NASCAR Cup Series

MILNER: A Seventh for Johnson Wouldn’t Diminish Earnhardt’s and Petty’s Legacies

With his win at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson didn’t just earn himself another grandfather clock. Taking the checkered flag last weekend assured Johnson an opportunity to race for another Sprint Cup title in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. If he can finish ahead of the other three challengers, he will win his seventh championship.

If the pieces come together, it will be a historic achievement. It will be Johnson’s first championship since 2013 and his first under the new Chase format. He will also become only the third NASCAR driver to win seven championships, a feat previously accomplished by Hall-of-Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

As Johnson marched toward multiple championships, he became a polarizing figure as some fans who booed his every win. Even last weekend, as he climbed from his car, you could hear a smattering of boo.

Should Johnson win at Homestead, there will be those who will be quick to declare his feat to be insufficient to place him alongside Petty and Earnhardt. While every fan is entitled to their opinion, they should not be so quick to downplay Johnson’s seventh win as if it takes away from Earnhardt and Petty’s legacies.

Usually, the word “I” doesn’t figure into my articles for Popular Speed but here, I will make an exception: I am a Dale Earnhardt, Sr. fan. With due respect to Johnson, Petty, David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison and others who enter the conversation as who was the “greatest driver of all time,” my vote goes to Earnhardt.

Having said that, I respect what Johnson has done in his career and will not be disappointed if his 2016 season ends with his seventh championship. Jimmie Johnson tying Dale Earnhardt’s record will not diminish Earnhardt’s legacy any more than Richard Petty’s legacy was in 1994 with Earnhardt’s seventh championship.

Richard Petty, with 200 wins, seven championships and an equal number of Daytona 500 wins, earned “the King” a place in the upper echelon of NASCAR all-time elite drivers. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. did the same with 76 wins, seven championships and his 1998 Daytona 500 victory. Johnson, with six championships, 79 wins, and two Daytona 500 victories is already among the all-time greats. A win at Homestead for a seventh championship would raise his career achievements up, not bring down those of either Petty or Earnhardt.

If Johnson’s seventh championship were to come to pass, NASCAR would not lose anything. Instead, it would gain a historic moment not been seen in a generation and likely will not to be seen again for another.

Even if Johnson’s seventh championship doesn’t come in 2016 or ever, he is still worthy of being part of the conversation as to who is NASCAR’s greatest driver. Whether he, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. or any other driver deserves the title is up to individual opinion. Nothing that happens at Homestead will change that.

Johnson, for his part, says he is honored to be a part of that conversation. Nothing that happens at Homestead will change that, either.


The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

By John Milner

John Milner resides in Thamesford, Ontario, Canada where he is currently working as a freelance writer and exploring his next opportunity in the communications field. He was first published in his high school newspaper more years ago than he cares to remember. Since then, John has worked as a communications associate, freelance and staff writer and has written about everything from charity bake sales to multi-million dollar military contract awards and from Michael Moore movie premieres to pro wrestling. He first began watching NASCAR with his Dad and would annually book the Daytona 500 off from work (back when he worked in retail) so the two of them could watch it together.