People seem to forget Jimmie Johnson is one of the greatest NASCAR drivers ever with a record-tying seven Cup Series championships and 83 career wins (tied for sixth on the all-time wins list).
And that’s why Kevin Harvick thinks Johnson is strangely among NASCAR’s “most disrespected” drivers.
This week, Harvick had Johnson on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show Happy Hours. The pair touched on a number of different topics and swapped stories, including about how they’re both California natives from humble beginnings who worked their way to the top.
So when asked about their conversation Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Harvick, unprompted, explained why the No. 48 Chevrolet driver has earned more respect than he receives.
“Jimmie is one of the most disrespected great drivers that have ever come through this garage. Jimmie Johnson is just a good old fashioned great guy. He helps people and has done great things in the garage and in a race car, out of a race car. And sometimes I feel like we forget that he has won seven championships and all the races that he has won and all the great things he has done.
“It isn’t like he came from a rich daddy or family that had a lot of money. He came all the way up from the bottom to the top and worked hard and had a lot of success and has won as many championships as Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. I never feel like he is on that pedestal next to those guys appropriately. Sometimes I feel like as a group, from a fan standpoint, I feel like you are just letting it go by and not even realizing that you are watching one of the greatest careers that will ever come through the garage.”
The two 43-year-old drivers — the oldest full-timers in the Cup Series right now — are currently at very different points in their careers, which could contribute to the disrespect Harvick is referring to. The No. 4 Ford driver is coming off one of his best seasons, winning a series-high eight races in 2018.
Johnson is in basically the opposite position — 2018 was his first winless year in 17 full-time seasons. His last win was in June of 2017 and his last series championship was in 2016. He’s a long way from his five consecutive titles between 2006 and 2010.
But because of that, Johnson has a chip on his shoulder again, Dale Earnhardt Jr. previously said, and fans telling him he’s washed up keeps fueling him to push for a record-breaking eighth Cup Series championship.
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When briefly told what Harvick said about him, Johnson said Friday, “Wow, I certainly appreciate those kind words from Kevin,” adding that he’s embracing the good with the bad. He said he also stopped paying attention to public opinion a few years ago.
Harvick, who once argued that Johnson should be the sport’s most popular driver because of his abundant success, continued talking about Johnson and his career:
“I feel like a lot of times the fan base changes (so) much from the majority of our fan base that you almost have to reintroduce yourself every five or six years. Once you hear the Jimmie Johnson story and how he got to where he is — a lot of people know what he has done here, but it isn’t like it was handed to him.
“Our goal (with the conversation on SiriusXM) was to do something different, and I don’t want the fans to not realize what they are watching with Jimmie because he has done so many great things, is such a great person and a fun guy. He gets a knock for not being super fun. He is buttoned up, tight-laced guy. That couldn’t be further from the truth actually, more so than anybody could understand.”
The second race of the 2019 season is Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.