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Sports by Bruce Penton
Jimmie Johnson has two Daytona 500 titles and seven NASCAR Cup Series championships in his glove compartment. Anyone want to bet against No. 3 at Daytona Feb. 26 and No. 8 at the end of the 2017 racing season?
Johnson, at 41, is the youngest of the three men who have achieved seven season championships (the sports’s legends, King Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, won their seventh at ages 42 and 43.) The California native starts the 2017 season driving to become the first NASCAR racer to win eight season titles. Since Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus are still at the top of their games, there’s no reason to believe Johnson can’t rack up No. 8, and he’s likely to not stop there.
“I truly believe he will get eight,” the recently retired Jeff Gordon told yahoo.com. “He will go for eight, and I don’t think he stops until he gets it.”
While Tiger Woods sits at 14 major golf titles and look forlornly at Jack Nicklaus’s now unreachable 18 while his game and his body are a combination of shambles and disarray, Johnson looks at the big number 8 up on racing’s mountaintop and gets ready to roar while he’s at the top of his game. Retirement is not on the horizon.
“I have been kind of watching all this, but I’m still pretty far away,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Daily News of retirement talk. “There is an internal struggle of knowing the age that you should retire.”
As long as he keeps winning, why would he quit? There’s no reason to believe Johnson hasn’t got eight, nine or even 10 championships within his grasp. One thing he has going for him is his ultra athleticism. In his spare time, Johnson competes in triathlons, keeping his body firm and fit for the gruelling racing season.
No matter how much he wins, though, racing fans are unlikely to show him the love that was bestowed on King Richard or the driver of Car No. 3, Earnhardt, known as the Intimidator. Johnson winning five consecutive championships (from 2006 to 2010) left many race fans rooting against him just because he won so much. If he reaches eight season titles, or even nine or 10, all those Petty and Earnhardt fans are going to have that much more reason to dislike a guy who could be labelled racing’s best driver of all tlme.
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