Jimmie Johnson: Why the 5-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Gets No Respect

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent INovember 29, 2011

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 04:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 MyLowe's Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

We have witnessed extraordinary history made before our eyes with the five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles Jimmie Johnson has won, but fans of the sport have generally failed to appreciate his accomplishments.

Oddly, there has been seemingly more controversy and fan input over when Dale Earnhardt Jr. might win a race than over Johnson's reign.

Johnson, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, just has not been able to stir emotion among NASCAR fans. He, of course, has a fan base among those who sport his logo and root for him.

The five-time Cup champion is a nice guy who has a quiet demeanor during interviews, for the most part, and says all the right things.

Johnson can flat out drive a race car and has had the best equipment Hendrick Motorsports could build under the guidance of his crew chief, Chad Knaus.

Many people dislike Knaus because he works a little too much in the gray areas of the rule book issued by NASCAR.

It is the job of the crew chief to basically work as close as possible to the edge of what is legal in order to gain advantage with the race car.

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 03:  (L-R) Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson poses with his wife Chandra during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series awards banquet at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel on December 3, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Johnson should not have to carry the burden of how his car is prepared, especially when NASCAR has determined the car does not meet NASCAR specs.

It was demonstrated during the Chase at Talladega, when Knaus told his driver in so many words to damage the back end of the car if he won. Johnson's response of "really" was captured on the in-car camera.

In reality, Johnson is a fun guy who likes to have a good time and exudes personality, doesn't hesitate to use expletives over the in-car radio and isn't the vanilla character he has been painted as.

The driver of the No. 48 has been the face of Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR's Cup champ for the past five years.

Does he try to be the politically correct kind of guy? You bet he does with the marketing and sponsorship dollars that are on the line.

The fact that he is a stand-up family man who appears to be a great father and husband should be endearing to his fans, but it still adds up to a sense of boredom when it comes to his public persona.

Johnson was well aware of the fact that fans wanted a new NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. Last year and this year, the chant of "anyone but Johnson" resonated more loudly.

It was evident something was amiss with the No. 48 team this year. Johnson's winning ways slipped and errors by both driver and crew became more obvious.

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 30:  (L-R) Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, talks with crew chief Chad Knaus during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 30, 2011 in Dover, Del
Jason Smith/Getty Images

For the first time, Johnson finished out of the Top Five in the Chase. He came in sixth in the points which actually isn't anything to be ashamed of.

Johnson's reign came to an end and we waited to see if we would get a champion who is more like Johnson (Carl Edwards), or a bad-boy, throwback-style, outspoken title-winner (Tony Stewart).

Well, we got our answer, and it remains to be seen whether Johnson will return to his winning ways in 2012 or will just be one of the better drivers in a pack of 43 who will battle to make the Chase.

Regardless of current fan opinion and what the future holds for Johnson, everyone should appreciate his accomplishments because they will probably never be replicated.

Johnson made history and you can bet the people who really tired of seeing him win races and titles will one day sit back and reflect on the five years in which he won consecutive Cup championships.

Those same people will recall Johnson being labeled "vanilla" and the lack of respect he was shown. They will then remember witnessing what he did and realize just how great of an impact he made.

Maybe then the respect will creep in.

The true realization of Johnson's amazing feats will likely not come into focus until he has retired as a driver and nears his time for induction into NASCAR's Hall of Fame.

He will, one day, get the respect he deserves despite the lack of fan approval and appreciation during his incredible reign as the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

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