I’ve watched a lot of fantastic race car drivers and I’ve seen a lot of drivers come and go in the sport of NASCAR. Jimmie Johnson is, for me and for this era, the best driver to ever sit in a race car. With six titles in the last eight seasons, Johnson has cemented his status as the best driver in NASCAR’s most competitive era. But after winning his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, one short of the record held by Richard (the King) Petty and Dale (the Intimidator) Earnhardt. The questions are now getting louder, is Johnson the greatest driver ever.
Eventually Johnson will get his seventh within the next few years, and maybe an eighth or a ninth, too. Maybe then it will become clear that Johnson is the greatest NASCAR driver who ever lived. A lot of NASCAR fans can’t handle that type of talk, of Johnson joining the stage with the sport’s icons who raced in a different era.
“It’s like taking somebody from the Olympics in the year 1900 and comparing them to somebody in the year 2000,” Petty said. “Everything has transferred so much. Everybody is in better shape. They’d blow that record away just because of time and records are made to be broken.”
They were all greats, and it’s practically impossible to compare their achievements. Petty and David Pearson won often in an era when it was common to win by multiple laps and NASCAR staged multiple races per week.
And Earnhardt’s seven titles and 76 career wins were stretched over a far longer span than Johnson’s success has been (he’s already within 10 wins of Earnhardt in 241 fewer starts). This was Johnson’s sixth title in 12 seasons; Earnhardt won his seven in 22 full-time seasons in a career cut short by his death on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Earnhardt, who more fans remember than Petty or Pearson because he drove more recently, will have plenty of supporters who would never dream of ranking Johnson ahead of the “Intimidator.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. likely spoke for many Earnhardt fans when he evaluated Johnson’s place in history. “I’m biased,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said frankly about where he would compare Johnson to his father and the other sport’s greats. “So he’s second. He’s one of them. … If Jimmie keeps on the track and the pace he’s on, he makes a much better argument for himself.”
Earnhardt also is a teammate of Johnson’s at Hendrick Motorsports. And he is not bothered at all by those comparisons, of putting Johnson in the same breath as his father and Petty. “I’m more surprised that comparisons took that long to start happening because the guy is good and the guy deserves all the credit that he gets and deserves to be in the conversation of one of the greatest drivers this sport has ever seen,” Earnhardt said. “Getting that sixth is just going to make him hungrier to get the next one, to be able to put himself up there with dad and Richard and he probably won’t quit until he gets an eighth.”
Johnson, with 66 wins, ranks eighth on the all-time Cup wins list behind Petty (200), Pearson (105), Jeff Gordon (88), Bobby Allison (84), Darrell Waltrip (84), Cale Yarborough (83) and Earnhardt (76). Pearson won 18.29 percent of his races, while Petty won 16.88 percent and Junior Johnson won 15.97 percent. Jimmie Johnson has won 15.21 percent. Earnhardt won in 11.24 percent of his Cup starts.
In Johnson’s short career he already compares with the top drivers ever. He has to be part of that (all-time best) conversation but each generation is going to think the other generation is better than the last generation or the next generation. It has always been that way.
But think about all of the things Johnson has to go through that most of the past legends didn’t have to worry about. The competition is different, with many more cars on the lead lap as parts and pieces have become so much more durable. The lifestyle is incredibly different, especially with sponsorship obligations and media scrutiny invading a driver’s personal space. And the points system is different as Johnson has won all of his races under the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and later a 10-race playoff, instead of the former system that consisted of total points over the entire season.
“I plan to savor every moment of the celebration and my championship reign,” Johnson said. “This is extremely sweet. I feel like those five years were a blur. And things happen so fast,” Johnson said. “It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it or appreciate it or respect what happened. It just went by so fast it seems like. Now, I’m really going to slow things down here and enjoy it. This is so, so sweet.”
Not as sweet as the future holds for Johnson. I’m not a psychic, but I find it hard to believe that thirty-eight years old Johnson won’t win at least two more championships. Then Johnson would pass Petty and Earnhardt on all-time list and maybe even in the heart of all NASCAR fans.
Magic’s Jonathan Isaac stands for national anthem as teammates, opponents kneel
Orlando Magic power forward Jonathan Isaac became the first NBA player to stand during the national anthem following the season restart … deciding against both kneeling and wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt.
The league’s coaches, refs and players — from LeBron James to Zion Williamson — have been using the anthem demonstrations to raise awareness as games pick back up in Orlando … a gesture that is being supported by NBA commish Adam Silver.
Isaac became the first player to choose to stand as the anthem was played before the Magic’s match-up with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday … while the rest of the team’s players and staffers took a knee.
It’s worth noting — Silver says everyone will have the option to kneel during the anthem without consequence … despite a league rule requiring players to stand.
The same goes for anyone who wishes to stand — no one is saying the players HAVE to kneel, either.
So far, Jonathan hasn’t commented on his decision to stand publicly — because the game is currently being played. But, when he does, we’ll update here.
Charles Barkley spoke about the demonstrations on Thursday during TNT’s “Inside The NBA,” saying, “The national anthem means different things to different people.”
“I’m glad these guys are unified. If people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person. I want to make that perfectly clear. I’m glad they had unity, but if we have a guy who doesn’t want to kneel because the anthem means something to him, he should not be vilified.”
The Magic released a statement in support of the demonstration, saying, “The DeVos Family and the Orlando Magic organization fully supports Magic players who have chosen to leverage their professional platform to send a peaceful and powerful message condemning bigotry, racial injustice and the unwarranted use of violence by police, especially against people of color.”
“We are proud of the positive impact our players have made and join with them in the belief that sports can bring people together — bridging divides and promoting inclusion, equality, diversity and unity.”
Reggie Bush: Paying college athletes will ‘destroy some people’
College athletes getting paid for their services has been a worthy argument for a long time, but the NCAA finally supports a proposal to allow college athletes to sign endorsement deals and receive payment for their work after some of the best basketball recruits in the country have declared for the NBA’s G League instead of attending college.
While being paid for their work certainly is a step in the right direction, former NFL star Reggie Bush doesn’t think it’s such a great idea.
“Guidance is the one thing that young athletes coming through the college system miss on so much,” Bush told Playboy, according to ESPN. “I missed on it. They’re about to start paying college athletes. This is something that has never been experienced before, and it’s going to destroy some people if their foundation is not in the right place.”
A formal proposal for the new rules is set to be submitted no later than October to the NCAA board, and they will then vote on the proposal sometime before January 2021.
Bush was a two-time All-American running back during his days at USC, and helped the school win back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. He won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s best player in 2005, but forfeited the award in 2010 after the NCAA found that Bush received money and gifts from sports agents when he wasn’t allowed to do so.
The 35-year-old went on to have a successful NFL career after his collegiate days at USC. He played for the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers before hanging up his cleats in 2017.
It’s weird to think that Bush is against athletes being paid for endorsement deals, especially considering he improperly accepted cash during his collegiate days.
Many college standouts will be able to use the money they earn to take care of their families, and that alone is a terrific reason why paying them is the right thing to do. They perform like professional athletes, earn their colleges and universities massive amounts of money and provide entertainment to fans, so why shouldn’t they be paid?
Victims In Kobe Bryant Crash Have Now All Been Identified
Here’s what is known so far about the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant and eight other people.
Nine people were on board the Sikorsky S76 when something went wrong just before 10 a.m. Sunday.
The passengers were on their way to a basketball game when the chopper went down.
The helicopter’s flight path shows it going from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley and then hovering over the Glendale area as it waited for clearance to travel through the Valley to Calabasas. The tracking ends at the crash site in Calabasas.
Kobe Bryant’s 13-year old daughter Gianna was among those killed. Gianna — often called “Gigi” — was the second oldest of Bryant’s four daughters.
Bryant had coached Gianna’s AAU basketball team out of his Mamba Sports Academy training facility in Thousand Oaks for the past two years.
They were all reportedly headed to an AAU game when the crash happened.
In addition to Bryant and his daughter, three members of one family died in the crash.
John Altobelli was the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. His wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa were also on board.
The husband of Christina Mauser posted on Facebook that she died in the helicopter crash. Mauser was a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach, where Kobe’s daughter attended school. Mauser’s husband says he and his kids are devastated.
Sarah Chester and her middle school aged daughter Payton were on also on board the helicopter piloted by Ara Zobayan.
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