Jimmie Johnson ran a patient and intelligent race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to land in ninth place among the field of NASCAR drivers to close out the 2013 year. Most importantly, the finish was good enough to earn Johnson his sixth career Sprint Cup title. It was his sixth title in the last eight years, which included five-straight titles between 2006 and 2010.
With the championship finish begins the debate on whether or not Johnson can now legitimately be dubbed one of, if not the best, NASCAR driver of all time.
Many fans will scoff at that notion, but part of the reason may be because Johnson lacks the charisma that other stars of the sport have. Names like Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon could be considered bigger stars than Johnson even though their accomplishments on the track pale in comparison. When it comes to results, there quite literally is no beating Jimmie Johnson.
No other NASCAR driver has ever dominated a decade like Johnson has. In a sport where consistency is king, Johnson could be considered “Mr. Consistent.” He has been so consistent, that a lot of fans and fellow drivers often forget the scope of his success and how he is already in the same stratosphere as some of the sport’s greatest.
While six titles is certainly something that only the most elite driver can pull of, most fans are waiting for the big seventh title to finally break down and call Johnson one of the greatest ever to get behind the wheel. Earning seven titles puts Johnson at the same level as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, who also won seven titles in their day.
To boot, Johnson has 66 career wins, which puts him below some of these other legends of the racetrack:
- Richard Petty — 200
- David Pearson — 105
- Jeff Gordon — 88
- Bobby Allison — 84
- Darrell Waltrip — 84
- Cale Yarborough — 83
- Dale Earnhardt — 76
So, maybe Johnson still has some ground to make up before he is considered the greatest, but to not include him in the conversation is simply crazy.
Another factor that pundits can’t seem to get past is the generational gap. Guys like Petty, Pearson and Allison clearly raced in a different era. This does not necessary mean it was more or less competitive; it was just a different era.
Racing purists might argue that racing was tougher back then, thus elevating the accomplishments of the old-timers. But, I don’t completely buy that. Johnson has won consistently in an era with more drivers on the tracks and top-of-line equipment in each car.
Johnson was also able to win a title in different season formats. He won when points determined the winner and he also won in the postseason chase. He clearly has proven himself. Oh yea, and he’s got a lot of racing left in him.
What do you think?