Why Jimmie Johnson Deserved to Win the Athlete of the Year

Mark RudiCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2009

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 02:  2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson poses with the trophy next to the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet during Day 1 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champions Week on December 2, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

There has been a lot of controversy about NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson winning the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year award.

However, he is well deserving. 

On Monday, Johnson became the first race car driver to ever win the award.

He had an incredible season, winning his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup championship in a row. Winning one championship is hard enough, but four in a row is very rare in sports and has never happened in NASCAR. That's a feat Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon have never accomplished. 

Petty and Earnhardt have the most championships in history (seven) while Gordan has four, his last coming in 2001. But Johnson could possibly break the all-time NASCAR record for championships, as he's only 34-years old.

Rarely have we seen four consecutive championships won in sports. No one has ever won four Super Bowls or World Series in a row.

However, the Montreal Canadiens won four Stanley Cup championships in a row from 1955-1960 and did so again from 1975-1979. The New York Islanders also won four NHL titles in a row from 1979-1983. Tiger Woods won four majors in a row from 2000-01. Lance Armstrong also won seven Tour De Frances in a row, but no one was screaming when he won AP Male Athlete of the Year four years in a row from 2002-05.

The point is, a feat like that rarely happens in sports. And just because it's NASCAR doesn't mean it shouldn't be talked about, or that a driver doesn't deserve the honor.

Another good point was brought up by ESPN's Eric Kuselias on Mike and Mike In the Morning on Tuesday. Kuselias said that there wasn't a another athlete that stood out and that no one else had swept all the awards in his sport.

Yeah, so Kobe Bryant took the Los Angeles Lakers to the championship, but he did not win the NBA MVP award. And despite winning the MVP, LeBron James couldn't even lead his team to the NBA Finals. 

Not only did Johnson win the championship, but he won the most races in the Sprint Cup Series this season with seven. Johnson also has a history of coming on strong right at the perfect moment of the season—The Chase. Four of his seven wins came in NASCAR's version of the playoffs.

He also had to hold off a charging Mark Martin after Johnson wrecked on the third lap at Texas on Nov. 8, where he would finish 38th, while Martin finished fourth and cut Johnson's lead to just 73 points. Johnson would then win the next weekend at Phoenix and finish fifth at Homestead to lock up his fourth straight title. 

And I know there's the naysayers out there who say that race car drivers are not athletes. But NASCAR drivers are on the road for 36 weeks out of the year and put their lives on the line every time they step into the car. And not to mention the stamina needed to endure 400 or 500 miles week in and week out. It's a gruelling season and to do what he did four years in a row needs to be recognized in sports. 

Champions come through in the clutch, which Johnson did. He is well deserving of the award.

Congratulations Jimmie. 


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