Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.

NASCAR Modern-Day GOAT: The Case for 7-Time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson

Robert LabergeGetty Images

  • Jimmie Johnson won seven NASCAR Cup championships in just 11 seasons, from 2006 through 2016.
  • Johnson set a record that likely will never be broken—five championships in a row (the previous record was three straight by Cale Yarborough from 1976-1978).
  • Jeff Gordon played arguably the biggest impact in Johnson’s career.

    In his era (1958-1992), with 200 wins and becoming the first driver to ever win seven NASCAR Grand National and Cup championships between 1964 and 1979, Richard Petty was the Greatest of All Time (many folks still consider him the all-time No. 1).

    In his era (1975-2001), Dale Earnhardt was the Greatest of All Time, winning seven championships between 1980 and 1994, as well as 76 NASCAR Cup events.

    But in modern-day NASCAR, the Greatest of All Time is unquestionably Jimmie Johnson, whose era stretched from 2001-2020. Not only did he tie Petty and Earnhardt with seven Cup championships, Johnson also attained that lofty level in the shortest time of all three drivers’ seven crowns, in just 11 seasons, from 2006 through 2016, including a record that likely will never be broken of five championships in a row (the previous record was three straight by Cale Yarborough from 1976-1978).

    What makes Johnson’s seven championships even more impressive is that, technically, he won the championship under FOUR different formats:

    • Won championship with most points in 2006

    • Won championships from 2007-2010 with the 12-driver format (which was implemented in 2007)

    • In 2013, he won under a new format (which was actually implemented in 2011) that had 10 drivers qualify for the playoffs, along with two “wild card” entries — still keeping it at a 12-driver format. That format lasted from 2011 through 2013.

    • The 16-driver elimination Playoffs system in 2016 (which began in 2014).

    Jimmie Johnson celebrates winning his seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2016.

    Chris TrotmanGetty Images

    Johnson, who earned 83 career Cup wins, stopped racing in NASCAR after the 2020 season and moved on to a two-year stint in IndyCar. But he’s back in NASCAR in 2023 as part-owner of Legacy Motor Club (previously Richard Petty Motorsports and GMS Motorsports), and at the age of 47 (turns 48 on Sept. 17) will also run a part-time Cup Series schedule of between four and six races.

    Ask any number of current Cup drivers and Johnson’s name almost immediately shoots to the top of the GOAT list.

    “I think my GOAT would be Jimmie,” 2021 Cup champ Kyle Larson said. “I guess the way I look at it, and I’m probably biased because I got to compete with him, but just the quality of competition and car. His era was, in my opinion, much more difficult. That’s why he would be. Anyone goes five in a row, that’s crazy.”

    Added former Hendrick Motorsports teammate and 2020 Cup champ Chase Elliott, “I would agree (about Johnson being the GOAT). And I was going to mention the five in a row. I know the seven (championships) he’s talked about a lot, but that five in a row thing doesn’t get talked about enough, in my opinion. I know the format was different, but it makes it a little more possible to do. But still, that’s a tall order. That’s pretty impressive.”

    Johnson is known for being a soft-spoken champion, someone who rarely bragged about his own achievements, but rather touted the team behind him as the reason for his success, most notably crew chief Chad Knaus. Johnson definitely is more akin to the quiet-like Petty rather than the at-times boisterous Earnhardt.

    It was Jeff Gordon who played arguably the biggest impact in Johnson’s career. After beginning his racing career on two wheels in his native Southern California before switching to four wheels, Johnson worked his way up through the American Speed Association (ASA) ranks.

    nascar champions portraits

    Jimmie Johnson poses with his seven NASCAR Cup Championship trophies after his win in 2016.

    Jonathan FerreyGetty Images

    Johnson was brought to Gordon’s attention, who was quickly impressed, so much so that he not only went to team owner Rick Hendrick to recommend signing Johnson, but took things one step further by showing how much he believed in the young driver by convincing Hendrick to split team ownership of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet with Gordon.

    Johnson almost immediately paid dividends. Although he fell short to Ryan Newman in Rookie of the Year honors in his 2002 season in the Cup Series, Johnson gave an indication of things to come by winning three races and finished an impressive fifth in the overall standings that same season.

    The next two years, 2003 and 2004, Johnson finished second to Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, respectively. After finishing fifth in 2005, Johnson went on to win his first championship—and the first of five straight—in 2006. He’d also win 10 races in 2007, to go along with his eight wins in 2004 and seven wins in the 2008 and 2009 campaigns.

    Johnson struggled near the end of his career, failing to win a race in the final 130 starts of his time as a full-time Cup Series driver. His last win was at Dover in spring 2017.

    Yet that’s nothing to be ashamed of. After earning his 200th career Cup win on July 4, 1984 (two days after his 47th birthday), Petty went winless in his final eight seasons in the Cup Series. Still, that didn’t lessen the millions of people who considered Petty the GOAT of his era, much like Johnson is the GOAT of his era.

    Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

    Read the full article here

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Back to top button