Ask any race car driver on any given day why they love to race and they will tell you that it's something that you're born with. It's a passion that you either have or you don't, a passion that never dies. There is one thing though, that separates the good from the great - talent. And Jimmie's cup surely runneth over with talent.
At age five he was already a fierce competitor in the 50cc motorcycle class and by the time he turned eight, he had captured his first championship in the 60cc class. The amazing part of it is that he competed for a majority of the season with a knee injury. Even at a young age he showed tenacity.
From motorcycles he moved on to SODA, SCORE, and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group, all of which are off-road leagues, the first two holding their events in the desert. In the time that Jimmie spent with these leagues, he took over twenty-five wins, one hundred top three's, six championships, and won Rookie of the Year in all three leagues. He even tried his hand at journalism, being a field reporter for ESPN in the SODA series. Is it a wonder he's so charismatic?
In 1998 he joined the ASA, finishing fourth in points and winning yet another Rookie of the Year award while running the Busch series in three different events. He continued with both ASA and Busch in 1999, but by 2000 he left the ASA behind and concentrated his efforts on the Busch series for Herzog Motorsports. It was in 2000 that he finally achieved his first victory on the circuit after a career 81 races up to that point.
Not only did he nab his first Busch series win in 2000, but he also received the break that would eventually bust the seams of NASCAR wide open. Due to his team, Herzog Motorsports, losing his car sponsor for the next season, Jimmie was in a quandary about his future. So during a driver's meeting he asked none other than Jeff Gordon for some friendly advice about his impending situation. Jeff kept Jimmie in mind, contacting him frequently over the next few months, and shortly after their meeting, Hendrick Motorsports offered Mr. Johnson a driver development deal with the potential for advancement attached to it. This deal came about at the urging of Jeff Gordon, who is now a close friend of Jimmie's, as well as co-owner of his car.
2002 was this racing phenomenon's first season with the NASCAR NEXTEL CUP series, and he more than proved his abilities. Not only did he win the pole position at the season opener in Daytona, but he then went on to win three more races that season, one of which being in his home state at California Speedway. That season he finished with the most points of any modern-era rookie.
In 2004, Jimmie had two major wins, the first at Darlington Speedway. The second win though, was bittersweet. It was in Martinsville, VA on October 24. While the race was in progress, news reports were breaking about the plane crash that had killed team owner Rick Hendrick's son, twin nieces, brother, and chief engine builder, along with three others. They were on their way to the race when their plane went down. All hearts went out to the Hendrick family that day and Jimmie's win was for them.
Who could forget 2006? Not only was this the year of Jimmie Johnson's first NASCAR NEXTEL CUP championship, but he also won the Daytona 500 that year even though crew chief Chad Knaus had been suspended during qualifying. In addition, he won four other races including the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge which earned him a one million dollar bonus. Not too bad for a day's work! To top off what had already been an incredible year, on December 6, he was voted driver of the year. This was quite an honor given the fact that it covers all the racing series' in the United States.
You just can't keep a great man down! In 2007 the Lowe's superhero did it again. Jimmie Johnson won his second cup championship in a row but accomplished yet another feat; he won ten races in '07 which few have done. This placed him in the ranks with such greats as Rusty Wallace, Dale "The Intimidator" Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, and Richard "The King" Petty.
The present- Jimmie received a new teammate this year and we all know who that is; Dale Jr. Not only is Jimmie having a decent year himself, but he shows great selflessness when it comes to the member's of his team. In the Budweiser Shoot-out, it was Jimmie who gave Dale Jr. the final push on the last lap so that he could take the win. And a month ago when Dale won his first race in 76 races, it was Jimmie who was the first driver to come over and congratulate him. These acts speak volumes about who Jimmie Johnson is as a person.
Aside from all of the aforementioned accomplishments, Jimmie Johnson has a whole host of what I like to call "first and only's." He was the first rookie to sweep both races at the same track, he was the first rookie to lead in the point standings (no one else has done it since), he has been the only driver to finish in the top five in the end of the year point standings in his first five seasons, and he is the only driver to win the Coca-Cola 600 three years in a row.
With back-to-back championships under his belt, the question that lingers in the air is can Jimmie Johnson make it a three-peat? Only time can answer that question. The one thing I know for sure is that Jimmie Johnson is headed for legendary status and there is one reason for that; his love for the race track and the talent that guides him.