“I certainly wasn't expecting it, that's for sure,” he told Speedcafe.
“I suppose if you've been around as long as I have, sooner or later, something comes your way.
“But, gee, I certainly wasn't expecting it and I just hope that they think I actually deserve it.”
While he started racing in an FJ Holden, the Queenslander is a hero to Ford fans and an icon of the sport, for not only his on-track achievements but for being one of the great survivors of the industry – sometimes in the face of all odds.
Johnson won the Australian Touring Car Championship five times yet it says so much about the man and his journey that those titles are relative footnotes in his career.
He famously crashed into the rock while leading the 1980 Bathurst 1000, the first of multiple occasions when financial pressures might have derailed his career and/or his team, but was saved by an outpouring of generosity from television viewers which was matched by Ford.
Back on track – literally and figuratively – Johnson won the ATCC for the first time in the following year, and also took out the Great Race on the first of three occasions.
“Certainly, of all the people in Motorsport Australia and CAMS [as it was formerly known]. I think I've outlived all of those, to be quite honest,” quipped Johnson when asked about his longevity in the sport.
“I've seen a number of changes of the guard, and there's some really good guys coming through.”
Johnson was replaced by son Steven when he finally hung up the helmet in 1999, while grandson Jett is nowadays making his way up the ladder towards the Supercars Championship, with a berth in the Super2 Series in 2024.
The 78-year-old who started the dynasty is still an occasional presence at the race track, and still engaged in motorsport, which he rationalised in typically straightforward fashion.
“Well, there's nothing else to do, to be quite honest,” he declared.
“So, all I do is live and breathe motorsport, and get old.”
DJR, which celebrated its 500th ATCC event in least year's Adelaide 500 season finale, has won the drivers' crown 10 times on top of its four Great Race victories.