Opinion: Johnson's Greatness Unchallenged
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on November 20, 2013 | 9:14 A.M. EST
Pistone: The debate of where Johnson fits in NASCAR history is a simple one – there hasn’t been anyone better since the sport began in 1949. (Photo: Getty Images)
The debate of where Johnson fits in NASCAR history is a simple one – there hasn’t been anyone better since the sport began in 1949. There’s a long list of stars that have made their mark on the sport starting with Richard Petty and certainly including Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon to name a few.
But none match the excellence of Johnson’s 12-year career that already includes 66 race wins and six Sprint Cup titles.
With all due respect to Michael Jordan, Johnson races in rare air and in fact is stock car racing’s answer to MJ.
Athletes (yes Donavan McNabb) like Johnson come along once in a blue moon. Odds are long anyone will remotely come close to putting up the numbers or supremacy the driver of the No. 48 car has inked into the history books.
Since he came into the sport Johnson has 30 more wins than the next closest driver over that same career time period. Describing his tenure as dominant is an insult to the word.
And he’s won titles in three completely different kinds of Cup cars; the “Twisted Sister,” COT and the current Gen-6 version.
Johnson has accomplished all of this remarkable success during NASCAR’s most competitive era. Taking nothing away from what the Hall of Famers like Petty, Earnhardt, Pearson and other greats achieved, the simple fact is the competition was nowhere near what Johnson has dealt with in his dozen years behind the wheel.
Petty often romped over fields of less than 20 cars in 100 lap short track events that dotted the Cup schedule in those early days. Earnhardt competed during an age when the demarcation line between the haves and have-nots was much greater than the tight. The bulk of Pearson’s runs came when only a handful of teams were even capable of running the whole season to compete for a championship.
Toss in new wrinkles like double file restarts, the Lucky Dog and the Chase and Johnson’s obstacles have been much more difficult.
There’s no lack of talented drivers and teams in the Sprint Cup garage. However in the relative short term – say the next five years – the candidates likely to put together multiple championships before Johnson adds a couple more to his record are few and far between.
A quick glance at the final Sprint Cup standings doesn’t provide much optimism.
Certainly there are others proficient enough to climb to the top of Sprint Cup mountain as Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski did the last two years before Johnson’s 2013 title.
But I don’t see anyone bringing home the hardware twice between the 2014 and 2018 seasons not named Johnson, which will only add to his legacy as the greatest driver NASCAR has ever seen.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.