I know there is a large segment of the NASCAR fan base that doesn’t want to hear it, but Jimmie Johnson is probably the best driver to ever sit behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car. I know that there are a lot of people that think he’s a driver and not a racer, put him behind the wheel of an Indy car or a Sprint Car and you will see that he can’t compete with say Tony Stewart. I would say that’s probably fair. But in this arena, in NASCAR he’s probably the best ever.
While “The King” Richard Petty won seven championships, he did it against fields with maybe 10 cars that could actually win and he had eight seasons of his 33 he raced full-time that he finished outside the top 10 in the season standings. Dale Earnhardt finished outside of the top 10 just two of his 24 full-time seasons, which is impressive. In 12 full time seasons, Johnson has never finished lower than sixth and that was as a rookie.
“If others are saying it, I'm not going to deny it, chase it away. Sure, I would love to be considered that,” said Johnson. ”If you look at stats, there's still numbers out there that I need to achieve. That's why I say, Until I hang my helmet up, it's not necessarily a fair conversation to have. Honored to be in the conversation and I know I will have to face it, especially being this close to seven and having a shot to tie those guys.”
If Johnson wins seven, it will be hard to argue with his place in history. Especially if he gets there in the next couple of years. It took Petty 21 seasons to get seven championships, Earnhardt 16. Johnson could get there in 13 seasons and what is amazing is at 38 years old, Johnson is at the top of his game and there is no reason to believe he can’t get to eight or even 10 titles and the King himself thinks that it is possible as well and Homestead winner Denny Hamlin called Johnson the best there ever was. And, you have to think he has at least five to ten more years of racing in him.
“I think when you look at Jimmie Johnson, I like to use the Parcells quote, You are what your record says you are,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “To hear Richard Petty say what he said, Denny, the competitors, it's taken a while for people to want to acknowledge it, but they all know how hard it is to do this.”