How Does Today's Driver Compare to The Legends?

Tom ThomasonCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2010

There's been alot of talk lately about Jimmie Johnson's place in history. Many say he is the best ever. Others claim his four consecutive championships are impressive but, not comparable to the days of Allison, Yarborough and Waltrip. I however think its better to cop-out and find a middle ground.

Are there differences between today's drivers and back in the day? Yes. As far as pure driving skill, I think today's drivers have a distinct advantage. The drivers of today have grown up playing video games and such that really develop their hand eye coordination.

If you have ever played any online racing simulator or video games, you know that the kids are killing everyone. They are just learning coordination and skills so young that its not fair to the old timers. So does that mean that the young drivers would wipe up the floor with old-timers? NO WAY IN HELL.

Why? Because the old -timers had advantages that cant be learned with a  computer or Xbox.

Mental toughness. Those old guys raced at a time when racing wasn't glamorous like today. It wasn't mainstream and on television all the time. They were rough, unpolished and tougher then nails. Today's driver would learn real quick not to mess with old-school guy after the race.

Even without the post-race butt whipping, old- school guy would kill today's driver on the track. Not because of skill or finesse. Even though many had lots of skill back then. They would not only intimidate the hell out of today's driver but, they wouldn't get rattled under pressure.

The real difference would come with a full season. Many of today's drivers have complete a melt-down during the season that negate their high skill level. I can't imagine Cale Yarborough giving up during a race because his setup isn't what he wants. Or Old Waltrip stomping off the track because he finished second.

So, that brings us to the real question. How would Jimmie Johnson measure up to  old school driver? The truth is that there is no way to know. Nascar back then is just way to much of a different animal. But something tells me that Johnson would have a target on his back if he raced in the 70's and 80's.

There would also be less fear from other drivers when it came time to put a fender on the 48. You can bet the other drivers would get real tired of Johnson's dominance. And lets face it. Johnson doesn't have Waltrip, Pearson,Yarborough,Petty and Allison on his butt like Earnhardt did.

So, I guess it comes down to a question of competition. Greatness is judged by who you rub up against. Would Johnson fare better against Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin? Or would he clean-up against the likes of Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt and Waltrip?