Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon: Who Has Been Better over His Career?

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Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon: Who Has Been Better over His Career?
John Harrelson/Getty Images
Jimmie Johnson is in contention for his sixth Sprint Cup championship

If both were to never step into a race car again starting today, who would be able to say he had a better career, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, or Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet?

Of course, if they were to both quit at the same time, Gordon's career would be considerably longer than Johnson's, so the fact that this is even a debate at this point means that when both do decide to hang them up, unless Johnson does very little from here on out, Johnson will be the eventual winner.

But has he already passed his team's co-owner?

Maybe so.

Let's look at the stats:

 

Sprint Cup Championships

Johnson has five, Gordon has four.

The fact that Johnson has five in a row gives Jimmie a decided advantage. In fairness to Gordon though, NASCAR changed the system on him mid-career. If they had kept the same system in place, how many championships would each have?

We'll never know.

But we do know that in the first year of the Chase system, Gordon would have won his fifth under the old system.

Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
Jeff Gordon is still looking for champonship number five

But still, advantage: Jimmie Johnson.

 

Daytona 500 wins

Gordon has three wins, Johnson has one.

In fairness to Johnson, in his day, NASCAR has made the restrictor plate tracks, Daytona and Talladega, into a 43 car free-for-all. It's much tougher for the best drivers to win at those tracks than at any other.

It was not necessarily to that point when Gordon first started, though it was heading towards it.

But now, they've taken NASCAR's Super Bowl and turned it into a lottery. Danica Patrick is just as capable of winning it next year as A. J. Allmendinger, who is as likely to win it as Johnson.

But still at three wins to one, advantage goes to: Jeff Gordon.

 

Brickyard 400 wins

Each driver has four.

If there is any advantage here it may go to Gordon for winning the first one.

Who has had the better career?

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Charlotte 600 wins

Each driver has three wins in this race as well.

Memorial Day weekend might be the best in all of racing with this race and the Indianapolis 500. But neither driver can pull away from the other one here as they both had dominant periods.

Johnson won three in a row from 2003-05, and Jeff won three between 1994-98. Neither has won it since, although Kasey Kahne has won three of them since then.  

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Number of career wins

Gordon has 86 wins and 411 top-10 finishes. But that is in a career that began in 1993.

Johnson has 58 career wins and 246 top-10 finishes. But his career began in 2002.

So Gordon has had nine extra years. If we pro-rate what Jimmie should do in nine seasons at his average, he ends up at about 103 wins.

But of course we all know as a driver gets older he slows a bit. If you look at Jeff's last nine seasons and compare them to the previous nine, or any other driver for that matter, you'll see what I mean.

So the numbers are pretty comparable, but even figuring in the inevitable age drop-off, a slight advantage to Johnson.

So the final tally: Two categories for the #48 Jimmie Johnson and one for the #24 Jeff Gordon, with two ties.

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