Shrull: Johnson in rare company after 7th title

NASCAR fans are a fickle bunch.
But as Jimmie Johnson cruised to his seventh Sprint Cup title on Sunday, I could collectively hear the grumbling, cursing and ranting, nearly as loud as the post-election roar.
As he’s known to the purest of NASCAR fans — The 48 motored into history with that seventh title. He joined “The King” Richard Petty and “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt in the history books as the only seven-time Cup winners.
Even an anointed nickname appeared to scoff at the notion Johnson would ever join that legendary fraternity. “Mr. Six Time” as some called Johnson after his sixth win in 2013 seemed to doubt that he would ever climb that seventh rung of history.
NASCAR fans are as rabid as any in any sport. The popularity of watching cars go in circles continues to rev up. According to Wikipedia — yes, I’m quoting Wikipedia, so get over it — NASCAR is second only to the NFL in TV viewers.
Like all sports, the rooting allegiances are diverse and wide-ranging. They have their favorites and their villains.
Earnhardt rose from villain and evil intimidator to the beloved “Intimidator.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has long been at the top of popularity lists when it comes to current NASCAR fans.
But J.J. has long been criticized and jeered, being categorized as a mediocre driver who benefits from being on the best racing team with the best cars and the best equipment.
After Sunday’s win, “lucky” is the latest criticism.
Good and lucky are two vital requirements to win championships in any and all sports.
We arguably in the most competitive era of NASCAR but The 48 keeps winning
Seven-time champ, the only driver to win five straight titles — The 48 can drive!
At July’s Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, the most successful driver in his era, Mr. Six Time, had his name misspelled on pit row. Jimmy Johnson is a former Dallas Cowboys football coach with perfect hair. Jimmie Johnson is now a seven-time Cup winner.
Respect is grudgingly coming his way ­— finally.
Johnson rose to NASCAR immortality the unconventional way, and that’s why I like the dude.
Johnson, 41, was born and raised in a San Diego suburb. So much for that notion that all great NASCAR drivers are from the South.
He started racing after his parents — mom was a school bus driver and dad worked for a tire company — gave J.J. a tiny motorcycle when he was 3.
Motorcycles led to off-road racing and eventually when the rubber hit the asphalt, Johnson was a natural.
Jeff Gordon — formerly The 24 — discovered Johnson and the rest is history, actually — HISTORY x7!
Seeing sports history unfold is always fun — #Cubs — even in a sport where cars go round and round for three-plus hours.
Like it or not, Jimmie Johnson is the Michael Jordan, the Tom Brady, the Tiger Woods, the … — pick you favorite superstar of their generation — of NASCAR.
Not only does he race cars really well, he trains and runs triathlons in his spare time, and raises tens of millions of dollars for needy families.
He’s good looking, cocky, successful, he runs triathlons, he appears on TV and in movies, he graces magazine covers, he goes to the White House, he looks cool with or without sunglasses, and he’s now in the history books.
All reasons why NASCAR fans love to hate him.
He’s not universally hated but he’s not near the top popularity-wise either.
But I’m guessing that’s OK to him.
He’s now at the top of the most prestigious list in NASCAR history. It’s a three-person club and The 48 is the newest member.
His detractors never thought they’d see the day when the name Jimmie Johnson would be uttered in the same breath as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
That day has arrived.
The dude can drive! The 48 is in the history books and it would be advisable to not call him “Mr. Seven Time.”
He might not be done.


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