COVID-19 restrictions robbed Johnson who is tied for the most Cup Series championships ever with seven of a boisterous appreciation, as his farewell tour was muted throughout the year by the pandemic. But that only fits with the theme for Johnson, who many around the sport believe never got the admiration he deserved.
In a way, it was fitting. Inarguably one of the greatest in the history of NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson closed his full-time racing career in front of a sparse crowd. Only 11,000 people were allowed in the grandstands that generally hold 45,000 at Phoenix Raceway.
“To be honest with you, I have been sad about that for Jimmie because I’ve always felt that we never really appreciated Jimmie in the moment,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
“He’s a living legend doing all those things right there in front of us, and I don’t think we ever really, as an industry, appreciated how good he was, what he did. Five championships in a row is just crazy.”
Johnson, 45, would never say so himself he’s far too humble, and his peers will tell you that but he deserved better. I’ve already weighed in on where the No. 48 Chevrolet driver belongs in the NASCAR GOAT debate. His stats already put him up there with 83 wins, ranking him No. 6 on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.
“Jimmie Johnson is the greatest driver in my era, and my era started in 1972,” said NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, who’s one spot above Johnson with 84 wins.