story Behind Rick Hendrick and Jimmie Johnson’s “Cookie and Milk” History?

Published 01/20/2024, 12:42 PM EST

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In the world of NASCAR, very few names are bigger than Jimmie Johnson. The California native during his time racing in the Cup Series clinched not just one or two but seven championships to his name. Well, a major part of his success has been contributed by his crew chief Chad Knaus. The duo were recently inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame and after their induction posed with Mr. Hendrick with a cookie. But what is the significance of a cookie and milk with Jimmie Johnson and Mr.H? Let us find out.

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Mr. Hendrick sure knows how to run a winning team and equally knows how to manage people. Back in 2005, Johnson was frustrated for not winning the championship after coming within touching distance. However, Knaus and Johnson during the time were not always on the same page. The tensions between the two simmered so high that Mr. H had to intervene. He didn’t give any speech, didn’t try explaining how both of them could do wonders together. Instead, he left the duo alone with a chocolate chip cookie, on a Mickey Mouse plate, with a glass of milk in his office. Surprisingly, this worked and both soon worked out their differences. But the story is best heard straight from its protagonists.

When Mr. Hendrick had a masterstroke to treat his NASCAR driver and crew chief as kids

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Mr. Hendrick could see a winning partnership or a potential before anyone else and that is why his team is the winningest in NASCAR. However, back in the day, he had a task at hand to squash a beef between his ace driver Jimmie Johnson, and Chad Knaus. According to a report by The Athletic, Mr. H had to come up with a plan that could break the ice between the two during an important meeting and it was the cookie and milk that came in with the clutch.

I was trying to think of something to break the ice a little bit when they came in,” Hendrick said. “Then I told them, ‘You guys act like kids, I’m going to treat you like kids. With all you got going for you and you can’t work it out, so if you’re going to act like children, let’s have some milk and cookies and we’ll sit on the floor and have timeout.’ They started laughing and then I said, ‘See how silly this is. I’m going to let y’all talk, and I’m going to walk out.’ And I did.”

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And just like that, Mr. Hendrick ignited a Championship-winning duo. At the time, he wouldn’t have thought that this duo would go on to become one of the most iconic crew-driver partnerships in NASCAR’s history. He just went with his gut feeling and the next thing you know the championship trophies started flowing in. Following the milk-and-cookies meeting, the duo won their first championship. Then four more came on the spin from 2007 to 2010. Five championships in a row, a record that stays untouched to this day.

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Johnson needed a bit of learning in his early days. Mr. H’s intervention in the meeting that day turned things around for the eventual seven-time champion.

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Jimmie Johnson believes the milk-and-cookie meeting changed him for good

Two adults who had all the potential to do better on the racetracks were somehow conflicted and out of sync. Not the apt setting for a driver and the crew chief. Mr. Hendrick’s tactics certainly caught both Johnson and Knaus off-guard which did allow them to look past their differences.

Signifying how important that meeting was for them, Johnson explained, “No joke, we left that meeting and changed our course in how we worked, the way Chad worked. We went in a different direction,” Johnson said. “And then ‘06 takes place, we come out of the gate, win the Daytona 500, win our first championship, win the next championship, on and on and on. So I think there was a lot of weight in that meeting that we had.”

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Milk and cookie, now we know the secret formula in NASCAR that Hendrick Motorsports injects in their drivers and crew chiefs behind the scenes which yields them championship results.

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Written by:

Chintan Devgania

252Articles

One take at a time

It was the Fast & Furious movies that acted as my gateway to the world of cars and motorsports. Later, as I completed my undergrad in Journalism, I learned how to channel my thoughts and opinions, which only helped me kick-start my career as a sportswriter. Having written multiple copies for the Scottish Daily, I am now looking to expand and contribute at EssentiallySports as a NASCAR writer, informing, enlightening, and entertaining the fans with my stories.
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Edited by:

Abhishek Ramesh

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