Over the last 15 years, sports fans have been witness to a number of incredible athletes. LeBron James is among the greatest basketball players of all time. Mike Trout has done things that baseball hasn't seen over the last 50 years or so.
And over in NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson has put together maybe the greatest career any driver has ever had. The dominance hasn't necessarily been quiet, with Johnson winning five straight titles, but his consistent excellence means some fans may not have noticed. Here are some interesting facts about the legendary driver.
Johnson Was Born In California
Throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s, the majority of NASCAR drivers hailed from the South. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule, but states like Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas tended to put a lot of drivers in the chase.
Once the '90s hit, though, fans started to see a lot of racers hail from California. Jimmie Johnson was born and raised in El Cajon, California. Other drivers who hail from the Golden State include Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Casey Mears.
He Has Experience Racing All Kinds Of Vehicles
While he is best known for racing stock cars, Jimmie Johnson has sped along in a number of different vehicles. Johnson began racing motorcycles at the age of 4 and won his first 60cc class championship at the age of 7.
Johnson spent the rest of his childhood racing in things like buggies and trophy trucks. He began racing in the NASCAR Busch Series in 1998 and later captured the ASA Pat Schauer Memorial Rookie title.
The Racer Was In Pole Position For His First Daytona 500
For any rookie driver, the Daytona 500 is a rite of passage. Johnson not only qualified for the 2002 race - he started in pole position. He was only the second rookie driver to sit on the pole for Daytona joining Loy Allen Jr. who did so in 1994.
Despite his start, Johnson did not lead a lap during the race and finished in 15th place. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon also had a good run, but eventually, the race was won by Ward Burton.
Johnson Stacked A Bunch Of Wins In 2002 And 2003
Despite his rookie status in 2002, Johnson was a force to be reckoned with early on. During that year, he was able to win pole position six times and he won a total of three Winston Cup races.
He bettered those results in 2003. While he only sat on the pole for two races, he took home the win at The Winston 500, The Coca-Cola 600, the New England 300 and the Sylvania 300 in Loudon, New Hampshire.
2006 Started The Big Run
While Jimmie Johnson had been a high-quality driver on the series over his first four seasons, 2006 was something different altogether. Johnson, though he only won one pole, dominated once the races started.
The El Cajon native won a total of six races and qualified for the Nextel Cup Championship. Johnson edged out Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin by winning the Daytona 500, the Daimler Chrysler 400, the Aarons 499, the Allstate 400 and the Subway 500.
In 2007 Johnson Had To Hold Off His Teammate
Jeff Gordon, who is also from California, was a teammate friend and mentor to the driver of the number 48. In 2007, the two drivers went head to head in a nail-biting chase for the Nextel Cup.
Johnson put himself in fine position by ten times including 4 of the last 5 races of the season. This was worth 6,723. That was enough to hold off Gordon, who won 6 times during the season, scoring 6,696 points.
In 2013, He Became The First Athlete To Host SportsCenter
Whenever an athlete of any sport is either at home or on the road, ESPN's SportsCenter is usually on in the background. And a number of those athletes think they could a good job as an anchor on the show.
The very first sports star to get a crack at hosting, though, was Jimmie Johnson. And he did a bit of everything including playing highlights, conducting interviews and even responding to criticism from Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
In 2007, Johnson Donated Winnings To California Wildfire Victims
As a native of Southern California, Jimmie Johnson was no stranger to the wildfires that can plague the state. In 2007, California experienced even worse fires than were typical for the season.
Johnson decided to help by donating his purse from a win at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver wasn't alone in his giving as his team, Hendrick Motorsports, matched Johnson's donation. The building supply store Lowes then matched the initial donations given by Johnson and Hendrick.
Jimmie And His Wife Chandra Share A Love Of Art
Not only has Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon served as a mentor to Johnson, he even played a role in his love life. Gordon introduced Johnson to his future wife, Chandra Janway, in 2002.
The couple, who were married in 2004, share a mutual love for art. Chandra owns the SOCO Art Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina. They are also a charitable couple as they run the Jimmie Johnson Foundation which assists children, families, and communities in need throughout the United States.
He Once Owned A Basketball Team
By 2006, Johnson had made a fair amount of money and decided to make some investments. One of those investments was becoming a co-buyer of the Hollywood Fame, a basketball team set to play in the American Basketball Association.
Johnson was joined in the venture by a number of other celebrities including fellow race car driver Brian Vickers. Also involved were former NFL quarterback Kyle Boller and former MLB star Brady Anderson. The team is now defunct.
Johnson Competed In The 2019 Boston Marathon
Sometimes athletes who have reached the highest peaks in their sport look for a new challenge. That's just what Jimmie Johnson did when he decided to run the 2019 Boston Marathon.
The racer had initially hoped to run the 26.2 miles in under 3 hours. The conditions were quite rough, though, and Johnson finished the race in a still very impressive 3 hours and 9 minutes. The superstar later said that the race was the hardest thing he had ever done.
Johnson Missed The Chase For the First Time In 2019
At the end of each racing season, the top 12 drivers compete for the Chase, where a point system determines the season's winner. Racers can miss the Chase for a multitude of reasons, down year, injury, new car, etc.
It took nearly an entire career for Johnson to fail to qualify for the Chase. He made it every single year from 2004 to 2018. In 2019, however, a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway kept him out of the playoffs for the first time.
He Suffered A Very Silly Injury In 2006
In 2006, a broken wrist kept Johnson out of action for 4 weeks. Initially, it was reported that Johnson had been driving a golf cart, fell out after a sharp turn, and fell onto his wrist.
It was later revealed that the injury actually happened when Johnson was goofing off. The racer was "surfing" on top of the cart and fell when the driver hit a bump. The injury kept him out of 2006's Race of Champions Nations Cup.
Forbes Thinks Johnson Is Quite Influential
Along with great success can come great influence. And there have been few athletes more successful than Jimmie Johnson over the last decade and a half. In fact, Forbes Magazine named him their Most Influential Athlete in 2011 and 2012.
Most influential to Forbes means that not only were you a successful athlete, but also a successful pitchman. Johnson stays high up the list as high-profile brands are always seeking to put their labels in his number 48 car.
He Owns A Gulfstream Jet
Jimmie Johnson has been a wildly successful driver over the last 15 years. And drivers who win championships tend to make a lot of money. For his career, it's estimated that the driver has earned over $300 million.
And some of that money has gone towards making life a little easier for Johnson. The racer purchased a private Gulfstream G150 jet a few years back. The jet helps Johnson to keep up with the busy travel schedule all NASCAR drivers undertake.
Johnson Moved His Family From New York City To North Carolina
Jimmie Johnson was born and raised in El Cajon, California, but once he hit it big on the track he ended up moving cross country. His wife, Chandra, was a model and the couple spent much of their time living in New York City.
But once his two daughters were born, the family moved down to Mooresville, North Carolina. Jimmie is a hands-on Father who makes it a point to drive his daughters to school each day.
The Only Driver To Win Five Championships In A Row
It is very difficult to remain on top of the NASCAR heap each year. There are a number of very talented drivers out there, each of whom are using the latest in racing technology.
That's part of what makes Johnson's five titles in a row, from 2006-2010, so impressive. No other driver had ever won five titles in a row prior to Jimmie Johnson. And it is very likely that no other driver will ever do it again.
Johnson Also Added Titles In 2013 And 2016
After Johnson won an astonishing five titles in a row from 2006 through 2010, he took a bit of a hiatus from winning championships. A two-year hiatus, to be exact as the racer was back to his winning ways in 2013 and 2016.
The 2016 win put him in pretty rarefied company. The seven wins all-time in the Monster Cup Series Championships tied him for the all-time record with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
Johnson Shocked Rick Hendricks With News Of His Impending Retirement
Over the last 10-15 years, Rick Hendrick has had a star-studded team. With drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., there was no race the team didn't have a shot at winning. Gordon (2015) and Earnhardt Jr. (2017) retired in the past few years.
Hendrick thought he would have a few more years with Johnson, though. The team owner told reporters that he was shocked by Johnson's decision to retire and said that whenever a racer calls him at home, he knows it's bad news.
Johnson Says He's Retiring From Full-Time Racing, But Not Racing Overall
The 2020 season was the last for Johnson. He's now tied in first with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most NASCAR Cup Series championships. While there is some debate as to who the greatest driver of all-time is, Johnson is in the mix.
Fans might still be able to see him race, however. Johnson said he may be stepping away from the grueling nine-month schedule but will be in a car again at some point.