There are some drivers that NASCAR fans just seem to love to hate. Or put it this way — there are some drivers that fans either love or hate; there seems to be little to no middle ground. Every generation has one or two or three. Among the current roster of Sprint Cup Series of drivers, there’s a few. And multiple reasons for the hate are out there. I’ve heard and read about a lot of the reasoning. Among the public enemies are the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle. Also among them is recently-crowned six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
Some of the haters admit that they don’t like Johnson because he wins all the time and, quite frankly, they’re tired of it. Well, I’ll give them this — at least they’re honest. That’s not to say that other fans who hate Johnson, crew chief or Chad Knaus, car owner Rick Hendrick and/or any other member of the No. 48 team aren’t being honest the reasons for the hate. They feel how they feel and they’re completely entitled to their feelings/opinions. I won’t go into some of the published/vocalized reasons for the hate here.
Instead, what I’m focused on at the moment is the speculation as to whether or not, years from now, Johnson will be revered as a legend among the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough. . . . I could go on and on, but you get the point.
Sometimes eyesight is shorter than 20/20, so the Johnson haters of today may have a hard time fathoming a day when Johnson will admiringly be mentioned alongside the aforementioned greats for his six, or more, championships, especially when it comes time for his almost-certain NASCAR Hall of Fame induction. But think about this: Dale Earnhardt was once reviled; so was Darrell Waltrip. And as for Chad Knaus’ “cheater” moniker — history has forgiven the likes of Junior Johnson and Smokey Yunick of their “crimes.” And another thing, while I’m at it — haters suggest that Hendrick separate Johnson and Knaus for the purpose of giving another driver like Dale Earnhardt Jr. a fighting chance. What owner in his right mind would break up his own winning combo? Okay, I got that out.
No, I’m not a Johnson fan, specifically, but I do admire what the guy’s accomplished. In due time, and that may be several years down the road, fans will probably do the same. Time heals all wounds, or at least most of them, anyway.
For those readers who aren’t Johnson haters, and for those who are Johnson lovers, enjoy the photo gallery, below (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR). Otherwise, join us on Twitter @autoracingdaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner.
More recommented reading: Jimmie Johnson talks about his six-pack