MONTE DUTTON - ON JIMMIE THE GREAT
Jimmie Johnson is retiring, at least from full-time competition, at the end of 2020. That’s 7-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. He won six straight, which no one else has ever done. Only two other drivers, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, have ever won seven.
That’s Jimmie Johnson who failed to win a race this year. It’s also Jimmie Johnson to whom I have not talked since 2012, at least not 1-on-1.
In the coming farewell season, I will have many opportunities to recall Johnson’s career. The first time I got to know him was on a golf course, sharing a cart and, quite possibly, a 6-pack. Ever how much we drank wasn’t as much as a fan we came across.
His condition may have contributed to his being in the wrong fairway at the time.
The fellow asked us to join him in Talladega Superspeedway’s Lincoln Grandstand the next day. Jimmie told him sorry, but he had to qualify.
I noticed the view that Johnson may be the greatest driver of all-time, or NASCAR’s all-time, or more likely, since the writer started paying attention, on Twitter this week. It was inevitable. It’s good for “traffic” on the great virtual battlefield of our unfortunate time.
I’m not going to weigh in yet because Johnson’s got one more year, and I don’t believe it’s proper to rate an athlete’s standing until all is said and done. He didn’t win a race last year, and most of the all-time greats tailed off near the end.
In the late 1990s, I remember all the stories about how Jeff Gordon had the greatest winning percentage of all-time, and it occurred to me then that it wasn’t fair to consider such accomplishments until a career was over.
Everybody, let’s hype tonight (everybody, wang chung tonight).
I don’t know what “wang chung” means, other than it maybe being the name of a band, and Wikipedia tells me it means “yellow bell” in Chinese, so that explains it.
My philosophy of sportswriting is to keep it simple. Go to an assignment and write what you see. Don’t write a positive story because last week you wrote a negative one.
Don’t adopt a policy of owing somebody something. Just write what you see.
I’ve seen a lot of racing. When I think about who’s the best, who’s the worst, who’s overrated and who’s underrated, I just go by what I saw. We all have some bias. Just be honest.
The best stock car racer I ever saw was David Pearson, and I thought that until the day he died and expect to believe it till the day I die.
Johnson’s got one more year. Then I’ll try to draw some conclusions. The people who claim that’s a cop-out don’t have enough sense to get out of the rain, but I’ve learned a few things others haven’t.
I hope he gets his last hurrah. I hope he doesn’t go gently into that good night. I hope he goes down like the champion he is, slicing and dicing like a Veg-O-Matic.