What Would a Sixth Sprint Cup Series Title Mean for Jimmie Johnson's Legacy?
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It goes without saying that Jimmie Johnson, a five-time Sprint Cup champion and two-time winner of the Daytona 500, is the greatest NASCAR driver today.
He pilots a Chevrolet for one of the most successful organizations in American motorsports today, Hendrick Motorsports. He has two of the most recognizable and respected teammates in Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. He's the only driver to ever win five consecutive championships in the Sprint Cup Series, and he's got a psychological advantage over his competition that rivals Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s.
He's in position to reach a milestone sixth championship, and one more would put him in the ranks of two seven-time champions in Richard Petty and Earnhardt Sr. Considering he's already had a Hall of Fame career, his legacy will be long lasting. But with that being said, what would happen if he were to win a sixth championship?
This isn't a new situation to us. While Petty and Earnhardt Sr. were able to go beyond with titles six and seven, there hasn't been anyone else who has replicated this feat. For the longest time, people were certain that Gordon would be able to pull off another four championships following his 2001 title win, and while he did do well for a while afterwards, he's now a shadow of his former self, more or less.
While Johnson hasn't won a title since 2010, he hasn't necessarily had a down year since. Sure, in 2011 he only won twice and had a career-worst sixth-place points finish (sixth? Oh no!), but Johnson has never been down on his luck in the way most other drivers have, even Gordon.
That only adds to Johnson's legacy. He's been in the Cup Series for so long that by now, he should have had a legitimate down season by now. But he hasn't. Instead he's a staple in the front of the field, and that doesn't look to change anytime soon. Plainly speaking, he's just that good. He's better than Gordon ever was or ever will be, and that's saying something.
The way things are going this year, Johnson is a very serious threat for the title. His only weakness seems to be restarts, but to a driver like Johnson, that's not saying anything. It's not a weakness competitors can exploit. If he does win this title, he'll only prove even more that he is NASCAR's unstoppable force.
The "unstoppable force" comparison isn't to be taken lightly, either. It took 13 years for Dale Earnhardt Sr. to win six championships, while for Richard Petty it took 11 years. Johnson won his first title in 2006, which was seven years ago. He's poised to tie Earnhardt Sr. and Petty, and is good enough to even surpass their total, and it hasn't even been a decade yet!
Johnson is in elite company, but at the same time he's in a league all his own. He's taken this sport and owned it. He's yet to have a down year, and in his short Cup Series career, he's done more than any other driver out there.
If Johnson were to clinch championship number six this year, there would be no reason he couldn't get titles seven and eight. I doubt even a ninth title would be out of the question. Sure, detractors may claim that it "isn't the same championship that Earnhardt Sr. and Petty won," and they may be right.
But Johnson's name would still be there at the top of the list any way you look at it, and a sixth title would only establish Johnson's legacy as his own. He'll never be legitimately compared to "The King" and "The Intimidator." Rather, he'll be Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR's "Unstoppable Force."
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