Jimmie Johnson On The Cover Of Sports Illustrated

Jimmie Johnson on the cover of Sports Illustrated
I may never know what drives the disdain I have towards Jimmie Johnson.

I do know there is a direct correlation between his on-track success and post-race affability and my (not always so) private mockery of him.

This week’s (November 24, 2008) issue of Sport’s Illustrated featuring Jimmie Johnson on the cover with the billing NASCAR Cool and accompanying insightful article by Lars Anderson actually pushes me a little more toward the ‘Jimmie Johnson Fan’ camp.

I don’t want to dislike the guy. I just do.

Jimmie and Chandra Johnson aren’t unaware of the legion of detractors to which I belong. This fact is one of many that Lars addresses in his in-depth interview and article.

Why do sports fans know Jimmie Johnson only as the guy pushing his Lowe’s number 48 into the lead, burning rubber in the winner’s circle and then thanking sponsors and crew for making it all happen? Why don’t they know him as a world-traveling, multidimensional, surprisingly loquacious sports star? There’s a pause before Chandra, looking straight at Jimmie as she answers, says, “You’re too nice.” He smiles when she brings up his pretty-boy image. “Maybe,” Chandra says with a laugh, “if you were an arrogant ass, you’d get more attention.”

“It used to keep me up at night,” says Jimmie, gazing out the tinted window. “But not anymore.” He takes a breath, and the smile disappears. “I can’t think about all that,” he says. “I just want to win another championship.” (Excerpt from article)

Some claims Lars makes in his article I can’t swallow.

First, that Jimmie Johnson is the greatest stock car driver of the 21st century.

I’ll give him leeway on the technicality that the 21st century is still only eight years young. I’d prefer to think that ‘Jimmie is the most consistent and best-performing NASCAR driver so far in the 21st century.’ Certainly doesn’t sound as spectacular. Lars backs up his choice of phrasing with statistical data. You know I’m a fan of that.

Lars writes Jimmie is a mystery to many die-hard NASCAR fans. He reasons Jimmie is not like many of our past NASCAR champions. Dale Earnhardt, for instance, was a classic banger who wouldn’t hesitate to knock another driver into the wall if he thought he needed to.

Another reason for Jimmie’s success is he’s a genuinely nice guy, and his crew feels a great sense of loyalty to him. Anderson delves into the unique relationship between Jimmie and crew chief Chad Knaus and the strength that he brings to the establishment of this stock car dynasty.

The bottom line and what I take away from this insightful article is that maybe my dislike towards Jimmie is more jealousy than anything else.

I’m man enough to admit it.

Over the past year Jimmie earned an estimated $23 million in winnings and endorsements. He spends weekends in the Hamptons and vacations in exotic locations like Paris, France and Cape Town, South Africa. He has a loft apartment in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea. He owns a six-seat Gulfstream G450 and has on occassion flown to multiple football games in one day.

Maybe I should replace all this anger inside with admiration?

Nah. I’m gonna keep on hating you Jimmie Johnson.

Besides, if you hadn’t kept on winning the Championship the last couple of years I might not be near as rabid for a new start and anticipation of the next season.

Be sure an get your copy of the November 24, 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated and see if Lars can’t convince you to see Jimmie in a new light.