Jimmie Johnson is the Greatest of all Time

Jimmie Johnson is the Greatest of all Time

by November 18, 2013 0 comments

Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

Go ahead and say it, Jimmie Johnson is the greatest driver to race in NASCAR.

Now, let the hateful Twitter messages and emails commence.

If you look at the competition that Johnson has won his six championships in, it’s the best to date. While Richard Petty won seven championships and so did Dale Earnhardt, neither had 15 or 20 cars they had to beat week in and week out.

In 12 full seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Johnson has 66 wins, 182 top fives and 272 top-10 finishes in 435 starts. Of the 435 starts, he’s been running at the finish of 396 of them. That’s 91% of the time. That’s rather impressive. Johnson has never finished worse than fifth in the NSCS standings as well.

Petty started 510 races in his first 12 seasons. He went on to win 119 of those races from 1959 to 1971. Back in those days, more races were run over the course of a season, not year. Petty was running at the end of 401 races in that span. That’s a batting average of .786 in baseball terms.

Earnhardt started 352 races in his full 12 seasons. He would win 48 of those from 1979 to 1990. He’d be running at the end of those 352 races, 254 times. That’s a percentage of 72%. In those 12 years, Earnhardt would win four championships and the Rookie of the Year in 1979.

I’m not knocking Petty or Earnhardt, when you look at statistics and compare each driver’s first 12 years in NASCAR’s top series, Johnson is far more impressive in fewer races compared to Petty. Compared to Earnhardt, Johnson not only wins races, but finishes races.

While Richard Petty has a better average finish, 8.7, in his first full 12 season, Earnhardt and Johnson are rather close. Earnhardt has a 10.9 average finish in his first 12 season while Johnson ends his first 12 season with an 11.4. All three drivers raced during three different era’s of NASCAR. While Petty and Earnhardt both have better average finishes, take a look at the competition both raced with. Cars on the lead lap were nowhere near what they are today. With double digit cars that can win on any given weekend, Johnson is arguably racing in the toughest era in history and accomplishing all of these numbers.

Now let’s look at the Chase. Yes, that dreaded playoff that just about every NASCAR fan hates and blames Johnson’s run of championships on. I’ve heard people complain that you only have to be good in the final 10 races. Not true. You have to perform the first 26 races to get into the Chase. Just ask Brad Keselowski. Not strong enough performances this year in the first 26 races and he watched as 13 other drivers raced for a championship he couldn’t defend.

Johnson has performed well over the 10 years of the Chase; there is no denying that fact. And he’s been in every Chase since its inception. When it comes to the Chase, the 48 bunch steps up to the plate every year, and other teams and drivers more than likely have to go through Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to be called a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

It’s hard to go back and say, well if the Chase had not been implemented Johnson would only have two or three championships. We don’t know that. Jimmie and Chad Knaus both raced the way they had to based on the current system. Had the system been the old way, I’d say Johnson would still have the championships he’s got now, but there is no way of telling.

So, let’s enjoy what we are seeing accomplished on the race track before our eye, before it’s gone. If I was a betting man, I’d have to say we shall never see anything like this done in our time. What the 48 team has been able to accomplish over the course of the last eight years is right up there with some of sports greatest achievements.

Jimmie Johnson is the greatest driver in NASCAR history, and future first ballot Hall of Famer.

Chris Owens
For years, Chris has been traveling the country shooting photos capturing some of the sport's most unique moments and writing articles about grassroots racing and the NASCAR. Chris is the track photographer for Dillon Motor Speedway, and he has created websites for regional racing media outlets as well as for a few clients in the various traveling Late Model divisions. He also created a website for NASCAR Nationwide Series driver, Danny Efland.

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