The 1992 Sprint Cup Series season finale featured the debut race for a young rookie named Jeff Gordon. After one full-time season in 1993, the then 22-year-old phenom put the sport on notice starting with the 1994 season.
That year, Gordon earned his first victory and ended the year ranked eighth in the standings. It marked the first of 11 consecutive seasons inside the top 10 in the year-end points standings.
Nearly 20 years after Gordon's emergence into the sport's top tier, another fresh-faced youngster began his full-time career in the Sprint Cup Series.
Jimmie Johnson participated in three events in 2001 before becoming a regular in 2002.
In the 12 years since arriving on the scene, Johnson has unquestionably been the face of the sport and easily its most dominant driver.
When comparing the two drivers during their peaks, the statistics are pretty similar, and it is mind blowing to see the amount of success that the two drivers achieved.
While Gordon remains competitive even today, his best days in the sport were the 10 years from 1995 through to 2004.
Over that decade, the No. 24 driver competed in all 337 races. He won 67 times during that stretch. This includes seasons of 10, 10 and 13 wins in the three years from 1996 through 1998. He won at least three races in each of the 10 years, and six times he was victorious at least five times in a season.
Gordon finished with 230 top-10s for those 10 years. One hundred and seventy seven of those ended with a fifth-place finish or better.
All four of Gordon's series championships came in this 10-year span, and he posted four additional points finishes of fourth or better.
Johnson, meanwhile, has been just as dominant in the 12 years that he has competed on a full-time basis.
He has competed in all 432 events run since 2002 and has recorded multiple wins in all 12 seasons. Johnson has won less than five races in a year only four times.
In total, Johnson is a 66-time race winner with 10 being his personal best for any given season, having accomplished that feat in 2007.
While Johnson's win total during his run of dominance is one fewer than that of Gordon's, his top-10 and top-five totals are both higher than his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Johnson has posted 272 finishes of 10th or better, with 182 of those ending inside the top five.
During his 12-year run of greatness, Johnson is a six-time series champion. He became only the second driver in history to win three consecutive titles when he won his third championship in 2008. He went on to win a fourth and a fifth-straight championship over the next two seasons.
Johnson has never finished worse than sixth in the standings, and all but one of his full-time seasons has resulted in a year-end finish of fifth or better.
There is no denying that Gordon and Johnson are the two most dominant drivers of the last 20 years. During that time, the teammates have combined to win one-sixth of all races, and they have won half of the championships.
While Johnson is coming off his sixth series title and shows no signs of relinquishing his dominance anytime soon, there will come a point when he is replaced at the top of the NASCAR mountain.
The main question is, which driver will it be who replaces him?
There are plenty of young and talented drivers in the series that all appear capable of taking the sport by storm for a handful of years. But, who knows, maybe it will be Gordon himself who reclaims his spot as NASCAR's top driver.
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