Jimmie Johnson: Greatest NASCAR Driver Ever!
I grew up in an age when Richard Petty was king. As a child I never considered rooting for another NASCAR driver. As Petty faded and Dale Earnhardt excelled, I considered Earnhardt to be the usurper of the throne. Fans loyal to Earnhardt were soon touting their driver as the greatest ever. The cycle repeated itself as a young Jeff Gordon began to chip away at the Earnhardt legacy. While each generation has their own vision of the “greatest ever”, Jimmie Johnson could well be consider as the driver with the biggest impact on NASCAR.
In his first season in Winston Cup, Johnson finished 5th in points. He followed up in his second season with a second place finish, and another fifth place in his third year. Johnson’s 4th season was capped off by his first championship. He followed his 2006 championship by winning again in 2007 & 2008. At this point there was a real concern that Johnson’s dominance was hurting the sport.
Soon after, NASCAR started making changes in the interest of competition. When NASCAR mentions “competition” they really mean giving other drivers a chance to compete against Johnson. As NASCAR tinkered with design changes, shark fins, side drafting and the introduction of “the chase”, Johnson racked up two more championship seasons. That’s 5 championships in 5 years, a feat never accomplished by any other driver.
Despite the equipment and rule changes, it was a string of bad luck that finally unseated Johnson in 2011. In 2012 Johnson was a front runner for the championship until some bad breaks at the end of the season left him finishing third.
With another new car design for 2013, Johnson has started the season at the top of the leader board. As Jimmie has proven in the past, not only can he drive whatever they give him, he can drive it better than anybody else on the track. When Johnson wins the championship this season he will still trail Earnhardt and Petty (who each have earned 7 championships), but don’t expect NASCAR to be working against Jimmie anymore. Once Johnson’s racks up that 6th title, the NASCAR publicity machine will shift into high gear. That spotlight will be focused on Johnson’s run for #7. Barring injury, Jimmie Johnson is poised to become the greatest champion NASCAR has ever known.