By Jimmie Johnson
November 04, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Bill Inoshita/NBC
  • TV Show

Every week, the cast and crew of NBC’s megastore-comedy, Superstore, are taking EW readers behind the scenes of each episode. This week, six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, brings us into his cameo in the seventh episode of season two, “Election Day.”

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The life of a NASCAR driver is pretty hectic. Every weekend for 38 weeks a year, we are faced with high-pressure situations, driving inches away from your fiercest competitor at 200 mph. I thrive on that kind of stuff – I love it – I’m a competitor and it’s what I live for. Want me to stress out and sweat over something? Ask me to try acting.

When I had to go to Los Angeles for a media tour earlier this year and NASCAR came to me with the opportunity to make a cameo as myself in Superstore, I definitely had some nerves about being able to pull it off. My teammate Chase Elliott and I were in LA to promote NASCAR’s Chase – our 10 race playoff system – and this cameo appearance came together pretty last minute. I had no idea what I’d be doing until I arrived on set. The last cameo I had on TV was on the series Las Vegas, and while I think it went well, I knew that acting for a TV series was so different than being on the race TV broadcast each weekend as myself.

We touched down at LAX around mid-morning and took a short car ride over to NBC Universal Studios. I’m from southern California, but every time I go back, the traffic just blows me away. We arrived on the lot and there was a trailer with my name on it – they spelled “Jimmie” right! I usually get “Jimmy” everywhere I go that isn’t NASCAR related. Honest mistake.

I first met the show’s creator, Justin Spitzer, the child actorr, Leonardo Negrete, I would be filming the scene with, and the episode’s director, Tristam Shapeero. Then they showed me the little electric Chevy truck I would be using in the scene and I took a test drive. I sat down on the truck to test it out — it kept lifting up in the front, so the special effects folks (Ian O’Conner) dove into action with ‘Velcro tape’ and a weight underneath to make it stick better to the ground. It’s amazing what the special effects people can do on a set. They were like my own personal pit crew. As they worked on that, I got some makeup and then we were ready to roll.

Leo, the child actor, was hilarious. He was so serious about his role. One of the directors would say, “Leo, smile,” and he would smile on cue – but only then. My scene involved rolling up on this kid who was just putting down the aisle of Cloud 9 in his toy car; I come up in my toy car and cut him off for fun. We messed some stuff up in the process (apologies to the crew who had to pick up all the balls we knocked over!). We had a great time and after an hour and a half, it was clear they were going to be able to capture the really funny scenes they were after. When we were finished filming, Lauren Ash (Dina) and Mark McKinney (Glenn) took a staged picture with me where they were basically kicking me out of the store for riding around in this toy car. Definitely a highlight — I had to post it on my Instagram and Twitter!

Once we wrapped, there was an In-and-Out Burger waiting for me in the trailer (did I mention I’m a southern California guy at heart?). I wiped off my makeup, took pictures, and signed some autographs. It’s always really cool to meet fans in places I wouldn’t expect.

After all the takes we shot, it’s always fun to see how it all comes together for the final product. My two young girls (Genevieve, 6 and Lydia, 3) got a huge kick out of seeing Daddy on TV in a show like this, and not just in my firesuit about to climb aboard the Lowe’s Chevy. Getting to experience these things with my family and see their laughter and surprise is the best part of participating in the Hollywood life.

Superstore airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.


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