September 17, 2014

Like it or not, you have to respect greatness

Posted 11/26/10

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I love racing.

I always have, and I always will.

For the last five years, there has been one NASCAR driver who has irritated me to no end. That man is Jimmie Johnson.

I have despised Johnson and his success for years.

Johnson has never done anything wrong in the public eye; he just wins too much. And every season that he wins, I despise him more.

With his runner-up finish in the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, Johnson captured his record-setting fifth consecutive Sprint Cup, and for the first time I was not upset about it.

I used to make up excuses for his greatness. “Oh, it’s just because his crew chief (Chad Knaus) is the real talent. He sets up the car so well that Jimmie can’t lose.” I would also say “Jimmie is only good that the tracks that are in the chase and those are the only ones the team concentrate on.”

Let me officially admit that I was wrong. Jimmie can drive, and he is the best at it.

I got to witness it firsthand this year when I went down to Tony Stewart’s Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. I went down there thinking that I was going to get to see my driver (Tony Stewart) beat up on the rest of the Sprint Cup drivers on the half-mile dirt track.

Well, guess who took the win. ... That’s correct. Johnson did.

Jimmie has only run a handful of races in a dirt late model stock car, yet he dominated the race.

A few weeks later, Johnson won his first race on a road course in Sonoma. I should have realized it then that this guy is for real, but it took him winning this last championship for me to fully understand how great he is.

I realize now that I should not be so bitter with Johnson’s success, but embrace it for what it is, fantastic.

Like it or not, I am witnessing history that may never be repeated. Like when Tiger Woods was at the top of his game and held all four major titles at one time, or when the New York Giants defeated the unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. You may not like the result, but you have to admire it.

That’s how I feel about Jimmie Johnson. I can no longer doubt his greatness and his team’s willingness to do whatever it takes to win every week, even if that means swapping pit crews with Jeff Gordon’s team for the final two races.

The combination of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus will go down in history as one of the great duos in sports history, like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, or Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

This is a streak that will never be forgotten. And if he goes on to win seven in a row, tying the total of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, I will have no problem calling Jimmie Johnson the greatest driver of all time.

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